Operation Watch Tower—the battle for Guadalcanal fought between August 1942 and February 1943—is a case study of searing courage, chaos, fog, friction, chance, and luck in war. It also underscores the failure of senior U.S. commanders in peacetime to prepare adequately for war.
The praise accorded naval innovation in the interwar years is strategically and tactically overrated. Neither the Naval War College nor the annual fleet battle problems uncovered critical operational, tactical, and technical deficiencies of the Navy.
If they had, senior naval officers would have recognized how vital the new radar technology would prove to be and how to employ it effectively. Those leaders would have learned before the war that the Mark 14 and 15 torpedoes did not work and that torpedoes should have been the main armament for destroyers, rather than 5-inch guns. Commanders would have devised effective tactics, communications, and signals for prevailing in battle (for example, “roger” was the one-word signal to open fire—even though it was regularly used in “roger, out,” meaning “I understand”).