The Battle of the Tenaru, sometimes called the Battle of the Ilu River or the Battle of Alligator Creek, was a land battle between the Imperial Japanese Army and Allied ground forces (mainly of the United States Marine Corps) that took place on August 21, 1942 on the island of Guadalcanal during the Pacific campaign of World War II. The battle was the first major Japanese land offensive during the Guadalcanal campaign.
In the battle, U.S. Marines, under the overall command of U.S. Major General Alexander Vandegrift, repulsed an assault by the "First Element" of the "Ichiki" Regiment, under the command of Japanese Colonel Kiyonao Ichiki. The Marines were defending the Lunga perimeter, which guarded Henderson Field, which was captured by the Allies in landings on Guadalcanal on August 7. Ichiki's unit was sent to Guadalcanal in response to the Allied landings with the mission of recapturing the airfield and driving the Allied forces off the island.
Underestimating the strength of Allied forces on Guadalcanal, which at that time numbered about 11,000 personnel, Ichiki's unit conducted a nighttime frontal assault on Marine positions at Alligator Creek on the east side of the Lunga perimeter. Ichiki's assault was defeated with heavy losses for the Imperial attackers. The Marine units counterattacked Ichiki's surviving troops after daybreak, killing many more of them. All but 128 of the original 917 of the Ichiki Regiment's First Element were killed in the battle.
The battle was the first of three separate major land offensives by the Japanese in the Guadalcanal campaign. The Japanese realized after Tenaru that Allied forces on Guadalcanal were much greater in number than originally estimated and sent larger forces to the island for their subsequent attempts to retake Henderson Field.
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