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J. ARNOLD, S. SINTON, illustrated by DARKO PAVLOVIC
In contrast to this cautious decision, in September 1942 Turner boldly sailed reinforcements to Guadalcanal in spite of threatened air and submarine attacks. Moreover, it was Turner who sagely recognized the salient importance of Guadalcanal to the entire Pacific campaign. He wrote to Admiral Ghormley, "Here in the Solomons we now have an unsinkable aircraft carrier which I believe may finally be multiplied into an invincible fleet adequate for a decisive move, but this will require patience and reinforcements." In addition to his profound grasp of strategy, throughout the Solomons campaign Turner demonstrated brilliant organizational skills. However, he could not restrain his instinct to control: he "studied everything, remembered everything, interfered in everything." A marine officer who served with him observed, "Turner was a martinet; very, very gifted, but he was stubborn, opinionated, conceited, thought that he could do anything better than anybody in the world." In the months ahead. Turner's difficult personality caused problems.
Admiral Turner peers through field glasses at a captured Japanese observation post in the Marianas. At the far right is Holland Smith. (National Archives)
Until mid-1943 Turner continued to command amphibious landings in the Solomons and had his headquarters' ship sunk beneath him off Rendova. He took command of the 5th Amphibious Force for operations in the Central Pacific. In March 1944, he was promoted again to command of Amphibious Forces Pacific. Turner supervised the landings on Tarawa, Kwajalein, Saipan, Tinian, Guam, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. During the Tarawa invasion. Turner and Marine General Holland Smith quarreled over command authority, to the detriment of all concerned. The terrible casualties suffered on Tarawa prompted Turner to carefully review the operation and devise a valuable set of "Lessons Learned." However, after supervising major amphibious operations, Turner began to falter. As he later told a biographer, "When I came back from the Marshalls I was dead tired. I stayed tired for the rest of the war." Moreover, Turner began to drink heavily. Although he was never observed to be impaired during combat, his frequent hangovers made him even more difficult to cooperate with.
Nonetheless, Admiral Raymond Spruance wanted to continue to work with Turner. He commented, "Our ideas of professional matters were thoroughly worked out together, and we usually thought alike. I was greatly impressed with RKT's brilliant mind, his capacity for hard work and his fine military and personal character." Turner received promotion to full admiral in May 1945 and received the assignment of planning for the invasion of Japan. After the war he was the US naval representative on the United Nations' military staff committee. He retired in 1947 and died in 1961.
In spite of his difficult personality, "Kelly" Turner's leadership earned him the accolade, "the premier US amphibious commander in the Pacific War."
Born in Hanover, New Hampshire, in 1888, Thomas Kinkaid graduated from Annapolis in 1908. He served aboard the battleship Arizona during World War One. Kinkaid graduated from the Naval War College in 1930 and was commanding officer of the heavy cruiser Indianapolis from 1937 to 1938. He was naval attache in Rome and then in Belgrade from 1938 to 1941. As a rear admiral, Kinkaid commanded a cruiser division following the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor. He fought in all of the Pacific War's early battles, including the Coral Sea in May 1942 and Midway a month later. He commanded the Enterprise task force during the Guadalcanal campaign and was aboard this carrier at the third great carrier versus carrier battle, the August 24 Battle of the Eastern Solomons. At this battle, the Enterprise was badly damaged by Japanese bombs. Aboard the repaired Enterprise, Kinkaid was the senior admiral and, thus, directed the next important carrier engagement, the October 26 Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. It was the fourth carrier battle in six months. Kinkaid's forces included a new and inexperienced officer in charge of fighter-direction (Halsey had taken the experienced officer onto his land-based staff) and suffered a tactical defeat, as measured by combat tonnage sunk. However, the action bought invaluable time for the Americans to build up strength on Guadalcanal. It prompted Admiral Nimitz to observe, "The general situation at Guadalcanal is not unfavorable." On November 24, Kinkaid returned to Espiritu Santo to take over a cruiser task force based around the dead Admiral Callaghan's shattered command. Kinkaid had absorbed the lessons from previous battles and devised a sound battle plan for the next engagement at Guadalcanal. Unfortunately, the high command then made the mistake of transferring him, for no sound reason, before he could implement his plan. His replacement, Rear Admiral Carleton Wright, adopted Kinkaid s plan to engage an outnumbered Japanese destroyer force on November 30, 1942 at the Battle of Tassafaronga. It was an American debacle caused largely by Wright's inexperience.
After service with the fleet during many of its important early war engagements, Admiral Thomas Kinkaid (center) became commander of the 7th Fleet, the naval unit assigned to support General Douglas MacArthur, in November 1943. Not only did he have to satisfy MacArthur, but he also had to deal with MacArthur's difficult chief of staff, General Richard Sutherland (left). Admiral Halsey (light) correctly believed that Kinkaid was up to the challenge. (National Archives)
On January 3, 1943 Kinkaid assumed command of naval forces in the North Pacific and promptly placed a tight blockade around Japanese-held Attn and Kiska in the Aleutian Islands. Although he was not personally present, this effort led to the Battle of Komandorski Islands, one of the few daylight surface engagements of the Pacific War. His ineffectual efforts to direct his subordinates from afar during this battle caused amusement. Thereafter, Kinkaid supervised the recapture of Attn in May 1943 and Kiska in August 1943. In November 1943, Vice Admiral Kinkaid became commander of the 7th Fleet, the naval units assigned to support General Douglas MacArthur. This fleet was always a secondary force compared to the carrier task forces sweeping through the Pacific. Quite simply, naval leaders did not trust MacArthur with the responsibility for aircraft carriers and modern battleships. Still, the size of the 7th Fleet swelled dramatically. For the invasion of Leyte in October 1944, it had grown so enormously that when MacArthur joined the 700-vessel invasion fleet, Kinkaid greeted him with the words, "Welcome to our city." The fleet included a bombardment force of six old battleships, four heavy cruisers, four light cruisers, and 18 escort carriers. Surrounded by such power, Kinkaid, like Admiral Halsey, did not expect the Japanese fleet to fight to defend Leyte.