The road to Tokyo began on an Island in the Pacific that few Americans had ever heard of and none of the military planners knew much about. But on Guadalcanal, one of the Solomons, the Japanese were building an airbase from which to strike at American convoys to Australia. The Island had to be taken, and quickly. The landing was America's first big amphibious assault. On 7 August 1942, some 10.000 Marines went ashore almost unopposed. By sundown the next day they had secured their major objective, which they renamed Henderson field, as well as great quantities of gasoline ,ammunition, tents, and rice. The Japanese, it seemed, had fled in a panic. But on the night of 8-9 August, the United States Navy took one of its worst whippings ever near Salvo Island, just off Guadalcanal, and withdrew, leaving the Marines all alone. Then began the enemy counterattack. "The Tokyo Express," the name the Marines gave the fast Japanese ships that came down "the Slot" between the Solomon Islands, began pouring in fresh troops and supplies. The fighting was fierce and kept up for six months. For a long while there was doubt as to which way it would go. From ashore, Guadalcanal looked like the South Seas "Isle of Enchantment" in the color travelogues. Onshore, it was pure hell. The heat was terrible; there were drenching rains, rats, and bugs of every description; men were struck down by malaria and dysentery and their skin broke out in jungle rot. But the worst of all was the enemy. He came out of the jungle at night in wild suicide charges. He fought according to no code an American could understand; he was tricky and deadly. He seemed to live in the jungle like an animal. By the time the last enemy sniper was silenced, there were 24.000 dead Japanese. The dead Americans totaled 1.752. This was the first time the Japanese had been defeated on land since they went to war. It was also the first time the Americans fully realized what sort of foe they were up against and the kind of country they would have to fight him in. This was no clean, modern campaign decided by advanced technology, no recruiting poster sort of war. And in February 1943, when the Japanese evacuated what was left of their forces ( about 12.000 men) Tokyo was still 3.000 miles away.