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They had covered nearly 4,000 miles, skirting around the Gilbert Islands. The last 1,000 miles they had deployed anti-submarine tactics and steamed in a zigzag pattern. Nighttime running was done without lights to avoid detection from long range reconnaissance planes. They ran under radio silence and signaled between ships using large flood lights and Morse code. Despite the boredom as they neared their destination everyone grew more and more nervous and anxious.
"Have you felt it?" Margaret said to the first shift nurses, as the second shift came on duty.
"Felt what, Ma'am?" Bea asked.
"The ship has slowed and I can't see as many of the task force ships ahead of us as before," Margaret stated.
"What do you think that means?" May queried.
"I think things are going to start soon," Margaret claimed.
"What day is it? Viv asked.
"August seventh," Margaret answered.
"Where are we?" May asked.
"No one's sure," Margaret said.
"What makes you think things are going to start, Ma'am? Dorrie questioned.
"Think about it, Dorrie. Would you want your hospital ship in the middle of an engagement? Not likely. Why else would we be slowing and losing sight of the other ships?"
"I guess you're right at that, Ma'am," Dorrie replied.
Charlotte walked in at that moment. She had been called to Doctor Sanford's office before the shift change.
"What's happening, Ma'am?" Jenny asked as Charlotte approached.
"What do you mean?"
"The ship appears to have slowed," Margaret told Charlotte.
"I know," said Charlotte. "I want you all to be ready for action. I have no other news now but to tell you time is short."
"But what is going to happen?" May asked nervously.
"I don't know for sure but I suspect we are near our destination and that a major offensive is about to begin. Just be ready to move when I say," Charlotte concluded. "Margaret, can I speak with you please?"
"Sure," Margaret said and followed Charlotte from the patient's room.
The nurses did not know it but as they were speaking the war was about to take a decidedly different and dramatic turn. The task force was north of the largest island in the Solomons. An island called Guadalcanal. They were in Sealark Sound between Savo Island, Florida Island and Lunga Point on Guadalcanal. The Japanese had nearly finished construction of an airfield on Lunga Point. Once finished that airfield would be a serious threat to the shipping lanes between the United States and Australia. The Allies could not allow the Japanese to complete this airfield and gain air superiority.
The U. S. First Marine Division was in the process of landing on Lunga Point to seize the airfield. Another amphibious and paratrooper landing, primarily by the 1st Marine Raiders, was taking place on Florida Island and on nearby Tulagi Island. A naval bombardment of both Red Beach on Guadalcanal and Tulagi preceded the amphibious assaults. The Japanese having landed on Tulagi on May 3rd were planning on building a seaplane base there. The Allies wanted to take the Islands to help the invasion of Guadalcanal and keep the Japanese from using it for operations against them.
The Japanese were caught somewhat by surprise and their first initial air response was ineffective in stopping the landings. The Japanese constructing the airfield fled into the jungle to avoid capture and The Fifth Regiment, which had landed first, took the airfield without loss of life. The Division pushed inland after securing the airfield. It took them three days to gain six miles with Japanese counter attacks. But finally The Second Battalion of The First Regiment reached the Lunga River.
During the first three days the Americans dug in and established defensive positions along the beach and around the airfield. They were under constant attack from planes and even shelling from a Jap submarine. The second night the Japanese struck back with a bombing run on their own airfield, which had been renamed Henderson Field.
The jungle was extremely thick and the bugs, rats and snakes w