|Midway was an important event for the USN in the war in the Pacific. But another battle was probably just as important. Midway, was the IJN's defeat. Guadal Canal was a defeat that the Imperial Japanese Forces shared in toto! The Japanese originally held the Island and were building an airfield when the US Marines landed and took it the old fashioned way, by killing the enemy. The Japanese and US Navies were licking their wounds from Midway and it was clear that no major carrier action was going to cut this fight short. The Japanese Army, Air Force, and her vast surface navy were spoiling for a fight and decided to make Guadal Canal the place. If the Japanese held the island they would threaten the lines of commerce and communication from the US to Australia. If the US drove the Japanese off of the island it would demonstrate to everyone that the Japanese were defeatable (remember our allies had their hats handed to them in the first 6 months of WWII). Payback time.
After the US landed and held Henderson Field (the Japanese airfield under construction captured on day one of the invasion), the IJN drove down from their bases in to reinforce their land forces still on the island. Both the Allies and the Japanese had land aircraft in the area, neither had a carrier.
During the next 6 months the USN and the IJN, as well as UK forces from Australia and New Zeland, began what amounted to a heavy weight brawl for control of the seas. Both sides sent battle ships, cruisers, and destroyers by the dozen into the fight. Most nights in the waters around Guadal Canal were filled with the booming of massive guns, the sinking of ships, the dead and dieing being consumed by sharks.
History records the USN and her Allies as the victors in this titanic struggle. A series of battles that would make Nelson himself shiver.
The US won Guadal Canal but in doing so, she lost 25 ships to the Japanese Navy's 17 (damaged and withdrawn or sunk). The Japanese might be said to have won many of the battles but the USN was willing to sacrifice anything for its objectives. The vaunted IJN warrior ethic waivered in the waters around Guadal Canal (just like it did ashore against the USMC). The Imperial Japanese forces did not know what they were getting into, they thought the US would retreat in face of a all out conflict.
They were wrong.