Island Hopping-WWII in the Pacific

Comparison and Contrast of American and Japanese Soldiers


Japanese Soldiers

In Guadalcanal, the climate was tropical and hot and the surrounding environment they worked in was too, as it seems they were on the coast. "The climate here is similar to that of mid-August in Japan..." and "I wonder if you are shivering in the cold weather. If you are, why don't you come over here? You wouldn't want to stay long, because it's too hot" (Keiko) "The 2,500 square miles of Guadalcanal are dominated by the Kavo Mountains, which reach a maximum height of 8,000 feet. The island is heavily forested. Rains came often, and the nights were chilly, forcing men in rotting clothing to huddle together for warmth." ("A Japanese Guadalcanal Diary")

The surrounding land was occupied by natives, which they regularly exchanged with and bought fruit from, though they couldn't understand them at first due to language barriers. Both the soldiers and the natives were curious about each other, because this was the first time they had interacted. "When I saw real natives for the first time, I felt frightened. But they did not do any harm. They were very well hung and proudly decorated their hair with bird feathers. It was a surprise for me to see how they showed off their decorations." (Keiko)

American Soldiers

They were also on a beach and were located in a jungle. It rained frequently, which caused it to be humid and bugs to be thick in the air.


They were on the same island, just different locations. The American soldiers switched locations from beach to jungle to hills though. They both were heavily affected by the environmental conditions, as it sometimes affected their health. Because of the tropical climate and the constant rain, it was sometimes hard for them to stay dry, which contributed to illness. Also, due to unclean water and sometimes even the tainted meat, and the lack of supplies to clean it, both the Japanese soldiers and American soldiers became sick due to the bacteria in the water.


Japanese Soldiers

  • This is not a disease, but some Japanese soldiers died from starvation, as the US soldiers captured their supplies.
  • Soldiers were affected by malaria, since the jungle was thick and humid, so were the mosquitos, as they thrive in that environment. "Asaba Kazuo also died of illness. Malaria fever affected his mind and he acted peculiarly. After eating his meal, he died suddenly. This death increased the large total of those killed in action and from the disease to thirteen men." ("A Japanese Guadalcanal Diary")
  • Lice
  • Hypothermia due to cold nights in the mountains and being unable to stay dry due to the rainy weather.
  • Dysentery, which was due to the lack of healthy and safe food.
  • Exhaustion and malnutrition
  • Dengue Fever

Of the 37,000 Japanese men who died in Guadalcanal, only 9,000 were from diseases present in the environment.

American Soldiers

  • Dysentery
  • Malaria, 65% of soldiers reported having a case of malaria during their time at war.
  • Beriberi disease, which is caused by a lack of a variety of food. The soldiers had a diet of mainly rice, so this caused malnutrition.
  • Jungle Rot, which was caused by unsanitary conditions and the inability to stay dry, which was common in New Guinea and due to the wet jungle environment.


Because both the Japanese and American soldiers were on the same island and lived pretty much under the same conditions, they suffered from the same illnesses. Both sides suffered from malaria, because of the mosquitos and dysentery, which was caused by poor hygiene and drinking unsanitary water. It was also infectious, so it spread fairly quickly throughout the island.

Overall Conditions

Japanese Soldiers

Twenty five thousand soldiers died on the island of New Guinea. However, they were well trained because of swimming lessons and practice shootings. "14:00 Swim training. It's amazing that 33 of the NCO's and soldiers can't swim, though swimming was a pleasure for me. It was troubling that 9 men were stung by sea urchin or jelly fish in the shallows of the reef, yet the training must be continued. Came back singing a martial song merrily. The first day duty on the island." ("Diary of a Japanese Veteran: "My Guadalcanal"")

American Soldiers

Seven thousand soldiers died during the Pacific campaign. There was constant fire between the two sides, resulting in the sinking of many ships and the destruction of aircraft. "One supply ship came, plus two destroyers, and while we were unloading the supply ship, the Jap bombers sunk the destroyer." ("Guadalcanal Journal: A Personal History of the Battle For Guadalcanal") This is the reason as to why the Americans continuously had a shortage of supplies, because every time they came close to getting them, they were destroyed.


Both sides suffered from shortages in supplies, which resulted in some deaths due to hunger and malnutrition.


Keiko, T. (n.d.). Japanese Soldier's experience of war. Retrieved May 1, 2015, from$file/Chapter5.pdf?OpenElement

A Japanese Guadalcanal Diary. (n.d.). Retrieved May 1, 2015, from

WWII Military Health in the Pacific. (n.d.). Retrieved May 1, 2015, from

(n.d.). Retrieved May 1, 2015, from

Guadalcanal Journal: A Personal History of the Battle For Guadalcanal. (2012, September 22). Retrieved May 1, 2015, from

Diary of a Japanese Veteran: "My Guadalcanal" (n.d.). Retrieved May 1, 2015, from