Ghormley was the American Naval Commander of South Pacific during the first stage of the Guadalcanal Campaign. In the summer of 1940 he served as a liaison officer in London and examined British naval tactics. In March 1942 he arrived in Auckland, New Zealand to take up his command in the South Pacific and shortly afterwards was told to organize the simultaneous seizure of Tulagi and Guadalcanal for 1 August 1942. The task facing him was formidable and he expressed his displeasure and asked for a postponement. His superiors Admirals NIMITZ and KING allowed him one week’s delay and the expedition set off for a landing on 8 August. The planning of the operation was hurried and the troops did not have sufficient transports or landing craft—half their supplies had to be left behind. Intelligence reports and maps were lacking and the expedition was soon named Operation Shoestring.
Ghormley made the controversial decision which allowed Vice-Admiral FLETCHER’s aircraft carriers to withdraw shortly after the landings and this resulted in the destruction of four cruisers in the Battle of Savo Island. Ghormley’s lack of confidence in the mission and the bad publicity the operation received led to his replacement in October 1942 by ViceAdmiral HALSEY. Ghormley returned to Washington for the rest of the war.