The Seabees were given twenty days in which to construct a 6000 foot (1829 metre) runway that had to be cut through the jungle, cleared, levelled and surfaced with coral. However, heavy grading equipment was not available and they had to make out with six tractors, two scrapers, one grease truck, one petrol wagon, three weapons carriers, and a generator. Assisting them were 90 Marines, 295 infantrymen and 50 Ni-Vanuatans who worked day and night, in the race against time.
On July 28, the first fighter squadron landed and was followed the next day by a squadron of B-17’s. The aircraft were fuelled from drums and on July 30, the B-17s with fighter escort, heavily bombed the Japanese on Guadalcanal.
The heavy bombing paved the way for US troops to storm the island shortly thereafter. Santo went on to provide vital support for the Marine landing on Guadalcanal on August 7. Santo subsequently became a major South Pacific base for the support of air activities throughout the year-long campaign for possession of the Solomon Islands.
On August 11, 1942, the 7th Battalion arrived and immediately began construction of more extensive air facilities to support the Guadalcanal campaign. In sixty days, they completed a second fighter strip, 4500 feet (1371 metres) by 170 feet (52 metres), with 7500 feet (2286 metres) of taxiways and 60 revetments. With fighter facilities complete, the Seabees turned their attention to bomber facilities.