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Guadalcanal Marine

Guadalcanal Marine

Kerry L. Lane
Copyright Date: 2004
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    Guadalcanal Marine
    Book Description:

    InGuadalcanal Marine, Kerry L. Lane recounts the dark reality of combat experienced by the men of the 1st Marine Division fighting on Guadalcanal and Cape Gloucester. With eighty gripping photographs and his text, he brings to life the struggles of his companions as they achieve these two astonishing victories.

    Lane, a sixteen-year-old farm boy from North Carolina, battled the Japanese and rose to heroism powering a bulldozer to bridge "Suicide Creek" in the swamps on Cape Gloucester. There he led his Marine comrades to victory.

    Lane describes the trials of the common Marine serving in the first grueling island campaign. In vivid prose he tells of joining the service before the war and of training. Soon after the shocking news of Pearl Harbor, he and his trusted comrades fight the Japanese in one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific.

    In the tropics, Lane and his companions suffer malaria and dysentery, endure jungle rot and oppressive heat, and grapple with an enemy who fights to the death. Throughout the book, Lane bares the experience of the average Marine and his historic World War II journey, revealing how one teenager became a Corps hero and ultimately finished his military career as a lieutenant colonel.

    Kerry L. Lane retired from the Marines and is now the owner and operator of Post Oak Farm in Spotsylvania, Virginia.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-055-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xii)

    On August 7, 1942, the 1st Marines Division took a momentous step in World War II by landing on Japanese-held soil. The island was Guadalcanal. It was the first of many obscure islands that suddenly become so important that young American men would die to gain control of them. The Battle of Guadalcanal was over a Japanese airstrip being built to deny the use of Allied bases and American convoys to New Zealand and Australia. The Japanese saw Guadalcanal as the fork in the road that meant a victory for them or us.

    The Marines first horrifying sight during the...

  4. Abbreviations and Terms
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Key to Military Map Symbols
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Part I. Guadalcanal

    • 1 Making of a Marine
      (pp. 3-14)

      Like so many young men of my generation who were raised during the Great Depression of the 1930s, I joined the military to see the world and to fight, should the nation enter the war that was raging in Europe at that time. To enlist, I had to hitchhike some seventy miles from my family’s farm outside Hertford, North Carolina, to the recruiting station in Norfolk, Virginia.

      Hitchhiking proved to be quite an experience. I left home early in the morning and returned late at night. There were very few people traveling up U.S. 17 at that time. The ones...

    • 2 Preparing for Combat
      (pp. 15-32)

      After basic training at Parris Island, I was transferred to Quantico, Virginia, for duty with the 1st Marine Brigade. Upon reporting to my new command on March 14, 1940, I was assigned to A Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines. My company commander was Capt. William K. Enright, a regular spit-and-polish officer who distinguished himself in combat in World War II and retired with the rank of colonel.

      The barracks at Quantico, designated by letters, were three-story red brick buildings with white window sashes and trim, below a roof of slate. Those substantial buildings were a far cry from the old...

    • 3 Wartime Expansion
      (pp. 33-39)

      After four months of war, the 1st Marine Division was alerted to its first prospect of action. The Japanese had already pushed the Americans off Corregidor, Bataan, Guam, and Wake Island. The vital Samoa Island in the Pacific appeared to be next on the Japanese invasion list. The Navy called upon the Marines to provide the necessary reinforcements for the meager garrison. In March 1942, headquarters created two brigades for the mission, cutting a regiment and a slice of supporting forces from each of the two Marine divisions. The 7th Marines got the nod at New River, North Carolina, and...

    • 4 Shoving off to Make History
      (pp. 40-70)

      Everyone was in high spirits, as though we were headed for a picnic instead of war. We were gung-ho kids at that time. We had lots of guts and were ready to take on the whole world. We were astonished to learn that we would not be traveling on a grimy crowded troop train but rather on a line of first-class Pullman cars with a separate berth for each man and where porters with their faces wreathed in smiles attended to our every need. We ate our meals in a luxurious dining car in which waiters in white jackets served...

    • 5 Guadalcanal, Their Finest Hour
      (pp. 71-105)

      At 0740 hours, August 7, the eager men of Gen. Alexander A. Vandegrift’s 1st Marine Division went ashore on the north coast of Guadalcanal and onto the smaller islands of Tulagi, Gavutu, and Tanambogo. Two naval task forces and other naval units gave their support. The 1st Raider Battalion, under Lt. Col. Merritt A. Edson, reinforced by the 2nd Battalion of the 5th Marines, landed on Tulagi. The 1st Parachute Battalion landed on Gavutu. Gen. Vandegrift was in personal command of the forces landing on Guadalcanal while the assistant division commander, B. Gen. William H. Rupertus, was in general command...

    • 6 Stranded
      (pp. 106-132)

      As we watched our ships sail eastward, we knew that there would be no reinforcements. We were very much on our own. Any amphibious operation requires ships and air support. Now the Japanese could reinforce their land forces, bomb us by air, and pound us from the sea. We had just 10,000 men on Guadalcanal and fewer than 6000 on Tulagi. Each man had an average of five units of ammunition for his weapon, or a five-day supply. Food was short. It soon became apparent that without air or sea protection, the 1st Marine Division was going to see some...

    • 7 The Battle of the Tenaru
      (pp. 133-161)

      The Japanese high command, incensed at reverses ashore, began assembling troops to reinforce their scattered units, which had been routed from the vicinity of the airfield. They made plans for counterattacks against the 1st Marine Division forces defending the airfield perimeter. Lt. Gen. Hyakutake was ordered to take over the ground action on Guadalcanal and salvage the situation. He decided that the attack would begin with a part of the 28th Infantry Regiment and a Special Naval Landing Force. These units were to be followed by the Japanese 35th Brigade.

      The backbone of the initial effort would consist of the...

    • 8 The Battle of Bloody Ridge
      (pp. 162-174)

      At the ridge overlooking the airfield, Col. Edson prepared his men for the impending payoff battle. Bald, but for its kunai grass, nameless, and bumpy, the ridge rose like a long, thin island from the dark green sea of the jungle. It lay a short mile south of the airfield, sloping toward the Lunga River to the west and the Tenaru to the east. Deep, heavily wooded ravines surrounded the ridge on all sides. It was an ideal approach to the airstrip. Whoever held the ridge commanded Henderson Field. Whoever held the airfield, held Guadalcanal.

      Edson’s disposition placed his two...

    • 9 After the Ridge
      (pp. 175-210)

      After the Japanese were stopped at Bloody Ridge, Gen. Vandegrift decided to reorganize the defensive perimeter into new sectors for better control, giving the pioneers, engineers, and amphibious tractor battalions sectors along the beach. He had infantry battalions man the other sectors, including the inland perimeter previously held by the 1st Pioneers, engineers, and amphibious tractor battalions, and extend his western perimeter to the eastern bank of the Matanikau.

      On September 22, the recently promoted Lt. Col. Samuel B. Griffith assumed command of the 1st Raider Battalion. He was told to chase the Japanese the hell out of the area...

    • 10 September Matanikau Action
      (pp. 211-218)

      The Second Matanikau was the first of such probing operations. This move was designed to break up an increasingly threatening concentration between Point Cruz and the Matanikau. On September 23, Vandegrift chose the fresh 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, commanded by the famous jungle fighter Lt. Col. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, to make a reconnaissance-in-force into the hills south and west of the perimeter. The scouting expedition was to end by September 26, on which date the 1st Raider Battalion, now under Lt. Col. Samuel B. Griffith, was to cross the Matanikau River at its mouth and march about ten miles...

    • 11 October Matanikau Battle
      (pp. 219-243)

      October was the month of the dreadful rains, the month of decisions, change, unending battle between men, ships, and airplanes, the month of the “Night of the Battleships,” “Dugout Sunday,” “Pistol Pete,” and the month when the Marines on Guadalcanal still held on by the skin of their teeth.

      By day, the Marines strengthened their line. They sent out patrols, rushed in supplies and troops, or flew from the airfield to break up those aerial attacks, which the enemy launched by day to clear the way for their nighttime movements. At night, we lay still in our holes, peering into...

    • 12 Second Assault on Bloody Ridge
      (pp. 244-250)

      Like all Marines, the pioneers were first and foremost riflemen. They were rushed up to the line during skirmishes when every man and every rifle was needed. They responded to trouble calls. The second assault on Bloody Ridge was one of those times.

      In late October, our company was rushed into the lines with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. Once again the B Company Pioneers moved up to fill a gap that had been breached in a few places on the ridge. It was a debacle, but I think we held our own. The infantry was delighted to have the...

    • 13 The Final Phase of the Campaign
      (pp. 251-258)

      Although the Marines had won their battle on land, it would be meaningless unless the U.S. Navy could figure out a way to stop losing night battles in the slot to the northwest of the island, through which the Japanese kept sending replacement troops ashore. On November 4, 1942, after a ten-day voyage from Samoa, the 8th Marines reached the embattled island and went ashore near Lunga Point. Almost immediately, the unit was involved in heavy fighting with the Japanese, which continued through November and into December.

      I recall seeing the 8th Marines come ashore. Although the worst was past,...

    • 14 Guadalcanal in Perspective
      (pp. 259-265)

      Four things are mentioned in all accounts of Marine troops on Guadalcanal: heat, mud, mosquitoes, and bombs. Each day around noon an air-raid warning was sounded and everyone ran for foxholes and dugout air-raid shelters. So regular were these attacks that the enemy planes’ arrival became known as “Tojo Time,” in ironic homage to the Japanese prime minister. But nearly two-thirds of the men on Guadalcanal were knocked out of duty by health problems, far more than suffered from bombs or bullets. The two thin meals a day never satisfied and soon the hardy young men who’d been so eager...

    • 15 Departing for the Land Down Under
      (pp. 266-271)

      Finally, the time had come for us to leave. The day before we starting embarking, we had a memorial service at the cemetery situated among the tall coconut trees, the final resting place for those Marines who had sacrificed their lives in battle on that wretched island. As we bowed our heads in prayer, we felt the full meaning of the phrase “They died that we might live.” At the memorial service, some 7000 war-weary Marines knelt beside the graves, each marked by handmade crosses and covered by palm fronds. We offered our prayers and paid our final respect to...

    • 16 Australia Remembered
      (pp. 272-284)

      We were brought to Melbourne on a converted hospital ship, the USSTryon, a naval vessel that served alternately as an evacuation hospital ship and as a troop carrier. We had been below decks since leaving Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, six days earlier after having been driven below by a filthy storm in the Tasman Sea.

      In the fierce winds and huge swells of the sea, the ship’s bow would dip below the surface and the stern would come out of the water, causing the ship’s propellers to turn faster than they were suppose to, causing the ship to shudder...

    • 17 Going Back to War
      (pp. 285-290)

      On August 19, 1943, the first contingent of Marines sailed toward Goodenough Island and Oro Bay, some 2000 miles to the north. Here in the remote jungle boondocks of New Guinea, the men would put the finishing touches to training for their role in Operation Cartwheel. One week later, my unit, the 2nd Pioneer Battalion of the 17th Marines, moved by train to Brisbane, and then departed for Goodenough Island on September 11.

      I was allowed to remain behind in order to complete a course of instruction at the Royal Australian Bomb Disposal School at Wagga Wagga, New South Wales....

  7. Part II. Cape Gloucester

    • 18 Cape Gloucester, the Green Inferno
      (pp. 293-302)

      It was Christmas Day in the States, but out on the damp waters of Dampier Straights it was the morning of December 26, and once again the men of the 1st Marine Division were preparing to storm the beaches of a Japanese-held island. This time it was on the sunless shores of Cape Gloucester, New Britain, where thick swamp forests ran down to the sea.

      At 0600 hours, the thundering of naval gunfire began. Cruisers and destroyers sailed back and forth blazing at the shoreline with orange-yellow bursts of naval gunfire. Rocket-firing LCI daintily picked their way through the opening...

    • 19 The Battle of Suicide Creek
      (pp. 303-319)

      Marines who fought at Guadalcanal thought they had seen every imaginable horror of war. But we watched the Battle of Suicide Creek unfold with disbelieving eyes. More men fell in one day’s fighting at Suicide Creek than on any single day of fighting on Guadalcanal or Cape Gloucester. The fierce battle at Suicide Creek might have decided the Battle of Cape Gloucester. Blood flowed as copiously as the rain, turning the jungle floor into slimy mud littered with the bodies of the dead and wounded Marines, who were trampled by men fighting for their lives.

      The distinguished writer and war...

    • 20 Cape Gloucester in Perspective
      (pp. 320-327)

      The brutal struggle for the island of New Britain, lying 400 miles south of the equator off the eastern New Guinea coast, offered its own unique brand of torment to both Japanese and American combatants who fought there in late 1943 and early 1944. Steamy jungles, torrential rains, and dogged Japanese resistance confronted U.S. forces with a test worthy of the world’s best fighting men. Gen. MacArthur declared that: “This war has shown no finer victory.”

      Here, apparently, military teamwork came near to perfection. Here, it would seem, that components of the Amphibious Task Force—air, naval and ground—cooperated...

    • 21 Pavuvu
      (pp. 328-330)

      The 1st Marine Division departed Cape Gloucester in two echelons on April 6 and May 4,1944. My unit, the 17th Marines, sailed in the second echelon. Left behind was the 12th Defense Battalion, which continued to provide anti-aircraft defense for the Cape Gloucester airfield until relieved by an Army unit in late May.

      If nightmares are a special kind of dream, then Pavuvu was a dream. When we entered Macquitti Bay we never imagined that we would stage on the largest of the Russell Islands, ten miles wide and 1500 feet at it’s highest point, located sixty miles from Guadalcanal....

    • 22 Homeward Bound
      (pp. 331-336)

      Almost everyone came down to the pier to see us off, including the division band. As we went aboard ship they played “Mairzy Doats,” “The Moori Song,” and a tune appropriate for the occasion, “California, Here I Come.” The band repeated the last verse over and over again until the troop transport USSGeneral Howzewas out into Macquitti Bay. Then the band broke into the pride-inspiring Marine hymn “From the Halls of Montezuma.” The band played the last stanza over and over until we cleared the bay and put out to the open sea.

      On the first day at...

    • 23 The Last Post
      (pp. 337-342)

      After I returned from the Pacific, the 1st Marine Division went on to participate in the Peleliu and Okinawa campaigns. Most of the officers and men had been in the South Pacific more than twenty-four months before the assault on Peleliu. The Marines had achieved the first victory by American ground forces in World War II, at Guadalcanal. It was an epic event, considered by many historians to be the turning point of the conflict against Japan. They had also conquered Cape Gloucester, New Britain, a success that was a major, if not determining, factor enabling Gen. Douglas MacArthur to...

  8. Glossary
    (pp. 343-344)
  9. Notes
    (pp. 345-350)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 351-352)
  11. Index
    (pp. 353-358)