Chapter V: The Battle of the Ridge
The coming of the first air units had an effect which would be difficult to reconcile with the size or the power of those units.1
On 22 August, while Smith's fighters were providing air cover for the Alhena, newly arrived from Espiritu Santo with supplies and a part of the 2d Marines, the local air force, as we have seen, was augmented by the arrival of part of the 67th Fighter Squadron of the Army Air Force. On that day, five P-400s led by Captain Dale D. Brannan, arrived at the field after a series of long over water jumps from their training area near Noumea. 2 They were followed five days later by nine more.
FIVE ARMY P-400s ARRIVED, the first Army personnel or aircraft to reach Guadalcanal, on 22 August.
First Army ground reinforcements arrived in mid-October.
MARINE FIGHTER PLANES fell victim to many mishaps.
This MAG-23 F4F-4 is being saved by bucket-brigade methods. Note bullet-pierced propeller blades.
On 30 August, in the midst of an enemy raid which sank the destroyer Colhoun, two more squadrons of MAG-23 arrived, led by Lieutenant Colonel William J. Wallace, commanding officer of the group. When these 31 planes came in--19 F4F-4s of VMF-224 and 12 SBD-3s of VMSB-231--Wallace found that only four fighters of the first echelon remained operable. The rest had fallen victim to operational mishaps, enemy air raids, and combat damage.3 There was, therefore, a preponderance of pilots in all save the most recently arrived units--Brannan's 67th Fighter Squadron, for example, had only three planes left in operating condition of the total of 14 which had arrived at the island.4
By the end of the month the Cactus Air Force, as the mixed Marine, Navy, Army Air Force Group had begun to be called, had grown to the following strength:
VMF-223 (Major John Smith) 10 planes VMF-224 (Major Robert E. Galer) 19 planes VMSB-231 (Major Leo R. Smith) 10 planes VMSB-232 (Lieutenant Colonel Richard C. Mangrum) 12 planes Flight 300 (Lieutenant T.F. Caldwell) 10 planes 67th Fighter Squadron (Captain Dale D. Brannan) 3 planes
During the ten days which had elapsed since the arrival of the first planes, a schedule of routine daily flights had been evolved. Four planes fighter patrols left the airstrip at 0545 and 1400 daily, returning at 0830 and 1830 respectively. Occasionally a mixed fighter-dive bomber squadron operated at night to the northwest in search of enemy shipping. So far, such flights had been without effect.5
MAJ JOHN L. SMITH, first Marine ace of World War II, received the Medal of Honor for his feats as a Guadalcanal fighter pilot.
The matter of interception of enemy bombers, however, found the local air force more effective. A total of 56 enemy planes had been shot down during the ten days, as against a loss of 11 for the mixed Cactus Air Force. Concurrently with this combat, local planes had begun to fill another useful role--that of giving air cover and protection to the supply ships that were beginning to appear from the southeast. The Alhena, for instance, was protected during her approach and unloading on 30 August, when she brought in the forward echelon and the supplies of MAG-23.6
With the arrival of aircraft, the ground forces at Guadalcanal found themselves in a much improved position as regarded intelligence. While there was still far too little direct and accurate enemy information, it was now possible at least to get some idea of where and how he was landing. Aerial observation, to seaward at least, with its tremendous widening of the area capable of being scouted, brought invaluable, although frequently disquieting, information to General Vandegrift. It was learned, for instance, that landings of Japanese reinforcements were taking place both east and west of the perimeter. It was learned also that many of these landings were taking place at night.7 Marine Corps, Navy, and Army planes, few in number though they were, attacked at sight any Japanese shipping within range and inflicted damage that even the single-minded enemy was not prepared to suffer needlessly.
Three days after the defeat of the Ichiki detachment, for instance, patrol planes from the field participated in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons by attacking an enemy force of transports, cruisers and destroyers 150 miles northwest of the island, inflicting damage.8 Something over a week later, on
MARINE FIGHTERS heading out on intercept. Within ten days after arrival of Marine aviation at Henderson Field, 56 Japanese planes had been shot down--at a cost of 11 to the United States.
KAWAGUCHI BRIGADE HEADQUARTERS landed near Tasimboko from destroyers on 6 September. Forty-eight hours later, its base was attacked and destroyed by the 1st Raider Battalion. This picture, with mustachioed Major General Kawaguchi in center, was probably taken in the Philippines.
2 September, and second and larger force was attacked during the night while unloading supplies and troops well to the east of the perimeter, near where the Ichiki unit had landed.
Such was the information and the support obtained from the newly arrived air units. It became apparent that the enemy had not given over his plans for a counterattack, and it became evident that he was so disposing major forces as to be able to launch separate or coordinated attacks from either the east or the west.
The Ichiki unit was the first large enemy group to land successfully after the 1st Division assault; at least two previous attempts to land reinforcements had been made, however. On 8 August, at 2200, Seiyo Maru, with 414 men of the Sasebo 5th Special Naval Landing Force embarked, departed Rabaul for Guadalcanal. It was sunk with all hands while rounding Cape St. George. On 16 August a small detachment of the Yokosuka 5th Special Naval Landing Force was put ashore near Tassafaronga. Working its way eastward, this detachment found approximately 2000 men of the original garrison gathered near the line of the Matanikau River, where they had prepared positions.9 Late in the month, however, enemy forces began landing at night to the east and the west. On 29 August, four destroyers--
Fubuki, Shirayuki, Kawakaze, and Umikaze--landed 900 men at Tassafaronga. Next might, the destroyer Yudachi landed the rest of the Ichiki unit at the same beach, while on 31 August, all the above craft, plus the destroyers Amagiri, Kagero, and Suzukaze, landed 1200 men of the Kawaguchi Brigade at Tasimboko, well to the east of the Tenaru River.10
Other landings took place in a similar manner, and by 6 September, the enemy strength on the island was distributed as follows:11 East of the perimeter, 2990 men were between Taivu Point and Tasimboko, including Headquarters, 35th Infantry Brigade; main strength of the 124th Infantry; and the second echelon of the Ichiki detachment, with a few survivors of the first echelon. West of the perimeter, beyond Kokumbona, there were about 200 men, consisting of parts of the 124th Infantry (being assembled by Colonel Oka), some Special Naval Landing Force personnel, and the 11th and 13th Pioneers.
To the eastward of the perimeter there must have been almost a continuous nightly ship-to-shore movement. The Kawaguchi detachment--so called from the name of its commanding officer, Major General Kiyotake Kawaguchi, commanding the 35th Infantry Brigade--landed during that period as we have seen. Immediately after landing, engineering personnel attached to the unit began the monumental task of cutting a direct route across the rolling jungle country and into the foothills, across the unnumerable hills and ravines and streams that lay between them and a bivouac area in the terrain south of the airfield, whence an attack against their objective could be launched from the terrain which dominated it.12
Parts of this information came from planes which patrolled the area constantly. Other parts came from the reports of patrols engaged in hunting down the scattered remnants of the Ichiki detachment and from messages brought in by natives whose gardens were being pillaged by the enemy.
The Marine forces, however, did not realize the size of the newly arrived enemy units, nor did they have any definite knowledge of their movements. It was only known that there was an increasing amount of activity and that it was becoming more and more difficult for patrols to penetrate the areas lying east of the perimeter.13
The information of the gathering of forces near Taivu, sketchy and incomplete though it was, was more detailed than that which existed about the enemy to the westward. One action had been fought against the units between Kokumbona and Matanikau, but, although heavy casualties had been inflicted upon those forces, the main body had made its way into the hills back of the beaches.
Second Action Along the Matanikau
A second action was planned against the same area, consisting of a shore-to-shore movement on 27 August by the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines (Lieutenant Colonel William E. Maxwell), supported by the overland thrust of an additional company. Diversionary fire by the 11th Marines was to be directed to the area of the mouth of the Matanikau, to create the impression that an attack across the river was impending.14
Plans for the operation cannot be reconstructed at this time with any assurance of accuracy. Orders were given orally by the regimental to the battalion commander. The latter did not disclose them to his staff in toto, and there is a complete disagreement as to just what constituted the battalion's mission.15
The battalion landed without incident at a spot recently vacated by a force of enemy, a fact made evident by the presence of hot food. The landing was completed by 0730, and movement to the east was begun at once.
The nature of the terrain, and the complete uncertainty regarding enemy strength and location, dictated the tactics which, in fact, made it impossible for the battalion commander to carry out the mission he understood had been given him. The narrow beach, bordered by thick scrub, shelved off into a narrow band of flat coastal land. This level stretch, from 200 to 300 yards wide, thickly overgrown, was threaded by a narrow road, the western extension of the coastal road that ran through the perimeter. On the inland side, the flat land terminated in a line of low coral cliffs, which in turn were the seaward faces of a jumbled ridge system that paralleled the beach. The ridges were cut at frequent intervals by deep, jungle-choked ravines which opened to the flat land. Passage along the ridges, therefore, would entail a series of cross-corridor movements, made the more difficult by the necessity of cutting through dense jungle in each corridor and by the additional fact that on the ridges themselves there was a combination of tough, five foot high kunae grass and murderously hot sun.16
Security dictated that a force move along the ridges to prevent a flanking attack, should it happen that enemy forces were in position there. Company C was given the mission and moved off to get into position. Company B moved off at the head of the column along the trail, followed by Headquarters Company and part of Company D. Company A furnished rear guard security.
Within an hour it became apparent that Company C could not keep pace with the main body. An additional bad feature was that, in the absence of "walkie-talkie" (TBY) radios, all contact between the two groups had to be by physical contact. By 0900 contact had been lost, and the battalion halted. Company C was ordered to come down off the high ground and take place in the column behind Company B. The 1st Platoon, Company B, reinforced by one machine gun platoon from Company D was ordered at the same time to move up onto the ridge to its right and continue with the mission previously held by Company C.
Forward movement was resumed at about 1030. Within a half hour, at a point where the coral formation of the ridges squeezed the coastal strip into a narrow corridor less than 200 yards wide and where the thickly growing jungle scrub thinned out into a coconut grove, a deep ravine opened to the flat land. The Japanese, well dug in and taking advantage of the restricted avenue of approach and the splendid defensive possibilities offered by the coral, opened fire upon the advancing elements of Company B. This fire, initially from machine guns emplaced at the base of the cliffs and in the scrub at the edge of the beach, was immediately augmented by mortar fire, and Company B, deploying to each side of the trail, began to suffer casualties.
A firing line was built up, and mortars from Company D, going into position along the beach, began laying down fire upon the base of the cliffs. Company C, now in position behind Company B, was ordered to attempt a flanking movement around the left (seaward) flank. It was expected that the Company B platoon operating along the ridge would envelope the enemy's left flank.
The Company C maneuver failed, the company finding it impossible to progress beyond the line still held by Company B. The expected movement on the part of the right flank elements did not materialize for two reasons.
First, the problem of contact and communication had not been solved. Second, the combination of fantastically difficult terrain, jungle, grass, and sun, had begun to inflict damage upon that platoon that was more serious than that inflicted by the enemy. Messengers sent by the platoon appear to have been overcome by heat on the way in and taken to the battalion aid station. The leader
of the machine gun platoon was overcome and carried to the same place. The only message received by the platoon, on the other hand, was to "stand fast."17 It was the more easily obeyed because the platoon leader had no assurance that the mortar fire from Company D, falling along the base of the ridge below him, would be lifted when he began to advance.
In the meanwhile, Maxwell realized that he could not carry out his instructions to the letter. The enemy emplacements holding up his progress sheltered a force of unknown size, but of sufficient strength to deny him passage along the coastal strip. The terrain further inland had proved itself to be an enemy almost as effective in restricting his movement as the Japanese themselves. Convinced that the most important phase of his mission was that of returning prior to dusk to resume his defensive position on the perimeter, he requested that boats be sent to a point near Kokumbona so that he could withdraw. In anticipation of their arrival, he began moving a portion of the battalion to the expected point of embarkation.18
Two hours passed before the expected answer came. In the interval between the messages, part of Company B was withdrawn to the beach and, with the wounded, was embarked and sent on its way to Kukum. The answer to Maxwell's message came. Maxwell was told that he was relieved of command, which should pass to his next senior (O'Connell), that the battalion would remain in the field, and that the enemy force would continue to be attacked until defeated.19
O'Connell assumed command at once, and shortly afterward Colonel Hunt himself arrived at the beach and remained with the battalion as it went into position on the ridge for the night.
The attack, pressed home early next morning, met with no opposition. The entire enemy force had withdrawn during the night up the ravine which led back into the hills and around the mouth of which the Japanese had made their stand of the day before.20 The battalion moved by the coastal road to Matanikau village, embarked, and returned to the perimeter.
The Tasimboko Raid
The Tulagi area, after the first two days of the operation, had been relatively quiet. After the bitter fighting which attended the assault on and reduction of the island group, no contact had been made with enemy forces, save in patrol actions. Occasional visits by enemy destroyers and submarines occurred however, and when American ships began using the excellent harbor, enemy aircraft dropped bombs in the area sporadically, generally while en route to the more lucrative target of Henderson Field.21
Little damage was suffered by the Marines in any of these raids, the largest single loss being that of a YP boat, set on fire when the area was bombarded by three enemy destroyers shortly after midnight on 8 September.22
The defenses of the island, initially oriented against an expected attack from Florida Island, were strengthened by the arrival of the 5-inch Navy type guns of the 3d Defense Battalion. One battery of these guns,
using wooden advanced-base platforms, was brought ashore from the Betelgeuse on 1 September. It was necessary to float the platforms in, while the guns themselves were manhandled, by block and fall, up the face of the coral hill where they were emplaced on the southern tip of the island.23
The importance of the area in the matter of ground force activity lay in the fact that from it were mounted some of the more important patrol actions of the campaign. Florida Island was combed for remnants of the defeated Tulagi garrison as well as for signs of newly arrived enemy forces. With the assistance of loyal natives., Marine patrols ran down and captured or wiped out numerous survivors of the 7 August assault. The most diligent search, however, failed to indicate that there had been any attempt at reinforcement.
By the end of August, a combination of lack of employment for the relatively large force on the island, and a growing need for more troops on Guadalcanal, had led to me transfer of a part of Rupertus' forces. On 21 August, Combat Team 2 (2d Battalion, 5th Marines) passed across the strait on board the destroyer transports of TransDiv 12, newly arrived with badly needed supplies of food. On 31 August, the Raider Battalion had likewise been moved across to the perimeter, and on the same day, orders were received by Rupertus to move the Parachute Battalion across.24
The Raider Battalion, to which the Parachute Battalion had now been attached for operational purposes, went into bivouac initially west of the Lunga and immediately behind Kukum. On September 2, two companies of the Raiders patrolled Savo Island, with negative results. Plans to execute a landing near Tassafaronga25 the next day were abandoned because of a curiously fortuitous error26 and the two battalions moved into a gap on the south flank of the perimeter. Work was begun on the construction of defensive positions.
We have seen above that, while the pressure of enemy forces to the east was realized, information regarding their size was sketchy and nothing was known of their composition. Clemens and his native scouts brought details that let to the conclusion that perhaps 300 enemy, well armed and occupying well constructed defensive positions, were in position immediately west of the village of Tasimboko. It was decided to wipe out this nucleus, and Edson was given the task.
Plans for the operation were more elaborate than those for the unfortunate Kokumbona affair which preceded it. The unit was to move in two echelons, using two APDs for the task. The Raider Battalion, in assault, would land immediately before dawn to the east of the village and strike out to the west. Gunfire support was to be given by the two destroyer transports, so timed that the assault force would benefit by the element of surprise. Air strikes likewise were planned, and Edson would be able to count on the support of the planes of MAG-23. An initial strike would be repeated, against designated targets, on request from Edson. The operations would be completed in one day, 8 September.
Immediately before the battalion embarked for the assault, disturbing news came in from native scouts who had been operating
in the vicinity of the target. Clemens, who translated their reports, gave it as his opinion that there had been a sudden increase in the size of the enemy garrison. Edson, according to Clemens, might well find himself assaulting positions occupied by several thousand well equipped men. Little credence was placed in the mathematical accomplishments of Clemens' followers, however, and it was decided to carry the planned action through, even though, there may have been a slight increase in enemy strength.27
At 1800 on 7 September, the 1st Raider Battalion embarked at Kukum on the Manley and McKean and two small craft--YP boats, converted tuna fishing launches from the California coast. The 1st Parachute Battalion was moved down to Lunga Pint to bivouac for the night, having been warned to stand by for movement at any time subsequent to 0600 on 8 September.
The movement was carried out according to plan and on schedule. The landing area was reached prior to 0500, and landing craft made the first of two trips to the beach during total darkness, at about 0520. They returned immediately for the remaining troops.28
The ship-to-shore movement was conducted with every precaution to assure surprise. Landing craft traveled at reduced speed to cut down exhaust noise. Considerable worry was caused when there was an accidental discharge of a rifle as the boats of the first wave were approaching the beach, but as far as could be determined, the enemy was not alerted.29
Movement began at daylight, with Company B on the beach, Company A in contact on the left, and Company C striking further inland, to attack from the south in an enveloping movement. At 0635, planes of MAG-23 left the airstrip to deliver their first strike against the enemy positions--2 SBDs, for bombing accompanied by four P-400s, whose mission was strafing.30 They struck at the area west of the village as Edson was moving toward it. At about the same time, Manley and McKean began lobbing shells into the same target.
Concurrently with the air strike and the naval gunfire, two United States ships --Fuller and Bellatrix--under destroyer escort, came into sight from the southeast, on their way to Lunga. This event had a significance that became apparent only later, as will be discussed below.
By 0855 Edson reported to the perimeter that he had made contact, and that two pieces of enemy artillery had been overrun.31 The contact had been light and there was still no information as to the strength of the enemy, who appeared to have withdrawn toward the village.32 Edson requested that bombers be kept in the air, and, in answer to this request, General Vandegrift advised him that ten planes would be in continuous support, with another squadron on call.33
At 1045 the Raiders reported still further progress, but included in the message was a request for advice on the possibility of landing more troops to the west of Tasimboko. Division replied that such a move was not feasible and suggested that the Raiders reembark and return to the perimeter. Forty-five minutes later a message from Edson announced that more artillery pieces had been taken and that the battalion was advancing slowly against heavy opposition. The enemy was now estimated to number about 1000 well armed and well equipped troops. Pressure upon the attackers was increasing; the enemy was using field artillery at point-blank range.34
About this time, contact was reestablished between the various companies of the battalion, after having been lost for an hour or more, and, at about the same time, the 1st Parachute Battalion, which had embarked and left Kukum at 0818, reported to the Raiders' headquarters35 together with Company E, 1st Raider Battalion. In view of this, Colonel Edson decided to go through with the attack, requesting additional air support.36 This was given him in the form of a strafing attack on enemy positions by four P-400s.37 An enveloping movement was developed from the south, with the 1st Parachute Battalion providing flank and rear guard security for the Raiders' main body.
When the attack was finally pressed home and the village was entered, it was found that once again, the main body of the enemy had escaped destruction.38
Here also it was discovered that the reports turned in by the native scouts and discounted by the division staff had been far more accurate than had been believed. On the basis of amounts of food, equipment, ammunition, and other material, it was estimated that no less than 4000 Japanese had been in the vicinity until shortly before the attack.39
Documentary material was taken for intelligence purposes. Among the captured arms were found several 47mm antitank guns of a type that "plagued us later on," to quote the words of Colonel Griffith in his letter quoted herewith in a footnote. Fuses were removed from shells and cast into the sea, and the same treatment was given breech mechanisms. Other material was either burned or rendered useless, as in the case of food, by unorthodox but effective means.
There was much speculation as to the reasons why a large force, of the kind that had obviously been present only shortly before Edson's landing, should have allowed itself to be driven off by a comparative handful of men. (The total strength of the attacking force did not exceed 850, and probably was considerably less.) It was suggested that the fortuitous appearance of the Fuller and Bellatrix, with their escort of destroyers, created the impression that a large landing was under way. The coincidence of gunfire support and the air strike with their appearance may well have [helped] the Japanese to come to such a conclusion, although it is now known that the main body of the Kawaguchi Brigade had left the area on the first stages of its movement toward the perimeter.40
Save that the enemy force was not destroyed, the action was an unqualified success. The cost in casualties was extremely low--two killed and six wounded--while the enemy had lost at least 27 dead. The entire base was reduced to rubble, and neither food nor equipment remained in a usable condition. Those forces which later were observed making their way inland were presumably in a precarious situation in the matter of supplies. With this aspect of the matter in mind, it is possible to say that the Tasimboko raid had a profound effect upon the Battle of the Ridge, where Edson finally met in battle the enemy general whom he missed at Tasimboko.
While the above mentioned patrol actions were being fought to the east and the west, and while the Marines were learning the strength and location and tactical peculiarities of the enemy, other activities important to the operation were being speeded up. The flow of supplies, interrupted almost as soon as it began when Fletcher found it advisable to withdraw, was renewed as Turner pushed his ships into the area at every opportunity. The remaining regiment of Vandegrift's division--
the 7th Marines (reinforced)-- was on its way from Samoa. Malaria, which was to be a scourge from October onward, had not yet made its appearance in significant strength.
The most welcome accretion of strength, as we have seen, was that afforded by the coming of the various squadrons of MAG-23. The improvement of the situation had been almost instantaneous, and the reinforcements for the initial group, arriving late in August, had resulted in a growing feeling of confidence on the part of the air as well as the ground personnel.
September 3 saw the arrival of the command echelon of the 1st Marine Air Wing, when Brigadier General Roy S. Geiger, accompanied by Chief of Staff, Colonel Louis E. Woods, and his intelligence officer, Lieutenant Colonel John C. Munn, arrived at Henderson Field by transport plane.41
MAJGEN ROY S. GEIGER, veteran Marine aviation commander,
established 1st Marine Air Wing Headquarters on Guadalcanal on 3 September.
His mixed, all-Service command soon became known as "Cactus Air Force", because of the code-name for the island.
Geiger immediately reported to Vandegrift for duty and set up his headquarters, using the staff of MAG-23 as Wing staff. The command post was established close to division, and liaison in the form of daily conferences between Vandegrift and Geiger became normal procedure. Colonel Kenneth H. Weir, Marine Corps aviator, operated at Vandegrift's command post as permanent contact man, and liaison at the level of MAG-23 was constant, with Colonel Gerald Thomas and Lieutenant Colonel Merrill B. Twining keeping in touch continually with the air arm of the team.42
Improvisation was necessary in almost all administrative as well as in technical matters. To keep up with the matter of personnel and other administrative records, the Wing functioned with a staff consisting of one sergeant and an enlisted clerk. Lieutenant Robb, Naval Aviation, held a permanent berth at Wing Headquarters where his duties consisted in keeping track of the Naval aviators who came more and more often to the field from carriers in the vicinity.
Lack of adequate equipment for fueling and arming planes likewise made it necessary for the aviators to employ makeshift methods, sometimes of rather primitive character. Bombs, even as late as the Battle of Guadalcanal in November, had to be slung in by man power. Radio communication with planes on patrol gave rise to another problem--
the channels used by Army planes differed from those used by Navy, and the Army planes could not receive Navy traffic. This matter was resolved by using the radio from a grounded P-400--twin microphones were rigged so that messages could be sent simultaneously to all planes.43
The Battle of the Ridge
Immediately after the raid on Tasimboko, signs began to appear that the movement by the enemy from that base was something other than the precipitate flight it had been thought to be.
Patrols from the 2d Battalion, 1st Marines, operating in the area lying east and southeast of the perimeter encountered opposition with increasing frequency. Mountain guns, singly and in batteries, were found at various points within range of the perimeter. These weapons, always in perfect condition and carefully smeared with cosmoline, frequently were found unguarded. On several occasions a single enemy soldier was found, evidently merely a caretaker left to service the weapon and the ammunition that invariably was found buried nearby.44
From native scouts also came news of the movement of large bodies of troops, groups that were in no way similar to the small bands of disorganized, ill-equipped survivors of the ill-fated Ichiki detachment. There was an air of purpose and direction about them that was apparent even to the local natives who had deserted their villages and fled toward the perimeter.
By 10 September it was known that the enemy was less than five miles east of the perimeter and that he was cutting a road to the south.45 Here again it was from friendly natives that the most authentic and dependable intelligence data came, for the enemy movement was by this time taking place under the cover of rain forest trees, safely hidden from aerial observation.
These considerations pointed to the strong possibility that an attack would be made upon the perimeter from the south or the southeast. The fact that supplies of all kinds were landed indicated that the enemy force, subsequently identified as the Kawaguchi Brigade, intended operating from the eastward. The additional fact that much of its supplies had been destroyed by the Raiders made it extremely likely that there would be little delay in the launching of the attack, for even the numerous native gardens in the region were not sufficient to enable a force of that size to live off the country.
The situation brought up again, and imperatively, the problem of defending the inland sector of the perimeter.
The alternative to a complete and continuous defensive line was to establish a series of strong positions wherever the terrain permitted. Some of these positions were manned by personnel of the rifle regiments and battalions; others were manned by special troops of one or another unit. The 1st Amphibian Tractor Battalion, for example, was given the responsibility of maintaining a defensive position located on a ridge which commanded the approach from the west, on the inland extension of the left flank, The Engineer Battalion tied in with the right flank of 1st Marines positions, and extended that flank to the left elements of the Parachute Battalion. The Pioneers went into position on a small hill immediately east of the Lunga River, to the southeast of the Amphibian Tractor Battalion detachment.
On 9 September, General Vandegrift's command post, previously situated against a small ridge on the northwest of the main airstrip, was moved to the inland (south) side of a small hill just inside the jungle south of the field. This was done because the former location was well within the target area of the enemy air strikes, which, after the first day, had been directed solely against the airfield.47
Map 7: Edson's Ridge -- First Phase
Map 8: Battle of Edson's Ridge
On the same day the Raider Battalion, still with the Parachute Battalion attached, returned to the positions they had occupied prior to their foray against Tasimboko--astride a ridge immediately inland from the airstrip.
Just south of the airfield, the land begins to fold into the jumbled terrain of the foothills, and the open country ends in jungle-covered flats and ravines. Now and then a small area of kunae grass appears, generally on top [of] a low hill or ridge.
One such ridge, perhaps a thousand yards long and with its length running northwest and southeast, rose out of the jungle a short mile from the runway. It dominated the field, with which it was connected by a narrow road. The ground surrounding the ridge was lower, falling away toward the stream bed of the Lunga, lying to the west and the southwest, and toward that of the Tenaru, toward the east. In each case the land was covered with unbroken jungle.
Deep ravines, heavily and in some cases impenetrably wooded, bordered the hill on all sides. Four short but distinct spurs jutted from it, two on each side, slanting away from the ridge line, and between the knob at the southern extremity and the northernmost end of the ridge rose two other hillocks. Just west of the southern end of the ridge in a heavily overgrown flat, there was a deep impassable lagoon.
By 12 September, it became obvious that action was impending. A reconnaissance by Edson, his executive officer (Griffith), and two enlisted runners convinced the battalion commander that there was an enemy force of considerable size to his front. He decided to patrol the area next day with his entire battalion, to throw the enemy off balance, and then return to prepared positions.
During the afternoon, as if to give point to his realization, an air raid struck, and a stick of bombs was dropped along the long axis of the ridge--a clear indication that the enemy was aware of the presence of a strong defending force there.48 Edson called for a conference of his company commanders, to be held during the evening, at which time plans for the next day's movements would be discussed.
The small size of the force, and the length and character of the sector which it was called upon to defend precluded the possibility of establishing a continuous line. To the left, tying in with the Engineers, were two understrength companies of the Parachute Battalion, whose position in turn extended to the midpoint of the southern slope of the ridge. On their right, Company B, Raider Battalion, held the sector extending toward the right, where it tied in with the left elements of Company C. All its line lay within the grassy area that covered the forward slope save the extreme right flank platoon, which was in position within the jungle. Double apron wire protected the front over the grassy land, while within the jungle
LUCKIER AT HOME THAN AT EDSON'S RIDGE, MajGen Kawaguchi and friends pose here in a moment of relaxation on an earlier and happier day.
there was single strand wire, looped from tree to tree. Fields of fire had been cut here.
Immediately to the right of Company B, a single platoon of Company C was in position on the edge of the lagoon. Beyond this impassable jungle barrier, the rest of Company C, also behind single strand wire and disposed as a series of small strong points with fields of fire cut for mutual support, extended to the right bank of the Lunga.
At about 2100,49 as the company commanders were leaving the command post at the conclusion of the conference, an enemy plane dropped a flare over the airfield. At 2130, an intense bombardment of the area was begun to four enemy ships lying off the mouth of the Lunga--a light cruiser and three destroyers.50 The shells fell generally in the eastern sector of the perimeter rather than on Edson's positions, although a few of them found targets there. The bombardment lasted for 20 minutes. Just prior to 2130 a flare rose from the area forward of Company B's lines.
Kawaguchi, by this time, had moved northward from his hastily established bivouac area on the right bank of the upper Lunga (found later by the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines and by patrols from the 7th Marines) and had assembled his brigade for the assault.51
As the flare died away, he delivered the first of the headlong, powerful assaults that later were to force the Raiders out of position, back along the ridge, and come dangerously close to splitting the perimeter defenses wide open. Preceded by yelling and scattered rifle fire forward of the juncture of Companies B and C, two strong thrusts were delivered down the east bank of the lagoon. The left flank platoon of Company C was sliced off from its parent company and driven back. The right flank platoon of Company B driven out into the open, and curling back to its right rear, maintained contact on the left with the rest of the company. The result was a partially refused right flank for the company. A third blow, delivered some minutes later, further cut down the strength of Company C by cutting off a second left flank platoon. A small enemy party worked its way down the river and attempted to envelop the dismembered company.52 These attacks were accompanied by a second naval bombardment, which lasted from about 2400 to 0045, falling this time on the airstrip and on the eastern sector lines.
During the rest of the night, Company B was ignored by the enemy and held fast to its exposed position on the southern slope, while Edson attempted to restore his lines. After daylight, companies A and D, as yet unengaged, were sent up the right bank of the Lunga in an attempt to eliminate the enemy salient. The attempt was unsuccessful--the Japanese had dug in and had a strong force in the jungle flats. Also, while Company A was only slightly understrength, Company D had almost ceased to exist save as a skeleton organization, since its men had been used as replacements for the other rifle companies of the battalion.53
Ground activity during the daylight hours of 13 September, consisted, as we have seen, of attempts on the part of the Marines to reestablish their positions and on the part of the Japanese to consolidate and organize the ground they had gained. It became evident, after the failure of the Raiders to eliminate the salient west of the ridge, that Company
Map 9: Edson's Ridge -- Final Phase
B's position was untenable in the face of further attacks. Sweeney, commanding the company, therefore withdrew his men one-third of the way back the ridge and disposed them along a spur that jutted off to the west--rugged terrain that imposed upon him the necessity of using small groups as strong points rather in continuous line. Reinforcements, were given him in the shape of Company B, 1st Engineer Battalion.
In the meantime, air activity had kept pace with the ground action. On 11 September, the day before Edson first established contact with Kawaguchi's force, the 1st Marine Air Wing had received a welcome if temporary, accretion in strength. Late in the afternoon, 24 F4F-4s of VF-5, based on Saratoga, were led into Henderson Field by Lieutenant Commander Leroy C. Simpler. Word had come to ComSoPac of an ominous gathering of enemy naval and ground strength to the northwest, and Ghormley was beginning to look upon the situation on the island with something akin to alarm.54
WHERE THE TIDE TURNED--Edson's final position on the Ridge, as viewed from Bailey's intermediate position just southward. If this last line had been carried by the enemy, Guadalcanal would probably have been lost.
On 12 September, the perimeter was attacked by 42 enemy planes. Twenty-one of Simpler's fighters joined with 11 Marine planes to fight off the attack, which they did, exacting a toll of 16 planes from the Japanese at a cost of one plane and pilot, lost in a landing mishap.55
Of the four attacks which the enemy air force launched against [the] perimeter on 13 September, only one was pressed home. Two were turned back at 0510 and 1320, one got as far as the perimeter at 1020 before being beaten back, and just at dusk two float planes, in an audacious low altitude strike, shot down an SBD and escaped to seaward.
During the afternoon of 13 September, the commanding officer56 of 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, realizing that his unit (the division reserve) would be called upon to bolster the battered Raider Battalion, conducted a reconnaissance of the area with his company commanders--a wise precaution, for the battalion, as we shall see, was committed piecemeal in total darkness in the midst of Kawaguchi's strongest effort.
The anticipated attack struck at 1830, with a strong movement against the center of Edson's positions, supported by another blow against the right front. Once more the enemy succeeded in opening a gap between Company B and the unit to the right--Company A. Company B's right flank platoon was struck squarely and driven out of position. It fought its way out of trouble and fell back upon Company C, now in battalion reserve.
Kawaguchi's main effort, which came close to succeeding, was directed at the right center of Edson's position. Giving only passing attention to the Raider-Parachute Battalion left flank, which was occupied by an inadequate force of parachutists,57 and neglecting
to follow through on the extreme right flank, the enemy elected to attack along the route which, from point of view of terrain, offered the easiest access to the air field.
After a preliminary blow at 1830 against the juncture of Companies B and A, which drove the right flank platoon of the former back and opened a gap of more than 200 yards between the two units, the Japanese chose to direct their strongest effort at the by now tenuous lines of Company B. At 2130 there was an attack down the ridge itself, which may have been precipitated by the sudden use of a defensive element that up until then had not made its appearance--artillery of the 11th Marines.58
One battery of these weapons, sited for defense of the southern sector, had registered on the area directly in front of Company B earlier in the evening. At 2100, notified by the forward observer, who had established a listening post in Company B's lines, with telephone lines through the Raider Battalion switchboard to that of the 5th Battalion, 11 Marines, that there appeared to be a strong group of enemy in the woods forward of his position, the artillery battalion commander laid down fire in the indicated target area. The range was decreased, with Edson's consent, to such a degree that the next concentration, fired at 2130, fell within 200 yards of Company B's lines.59
The remaining batteries of the battalion were brought into position to fire into the area, and by 2200 another heavy concentration was laid down immediately in front of the Raiders' positions. Once more there was a rush of enemy out of the stricken zone and toward the ridge.
One half hour later, the Parachute Battalion positions were attacked for the first time. An intense fire from mortars, together with confusing shouts and the use of smoke, drove the two companies back to the base of the ridge and then along it to the northward.
Company B was now in a hopeless position. Its right flank, deprived of one platoon and refused, was disposed in a series of small strong points along the western slope of the ridge at the midpoint. The left flank, however, was dangling, and to the left rear, in place of a reserve such as was present to the right rear, there were only the Parachute Companies, disorganized by their retreat.
Edson moved his command post to the top of a high knob that dominates the northern half of the ridge, disposed Company C, the battalion reserve, as a defensive nucleus around the western and southern slopes of the knob, and directed Sweeney to bring his company back and form around it.60 Sweeney's force by this time numbered about 60 men.
The withdrawal was assisted--perhaps even made possible--by the fact that artillery, firing at minimum range and below, placed standing barrages at all points foreword of the company where it seemed possible for the enemy to advance. Then, when the company had completed the movement (in the pitch black of a clear, moonless night)61 the artillery concentration was pulled in still further, and the barrage stood like a wall before the Raiders' positions for the rest of the night. Those enemy who penetrated it were brought under intense fire from rifles and automatic weapons at short
range, and those who survived the two ordeals were taken on, hand to hand, by the individual Marines. The myth of the Japanese superman died that night as Kawaguchi's force was cut to pieces.
By 0400, while the attack was still going on, companies of the reserve battalion--2d Battalion, 5th Marines--began to be committed to bolster up the disorganized left flank. The companies were committed singly, making their way first to a predesignated assembly area between the northern extremity of the ridge and the western end of the airstrip. Company G, arriving first, went into position on the eastern slope of the hill, coming under intense machine gun fire as it moved in and receiving casualties. The other companies, following at intervals, were not aware of the fact that a part of the Raiders' line had been withdrawn since their reconnaissance of the previous day, made their way up to, and in some cases through the lines. Filling the gaps in the Raider Battalion's positions, they helped in standing off the final efforts of Kawaguchi's infantry.62
By daybreak, the attacks had died away, and aside from desultory rifle fire, there was little sign of life in the woods south of the ridge. A few enemy, isolated when their companions withdrew or were wiped out, remained in position on the ridge and in the draws beside it. They were hunted out and killed.
The coup de grace, if one were needed, was given by the P-400s of the 67th Squadron. Leaving the field just after daybreak, they strafed the woods whence the attacks of the previous nights had come, and, according to the remarks of an enemy officer as quoted by Robert Sherrod in his account of the aviation activities of the Marines,63 they wee the final and conclusive catastrophe for the enemy brigade: "Intensive bombing and strafing followed our unsuccessful attack at down, and our efforts to take the field are doomed to failure."
While the Battle of the Ridge was in progress, and while the perimeter was being subjected to gunfire from enemy surface craft, the newly emplaced 5-inch guns of the 3d Defense Battalion went into action for the first time. Battery C had been in position and ready for action since 1800, 10 September, a short distance east of the mouths of the Lunga River. One gun of Battery B, near Kukum, had been made ready by late afternoon of the 13th. On the same night, four enemy destroyers stood in to within 7000 yards, on a magnetic azimuth of 345 degrees. They were engaged by both batteries. Four rounds were expended by Battery B before the enemy withdrew from its range.64 Battery C continued until it had fired 29 rounds, securing at least one hit. The enemy craft then pulled out to 18,000 yards.65
During the night of 13-14 September, another sector of the perimeter was subjected to attack, perhaps launched in support of that against the ridge, although there was little evidence of coordination between the two attacking forces. The 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, in position far to the left of the Raiders' area of activity, held the innermost extension of what was known as the right, or east, flank of the perimeter. Alligator Creek, upon which this flank position was based nearer the beach, extends only a relatively short distance inland, and in the sector occupied by the 3d Battalion there was no such natural line of defense. The battalion was emplaced at the edge of a jungle, with prepared fields of fire to its front, where a wide plain had been cleared of grass by burning. The position was continuous and strongly protected by wire.66
WIRE PROTECTED THE 1ST MARINES' POSITIONS fronting on the grassy plain, across which
the Japanese 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry delivered an attack during the Edson's Ridge battle to the west.
The Japanese 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry, attacked at midnight across the plain, against the extreme right flank, and, after being thrown back, continued the engagement as a fire fight from the jungle beyond the cleared plain. By morning it was estimated that about one Japanese battalion, plus an undetermined amount of artillery, was in position there, and it was decided to employ light tanks, 1st Tank Battalion, to clean them out. This was begun with some success, but the mistake was made of allowing repeated sorties over the same route. This, once the enemy had emplaced his 47mm antitank weapons, resulted in the loss of three vehicles.67
The fight thereupon degenerated into a fire-fight of steadily lessening intensity, which died away completely on the 16th. The enemy losses were estimated at 200 in this area.
A third attack, by no means as intense as the two just described, was repulsed on the sector held by the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, in position on the west flank, on a ridge which commanded the approaches from the Matanikau. At the inception of this attack, some worry was felt because of a lack of reserves at the threatened point, but prompt employment of artillery succeeded in driving the enemy back.68
In the Battle of Edson's Ridge, the Marines suffered casualties of about 20% of the men engaged--31 killed, 103 wounded, and nine missing--while on the ridge alone and the territory immediately adjacent to it, more than 600 enemy dead were found. Many more were killed in subsequent operations along the Lunga River, and an undeterminable number died of wounds en route to the area beyond the Matanikau. This does not include the 200-odd who were killed in the attack on the position of 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, nor the unmentioned and apparently undetermined number who fell before the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines.69
COL MERRITT A. EDSON, whose defense of the Ridge saved Henderson Field,
was subsequently awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism and skill.
Enemy sources--in the form of documents and information from prisoners--say that abut 1500 casualties were suffered.70 The balance of the ill-fated Ichiki unit was wiped out, the 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry, and the 2d Battalion, 4th Infantry, were badly hit.
Artillery support throughout all three phases of the attacks had been provided and controlled by forward observers and liaison personnel. A forward observation post was maintained on the ridge, and fire from the 105mm howitzers was adjusted from that post. Wire communication was successful between the OP and the fire-direction center, being interrupted only when the OP was displacing rearward from its farthest forward position.71
A total of 1,992 rounds of 105mm ammunition was fired in defense of the ridge at ranges of from 1600 to 2000 yards, sometimes within 200 yards of the front lines. In defense of the other positions, the 75mm pack howitzer was used, and a total of 878 rounds was expended by the 2d and 3d Battalions, 11th Marines. Existing maps, which had not been corrected or revised since before the initial landings, were found to be extremely inadequate, since clouds had obscured the area of the operation on the original serial photo and there was no accurate knowledge of the terrain. As a result, all concentration, as well as friendly front lines, had to be "shot in".
Edson's force was replaced on the Ridge by the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, and went into bivouac near Kukum. The 1st Parachute Battalion left the island shortly after the conclusion of the battle, and landed at Noumea, New Caledonia, on 22 September, the first unit to be evacuated from the island.72 The Raider Battalion remained on the island.
MAJ KENNETH D. BAILEY, wounded during the Battle of Edson's Ridge, subsequently killed in action on the Matanikau,
was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his fight on the Ridge.
Both Edson and the commanding officer of Company C, Major Kenneth D. Bailey, received the Medal of Honor for their part in turning back [the] most serious single assault of the campaign. Edson's award was given as a result of his outstanding coolness and skill under fire--a quality which permitted him to handle his forces in an intricate night maneuver while engaged in a desperately fought action. Bailey, soon to lose his life on the upper Matanikau, was awarded the medal posthumously for his leadership--painfully wounded, he stayed in action in the most exposed positions, encouraging and directing the men under him.
1. When the first two squadrons arrived on 20 August it was considered that a major turning point in the operation had been reached. Final Report, Phase III, p. 3.
2. WD, MAG-23, p. 2, and History of the 67th Fighter Squadron. These planes, designed for export to the European theater, had certain mechanical limitations (given in great detail in the history of the squadron) which made them unsuitable for high-level interception or combat. Their oxygen equipment, for example, called for high pressure bottles, unobtainable in the area. This meant that an absolute maximum altitude of 14,000 feet was imposed upon the willing and highly skilled pilots. Since the enemy bombers customarily used the 25,000 to 30,000 foot levels, the P-400s were useless as interceptors save on rare occasions, and they were therefore ordered t perform low level reconnaissance. From this limitation likewise arose the curious fact that they became outstanding ground support planes, functioning thus in a field of endeavor which had previously been considered almost exclusively one for Marine air.
3. History of Marine Aviation in World War II.
4. 67th Squadron History.
5. WD, MAG-23, 31 August 1942.
6. WD, MAG-23, and Final Report, Phase IV, Annex H.
7. Ibid., Phase IV, pp. 14 and 15.
8. Final Report, Phase IV, Annex H. Entry of 25 August. See also D-3 Journal, 25 August, message 14.
9. Detailed Battle Report #6. Fifth Air Attack Force, Base Air Force, Rabaul. WDC 160140/399.
10. Robinson ms, p. 4.
11. USAFISPA Report, p. 32, and Whyte ms.
12. Final Report, Phase IV, p. 5, and Annex A.
13. Final Report, Phase IV, p. 6.
14. Final Report, Phase IV, p. 485 and Annex E, pp. 2 and 3.
15. Letter, Major Milton V. O'Connel to Commandant, Marine Corps, 8 February 1949. It seems clear that Maxwell was directed to land, make his way eastward to the mouth of the Matanikau, reembark his battalion there, and be back in his defensive position on the perimeter by nightfall. Interview, Captain E.J. Snell (at that time assistance regimental adjutant, 5th Marines), 19 May 1949. Snell was present at the conversation between Hunt and Maxwell.
16. Five months later, elements of the 2d Division fighting westward along the same ridges, encountered precisely the same problem.
17. This came from the battalion sergeant major, in the temporary absence of the battalion commander. Interview, Major Thomas T. Grady (at that time in command of 1st Platoon, Company B), 19 May 1949.
18. The request was made by radio, at 1430 to the regimental commander. Letter, O'Connell to CMC, 8 February 1949.
20. At least a part of the force had been observed while withdrawing just after dusk on 27 August by members of the battalion. Interviews, Captain E.J. Snell, 19 May 1949 and Lieutenant Colonel G.D. Gayle, 19 May 1949.
21. Report, 3d Battalion, 2d Marines, entries 19 and 20 August, and 8, 9, and 10 September.
22. General Rupertus had directed that no fire be directed at enemy ships by shore batteries of his command. He feared that his positions might be revealed. During the first shelling by submarine, fire was returned by Battery G, 10th Marines, which was displacing along the coastal road on the southwest extremity of the island when the enemy craft fired. Interview, Lieutenant Colonel Manly L. Curry, 28 January 1949.
23. Interview, Lieutenant Colonel Custis Burton, September, 1948. The two guns were mounted one above the other, so that fire would not be masked.
24. Record of Events, 1st Division, Tulagi, entries for August.
25. During these moves by the Japanese to reinforce and build up their forces on the island, Commander, Task Force 62 wrote to Admiral Ghormley on 29 August as follows: ". . . No additional raiding groups were available for mopping up outlying Japanese detachments, although the plan had required operations of this nature on both August 7th and 8th. Outlying detachments in the vicinity of CACTUS (Guadalcanal) and RINGBOLT (Tulagi) positions exist; it is planned to mop these up within the next few days using the First Raider Battalion."
26. Two APDs -- the Little and Gregory -- were used in the movement. When they returned after dark to Lunga, Colonel Edson decided to keep the men embarked to facilitate the next day's operation. By the time word was got to the ships, however, a part of the men had already disembarked, and he decided to bring the whole group ashore. The two ships were sunk later the same night. Interview, Stiff, Sweeney, and Sperling, 4 February 1949.
27. Interview, Colonel Edmund J. Buckley, July 1947. There had been a tenuous bit of confirmatory evidence. On the night of 5 September, another officer of the Raider Battalion had come to Buckley, saying that he thought ships must be passing to the eastward. He had noticed a series of regularly spaced waves coming ashore, that seemed to be those of a ship's wake.
28. Report of Operation, 1st Parachute Batallion. Letter, Lieutenant Colonel William R. Williams to Commandant Marine Corps, 17 January 1949.
29. Letter, Williams to Commandant. Interview, Major John Erskine, 24 January 1949.
30. WD, MAG-23, 8 September 1942.
31. D-3 Journal, 8 September. Message 1.
32. Ibid., Message 5.
33. Ibid., Message 6.
34. D-3 Journal, 8 September. Messages 7, 8, 9, and 10.
35. 1st Parachute Battalion, Tasimboko Raid.
36. D-3 Journal, 8 September. Messages 14 and 15.
37. WD, MAG-23, 8 September.
38. D-3 Journal, 8 September. Message 19.
39. In a letter to the Officer-in-Charge, Historical Section, 15 February 1949, Colonel Samuel B. Griffith points out that the main force had left the area when the Raiders struck. Only supply dump guards were left, to the number of several hundred. Griffith led the enveloping force that struck from the south.
40. Letter, Griffith to OinC, Historical Section, 15 February 1949.
41. Geiger, during the course of the war, acquired something of a monolithic stature. Aside from the personal qualities which made his staffs function almost automatically, he never forgot that there was a ground war being fought. His visits to the front lines--never very far from his Command Post on the most exposed hill in the badly battered perimeter--have become legendary. His study of ground problems was intense and perhaps teleologic--he became the first Marine officer to command an army. Upon the death of General Simon Bolivar Buckner on Okinawa, Geiger succeeded to command of the Tenth Army and held it until replaced by General Stilwell.
42. Conference, Major General William J. Wallace and Brigadier General William O. Brice, 4 January 1949. Weir was the first Marine Corps aviator to land on Guadalcanal. He came ashore with Vandegrift on 7 August.
43. Conference, General Wallace and General Brice, 4 January 1949.
44. Interview, Colonel William W. Stickney, March 1949.
45. The Island, p. 92.
46. Final Report, Phase IV, pp. 5 and 6. See also Annex J.
47. The Island, p. 93.
48. Interview, Stiff, Sweeney, and Sperling, 4 February 1949. As the ridge lay perhaps a mile from the airstrip (against which all previous attacks had been launched) and since the axes of the ridge and the strip lay at almost right angles to each other, this bombing was not considered to be wholly fortuitous.
49. The Island, p. 94.
50. Robinson ms, p. 4.
51. The brigade consisted of the remainder of the Ichiki unit (850 men), a part of the 124th Infantry, reinforced by many small detachments of special weapons, engineers, artillery, and communicators (2050 men), and the 2d Battalion, 4th Infantry (550 men). USAFISPA Report, p. 8.
52. The Island, p. 95.
53. Interview, Stiff, Sweeney, Sperling, 4 February 1949. Sperling estimates that his company--D--consisted of only 30 men at the time it went forward to wipe out the enemy pocket.
54. History of Marine Corps Aviation in World War II. On the same day, Ghormley recommended that the 7th Marines, en route to service under General MacArthur in accordance with King's 7 September directive to CinCPac to send the General an amphibious trained regiment, be sent instead to Vandegrift. Ghormley ms, p. 120.
55. History of Marine Corps Aviation in World War II.
56. Colonel William J. Whaling had taken the battalion temporarily when Rosecrans was injured during an air raid two days before.
57. The sector held by the Parachute Battalion companies so far had not been threatened. It seems clear, however, that during the night of 12-13 September, about half the troops in position there withdrew. Letter, Colonel Samuel B. Griffith to Officer-in-Charge, Historical Section, 15 February 1949.
58. The 5th Battalion, 11th Marines, had brought its 105mm howitzers to the island in spite of a prevalent feeling that the jungle terrain would prohibit the use of prime movers. This feeling was responsible for the fact that the 4th Battalion of the same regiment was left behind in New Zealand--its larger and heavier 155mm weapons required specialized equipment for displacing. The 105s, in a pinch could be moved by the ubiquitous amphibian tractor or the almost unbelievably versatile jeep.
59. Final Report, Phase IV, Annex E, p. 2. "This seemed to create some confusion among the enemy, and a few were seen to come out of the edge of the woods toward the ridge our troops were holding."
60. Final Report, Phase IV, p. 10. Edson's directions to Sweeney were delivered viva voce--a corporal at the command post yelled, "Red Mike says it's O.K. to withdraw." Interview, Stiff, Sweeney, and Sperling, 4 February 1949.
61. Interview, Stiff, Sweeney, and Sperling, 4Feb49. Stiff, at Edson's command post, carried a half case of grenades down the slope to replenish Company C's supply. He walked completely through and forward of the position without realizing it, so dark was the night and so attenuated the company's lines.
62. Letter, Whaling to CMC.
63. History of Marine Corps Aviation in World War II.
64. Final Report, Phase IV, pp. 11 and 12.
65. Here, as at Tulagi, the lack of cranes and tractors had made it necessary to manhandle the weapons into position. Another problem beset the personnel of the battalion in the form of a high water-table. It was not possible to sink the emplacements to the proper depth because of seepage. It was therefore necessary to build them up to trunnion height. LtCol Curtis Burton in interview with the author.
66. Listening posts were forward of wire. One of these was overrun; and a wounded Marine of K Company, 1st Marines, was found alive on 18 September by a patrol from Company G, 1st Marines.
Patrol Report, G-2-1, 2dLt George M. Stratton.
67. Final report, Phase IV, p. 12.
68. Final Report, Phase IV, p. 12. See also The Island, p. 104.
69. Final Report, Phase IV, p. 11.
70. USAFISPA Report, p. 7.
71. Artillery information is taken from Annex E to Final Report, Phase IV. Details were clarified in conference with Major General P.A. del Valle. At the time of the events described, del Valle was Artillery Officer of the 1st Marine Division.
72. War Diary, Commander, Task Force 62. Entry 22 September 1942.
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