Chapter 8: Critical November
By the closing days of October, when the third assault upon the perimeter had been thrown back with great loss to the enemy, American forces, steadily growing in numerical strength, began to operate more actively outside the perimeter.
The Aola Base
Plans existed at this time for expansion, both to he east and to the west, of the territory under American control. The most important of these, perhaps, was that which contemplated the establishment of a second large airfield on the plains east of the perimeter. Initial plans had called for its construction inland from the native village of Volinavua, which lies somewhat to the west of Tetere and perhaps 15 miles by the coastal road to the east of the Lunga. The fields there are level, and with a minimum of work they could be made operable for any planes on the island. (It will be recalled that one of the earliest patrol actions of the campaign arose from the fact that a patrol was sent to guard a party surveying that very area).
Upon the insistence of Admiral Turner, however, this plan was abandoned in favor of one which General Vandegrift and his Marine engineer advisers regarded as unsound. This project called for the building of a field at Aola, much farther to the east beyond the Taivu, nearly fifty miles from the perimeter, and was not only opposed by technical men on the grounds of the evident unsuitability of the terrain for airfield construction.1 but by Vandegrift because of the dispersion of force required to maintain a little perimeter of this character in enemy country, and remote from the main body of our forces. Admiral Turner, however, had always inclined to the opinion that the forces of the 1st Marine Division should be dispersed along the coast "mopping up", as he put it, the "remaining Japanese" (who at this moment had reached peak strength for the campaign.).
Troops were designated to occupy the area, therefore, and by the beginning of November the movement toward it had begun. The 1st Battalion, 147th Infantry, was ordered forward from Tonga, where it had been stationed for several months, to act as security for the remainder of the force. This consisted of a Naval Construction Battalion and the 5th Defense Battalion. The landing was scheduled for the night of 3 November.
Another Marine Corps unit destined to have a spectacular sojourn on the island was designated the landing group and initial security force. Two companies (C and E) of the 2d Raider Battalion (under Lieutenant Colonel Evans F. Carlson) embarked late in October at Espiritu Santo for the purpose.2
On 22 October, Lieutenant Colonel Carlson had come to the perimeter from Espiritu Santo for the purpose of putting the final touches to plans for an operation against the enemy. He planned to land his battalion of approximately 750 men (troops with a minimum of combat experience, who had taken part only in the Makin Island Raid) at Beaufort Bay,3 on the southwest coast of the island and, with the help of native carriers and the coastwatchers who were active in the area, to initiate a program of guerrilla warfare. It was felt that the nature of the terrain, the fact that the indigenous population was on the whole sympathetic where it was not actively friendly, and the heterogeneous character of the enemy forces would make possible the successful application of T.E. Lawrence's theories. The plan, in any case, however, was abandoned4 when it became necessary
ADDITIONAL UNITS ARRIVE. Fresh troops from the 2d Marine Division during a halt.
Note clean-shaven faces and good condition of equipment and clothing.
for two companies (C and E) of the 2d Raider Battalion to be used in the Aola Bay operation (see above).
The development of an airfield at Aola was attempted, but the difficulties which had been foreseen by Captain Clemens and by General Vandegrift made its success impossible. A foregone failure, the project was abandoned, and the troops involved were moved westward to he perimeter about a month after the landing. The 1st Battalion, 147th Infantry, joined its regimental headquarters and the 3d Battalion at Koli Point on 29 November, and the regiment subsequently took an active part in the final drive toward Cape Esperance.5
Further Action on the Matanikau
In order to take advantage of the disruption which had been caused the enemy by his defeat at the perimeter in the latter part of October, still another offensive was planned which, it was hoped, would wipe out the enemy forces between the Matanikau river, and Kokumbona and permit establishment of an advanced patrol base near that village.6 Such an offensive would have the effect also of pushing back, and out of range of the airfield, Japanese artillery now in position beyond the Matanikau.
The impending arrival of additional units--the 8th Marines (Colonel Richard H. Jeschke), with an attached 75mm pack-howitzer battalion (1st Battalion, 10th Marines under Lieutenant Colonel Presley M. Rixey), was aboard ship and on the way from Samoa7--allowed General Vandegrift to allocate larger force to the operation than had yet been assigned to a similar task. Operation Order 13-42,8 in promulgating plans for the action, contained the following salient points:It was though that the Japanese 2d Division had suffered great loss in recent actions along the Lunga and the Matanikau, and that, since it had been one of the groups stationed between Point Cruz and Tassafaronga, forces in that area had been depleted.
The equivalent of two full regiments would be used, and air support would be give. It was planned, tentatively, to use naval gunfire support as well.
Artillery from the 11th Marines was to displace forward where necessary to support the attack up to he Poha River.
In order to get away from the necessity of confining the routes of approach of the assault forces to crossings at the mouth of the Matanikau and the Nippon Bridge, inadequate in any case for the number of men involved, engineer units were to construct four bridges approximately 1000 yards from the mouth, where the river is a slow, deep lagoon. Plans also called for the construction of a vehicular bridge between this point and the mouth by 1 November This was accomplished and the bridge (10-ton capacity) was ready for use when a road had been cut through to join the coastal road east of Point Cruz.9
The plan of attack was essentially that which had been used before with moderate success by smaller groups. The 5th Marines, with units of the Division Special Weapons Battalion attached, would attack west on a front of approximately 1,500 yards, two battalions abreast, 2d Battalion on left, 1st Battalion on right, with the right flank on the beach. The main effort would be made along the high ground in the center of the zone of action. Immediately behind the 5th Marines, and prepared to carry on the attack by relieving any part of the assault regiment or by assuming a part of the task of the assault on the left flank of the 5th Marines, the 1st and 2d Battalions of the 2d Marines, recently
OPERATIONS ABOUT POINT CRUZ in early November are depicted on this photo-overprint.
THE ENGINEERS SUCCEEDED in constructing three bridges during the night of 31 October for the assault of the 5th Marines.
arrived from Tulagi and comparatively fresh, would advance in the right half of the zone of action.
In order to protect the left, or inland, flank, the Whaling Group, consisting of the 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, and the Scout-Sniper Detachment, was to operate along the ridges and ravines t the south.
One interesting item in the order is that which directs that artillery or mortar fire be directed at each objective prior to the assault and upon each ravine and stream line suspected of harboring enemy prior to the passage by infantry.
The attack was launched as planned on 1 November and was well on the way to a successful conclusion when unforeseen circumstances, entirely unconnected with the operation itself, made it necessary for General Vandegrift to alter his plans drastically and quickly.10 These circumstances will be treated in due course. In the meanwhile, the attack across the Matanikau is deserving of description.
On the night of 31 October, Companies A, C, and D, 1st Engineer Battalion, succeeded in constructing three bridges. By 0200, 1 November, one platoon of Company E, 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, had crossed the river in rubber boats to cover passage of the balance of the battalion, the rest of company following just before dawn.11 During this time the bivouac area of the regiment, in the flat land east of the mouth of the river received light artillery fire from enemy positions to the westward.12
The attack, preceded by air strikes, artillery preparation, and fire from naval surface craft, moved out on schedule. Crossings made at the mouth of the river and by means of the newly constructed footbridges were completed by 0700, and the regiment advanced with two battalions abreast, 1st Battalion of the right.13 By 0800 the 3d Battalion, in regimental reserve, had crossed and was following generally in the inland zone of action of the 2d Battalion.
The 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, operating along the high ground some hundreds of
yards in from the coast, met no determined opposition. Its first objective was reached by 1000 and its second, by 1440. At the time of jump-off from the first objective, however, it lost contact with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, on the right.14
The latter battalion, in the meanwhile, had come up against exactly the type of resistance which had been foreseen when the operation order had been made up. Stiff opposition from small arms and automatic weapons developed along the left front of the battalion--Company A, moving forward on the right, with its right flank on the beach, met with no obstacle in its passage over the flat land in its zone of action, the area which had been devastated by the artillery concentration which broke up a threatened enemy assault late in October. Company C, to its left, however, moving along a ridge which lay parallel to its axis of advance, ran head-first into strong resistance from a well emplaced enemy force in a ravine to its front. Heavy casualties were suffered in the ensuing fire fight, and the company withdrew a short distance along the ridge.
At this point Company B, in regimental reserve, was committed in the gap which had opened between Companies A and C, and began working on the enemy strong point from the mouth of the ravine which sheltered it. An attempted envelopment of the position failed when a ten man patrol under the commanding officer of Company B went around behind Company C's position to strike from the southeast. It, too, suffered casualties and was forced to withdraw.
During the afternoon, elements of the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines were ordered into the line of the 1st Battalion, Companies I and K going into position between the base of Point Cruz--the point to which Company A had pushed during the day--and the right flank of Company B.
During the morning of 2 November, the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, requested permission to attempt a flanking movement by shifting its axis of advance to the northward in order to envelope the enemy on the flat land below the ridges. By this time, the 2d Marines, having crossed the river and moved overland, were in position behind the 2d Battalion and in reserve. Permission was granted and Whaling, in position on the left of the 2d Battalion, was advised of the impending move and directed to take over in the 2d Battalion's zone when that battalion had completed its planned movement.
By 1400 on 2 November, the enemy was partially boxed in. The 3d Battalion, on the flat land, was in contact on its left front, while one company--Company L--had been committed to the left of Company C. The 2d Battalion had gone into position along a ridge parallel to the beach and several hundred yards inland, and was facing due north.
In order to complete the encirclement of the Japanese, the left flank company of the battalion, Company F, was ordered to move northward in column and face eastward, to take the pressure off the 3d Battalion, which was attempting to move west. The movement was carried out without incident, and Company F, with one machine gun platoon attached, went into position faced with the necessity of defending itself from possible attacks from both the east and the west.15
Late in the afternoon after heavy artillery, machine gun, and mortar preparation two companies of the 3d Battalion pushed forward--Companies I and K--and immediately ran into opposition from a strong enemy group between the coastal road and the beach. Led by Captain Erskine Wells, commanding Company I, the Marines rushed the enemy in the only authenticated U.S. bayonet charge of the operation. They wiped out the pocket--a group distinct from that which was in position in the ravine before the left front of the battalion--and pushed down the beach to Company F's position. There they helped the latter company establish a perimeter defense for the night. During their rush, which had advanced the battalion's lines to a point about
1,500 yards west of the base of Point Cruz, the two companies captured one 70mm field piece, four 37mm antitank guns and a number of machine guns.
An attempt was made by the regiment to clean out the enemy in place in the ravine by using 75mm half tracks, the self propelled weapon that had accounted for one of the enemy tanks at the mouth of the Matanikau a week before. These vehicles were stalled in their attempt by the rough terrain of a dry stream bed, and for the night were protected by a perimeter defense set up by Headquarters Company, 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, and Company D, 164th Infantry.
Final phases of the attack began at 0800 on the morning of 3 November, when the 2d Battalion, less Company F, swept north toward the beach from its position along the ridge. On its left, Companies F, I, and K held fast initially to prevent any attempt on the part of the encircled enemy to break free. One such attempt had already been made, when the Japanese launched a bayonet attack at 0630 against the section of the western line held by Companies I and K, and had been repulsed.
The 2d Battalion attack was pushed forward and the enemy was compressed into the northwest corner of the pocket. As the battalion moved north and then northwest, Companies I and K, facing east toward the encircled enemy, anchored their left flank on the beach and pivoted around it, in contact with the 2d Battalion on their right, and joining in the movement to the north.
While the 2d Battalion was beginning its final movement to the beach, Company D, 164th Infantry, moved up the beach road, flushed out bypassed groups of enemy, and drove them into the pocket, and elements of the 2d Marines, moving westward along the ridges parallel to the beach, began cutting northward beyond the scene of action to turn back any attack from the west.
By noon of 3 November, two new developments occurred in the area. The rest of the 1st Battalion, 164th Infantry, had been ordered into the action, and the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, had been directed to return to the perimeter to take up defensive positions on the eastern sector.
While these movements were taking place, the coup de grace was being given the last of the enemy within the pocket, and the Japanese force was annihilated, losing at least 239 killed. Included among the 28 officers who fell was a full colonel, unidentified, who was taken to be a regimental commander. Captured materiel, including the items mentioned above as having been taken by Companies I and K, consisted of one 70mm field piece, 12 37mm antitank guns, and 34 machine guns.16
The Koli Point Action
Concurrently with the formulation of plans for the operation toward Kokumbona, the outcome of which has just been described, Vandegrift had been receiving news of a disquieting character from higher echelons.17 Intelligence data received from coastwatchers stationed near Rabaul, who had been able to maintain an incredibly complete log of enemy shipping and movement in that port, indicated for some time a renewed enemy effort
in the direction of Guadalcanal. The missing details of the movement were forthcoming when, on 1 November, Halsey advised Vandegrift that Koli Point was believed to represent the current enemy target and suggested that Vandegrift be prepared for activity in that area. Since a landing there would present a threat to the perimeter as well as serve to cut off land communications with the engineer force now scheduled to land and begin preliminary work on the projected airstrip at Aola on 3 November, he decided to put troops in a position to disperse or destroy the enemy unit.
Accordingly, the 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, badly fatigued from combat18 (it had been involved in Conoley's spectacular action of 24-26 October), was ordered to the threatened area on 1 November.19 Movement by truck to the Tenaru River was completed by 1431, and the battalion camped on the west bank of the river for the night. A forced march was begun the next morning, and by nightfall the battalion was in position along the beach, east of the Metapona River.20
The battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Herman H. Hanneken, deployed his force from the river mouth to a spot 2,000 yards to the east, scattered under the shelter of the woods which bordered the beach and in position to disrupt any landing to his front which might be attempted. The battalion was in no position, on the other hand, to do much should the enemy elect to put his forces ashore at any other point--to the eastward, for instance.21
That is, in fact, what happened. At 2230, 2 November, ships which appeared to be one cruiser, one destroyer and one small troopship, stood well in to shore at a position about 1,000 yards east of the extreme right flank company, Company F. In spite of rain and limited visibility, it was seen that the landing was taking place at that point and that there was no possibility of dealing with it at the moment. Three hours later a second destroyer came down from the west, closed inland, and by 0200 on 3 November the ships cleared the area.22
An unfortunate circumstance had prevented the battalion commander from reporting his position. Because of weather conditions,23 the radios with which the battalion was equipped could not get through to the perimeter, and in spite of the efforts of the communication personnel, it was not until some time after noon on 3 November that momentary contact was made.
Contact with the enemy force began at daybreak when a reconnaissance patrol composed of eight enemy soldiers blundered into the Marine positions and was fired upon. Four were killed, and the remainder escaped into the woods.
Immediately the enemy patrol had been fired upon, Hanneken realized that his presence had been revealed to the main enemy force and decided to strike first. His first move was to place a heavy 81mm mortar concentration upon the area used for the enemy landing--his report also stated that he hoped that the sound of the firing would be heard and interpreted correctly at division headquarters, with which he had not yet succeeded in establishing communication.
The initial response to his action was negative in both directions. There was no sign of reaction on the part of the enemy, and there was no indication that his hopes for a
response from the division would be fulfilled.24
The puzzling lack of retaliatory measures on the part of the enemy finally led the battalion commander to believe that only a small force had landed.
He had decided to attack when he received a report that several hundred enemy troops were advancing along the beach toward his positions. Fire from machine guns and from mortars was immediately placed upon the column, which broke and dispersed in the band of woods that fringed the beach. For 15 minutes there was no response other than scattered rifle fire, and the battalion continued to inflict casualties upon the enemy force.
At that time, however, heavy mortar fire began to fall upon the right (east) flank company, Company F. Almost at the same time artillery fire began to fall behind the battalion, in the bay. As the range was lowered, and as the fire became more accurate, it could be seen that one enemy piece was in position down the beach. This was brought under fire by the mortars. which were emplaced near the mouth of the river on the right bank.25
The position of the battalion at this time was becoming untenable. Mortar and artillery fire were falling on the area held by Company F, and that unit was suffering casualties. Mortar ammunition was beginning to run low. Furthermore, there had been no success as yet in establishing communication with division. Even the expedient of trying to communicate with planes which were overhead constantly on their way from the airfield had no results.26
Hanneken therefore arrived at the only decision possible under the circumstances--that of fighting a withdrawing action and taking up a better position west of the Metapona River. A problem was immediately posed by the character of the river, for the only easy route of crossing lay across a sand bar at the mouth. This crossing, easy though it was, lay in full view of the enemy, and it was, therefore, necessary to cross further upstream, under considerable difficulty.
Withdrawal took place in the following order:
Company F, with 24 wounded and two 81mm mortars
Company G, with the remaining two mortars.
The Command Group.
The movement was successful, and no casualties were suffered as it was being carried out.27 Before the battalion succeeded in occupying its new position, however, an attack was launched upon it from the west, the rear of the unit.28 This blow apparently was delivered by a small unit landed from the lone destroyer observed the previous night.29
At about this time, the battalion was able to communicate momentarily with Division, and word was sent back that boats were needed badly for the evacuation of wounded, and that the battalion was withdrawing to the west of the Metapona.30
At the perimeter, in the meanwhile, three actions were occupying the attention of General Vandegrift--the large-scale drive to the westward, the involvement of the 2d Battalion
HEAVY CASUALTIES WERE SUFFERED by the 5th Marines on 1 November.
7th Marines, near the Metapona, and the landing of the conglomerate force at Aola. As soon as Hanneken's message was received, General Vandegrift realized that a serious situation was developing.,31 and the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, with the command echelon of the regiment, was immediately advised that it would be moved by boat from Lunga to the Metapona. The battalion was able to move from its post on the perimeter in the sector containing the Ridge to the beach, ready to embark, in less than two hours, departing at about 1900.
Regular communication with the perimeter was established by the 2d Battalion, 7th Marines,32 late in the evening of 3 November, and Hanneken was apprised of the situation.
At 1510 General Vandegrift had sent a message to Hanneken to the effect that he had instructed aviation to "hit everything east of Koli Point.33 Ten minutes later he sent a second message, telling him of sending two battalions as reinforcement.
The air units took their instructions literally, for the first message (sent at 1740) that reached the perimeter after reestablishment of communications was a plea to have planes cease operating since they were bombing the battalion's positions. Twenty minutes later a similar message came in, and one hour after that, at 1900, a third and urgent
message told of the strafing of the battalion by friendly planes, a mishap which had caused casualties to the already badly understrength battalion.34
Hanneken, meanwhile, had decided to fight his way through the enemy force which lay between him and the perimeter and take up position immediately west of the mouth of the Nalimbiu River. The movement was accomplished without incident, the battalion moving along the beach and through the brush about 100 yards inland. Sporadic firing occurred, but no resistance was met.35
Upon arriving at the desired position, Hanneken established a small beachhead, extending 400 yards along the beach and 300 yards inland.36 Puller's battalion and the command echelon of the 7th Marines landed within this perimeter, and went into bivouac for the night, the movement from Lunga Lagoon having been completed by shortly after midnight on the night of 3-4 November.
At 0500 on 4 November the two battalions began to develop the situation, attacking abreast eastward with the 1st Battalion on the right. They were in position on the west bank of the Nalimbiu by 0830, and patrols were pushed across the river and to the sought.37
No further advance was undertaken during the day, although patrolling continued, and one enemy field piece was located and destroyed 100 yards in front of the line held by Hanneken's battalion. Also, during the afternoon, artillery emplaced east of the perimeter fired harassing fires into the area occupied by the enemy, as did two cruisers and two destroyers lying off Koli Point.
The same positions were held next day, in order to allow time for a part of the 164th Infantry to get into position (see below for the plans involving this unit). During the night of 5-6 November the enemy began retiring eastward, away from the vicinity of the Nalimbiu, and during the daylight hours of 6 November there was no activity to the front of the two battalions. Late in the afternoon orders were issued to both battalions directing them to move out the following morning at 0600.38
In the meanwhile, the command structure of the American forces had been modified to allow the 1st Marine Division Headquarters to function, in effect, as a corps headquarters. The number of units, Marine and Army, had increased until there were present on the island six infantry regiments and part of a seventh, part of a raider battalion, the equivalent of two artillery regiments, portions of two defense battalions, and a large and growing number of specialized units. The
GUNFIRE SUPPORT BY DAY, TORPEDOES BY NIGHT, was destroyer routine during November and December off Guadalcanal. This picture shows a 5-inch gun giving aid and comfort to Marines on shore.
tactical direction of such a force imposed a grave problem upon General Vandegrift, especially since actions were now being conducted to the east and the west simultaneously. It was therefore decided to interpose an echelon of command between the division and regimental levels.
On 4 November the American zone was divided in two sectors, the East Sector and the West Sector, each under tactical control of a brigadier general. These sector commanders, in turn, were responsible to, and received their orders from, the Commanding General, 1st Marine Division. General Rupertus, recalled from Tulagi on 3 November for the purpose, was placed in command of the East Sector, while Brigadier General Edmund B. Sebree, USA, Assistant Division Commander of the Americal Division, was placed in control of the West Sector.
Rupertus at once assumed charge of operation to the east. The 164th Infantry (less 1st Battalion) had been ordered out of the perimeter on 3 November to travel overland until it reached a point directly south of the area occupied by the enemy force. At that time it was to turn northward and drive toward the beach, establishing contact with the two battalions of the 7th Marines that were already in contact with the enemy force.39 Company B, of the newly arrived 8th Marines, was ordered out as security for the Sector Command Post and for the artillery of the 1st Battalion, 10th Marines, emplaced east of the perimeter in general support of operations of the 7th Marines and the 164th Infantry.40
The 164th Infantry moved out on 4 November, and, after a difficult movement through the jungle, came in to position on the west bank of the Nalimbiu, 4000 yards inland, late in the afternoon of the same day. It went into bivouac there without having established contact with either battalion of the 7th Marines, two miles north.
On 5 November, following receipt of orders from General Rupertus, the infantry regiment crossed the Nalimbiu and swung northward, with the 3d Battalion leading and the 2d Battalion following to the right (east) and slightly to the rear. moderate rifle fire was encountered, from right front and right flank, but the battalions pressed onward toward the coast, arriving south of the enemy force. The movement was completed by the night of 6-7 November, and a few hours later, Regimental Headquarters and Company E, 164th Infantry, arrived by boat in the terrain held by 2d Battalion, 7th Marines.41
Up to early morning of 7 November, Hanneken's battalion, together with Puller's, had been in position on the west bank of the Nalimbiu River. At 0600 they moved forward, crossing the river and arriving at the west bank of the Metapona between 1345 and 1600. No resistance had been encountered on the way, and patrols which were sent out immediately into territory beyond the Metapona penetrated the area for 2000 yards and returned without making contact with the enemy.42
Movement to the east was resumed at 0600 on 8 November. This day's advance was marked by an encircling movement on the part of Hanneken's battalion. This unit, from its position near the mouth of the river, crossed it, passed southeast forward of the line held by Puller, swinging gradually east and then northeast.43 Puller, by this time (approximately three hours after Hanneken's battalion had moved out) began moving his 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, across the river. At this time also, the 2d Battalion, 164th Infantry, was moving slowly northward through the jungle and grass land of the interior in an attempt to make contact with the Marines.
The two Marine battalions met with different degrees of resistance. The 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, carried out its movements without making contact with the enemy, passing southeast of the Japanese defensive positions near the beach. Puller, on the other hand, moving directly eastward
against those positions, met strong opposition from automatic weapons and mortars. The battalion suffered casualties of four killed, two missing, and 31, including Colonel Puller himself, wounded. The colonel remained with his battalion until the next morning, when the multiple fragmentation wounds44 he had suffered incapacitated him, and on orders from Frisbie, the Regimental Executive Officer, turned over command of the battalion to Major John E. Weber.
Nightfall of 8 November found the two battalions of the 7th Marines facing each other across an almost impenetrable tract of jungle, with the enemy force, now estimated by Hanneken to be of battalion strength,45 in strong positions between them. About three hundred yards to Hanneken's front was a small, deep creek, running parallel to his lines, while Weber's force was in position on the west bank of a larger, lagoon-like stream. The latter was of such size as to allow passage by fording only at the mouth, at low tide, or at points extending from 1000 yards upstream. The streams were parallel, about 700 yards apart.
During the day Weber had been notified that the 2d Battalion, 164th Infantry, less Company E, would report to him for employment on his right (inland) flank. The plan was to have this unit extend its lines eastward for the purpose of making contact with the left flank elements of Hanneken's force, thus completing the envelopment of the enemy force. Reporting on the morning of the 9th, the Army battalion set up its command post near Weber's and the two rifle companies--F and G--were led to me right flank and briefed thoroughly on their mission. Their movement began at once.46
In the meanwhile, Hanneken was in position in the territory previously occupied by the enemy force which had landed on the night of 2-3 November. He had found much materiel--landing boats, 70mm ammunition, demolition charges, medical supplies, and cavalry bits--all of which he destroyed.
At 1100 on 9 November, Hanneken was alerted for an attack to me west, and 51 minutes later his lines began moving forward. Companies G and E were in line from right to left, while Company F had as its mission a flanking movement around the left (inland) flank. One platoon of Company H was assigned to each rifle company.47
First contact was made at 1330, when a small enemy group was encountered and driven back. By 1448 the battalion lines extended generally north and south, with the companies in the same relative position as when the movement began, with the right flank of Company G on the beach, Company E pressing forward and in contact with G on the right and F on the left, and Company F moving wide on the inland flank, flanking the enemy position and attempting to establish contact with elements of Weber's force to the west.
At about this time, the enemy main body had been located in position protected by the stream in front of Hanneken's lines, within Company E's zone of action. Contact was made by this company, which sustained 10 casualties as a result.48
Hanneken determined to force the position. Company G, on the right, was directed to begin a sweeping movement to turn the enemy left flank, while Company E, already in contact, began to move forward. Within an hour, one platoon of Company G was also in contact, and twenty minutes later, at 1602, it had forced its way across the creek near the mouth and had begun to build up a firing line.
Company E, however, attacking the enemy main body in a frontal assault, had found it impossible to carry its objective. Pressing forward in the face of heavy resistance from small arms and machine guns, by 1702 the company had forced its way to the west bank of the stream through water of armpit depth. The volume and accuracy of enemy fire, however, broke up every effort of the men to
get up onto the bank and establish a firing line. Hanneken, in the face of such resistance, and with night falling, accepted the inevitable, broke contact, and withdrew 200 yards to higher ground, where he re-formed his lines for the night.
While this action, which had cost the battalion 18 dead and 30 wounded, had been in progress, inland elements of both Hanneken's and Weber's battalions had been attempting to establish contact. We have seen that the mission of the 2d Battalion, 164th Infantry, operating from the west, was to close the gap between the inland flanks of the two Marine battalions. Company F, 7th Marines, moving from the east, had a similar mission in addition to its main task of turning the enemy right flank.49
While Hanneken was withdrawing to his position for the night, Company E, 164th Infantry was landed from boats in his area and reported to him. It was immediately assigned positions on the left of Company F, his left flank company, and his lines were thus extended approximately 300 yards.50
In the meanwhile, Companies F and G, 164th Infantry, had spent the afternoon attempting to close the inland gap which separated the left and right flanks respectively of Hanneken's and Weber's battalions. No report of success had been received by Weber, or by the commanding officer of the 2d Battalion, 164th Infantry.51
Nightfall of 9 November, therefore, found the situation relatively unchanged save in that the enemy position was definitely known and the difficulty of assaulting it was realized. Hanneken's lines had been moved forward, and his inland flank extended. Weber's lines remained on the west bank of the unnamed creek, and his inland flank likewise had been extended, although he had no reliable information as to the location or the situation of his flank elements. He assumed they were in position south of the enemy pocket. During the night, in preparation for the resumption of the attack, Hanneken's battalion kept up a constant harassing fire from 60mm mortars.52
Orders from regiment, issued at 0545 on November 10th, called for the closing of the trap around the enemy force and its annihilation. Weber's battalion was to hold fast in the position it occupied, while the elements of the 2d Battalion, 164th Infantry, attached to it the day before, were to wheel to the left, making contact with the inland flank elements of Hanneken's battalion (Company E, 164th). Simultaneous barrages of 81mm mortar fire were to be laid down on the enemy positions by both battalions of the 7th marines immediately after contact had been made as above.53 It was thought that this could be accomplished by about 0800. Elements of the 164th would attack northward toward the beach, passing between the two streams, immediately after the preparatory fires lifted.
This plan was based upon the assumption that Companies F and G, 164th, were in position south of the enemy pocket, and that a relatively easy movement would allow them to make contact with the force to the east. It will be recalled that neither Weber nor the commanding officer of the 2d Battalion, 164th, had received reports from the two companies. An inspection of his lines during the early morning of the 10th showed Weber that when they had failed to establish contact as ordered, the two infantry companies had withdrawn from their forward positions and had gone into bivouac on the right flank of his inland company.54 It would, therefore, be necessary for them to traverse once more the territory they had worked over the previous afternoon before coming into a position whence they could attempt to close the gap.
The attempt was made, punctuated by repeated insistence on the part of the commanding officer of the 164th that orders be followed and contact established.55 The deadline
for the mortar barrage came and went without word that the enveloping forces had met, and finally, after a delay of two and one-half hours, it was decided to lay down the fires anyway.56
This was done--and once again there was difficulty which arose from imperfect terrain knowledge and faulty maps. Lieutenant Colonel Weber explains it tersely in his letter identified above:Both the 1st and 2d Battalions, 7th Marines, were to fire a simultaneous 81mm mortar barrage under orders from regiment [in position well to the west of the scene of action. Compiler's note.] into the area between the two units. This was attempted after many delays. . . . In spite of careful planning and coordination of fires, both sides had mis-information of ranges, and as a result, the CP's of both 1-7 and 2-7 exchanged rather close salutes.57
The mortar barrage began at 1025. Forty minutes later the 2d Battalion, 164th Infantry, still attempting to carry out its orders, reported that small groups of enemy were being encountered, on the move away from the area under fire.
During the afternoon, Company E, 164th, seems to have lost contact with Hanneken's battalion, to which it was attached, while at the same time failing to find its parent battalion to the west.58 At 1428, Company G, 7th Marines, was withdrawn from its right flank position and put on the left flank of Company F, 7th Marines, and ordered to move into the position of E Company, 164th Infantry, and close the newly opened gap between Company F, 7th Marines, and Company E, 164th Infantry. The latter company was ordered once again to establish contact with the 2d Battalion, 164th Infantry. Once again there was a failure to carry out the assigned mission.
Some time between the hours of 2000 on 10 November and 0500 on 11 November, the entire enemy force, which had been in position along the creek, made its escape through the gap which the 2d Battalion, 164th Infantry, had failed to close. The battalion advanced slowly toward the beach on 11 November, following a wide, sweeping movement to the south on the part of Company E, 164th infantry, and encountered no opposition, arriving at the beach at noon. All three battalions--1st and 2d Battalions, 7th Marines, and the 2d Battalion, 164th Infantry--thereupon withdrew west of the Metapona River.
During the operation, the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, had lost 14 killed, two missing, and 39 wounded, while the 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, had lost 21 killed and 61 wounded, including two killed and four injured by a falling tree.
The Second Raider Battalion
In order to cut off and destroy any enemy troops which managed to escape from the planned entrapment, General Vandegrift had enlisted the services of the 2d Raider Battalion.59 An air-drop dispatch was sent on 5 November to Lieutenant Colonel Carlson, commanding the Raiders at Aola, giving him his instructions, and, on 6 November, after turning over the Aola security mission to the Infantry battalion, the two Raider companies (C and E) set out.60
Map 14: Carlson's Patrol: 4 November--4 December 1942
The route followed lay well inland. Early in the movement, one can find original traces of the tactical plan which was followed some days later by the entire battalion on its historic patrol through the hills and around the perimeter. This plan consisted, basically, in the employment of strong and aggressively led patrols fanning out in the general direction of the proposed advance, with the command group and the main body following, and located eccentricity with relation to the axis of advance.61 High mobility and a minimum of inertia were thus accomplished, making it possible to engage the enemy quickly and with great strength at any point of contact, and likewise making it possible to strike from unexpected directions.
The route of advance of the Raiders lay through a chain of villages west of Aola until the village of Binu was reached, on the Balesuna River about eight miles inland. This village, the most westerly that was still occupied by its native owners, was used as a base for operations subsequently until the beginning of the extended patrol.
Contact was quickly established by patrol with Marine units from the perimeter, operating east of Koli Point. Aside from small contacts with isolated and wandering Japanese groups, however, no action was fought until after the breakout by the enemy which has been described.
The situation had developed, in other words, in something of the manner in which it had been expected to develop when the 2d Raider, Battalion was called from its mission at Aola. This unit, now reinforced by the arrival of Companies B and F, plus a portion of Company D, began operating at once to pursue and destroy the remnants of the enemy force.
By 1000 on 11 November, a patrol consisting of Company E, 2d Raider Battalion, made contact with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines and learned of the Japanese breakout. Ten minutes later, Company C, Raiders, operating somewhat south of Company E, reported itself heavily engaged with a superior enemy force three miles southwest from the battalion
base at Binu. Company E was ordered to pass up the west bank of the Metapona and attack eastward, while Company D, operating to the northward of Company E's original zone of action, was directed to move straight toward the scene of action.
Two distinct contacts had been made, and neither was decisive. After inspection of the scene of one action, Carlson concentrated his force at Binu. On 12 November, the area was closely inspected once more, and the Raider commander came to the conclusion that it had been organized for occupation by a force of about battalion strength.We found notices written on paper and tacked to trees indicating where various companies were to go. Our outguards began shooting enemy messengers who attempted to enter, apparently thinking that the position was occupied by their own people. During the day and night of 12 November we killed 25 messengers who tried to enter. One was an officer.62
Further evidence led him to believe that the enemy was in position to his front and, after calling for and receiving artillery fire upon the threatening area, he was attacked by a Japanese force two companies strong. This attack, and four others similar to it, was repulsed during the afternoon, and artillery fire was used constantly to harass the enemy. This artillery fire came from 1st Battalion, 10th Marines. It was not observed, but was adjusted by radio information from the Raiders.
For the next five days scattered actions took place, and by 17 November it became apparent that the enemy main body had escaped to the hills.63 On that day also, Carlson was called to the perimeter for a conference with General Vandegrift relative to further action by his battalion.
The missions outlined during the conference included the following points:
- To locate and explore the suspected trail behind Mount Austen to Kokumbona;
- To determine the presence or absence of enemy concentrations south of the airfield, for it was still felt that the enemy might be planning an attack from that direction;
- To seek out and destroy the enemy artillery that had been shelling the perimeter from the hinterland;
- To seek out a trail to the top of Mount Austen from the south. It had been reported by patrols from 1st Marines such a trail existed, but there was no adequate information of it.
For the accomplishment of these missions, the battalion was supplied with native bearers, and with advice and guidance from J.V. Mather, an Australian on duty with the 1st Marine Division,64 and from Tabasui, a scout from Malaita and member of the native constabulary. Sergeant Major Vouza, likewise of the constabulary, already in the process of becoming a legendary figure in the campaign because of his heroic services, personally guided the battalion through the initial phases of its operation.
The second phase of the 2d Raider Battalion's operation began on 24 November with reconnaissance activity by patrols. After having been augmented by the arrival of Company A from the New Hebrides on 25 November, the operating base of the battalion was moved to the upper Tenaru Valley. Two strong combat groups, each composed of two companies, established subsidiary bases two miles to the right and left front of the battalion headquarters, and conducted thorough searches within assigned areas to their front. Communication was maintained by radio65 between the advanced groups and the battalion headquarters.
On 28 November, one part of the mission was accomplished (see item 3 above) when an enemy artillery position was found on a steep ridge separating the valleys of the Lunga and the Tenaru Rivers. The gun itself was not found, but a quantity of 75mm ammunition in cases bearing the Schneider mark66 was found and destroyed. This position
CARLSON'S RAIDERS ON THE MARCH, at extreme left,
assisted by native bearers who helped make possible the long November patrol outside the perimeter
by the 2d Raider Battalion.
was found by the group operating on the left (southern) front.
In the meanwhile, the northern group had made an important find in the shape of a well defined trail leading from the upper Tenaru across the hills to the Lunga and thence to the eastern slopes of Mount Austen. Carlson decided to displace forward and establish his base at that point.
On 30 November the movement forward was resumed when the entire battalion crossed the steep ridge separating the two valleys.67 A large enemy bivouac was found abandoned on the south bank of the Lunga. Here was found the weapon which had been south--a 75mm mountain gun--as well as a 37mm antitank gun.
A spectacular action followed almost on the heels of this discovery. Company F was ordered to send out patrols at once to search the area thoroughly. One of these patrols, one squad strength, came upon an enemy force in bivouac and rocky slope. In spite of the fact that between 90 and 100 enemy were present, the patrol immediately attacked with its automatic weapons. Aided by surprise (which had been mutual) and by the enemy's having stacked his arms, the squad succeeded in almost wiping out the enemy body. Seventy-five Japanese dead were counted after the brief violent encounter, which had taken place during a driving rain. There were no Marine casualties during the action, although one man was killed by a sniper in the area the next day.
Food was delivered to he battalion on 1 December by air drop. Seven trips were made by an R4D from Henderson Field. Seventy-five percent of the supplies dropped were recovered.
On 1 December, orders were received from General Vandegrift to return to the perimeter. By this time Carlson was satisfied that all but one item on the list of missions had been carried out. Only the existence of the southern trail on Mount Austen remained in
doubt, and in order that this matter also be cleared up, Carlson requested and received permission to extend his operations for a few days.
Next day there was the usual fanning out of patrols to the west and southwest. A new artillery position was found to the south of the one already taken, and parts of another gun were found.
On 2 December, specific orders were received for the return to the perimeter, and Carlson began the movement. Splitting the battalion in two parts, he sent one part down the Tenaru, retracing the route already followed. This group arrived at the perimeter on 4 December. The second part, under his command, set out for the Marine positions along the Matanikau, investigating Mount Austen en route.
The next action of the long patrol operation was fought on 3 December on the heights of the mountain. While investigating strong unoccupied enemy positions at what Carlson described as the "hub of a spider web of ridges"68 the battalion met a strong enemy combat patrol. This was engaged immediately, and in the ensuing fight, which lasted for about two hours and during which automatic weapons and mortars were used by both sides, Carlson succeeded in executing a double envelopment. This was accomplished only after a similar attempt on the part of the enemy had been circumvented. Enemy dead amount to 25, while the Marines suffered casualties of four wounded, one of whom died the next day.
On 4 December the last leg of the return journey was begun. The battalion, with Company B as advance guard, commenced the descent of the hill mass with the intention of reaching the Matanikau and following it down toward the coast.
Five hundred yards from the point of departure Company B ran into an ambush, losing one man killed. Once more there was a double envelopment of the enemy, who was in strong, well camouflaged individual positions. Two more men were killed and two wounded before the enemy force of seven was wiped out.69
Late in the day the battalion entered Marine lines at the Matanikau positions, its mission accomplished. It had killed 488 enemy since leaving Aola, and in doing so it had lost 16 killed and 18, including one native scout, wounded.
The Battle of Guadalcanal70
The truly decisive battle for the possession of Guadalcanal, ironically enough, was meanwhile fought well away from the island itself as a series of engagements involving cruiser forces, battleships, and planes. These engagements were spread over a period of several days, and took place at widely separated points. They involved heavy losses in combat surface craft for both the Japanese and the American forces.71
The actions were decisive and convincing to the Japanese for two reasons. In the first place, the loss of tonnage of transport and cargo ships was a heavy one--eleven ships--even for a nation whose surface strength at the time was superior to that of the Americans. Again, the loss of life in itself was great, for reports of the interrogation of prisoners indicate that the shattered convoy was bringing at least 13,500 men to the island, and the circumstances attending the loss of the ships were such as to indicate that the greater part of these men died before reaching the island.
The growth in numbers and in effectiveness of our aviation on Henderson Field,72 together with the growing size and aggressiveness of the Navy's surface task groups, had forced the Japanese to resort to an inadequate and unsatisfactory system of supply and reinforcements for their troops on Guadalcanal. By the end of October, it had been decided to abandon, for the moment, attempts to send down troops and materiel by destroyer in hurried trips by night, for it had been learned that by such methods it was impossible to transport the tanks and heavy artillery that were badly needed on the island.
Only late in the campaign had the Japanese been forced to realize that the Marines were determined to hold Henderson Field, at least, and that in holding it they were prepared to risk all planes available on the field, and to employ to the maximum possible extent the task forces afloat in the area. This realization led directly to the decision to send to the island a large convoy of transports, heavily guarded by a strong surface force.73
Following the defeat of the Japanese in the latter part of October, the Hiroshima Division was to reinforce the 27,000 men already on the island. It was this force that was annihilated in the actions which are described below, and with its annihilation the Japanese accepted the fact that they would not be able to retake the island. For, subsequent to that event, although small bodies of reinforcements continued to be sent down until some time in January, the major efforts of Japan were directed toward supplying the troops on the island and evacuating them.74
In the western sector, along the Matanikau River, the events of 1 and 2 November had caused a suspension of activities. It will be recalled that the 2d Marines, less 3d Battalion, reinforced by the 1st Battalion, 164th Infantry, had replaced the 5th Marines and the Whaling Group in the line. The troublesome pocket which had held up progress at the base of Point Cruz had been eliminated, and the lines extended generally south from the flat land west of the village of Matanikau.
Progress to the westward was continuing through 4 November when developments east of the perimeter made it necessary to suspend the attack, since the problematic outcome of the operations east of Koli Point made wide dispersion of forces undesirable.
By 10 November--the 167th birthday of the Marine Corps--the situation to the east was well enough in hand to allow further attention to be paid to the advance westward. On that day, the attack was resumed, with the 2d Marines in assault and the 8th Marines following in column. No attempts were made to outflank and envelope resistance that was met, and the advance, as a result, was slow.75
PLUMMETING DOWN, this Japanese bomber has just been hit by Grumman Wildcat fighters of the 1st Marine Air Wing.
Once again, however, an impending blow from the northwest made it necessary to halt the attack and to withdraw troops toward the perimeter. Information received from the coastwatcher in the Buin-Faisi area served notice of the collecting at that point of a group of combat and transport vessels of imposing size--on 10 November there had been visible to him no less than 61 ships, including six cruisers, 33 destroyers, 17 transports, one large cargo liner, and smaller craft.76 Almost coincidentally with the arrival of this news came warning of an air strike, which was delivered on the morning of 11 November in two waves. Again on 12 November there was a heavy air raid on the shipping in the area, during which 30 of the 31 attacking enemy planes were shot
down.77 During this attack the heavy cruiser San Francisco and the destroyer Buchanan, part of the screening force, suffered damage, as did three cargo ships.
On the night of 12-13 November, while the American cargo ships had retired from the area for safety, a small United States task force passed up the Lengo Channel and stood out toward Savo Island. This group, composed of the heavy cruisers San Francisco, carrying the flag of Rear Admiral Daniel J. Callaghan, and Portland, the light cruiser Helena, the light antiaircraft cruisers Juneau and Atlanta, and eight destroyers, had as its mission the prevention of the approach of an oncoming Japanese force of far greater numerical strength and fire power. It was known, from aerial observation earlier in the day, that the Japanese group included two battleships (later identified as the Hiei and the Kirishima), one light cruiser (Nagara), and 15 destroyers.
Radar contact was made from the Helena at 0124 on 13 November, at 27,000 yards range. Lack of radar equipment on the San Francisco made it difficult for Admiral Callaghan to visualize the situation, and it was not until range had been closed to abut 2,500 yards that it became clear to him. By this time, the leading American destroyers were almost within the enemy formation, and in maneuvering to fire torpedoes the American force became disorganized. Independent firing began, and difficulty of identification resulted in occasional firing at friendly ships.
Twenty-four minutes after first contact by radar, the area of the American ships was illuminated by the enemy. The Japanese launched torpedoes, which took a heavy toll of destroyers and cruisers. The remaining American ships, however, concentrated their efforts against heavy prey--the battleship Hiei was hit 85 times by shells of various caliber, fell out of control, and was scuttled next day by her own crew. Two enemy destroyers were sunk--Akatsuki and Yudachi--and four others were damaged. The surviving enemy ships left he area with their supply and bombardment mission uncompleted.
MAJ R.E. GALER received the Medal of Honor for conspicuous heroism
both as fighter pilot and commanding officer of VMF-224.
American losses were heavy, only one ship escaping damage--the destroyer Fletcher. Atlanta and Juneau, were sunk, as well as four destroyers-- Barton, Cushing, Laffey, and Monssen. Helena was damaged. Personnel loss likewise was heavy, including as it did the deaths of Admiral Callaghan and Admiral Scott. There was slight consolation in the later realization that losses might have been even heavier had it not been that the enemy ships were carrying bombardment ammunition for use against shore targets, a type of charge not suitable for optimal use against ships.78
The unexpected blow to the enemy caused him to turn back the next day, probably for the purpose of reorganizing. During the night of the 14th, however, a number of fast
cruisers, led by Chokai approached Guadalcanal from the northwest and subjected the airfield to a bombardment which lasted for about one hour. The badly mauled American ships had been compelled to withdraw to Espiritu Santo, and the only surface craft available for use against the bombarding force were the motor torpedo boats stationed at Tulagi. Three attacks were launched by this small group, and the enemy cruisers withdrew at 0340.79
When, on 12 November, enemy ships had first been seen approaching the island by search planes, it had been discovered that in addition to the combat craft, a group of supply ships and transports was also in motion in the same direction. On 14 November, at about 0830, these ships were seen again, once more on the move toward Guadalcanal. A short time later they were taken under a preliminary and not to successful attack by two search-planes from the Enterprise, recently repaired and operating to the south of Guadalcanal.
Aircraft from the Enterprise had been landed on Henderson Field80 in order to allow the parent ships to retire beyond danger of air attack. In spite of difficulties arising from lack of equipment on the field, they took an active part in the subsequent action.
The main attack against the approaching transports began at 1300 when 40 Marine Corps planes from Henderson Field found the enemy force in the vicinity of the Russell Islands. The ensuing action was a slaughter. Planes were armed and fueled at the field for the relatively short run to the scene of the engagement, released their bomb-loads, and returned for new supplies. By 1500 planes from the Enterprisewere making similar sorties, as were Army planes stationed on the field and B-17's from bases outside the island area.
By nightfall the transports had been cut to pieces.81 The Japanese escort craft had left the scene early in the engagement and left the transports to their own devices. There was no air cover, and the only limitations upon the possibility of annihilating the force were those of time--(the attacks continued until nightfall)--and the fact, as stated before, that mud and lack of equipment on the field slowed up rearming of planes.
When the engagement was broken off for the night, seven ships--Shinanogawa, Nako, Nagara, Sado, Canberra, Brisbane, and Arizona--had been sunk outright or were burning and dead in the water. During the night the remaining four, Yamazuki, Yamaura, Kinugawa, and Hirogawa, nevertheless stood in to Guadalcanal, preceded by the reinforced remnants of the covering force which had been turned back on 13 November. In the meanwhile, however, a comparable American group (the battleships Washington and South Dakota, and four destroyers) had arrived on the scene, and once more there was a heavy surface engagement.
American losses in the engagement were three destroyers--Benham, Preston, and Walke sunk, and the battleship South Dakota and the destroyer Gwin damaged. Ample vengeance was taken by Rear Admiral W.A. Lee, whose flag was in the Washington, for his ship so damaged the Kirishima that she was scuttled by her own crew. The enemy destroyer Ayanami likewise was sunk. Once again, at considerable cost, an enemy group planning to bombard the Marines' positions had been turned back, its mission uncompleted.82
In the morning, the four surviving transports were seen on the coast to the northwest of the perimeter. Three of them had been beached and the fourth was standing slowly in to shore, burning as she came. All
were immediately taken under fire by the 5-inch batteries of the 3d Defense Battalion--one ship had been beached within range of the shore batteries emplaced near Lunga Point--and by planes. The destroyer Meade assisted in the attack. They were destroyed completely, and along the shore adjacent to them great fires were started, indicating that even the relatively small amount of supplies taken ashore was badly damaged or destroyed.
It was estimated that the troops which had embarked upon the ships had been wiped out with the exception of a small and completely disorganized group that succeeded in getting ashore from the beached craft.83
On 3 November, part of the forces engaged in driving to the westward had been withdrawn to the perimeter, and the 2d Marines (less 3d Battalion) were left established in a small beachhead bordering on the shallow bight immediately west of Point Cruz.84
To support this position, Battery G, 11th Marines, was in place at the mouth of the Matanikau on the west bank of the river, with Company A, 1st Marines, as security. By this time, Battery F, 224th Coast Artillery, and Battery A (5-inch 51's), 5th Defense Battalion, were in position west of the Lunga, and, with Battery B, 3d Defense Battalion (155mm GPFs) were delivering the first really effective counterbattery fire of the campaign.85
As may have been expected, the position, while it was tenable, was open to attack by ground forces and to observed fire from enemy artillery and mortars. High land immediately inland commanded it, although the boundaries of the sector of the 2d Battalion, 2d Marines (the central, or inland sector) itself impinged upon the ridges. Constant enemy fires were directed upon this area together with several enemy attacks.86
Again on 9 November the push to the west was resumed, and once more, as a result of the threat from the northwest, it was halted and the troops were withdrawn,87 this time to defensive positions on the east bank of the river--1st Battalion, 8th Marines on beach, 2d Battalion, 8th Marines center, 3d Battalion, 8th Marines inland with refused flank. These positions were maintained until 18 November, when began the preliminary movements in the advance that was to continue, slowly but steadily, until the securing of the island on 9 February.
On 17 November, orders were issued for movement forward of two battalions of the 182d Infantry. On the next day this movement began, the 2d Battalion of the regiment crossing the river on two foot bridges in seven hours,88 and the following day saw a comparable move completed by the 1st Battalion. During both these crossings, security was provided by the 8th Marines, who were in position along the ridge flanking the east bank of the river.
On 20 November, the 1st and 3d Battalions, 164th Infantry, likewise crossed to the west and went into position between the two battalions of the 182d Infantry, preparatory to attacking the next day.
The attack of the two regiments was preceded by an intense strafing and artillery preparation, but got off to a slow start and made little progress. On 22 November the following order (quoted in part) was issued by the sector commander, Brigadier General Sebree, AUS:The Army will dig in its present position. H-hour is 0630 tomorrow morning. The attacking forces will seize the high ground about 1200 yards to the west and organize it for defense. (See Sketch 11 for boundaries, line of departure, artillery barrage, and objective.) Artillery will fire preparation on enemy positions from 0615 to 06340. At 1500 1-182 and
164th will withdraw to a position 300 yards in rear of their night position to get clear of artillery concentration. At 0630 they will advance to their former position where they will be passed through by the 1st and 2d Bns, 8th Marines. The 2d Bn, 182d Infantry will remain in its present position, protect the left flank, maintain contact with the 8th Marines left flank. When the 164th Infantry is passed through by the 8th Marines, it will become division reserve. Mortars and artillery will cease fire promptly at 0630, thereafter they will fire only at suitable targets on call from unit commanders.
The comments of the regimental commander, 8th Marines, upon the resultant attack suggest the futility of issuing highly detailed orders with rigid time schedules unless such orders are based upon thorough and accurate knowledge of all factors which may influence execution of the orders:The Artillery fired as scheduled, but it was about an hour and a half before the 1st and 2d Bns of the 8th Marines had completed passing through the Army units. This resulted from the fact that the movement was cross-corridor, and a ravine had to be traversed that had almost vertical sides, therefore, the shock effects of the heavy artillery fire on the enemy was completely gone by the time the troops had come in contact with the enemy positions.89
The extreme forward advance put the American troops in position on a bare ridge, beyond which the enemy was well dug in and in defilade.90 Two battalions of the 8th Marines--the 1st and 2d--were operating between the 1st Battalion, 182d Infantry on the right and the 2d Battalion of the same regiment on the left.91 The lines extended directly inland from Point Cruz, by no means as far forward as they had been within the past fortnight, and the zone of action of the Marines was across rugged terrain. There was no attempt at an enveloping movement either by the right flank unit, operating along the flat coastal land or by the left flank unit, and there was, accordingly, no opportunity for maneuver on the part of the Marines.
The above account of the action drew from one of the participants the following letter, which is in fact a good small unit action account:The actions of the 2nd Bn, 8th Marines illustrate the futility of this attack as ordered. On 22 November, 2/8, less E Company (in line between 2/182 and 3/164) and H Company (which remained in position on East bank of the Matanikau), commenced an ordered movement across the Matanikau, with information that they would probably pass through the Army. At noon the head of the battalion was in the vicinity of the CP of 2/182. Shortly after 1400, an order for the attack on 23 November was received, stating the 2/8 would pass through 3/164.
Upon receipt of the order, LtCol John H. Cook, Jr., CO of 2/8 went forward to make a personal reconnaissance and indicated an assembly position to which Major Hewitt D. Adams, Exec, was to lead the battalion. During the movement to the assembly position, Major Adams received the complete attack order with the details as shown in General Sebree's order. LtCol Cook rejoined the battalion after dark and issued his attack order to company commanders (E Company commander was not present as they were still in line and would rejoin us on the morning of 23 November). The battalion, in order to get into position to attack, would have to cross a ravine about 100 feet deep and so steep that ropes were needed in going up and down the sides. The crossing would have to be single file. (The bivouac area of 2/8 was less than 300 yards from the front lines).
On the morning of 23 November, the Battalion CP of 2/8 crossed the ravine prior to the artillery bombardment, and upon seeing the time-space factor involved, ordered the movement of the remainder of the battalion to commence immediately.
When the barrage lifted, 3/164 fought its way back to its original positions. About an hour and a half later, Companies F and G, 2/8, were in position to commence the attack. No contact had been established with 1/8 on the right, nor had E company moved from its former position in the line. It was difficult to press the attack using the rifle companies' 60mm mortars and the 81mm mortars of 3/164 to furnish supporting fires.
The Japanese were well entrenched in defilade, with automatic weapons so sited that the crest of the ridge on which they had their positions was under continuous fire and with a few snipers in the trees overlooking the ridge. No reasonably accurate intelligence of the enemy was available prior to the attack. 3/164 knew only that "there were lots of Japanese there."
The attack finally got under way about 0900 after some mortar preparation. the move was met by an intense volume of fire from the Japanese. G Company could not establish fire superiority and was stopped with no gain. F Company made a small local
penetration of the Japanese positions but could not exploit it. The company commander of E Company was ordered to move his company into position behind F Company, to attack through F Company to exploit that penetration. (It must be realized that the entire battalion was strung out along a ridge backed by a steep ravine about 100 feet deep. no large assembly area was available on the ridge back of the front lines. The Battalion CP of 2/8 and 3/164 was about 75 yards back of the front lines.)
As E Company started to move the Battalion CP and the head of E Company received mortar fire which caused a great deal of disorganization and several casualties. The first shell landed about 10 feet from the spot where LtCol Robert K. Hall, CO of 3/164, LtCol John H. Cook, Jr., CO of 2/8, Maj Hewitt D. Adams, Exec of 2/8 and Capt John E.D. Peacock, Bn 3 of 2/8 were gathered around a map. Both LtCol Hall and Capt Peacock were wounded and had to be evacuated.
About the time that E Company started to move again, word was received by runner that 1/8 on the right had made no advance. Shortly afterward, orders were received from Regimental Headquarters to cease the attack and dig in in the present position.92
The positions as described above were maintained during the next week, with only the defensive activity of the American forces consisting of strong and aggressive patrolling. The 8th Marines units in the sector were relieved, one battalion at a time, on 26 November (1st Battalion), 20 November (2d Battalion) and 1 December (3d Battalion). The regiment thereupon went into defensive positions around the airfield.93
The last week in November saw patrol activity which presaged the pincers movement later used to crush the remaining enemy forces. On 21 November, a patrol consisting of 13 men of the 164th Infantry, two Marine radiomen, two Marine Navajo talkers, and one native police boy, all under the command of 1st Lieutenant Frederick T. Flo, of the 164th Infantry, left Lunga Point by schooner.94 Sailing at about 1300, it proceeded first to Beaufort Bay, where it met Father de Klerk, from whom it was learned that no Japanese were then between Beaufort Bay and Tiaro Bay.
The patrol then reembarked and sailed to Tiaro Bay, where it disembarked on 22 November. A thorough reconnaissance of the Marovovo, Kamimbo Bay, Aruligo Point, and Visale areas was carried out over the next eight days, and it was learned that while scattered small groups were in the area, no large forces were present. The group returned to Lunga Point at 1700 on 30 November, having established the fact that the remaining enemy forces on the island lay well east of Cape Esperance on the north coast.
Enemy activity took another turn during the closing days of November. I-type submarines, carrying midget submarines for launching in the vicinity of profitable targets, began operating. Midget #10, from parent ship I-16, torpedoed the cargo ship USS Alchiba95 off Lunga. The last record of such activity is from February, 1945, when an enemy submarine sank the Serpens, an ammunition ships, with the loss of almost her entire personnel, at almost the same spot.
A point of minor interest in the late November activities concerns the first recorded mention of war dogs in the Guadalcanal operation.96 A memo from Colonel Buckley (D-2, 1st Marine Division) to all infantry units, dated 23 November 1942, advised that dogs and handlers were being sent to them and laid down rules for their employment. No further mention of them can be found in records of the period. lieutenant Colonel Williams, Commanding Officer, 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, says he was ordered to supply his own handler--"a man who knew something about dogs." The Colonel says further, "The first three night he (the dog) barked at everything that moved, after that he turned
into the soundest sleeper in the vicinity of the command post."97
The last fortnight of November was relatively quiet. Enemy activity ceased, and the Japanese surface forces that had played havoc during October and the first part of November, had withdrawn to the northward to lick their wounds. The principal ground activity was being carried out by the 2d Raider Battalion, which was working its way up the valley of the Tenaru River, overtaking and slaughtering the remnants of force that had escaped from Puller and Hanneken in the actions near Koli Point.
November had been the month of decision in the campaign. No more great attempts to reinforce his troops or retake the island would be launched by the enemy, although he continued to plan for such movements for several weeks. Never again, during the remaining three months of fighting, would he do more than offer bitter resistance to the advancing American forces and attempt, furtively, to supply and evacuate his remaining personnel.98
Another aspect of the campaign was drawing to a close. The 1st Marine Division, after having put in four months of constant combat, exposure to enfeebling diseases, and monotonous, if adequate food, was about to be relieved. We have seen how the question of the prompt relief of the amphibious assault troops had been in King's mind from the very beginning of planning for the operation, and how circumstances forbade the carrying out of his concept. General Harmon, (ComGenSoPac) had raised the question obliquely by his insistence early in September that reinforcing troops be brought in , and during his conference with Halsey and Vogel in Noumea on 23-25 October, Vandegrift had brought up on the subject again.99
On 29 November King was able finally to inform Nimitz, Halsey, and MacArthur that Army troops would relieve Vandegrift's men, now badly infected by malaria and showing definite effects of a restricted diet. By dispatch late in the day he told his addressees that a decision had been reached by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to divert the 25th (Army) Division from its Australia destination and send it to Guadalcanal. The 1st Division, when relieved, would go to Australia instead of New Zealand, and would pass to MacArthur's command.
Here again, as during the early stages of the planning, we see evidence that King and Nimitz were willing to anticipate Joint Chiefs of Staff approval. Two days before the sending of the dispatch mentioned above, Admiral Turner had issued his Operation Plan A24-42, which called for the movement to Guadalcanal of troops of the 147th Infantry, the 132d Infantry, the 246th Field Artillery, the 9th Defense Battalion, and other miscellaneous units. By terms of the same plan, the ships bringing the troops were to embark units of the 1st Marine Division for withdrawal from the island.
The air force on Guadalcanal, now striking regularly and with increasing strength at the enemy bases to the northwest, was continuing its involved and tangled administrative character--and no attempt will be made herein to straighten out the matter. On 7 November, General Geiger had returned to the rear area headquarters of the 1st Marine Air Wing, relinquishing command to Brigadier General Louis E. Woods.
The great problem of command of ground troops in amphibious operations, which had plagued Vandegrift from the beginning,
ON THE WAY OUT, Marines of the 1st Marine Division debark from a transport at Melbourne, Australia.
Note M1903 rifles and sprinkling of "Old Marine Corps" field hats.
was at least partially solved in a way that would cause grief to him who would hold to administrative niceties or hierarchical procedure. Late in October and early November, General Holcomb, whom we have seen disagreeing with the ground tactics ideas of naval commanders, visited the area in which his troops were operating. The problem was put to him in bare language by the man best qualified to comment on the matter--Vandegrift. Leaving the island, Holcomb returned to Noumea, where Admiral Halsey's headquarters was still operating. On 3 November, shortly after Holcomb's arrival, Halsey found on his desk for signature a dispatch to King, in which there was set out the flat principle that the amphibious troops commander in a task force should hold rank level with that of the naval task force commander. Halsey read it, and then asked Holcomb whether he agreed with it.
Holcomb studied it carefully, and concurred with it.
Shortly thereafter, he set out for the United States, passing through Pearl Harbor en route. As he paid the customary call on Nimitz, the Admiral noted that Halsey's dispatch dealt with matters which concerned Holcomb. He handed the message over and asked Holcomb whether he agreed with it.
Holcomb studied it carefully, and concurred with it.
Upon reaching Washington, he was notified that during his absence, a matter of some importance had come up, and King had hesitated to act without Holcomb's having been consulted. The matter was a dispatch from Halsey, and it contained a rather important suggestion about command relationships in naval task forces. It was thought that Holcomb should at least see it and give an opinion on it.
Holcomb studied it carefully, and concurred with it.100
The relief of the 1st Division had been preceded by an interesting series of letters exchanged between ComSoPac and the Commanding General, I Marine Amphibious Corps. On 10 November the latter wrote
Admiral Halsey, submitting two alternate plans for the relief, and concluding his letter with the following paragraph:If progressive landing operations are contemplated, it is of utmost importance that the question of Army occupation after a beachhead has been established by Marine Forces be settled definitely, otherwise our future operations with Marine Forces will be limited to what we can gain and hold with Marine Forces.
To this suggestion Admiral Halsey replied as follows in his letter to General Vogel of 22 November 1942:. . . It is not practicable at this time to definitely settle the question of promptly relieving amphibious forces after a landing operation. It is a principle that should be followed, but the question is one hinging on the availability of troops and the practicability of the relief under varying situations which cannot be foreseen.101
During the quiescent period that preceded the withdrawal of the 1st Marine Division from the island, the last naval action of the campaign was fought off Tassafaronga, to the west of the perimeter. It was realized that the Japanese were preparing for one more attempt to supply the troops ashore on the western third of the island, and to prevent their doing so, a small United States task force sortied from Espiritu Santo at 2300 on 29 November.
This force, composed of five cruisers and six destroyers, under command of Rear Admiral C.H. Wright, arrived at the area the next day. In the meanwhile, eight enemy destroyers, under Rear Admiral Raizo Tanaka, had sailed from Buin at almost the same time and with the same goal.
Due to bad weather conditions, planes which had been sent to Tulagi by Admiral Wright, for the purpose of search and illumination, could not carry out their mission. Contact was first established by radar from the Minneapolis, at 2300 on 30 November. Sixteen minutes later the Fletcherlaunched torpedoes at a target about 7000 yards distant. Shortly thereafter the American cruisers opened fire.
The Japanese were taken by surprise, but in spite of that they carried out a skillful maneuver with prevision and deadly effect. All destroyers launched torpedoes, executed a turn to port, and withdrew at high speed.102 Under orders to hold fire unless it was necessary for self defense, they escaped with minor damage to one ships of the formation.103 A second Japanese destroyer, operating between the main body and the American cruisers, fired in defiance of orders and was sunk by fire from the cruisers.
The results were serious for the Americans. In spite of having achieved surprise at close range, they succeeded in sinking but one destroyer and inflicting negligible damage to another. On the other hand, one cruiser--the Northampton--was sunk, and three--Minneapolis, New Orleans, and Pensacola--were heavily damaged. Of the cruisers, only the Honolulu, carrying the flag of Rear Admiral Mahlon S. Tisdale, escaped being struck. No destroyer was damaged.
These events gave point to the remarks made by Admiral Nimitz in a letter to Admiral King.. . . The enemy is apparently going to continue to expose his forces in the Guadalcanal area. . . . I do not consider that we have yet a superiority in surface forces.
The Jap is our equal in his willingness to fight.104
1. Engineer reconnaissance patrols from the 1st Marine Division had gone over the ground thoroughly and returned with emphatic negative recommendations. In addition to this, Mather and Clemens, British District officers who had served on Guadalcanal, had stated that any such construction project at Aola would be a flat impossibility. Commander Naval Activities Cactus-Ringbolt Area (Guadalcanal-Tulagi) advised CTF62 late in October--date of document is uncertain, but it refers to a message sent from same source on 18th that month--that area in rear of beaches at Aola had been explored on foot to a depth of five miles. Said it consisted of swamp lands alternating with steep hogback ridges, and was accessible only through swamps and low, muddy trails. He recommended that Volinavua, much nearer the perimeter on the edge of extensive plains, be considered instead.
2. War Diary, Commander, Task Force 62.
3. Final Report, Phase V, Annex N.
4. On 2 November, Commander Task Force 62 included the following paragraph in his Outline Plan of Task Force 62 for operations subsequent to 2 November:1. FULLER, MCKEAN, MANLEY, 2DD
After return from CACTUS, depart BUTTON November 6 or 7 with the Second Marine Raider Battalion and Third Infantry Battalion of 182d Infantry; forty days' supplies; three units of fire. Land at BEAUFORT BAY or WANDERER BAY, or both, for operations against enemy flank and rear. Photos have been requested but not received. Arrange timing with Commanding General, CACTUS.
5. History, 147th Infantry, p. 1, Guadalcanal Document 1-CCC, Marine Corps records.
6. Final Report, Phase V, p. 27.
7. Other supporting troops attached to the 8th Marines were:
Company B, 2d Tank BattalionReport of Operations, 8th Marines, p. 2.
Company B, 2d Engineer Battalion
Company B (Transport), 2d Service Battalion
Companies B and C, 2d Medical Battalion
8. Final Report, Phase V, Annex K.
9. Letter, Crockett to CMC.
10. Final Report, Phase V, p. 28.
11. Letter, H.S. Connor to CMC, 14 February 1949.
12. Final Report, Annex P (5th Marines, entry 31 October).
13. Ibid. Entry 1 November.
14. Record of Events, 5th Marines, entry of 1 November.
15. An apocryphal tale has the company commander encouraging his men with the following words: "Cheer up, boys, we have the Japs right where they want us."
16. Final Report, Phase V, p. 28. The narrative of the action has been put together from accounts by Lieutenant Colonel William H. Barba, Lieutenant Colonel Gordon D. Gayle, and Lieutenant Colonel L.W. Walt. Final Report, Phase V, narrative section, gives a superficial and not too accurate account, although valuable details are contained in Appendix P to that document.
17. Final Report, Phase V, pp. 28 and 29. "On 1 November it had been definitely established that a small covering force would land east of Koli Point during the night of 3-4 November." More encouraging developments were not absent during the period, however. On 3 November, the day which saw the successful conclusion of the western action, two three-gun batteries of 155mm guns came ashore. One battery of the 3d Defense Battalion (GPFs) and one of the 2214th Coast Artillery Regiment (M1s) landed and went into position immediately. For the first time, effective counterbattery fire was possible, the 5-inch guns of the 3d Defense Battalion having been proved too vulnerable because of their fixed and relatively exposed position. Letter, Lieutenant Colonel Charles M. Nees to Commandant, Marine Corps, 2 February 1949.
18. "Many of the men of 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, had no socks and in these forced marches developed blisters and bleeding sores. No socks were available." Letter, Wieseman to CMC.
19. Final Report, Phase V, p. 29.
20. Report of Operations, November 1-3, 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, p. 1.
21. Report of Operations, November 1-3, 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, p. 1, paragraphs 3, 4, and 5.
22. Enemy troops landed included one battalion of 228th Infantry Regiment, a part of the 38th Division in Bougainville. Its immediate task was to make contact with surviving elements of the 230th Infantry. USAFISPA Report, p. 28.
23. Report of Operations, November 1-3, p. 2. The report says that electrical disturbances caused operational difficulties. LtCol Conoley says that the real cause was a thorough soaking both sets had received during the rains of the day and the preceding night. Although the Final Report says that communication was not established until the 4th, all other subsidiary records agree that it was established on the 3d.
24. The firing was heard at the command post, but since there had been no message from the battalion since it had left the perimeter, division was at a complete loss to explain its significance.
25. Report of Operations, 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, November 1-3, p. 2.
26. Report of Operations, 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, p. 2, para. 5.
27. Ibid., para. 6.
28. Report of Operations, 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, p. 3, para. 6.
29. It is possible, however, that the attack may have been launched by elements of the 230th Infantry, a unit of the 2d Division, which had been scheduled to attack the airfield from the southeast in the battle fo 24-26 October. Orders issued by Lieutenant General Hyakutake, commanding general of the 17th Army, who had landed 10 October 1942 at Tassafaronga and established his command post in that area, directed that the 230th Infantry be reinforced by one battalion of the 228th Infantry from Bougainville. The latter unit landed east of Koli Point as described above, and the 230th may have been attempting to make contact with it. USAFISPA Report, pp. 14 and 28.
30. Report of Operations, 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, p. 3, para. 6.
31. Final Report, Phase V, p. 29. The involved actions which followed this contact by Hanneken's battalion are given only sketchy and not overly accurate treatment in this report.
32. Report of Operations, 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, p. 3, para. 7.
33. D-3 Journal, 3 November, message #6.
34. D-3 Journal, 3 November, messages 13, 14, and 17.
35. Final Report, Phase V, p. 29, refers to this as a dogged rear-guard action. Conoley, Hanneken's executive at the time, corrects this. He explained, during a series of interviews in April and May, 1948, that, during the movement to the west, along the beach and the road, enemy inland from the beach kept up a constant sporadic firing, but there was no trouble from the rear. See also Report of Operations, 2d Battalion, 7th marines, p. 3.
36. Record of Events, 7th Marines, November, 1942. Pencilled account of movement and landing filed with entry of 3 November.
37. Record of Events, 7th Marines, November, 1942. Entries of 4 November.
38. All details of the remainder of this action are taken, unless otherwise noted, from the Record of Events, 7th Marines, November, 1942, and from the supplementary statements filed with that document.
39. Final Report, Phase V, p. 29. D-3 Journal, 5 November, message 11.
40. Report of Operation, 8th Marines, p. 8.
41. Record of events, 7th Marines, 7 November.
42. R-3 Report, 7th Marines, 7 November.
43. R-3 Report, 7th Marines, 8 November.
44. Succinctly described by Puller to LtCol Conoley as a "fanny full of shrapnel."
45. Letter, LtCol John E. Weber to CMC, 11 January 1949.
47. Report of Operations, 2d Battalion, 7th Marines.
48. Report of Operations, 2d Battalion, 7th Marines.
49. Report of Operations, 2d Battalion, 7th Marines.
51. Letter, LtCol John E. Weber to CMC, 11 January 1949.
52. Report of Operations, 2d Battalion, 7th Marines.
53. Letter, LtCol John E. Weber to CMC, 11 January 1949.
54. Letter, Weber to CMC.
56. Report of Operations, 2d Battalion, 7th Marines.
57. The proximity of the engaged forces, together with the uncertainty as to ranges and the impossibility of accurate observation, made it inadvisable to employ the fire of the 1st Battalion, 10th Marines (Rixey) which was in position to the west, near the Nalimbiu River. Rixey was perturbed at Sims' refusal to allow such fire, and as late as 1949 was of the opinion that he could have supported the operation and perhaps wiped out the pocket. The incident of the mortar fire, however, lends weight to Sims' reasoning. (Rixey's Comments on monograph.)
58. Unit Report #52 for 10 November (7th Marines) Paragraph 3: "At 1300, F Company, 164th Infantry, reports enemy fire had pinned them down. . . . Investigation showed it to be a group of enemy equipped with small arms between E-2-164 and F-2-164." Paragraph 4: "At 1400, E Company, 164th, reports enemy firing . . . and has sent out a patrol to contact 2d Bn, 7th Marines."
59. This group had just landed. Other forces were about to arrive at the perimeter--elements of the 182d Infantry and the 4th Marine Replacement Battalion (Mailgram--7 Nov 42. ComPhibForSoPac).
60. The Raider Companies had been retained by Admiral Turner under his control, while the rest of the force had passed to General Vandegrift's control upon landing. War Diary CTF62, 26 October 42.
61. Final Report, Phase V, pp. 30 and 31. All details of the operation of the patrol are taken from the report submitted by Colonel Carlson on 20 December 1942.
62. Carlson's Report, p. 6.
63. The enemy main body consisted of the advance echelon (one battalion) of the 228th Infantry and indeterminate elements of the 230th Infantry. USAFISPA Report, p. 28.
64. Report of Operations, 2d Raider Battalion, p. 1.
65. Report of Operations, 2d Raider Battalion, p. 9.
66. Ibid., p. 9.
67. "Ropes were required to scale the cliff, so steep was the slope. On the west side we found the telephone line leading from the artillery position to the west down a narrow ravine. The trail and wire emerged into a large bivouac on the south bank of the Lunga." Ibid., pp. 9 and 10.
68. Ibid., p. 11.
69. Ibid., p. 12.
70. All details of the Battle of Guadalcanal have been taken from Campaigns, USSBS, pp. 125 to 138.
71. American losses -- Sunk: Antiaircraft cruisers Atlanta, Juneau; destroyers Barton, Cushing, Laffey, Monssen, Benham, Preston, and Walke. Damage was suffered by the battleship South Dakota, the heavy cruisers Portland and San Francisco, and the destroyers Aaron Ward, O'Bannon, Sterett, and Gwin. Japanese losses, exclusive of the transports which are listed in the body of the narrative, were the battleships Hiei and Kirishima, the cruiser Kinugasa, and three destroyers sunk, with three cruisers--the Maya, Isuzu, and Chokai--and six destroyers damaged. Campaigns, USSBS, p. 138.
72. On 16 October, the following planes were on Henderson Field, in effective condition:
F4F4 9 SBD 11 P-400 7 P-39 7 Total 34
By 27 November, this strength had been augmented to the following totals:
F4F4 35 SBD 18 TBF 9 J2F 1 OS2U 4 F4F7 1 B-17 13 PBO 6 P-38 12 P-39 16 P-400 1 Total 116
Neither of these tabulations includes planes grounded and being repaired or capable of being repaired. Final Report, Phase V, Annex A.
73. The great losses suffered by the enemy Navy and Army air forces in the area made proper air-cover impossible. This information, secured at the end of the war through prisoner interrogation, explains the lack of air resistance encountered by the planes attacking the transports, a circumstance still puzzling to members of the division staff as late as April 1943. Interrogations, USSBS, Vol. II, pp. 408, 470-471.
74. USAFISPA Report, pp. 31 and 32.
75. Final Report, Phase V, p. 31.
76. The Coastwatchers, Commander Eric Feldt, RANR, p. 101. See also Annex N (Intelligence) to the Final Report, Phase V.
77. Campaigns USSBS, p. 125.
78. Campaigns USSBS, pp. 125 and 127.
79. Campaigns USSBS, p. 126.
80. This procedure was used several times during the campaign. VF-5, from the Wasp, landed on the island on 12 September and served under MAG-23 until 16 October. VF-3 served on the field from 6 September until 14 October, and VT-8 was present from 13 September until 16 November.
81. The eleven transports and cargo ships were later identified as the Nako, Nagara, Yamazuki, Kinugawa, Hirogawa, Sado, Canberra, Brisbane, Yamaura, Kumagawa, and Arizona, all bearing "Maru" as part of their names.
82.. Campaigns USSBS, pp. 126 and 129.
83. Final Report, Phase V, p. 33. "Those who escaped represented a band of survivors rather than a military force."
84. Letter, Colonel John M. Arthur, to Officer in Charge, Historical Section, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 11 October 1945, p. 5.
85. FInal Report, Phase V, Annex R, p. 2.
86. Letter, Colonel Arthur, 11 October 1945. Major W.R. Williams confirms this. Letter, 16 February 1949.
87. Ibid., p. 6. Order for withdrawal came to Colonel Arthur early in the afternoon of 11 November, and the movement began at once.
88. Report of Operations, 8th Marines, p. 13.
89. Major General Pedro A. del Valle, in commenting on the matter in December, 1947, said, "This Army custom of withdrawing prior to our artillery support merely created a vacuum into which the Japs filtered. Thus the next advance had to clear them out all over again."
90. Report of Operations, 8th Marines, p. 15.
91. Ibid., P. 17.
92. Letter, Colonel Hewitt D. Adams to Commandant, Marine Corps, 4 January 1949.
93. Report of Operations, 8th Marines, p. 18.
94. All details of this most interesting patrol are taken from a report submitted by Lieutenant Flo on his return to the perimeter. Report can be found in Patrol Reports, Guadalcanal Document 1-TTT, enclosure CC< Marine Corps records.
95. Alchiba was beached near the mouth of the Ilu. Partially repaired, she took another torpedo, which also failed to finish her. She returned to long and honorable service subsequent to this mishap.
96. 1st Marine Division Miscellaneous Intelligence Reports, Guadalcanal Document 3-0, enclosure 1.
97. Letter, Lieutenant Colonel Williams to Commandant, Marine Corps, 17 January 1949.
98. One officer--LtCol Puller, wounded at Koli Point--was asked just when he realized that the Marines were winning and that the weight of the fighting was beginning to rest on the enemy. He said that when the news of the successful attacks by the mixed Cactus Air Force began to come in, in the form of fragmentary radio intercepts, as he was lying wounded in the hospital near Lunga Point, and everyone realized that the great enemy convoy was being cut to pieces, he knew that he and the rest of the American force were over the hump. Interview, Col Lewis Puller, January 1946.
99. During the General's three days absence, command of the ground forces on Guadalcanal passed to Geiger, commanding general of the 1st Marine Air Wing. See also notes on Conference 11Nov42, ComSoPac, ComGenSoPac, ComGen 1st MAC.
100. Interview, Lieutenant Colonel Robert D. Heinl, Jr., and General Thomas Holcomb, 12 April 1949.
101. Relief of Marine Force, Guadalcanal Documents, Marine Corps records.
102. Tanaka's force made up the Second Destroyer Squadron, and carried 24-inch torpedoes. Robinson ms, p. 12.
103. All details of the engagement are taken from Campaigns, USSBS, pp. 139 to 141.
104. Letter, CinCPac to CominCh, 8 December 1942.
Compiled and formatted by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation