Chapter VII: Expansion to the West and The October Attack on the Airfield

Most of the Marines in this former Japanese sick bay are suffering from malaria,
as great a casualty-producer in jungle war as enemy bullets.

At the end of 60 days of tension, combat, inadequate food, and complete uncertainty as to when--or if--they would be relieved, the Marines began to suffer still another enervating affliction. Malaria, of the benign tertian form, began to make itself felt with ever increasing insistence. By the second week in October, over 700 cases had been reported to


the medical officers from 1st Division Units alone. (No record is available of the incidence in the attached 2d Division troops.) During the next week, 655 new cases were reported. From that point onward to a time far beyond the end of the campaign, the disease continued to sap the strength and vitality and initiative of the men infected.1

All elements of Vandegrift's command had by now been through at least one grueling engagement. The Parachute Battalion, badly cut up in the unexpectedly violent engagement on Gavutu, had left the island. The Raiders, having suffered casualties on Tulagi, had been badly ground down by the struggle on the Ridge, where the airfield had been saved by their tenacity. They had suffered again in the brief, violent affair described above, and their effectiveness as a fighting unit was nearly at an end. The 5th Marines had fought beside the Raiders in all three engagements, although they had in no case borne the brunt of the action. The 1st Marines, having turned back the first blow at the mouth of Alligator Creek, had likewise participated in an ancillary action while Edson and Kawaguchi were fighting it out on the south sector, although their casualties in that engagement were small. The 2d Marines, aside from their well-conducted cleanup of Tanambogo, had not been involved in further action, although the patrolling of Florida had been of considerable value from an intelligence point of view.

The problem of replacements and reinforcement of the weakened garrison was a constant worry to Ghormley. We have seen that the original plans, as voiced by King, had called for an immediate replacement of the assault troops by Army personnel, to the end that the highly trained Marines might quickly be prepared for further operations where their amphibious techniques, sharpened and perfected by experience, would be at a premium. We have also seen that the original concept was nullified at once by Marshall, whose commitments to the European theater would not permit of his diverting troops to the South Pacific. Finally, we have seen that Ghormley was forced to make the best of what he privately considered to be a bad decision--he was forced to push troops forward from the rear areas of his command, some of which he still considered to lie under threat of an enemy assault.

He was convinced, however, of the vital importance of reinforcing the Guadalcanal forces. His diversion of the 7th Marines was an acknowledgment that as between training troops for hypothetical future employment by the commander of the Southwest Pacific Area and employing fresh troops where a crucially important advance base was in danger, there could be but one choice.

On 7 October, while the 5th Marines were deploying along the Matanikau and while the weary Raiders were being sent up, company at a time, for one more blow at the enemy prior to departure for rest, Ghormley began stripping his rear areas. On that day he ordered Harmon to prepare one regiment of the New Caledonia garrison for movement to Guadalcanal. Next day he directed Turner to embark the 164th Infantry and depart Noumea on 9 October.2

Experience gained in the Matanikau operations indicated that the line of that river was of vital importance to any force holding and defending the airfield. As long as the enemy could be denied the crossing of this line and the subsequent use of areas east of the river for the purpose of emplacing artillery and using it against the airfield, he would


be restricted to employment of only his heavy caliber long range weapons.

It was necessary for the Marines to control both of the two main crossings--at the mouth of the river, and at the point where it was crossed by the so-called Nippon Bridge.3

Of the two, that at the mouth of the river, where the coastal track followed the beach line and offered the only feasible route for tanks and heavy weapons, was by far the more important, and it was at that point that the defenses were centered.

The defense of the perimeter itself required the use of all but two of the rifle battalions on the island.4 With so small a defending force it was impossible to build up a continuous line along the more vulnerable section of the river front. Once again it was necessary for General Vandegrift to strike a balance between needs and available means, and to take advantage of every favorable terrain feature.

In the case of the defenses of the river crossings, the alternative to a continuous line was the establishment of a horseshoe position. This type of defense had been considered for the perimeter, but found to be impracticable. Such a position was established, fronting along the river, from mouth to Nippon Bridge, the right flank refused along the beach line and the left partially refused across high ground above the river. This was done in spite of the fact that it was known to be possible to cross the river at a number of points farther inland, for it was felt that even should such crossings to be made (as in fact they were) the terrain to be traversed afterward by the attacking force would be so difficult as to offer a fairly good defense in itself.

Both the Allied Nations and the Japanese were now increasing their efforts in the Guadalcanal area, and the units at that point of contact, both friendly and enemy, were subjected to constantly increasing and unremitting pressure. These relatively small opposing forces, each with the concentrated weight and power of a great nation behind it, were in fact the only physical junction at the moment between those nations. The strain, mental as well as physical, was tremendous.

Records indicate that of the two the Japanese were in the better condition, for not only did they have relative freedom of movement over most of the island, but they had also much freer access to their own rear areas. While the presence of American planes on Henderson Field had operated to restrict somewhat the free movement of surface craft in the waters around the island, it was still possible for the enemy to move men in by darkness from destroyers at the rate of 900 per night.5 Fresh troops arriving at frequent intervals undoubtedly served to keep morale at a high level as well as to relieve the tension somewhat for those who had been long on the island.


AIR EVACUATION, long relied upon by the Marine Corps,
flew out 2,879 casualties from Guadalcanal between 7 August and 9 December.

The Marines, on the other hand, remained, as a matter of necessity, effectively confined to the perimeter, their entire force being situated in an area so restricted in size as to present an optimum target to the air and surface strikes launched against it. There was no possibility of maneuver or concealment save within the confines of that area--and the airfield, with its surrounding dumps of gasoline and ammunition, was, and remained, a vulnerable, often-hit target.

Some of the problems which had operated to worry the Marines far more than had the enemy during the early weeks of the campaign had been, or were in process of being solved. The flow of supply to the island from the rear bases at Wellington and Noumea had, by the middle of October, increased from nothing during the first fortnight to a steady, adequate, and constantly growing stream. The increased strength and activity of the American air, and the growing strength and confidence of the surface forces operating in the vicinity, had tended to make passage safer for American supply vessels while at the same time rendering the neighborhood dangerous for enemy activity.

Air supply and air evacuation (normal to Marine Corps operations since the Nicaraguan campaign 15 years earlier) were developed and improved during the period. Marine Corps R4D planes delivered vitally important aviation gasoline to the airfield in large quantities,6 and evacuation planes, equipped to handle casualties, could remove 18 stretcher cases or 36 sitting or ambulant cases. During the period 7 August to 9 December, the date upon which General Vandegrift relinquished command to the Army, a total of 3,919 cases were evacuated by sea and air, and of this total, 2,879 were flown out.7

Increased supplies made for better living, better defenses, and for a decided lessening of the tension that marked the first month of operation. Each newly-arrived unit brought with it an adequate supply of necessities, and by the time the first Army ground unit arrived, on 13 October, the stockpile had increased to such an extent that it was possible to subsist the entire 164th Infantry for one month without depriving other units.8

The only path by which large numbers of Japanese could move against the western, or left, flank was blocked as long as Marine forces controlled the Matanikau river-mouth crossing; the passage of heavy equipment by any other crossing was out of the question. After the manning of defensive positions installed immediately after the action of 8 and 9 October, only enemy medium artillery (at least four 150mm howitzers were on the island) could place fires within the perimeter.

The enemy, in turn, was carrying out a program of development comparable to our own, although in doing so he was operating under constantly increasing difficulties. The increase in American air power, and the increased activity and success of Admiral Halsey's


surface forces, had put a definite and unmistakable end to the free and undisputed program of supply and reinforcement that the Japanese had been able to carry out during August and part of September. The fact that he had to utilize destroyers for night landings may have been due to a lack of landing craft suitable for quick passage from staging areas to the islands,9 but it seems more logical to assume that he had found that small fast combatant ships could operate in waters that were to a great extent denied to larger craft which demanded escort.

Following the defeat he had suffered during the operation of 8 October, the enemy abandoned for the time being his idea of holding the territory adjacent to the Matanikau. There was no sign of activity in the immediate vicinity of the river itself, and patrols sent out from the newly established positions met no opposition in their explorations of the ridges and ravines lying immediately to the west. These signs indicated that he had shifted his center of operation to Kokumbona or beyond.10

One of the missions of the enemy task force that was turned back during the Battle of Cape Esperance, described above, had been to bombard the airfield and cover the landing of reinforcements from the tenders Chitose and Nisshin and several destroyers at Tassafaronga, well to the west of Kokumbona. These ships carried 728 men, four 150 howitzers, two field pieces, an antiaircraft gun, radio equipment, and ammunition. Although they were sighted by the American task force, they were not fired on, and they landed the men and equipment.11

CAPT J. J. FOSS, of VMF-121, received the Medal of Honor for outstanding heroism
as a fighter pilot during the Guadalcanal campaign.

The respite gained at the Battle of Cape Esperance was a short one. On 12 October the American positions were subjected to a two-hour air attack by four waves of enemy bombers under fighter escort.12 At sunset the next day, a heavy bombardment of the perimeter and the airfield was begun by land-based artillery situated far up the coast. The effect of the bombardment was to deny the use of the airfield for the time being, and all air activity during that period was carried out from the newly completed fighter strip.

Later the same night, a strong attack was made upon the American positions. The battleships Kongo and Haruna, screened by light cruiser Isuzu and eight destroyers, rained a continuous fire upon the airfield and the fighter strip for a period of 80 minutes.13 Flares from observation and spotting planes illuminated the area, and the fire was accurate


THE OPERATION BOGGED DOWN, as shown in this overprint, and both the 1st Raider Battalion and the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, found themselves immobilized by the Japanese.

and heavily damaging. The scout-bomber aircraft suffered heavily, and the close of the action found only one SBD in operating condition. Forty-one dead were suffered, with many wounded.14

If there had been any doubt that the intercepted first force and the successful operation of the second and larger force betokened an impending all-out attack, those doubts were removed when on the next day, a heavily escorted convoy was sighted heading toward Guadalcanal. This was attacked by all aircraft still operational, and hits were scored on two large transports. Early on the morning of the 14th, six ships were seen to be disembarking troops and unloading supplies at Tassafaronga and were immediately brought under air attack. Two of the ships made shore, burning, while a third was sunk. The steep-to in that portion of the shore line is close inshore, and when the ships settled, after repeated attacks, the bows were almost over dry land. All personnel (c. 4000) landed and 80% of the cargo was put ashore.15 The three remaining transports stood out to sea, where they were subjected to still other attacks--this time by Army B-17s. One of them received a hit and began burning.

The Japanese convoy consisted of the following ships, under escort by 8th Fleet Units Sasago Maru, Nankai Maru, Sado Maru, Sakido Maru, Kyushu Maru, and Azumasan Maru. The following units were embarked at Rabaul early in October--the exact date has not been determined: 38th Field Antiaircraft Battalion, 4th Heavy Field Artillery Regiment, 7th Heavy Field Artillery Regiment, 6th Independent Rapid Fire Gun Battalion, one company of the Independent Mortar Regiment, 76th L/C Hospital, 230th Infantry Regiment Headquarters, including sundry attached units, two battalions of the 230th Infantry Regiment, and replacements--a total of abut 4500 men. The cruiser escort--Crudiv 6--was damaged in the naval engagement off Cape Esperance on 12 October, but all troop ships and supply ships got through to Tassafaronga on 13-14 October. Kyushu, Azumasan, and Sasago were sunk by planes from Henderson Field, but not before having discharged all personnel and most of the cargo. Sado, Nankai, and Sakito discharged passengers and cargo and escaped. Beached

WITH BOW OVER DRY LAND, this Japanese transport constitutes a testimonial to dive-bombing attacks by the 1st Marine Air Wing on 14 October, when she was caught unloading enemy reinforcements at Tassafaronga.


cargo was badly damaged by the attack which crippled the three ships.16

From the size of the forces involved and the way in which the different attacks were coordinated,17 it seemed apparent that an attack of impressive proportions and more than the usual degree of complexity was about to be delivered.

Once again, however, there began to be a lowering of morale among the troops within the perimeter. The arrival of a complete regimental combat team of Army troops--the 164th Infantry, Americal Division18--plus the assurance that still further reinforcements would be on the way soon, and the constant and demonstrable improvement in the supply situation were not sufficient to offset the effects of two months of almost constant combat of one or another degree of intensity. Increasing numbers of men were reporting to sickbay with benign tertian malaria, which removed them from combat as completely as though they had been battle casualties,19 and a large number who did not turn in were so reduced in vitality and efficiency as to be of limited usefulness.

Action at Gurabusu and Koilotumaria

It will be realized that Tulagi, after the first three days of hard-fought action, had remained under the command of Brigadier General Rupertus and had become something between a rest camp and a point of departure for patrols on the island of Florida. It became likewise a center for seaplane and motor torpedo boat activity, sheltering as it did the best harbor in the vicinity. Supplies were landed there often in preference to the unprotected beaches on Guadalcanal and were subsequently transferred by barge and by YP boat to the larger island.

NATIVE HELP PAID OFF at Koilotumaria.
In this picture, Australian Maj J.W. Mather who served side by side with Marines throughout the campaign, is shown counting out shillings to a native of the type which rendered such loyal assistance to U.S. forces.

Early in October there began to be reports20 that the enemy was building up a concentration of forces in the neighborhood of Gurabusu and Koilotumaria, two native villages lying between Aola and the Lunga, some 25 miles east of the perimeter. This force formed a potential threat against the eastern sector, and it was decided to attack it with a force of approximately battalion strength from the Tulagi garrison.

Plans called for a landing in the darkness, immediately before dawn, followed by in inland movement and separate attacks against Gurabusu and Koilotumaria from the southeast. Captain Clemens, operating with his loyal native scouts in the area, was to guide the landing craft on by lights placed on the beach.

The group chosen for the task consisted of Companies A, B, and C of the 1st Battalion, 2d Marines, under Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Hill. Movement from Tulagi was to be by Higgins boats, towed in groups of four by YP boats. Target date was 9 October.

The party left Tulagi at 1540 in eight craft. One group completed the run without incident,


but the other met with misfortune in the shape of the loss of one of the landing craft. Foundering when the bow assembly pulled loose while it was under tow, the craft was lost, taking with it one officer, 14 enlisted Marines, and three Navy enlisted. Search for survivors delayed the landing of the group for several hours, and necessitated a change in plans.21

As the movement toward the beach was being completed, Hill looked in vain for signs of the lights Clemens had agreed to show. They did not appear, and the craft made their way ashore unassisted. The men disembarked, and at that moment Clemens arrived, with news of the number and dispositions of the enemy, and what appeared to be an unbelievably factual count of the weapons that Hill would run up against in the course of the action.

Hill, somewhat inclined to skepticism in the face of such meticulously detailed information, asked Clemens how he arrived at his estimate. Clemens replied that it was not an estimate at all-it was an actual count. When the Japanese had come ashore they had been offered assistance by a group of natives who happened to be nearby--and who happened to be Clemens' scouts. The enemy, pleased beyond words at the friendly offer, accepted, and put the natives to work unloading their equipment. As each piece was taken ashore, a tally was kept, and the final figures were given to Clemens. It bears mention parenthetically that the information he gave was exactly correct.22

Due to the fact that the foundering of one of the landing craft had delayed approximately one half of the force, the assaults were not launched simultaneously, as had been planned. In spite of this, however, in each case they were successful.

At Koilotumaria, which was attacked at 1600 on the 10th, there was no opposition, only one enemy officer being met and killed. Unoccupied earthworks designed to be manned by perhaps 200 enemy were discovered, however. The one officer who was encountered succeeded in wounding one of the Marine officers and killing an enlisted man before being killed himself.

At Gurabusu, which was attacked at noon on the same day, opposition was met, and about 30 enemy were killed at a loss to the attacking force of one officer killed and one slightly wounded. A large amount of material in the form of general supplies and radio equipment was found and destroyed at this village, and there was evidence that the enemy force had made its way to the interior.23

The Attack of 21-28 October

The enemy showed no signs of slackening the force or frequency of his air and surface attacks. The perimeter was shelled repeatedly, and air raids continued, while the volume and accuracy of artillery fire from the vicinity of Kokumbona increased steadily, indicating clearly that heavy, long-range weapons had been brought ashore. Five-inch guns of the 3d Defense Battalion were used as counterbattery weapons and succeeded in silencing several of the enemy guns, which were thought to be 150mm pieces.24

The signs of an impending attack were unmistakable, and negative information gathered from the raid on Gurabusu and Koilotumaria indicated that it would come from the west. General Vandegrift was strengthened in his belief by the fact that patrol activities carried out along the upper Lunga, traditionally an avenue of egress from the interior, had seen no signs of enemy forces in that area. Small bands of survivors of previous actions were met and killed, but there was nothing indicative of forces preparing for attack.

Native sources, also, seemed to confirm that whatever the situation might be elsewhere, to the east and to the south there was no immediate danger. In this matter, it is


of interest to include a report made verbally by Saku, a native constable, to Captain Clemens, who translated it. The men mentioned in it were coastwatchers, and Sunahavi and Kiarokiki are native areas lying inland, south and southwest of the Lunga plains:

Report of Constable Saku, on return from patrol from Tangarare to Gold Ridge

On the third of October, after Mr. Rhoades and Mr. Schroder were picked up by the Ramada (a small launch owned by the British), I had had no instructions so I came to Kosumba, and then up to the headwaters of the Betikama, which are about a mile from there. I left Tangarare on the fifth.

I came along the trail which leaves the Betikama above Matanikao and cuts across to the Belaha River and thence to Kiarokiki. I saw no enemy or their tracks on this part of my journey. I slept in the bush by the Betikama, and reached Sunahavi the next evening. All the villagers of Kiarokiki have gone to Sunahavi.

Tracks were reported on the northern side of the Betikama, between that and the track to Tapinanja. I also got reports from the local natives that they had seen enemy behind Mambulo. The enemy party of some two hundred came up the Tenaru River track about two weeks ago. Then they split into two sections. One of these followed the Belaha River, and finding no food, cut across it and came on to the Betikama. We followed their tracks down a good way and there we decided to go back, in case the enemy also returned. They have not come back and probably have gone on down the Matanikao.

The remainder, a party of about eighty, remained in the vicinity of the Belaha River, eating and finally finishing the garden produce of the locals.

On the fifth of October, I was with Torovua of Sunahavi, and on our patrol we saw a party of ten enemy by the Belaha River.

They had piled arms on a rack and were busy getting wild nuts to eat. We cut across the river and took their rifles and hid. When they returned, we saw that they were not armed and we closed in on them. They picked up stones to defend themselves, and as we did not want to give things away, we finished them off with axes and spears. They were weak from hunger.

They had no rank badges on them.

On the sixth of October we looked for the rest of them. We saw nine more of them, again by the river. They again left their rifles and we dealt with them in the same manner. We came back and bivouacked by the river. We saw some enemy tracks in the morning, and heard a shot. I sent two boys on and they saw a party of twelve, all of whom had rifles. My two boys came back and reported to me. We then went down, twelve of us. We went and hid and surprised them at close range. They tried to shoot us be we caught hold of them and killed them. They all shouted for their friends to come and help them and they must have heard, for we found that the rest of the party, possibly fifty, had run away. We killed another Jap, making a total of 32. We picked up all the rifles of those who had run away and with the rifles of the first three parties, we had 100 rifles.

We made a hidden dump of all the rifles. We also found a small machine gun, and later another. We also found the parts of two more thrown into the river. We also found several mortars, and many hand grenades, which we left as we did not know whether they were armed or not. They had no supplies of food or packs. In their bivouac area we found many who had died from hunger, and they had also buried a large number. I saw their graves myself, which were very shallow. They had placed their flags on some of them.

There are also many dead aviators and aircraft parts in the scrub of that area.

The party who came with me to kill the Japs was led by Torovua, Nene, Sumba, Tanisi, and Nosi, all from Sunahavi.25

"PISTOL PETE"?--The perimeter was shelled with increasing intensity by such Japanese medium artillery as this captured 150mm howitzer. Actually no single weapon could be identified as the "Pistol Pete" which Marines came to resent.

Matanikau Phase

During the period of 21-28 October the enemy carried out his most sustained attack against the American forces. The operation began, as had been expected, with an increase of pressure on the western defensive sectors,


Map 12: October Attacks on the Perimeter

the newly established Matanikau horseshoe defense. On 19-20 October, the 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, in position at the mouth of the river, noticed considerable activity in the area immediately adjacent to the west bank of the river, and mortar and artillery fire began to fall upon its positions.

Late in the afternoon of the 21st, intense artillery fire began to fall, and the battalion experienced casualties, especially in that part of the sector commanding the crossing, manned by I Company. Immediately following this barrage, which lasted but a short time, a strong combat patrol, accompanied by nine tanks, attempted to force a crossing. This attempt was broken up without difficulty and driven back, with a loss to the enemy of one tank. He thereupon subsided and devoted the next day to a renewal of his artillery and mortar fire upon the same positions. The day's bombardment cost the battalion six dead and 25 wounded.26

The following day was quiet until 1800, when a strong concentration of fire from mortars and artillery fell once more upon the position of the 3d Battalion and upon areas lying between it and the perimeter, along the coastal track. Once more, also, barrage was the forerunner of an attack.

Just after dark there was a sudden cessation of fire, followed at once by a sortie of medium tanks27 which in turn was followed closely by infantry in a mass onslaught.

Automatic weapons and antitank guns, emplaced and sighted in on what was known to be the only route of advance, were brought to bear on the tanks and turned back the assault. Mortar fire from the 81mm weapons of the 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, and 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, was laid down on the far bank of the river and laddered to 250

JAPANESE MEDIUM TANKS attempted a sortie across the mouth of the Matanikau
only to be destroyed by Marine antitank guns and 75mm half-tracks.


yards inland.28 Artillery fire from the 11th Marines, a prearranged concentration of ten batteries, was placed along the road between the river and the base of Point Cruz.29 These fires were maintained during the entire course of the attack, and were repeated at irregular intervals throughout the night.30

One lone Japanese tank succeeded in reaching the east bank of the river. It likewise succeeded in overrunning a machine gun emplacement and several foxholes before being finally put out of action by a grenade placed in the track by the occupant of one of the overrun foxholes. Out of control, it was chased into the surf by a half-track 75mm gun and there destroyed.31

The end of the attack came at 2200, with the exception of an abortive attempt on the part of a small enemy force to make its way across the deep and stagnant lagoon about 800 yards from the mouth. Nine hostile tanks remained on the scene, destroyed by fire from the emplacements on the east bank. It was several days before conditions warranted the sending out of patrols to the base of Point Cruz, and it was not until the reports from the patrols came in that the entire tale could be reconstructed.

The tale was a simple one. The enemy force attempting the crossing had been virtually annihilated. Massed fire from the 11th Marines apparently had boxed in the entire force as it was approaching the river, while the enemy in the immediate vicinity of the left bank had been caught by 81mm mortar fire from 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, and 3d Battalion, 7th Marines. An actual count could not be made on the spot, but the number of dead reached several hundred. The remains of three more tanks were found where they too had been trapped and destroyed by the artillery barrage.

The artillery aspects of the repulse of the river mouth attack merit discussion. At the time, 12 batteries were in position within the perimeter, all but one of the periphery of the airfield, and the latter in position just west of the Lunga, with the mission of being available to deliver certain predetermined concentrations along the Matanikau. The remaining batteries were so situated as to be able to cover given areas adjacent to the perimeter.

The knowledge of the impending attacks in the latter part of the month of October had presented a problem to Brigadier General Pedro A. del Valle, then commanding the 11th Marines. It was felt that the eastern sector, along the Tenaru, was not seriously threatened, but there was no such definite assurance in regard to either the Matanikau or the southern areas. Therefore, when the barrage of 23 October began to fall on the sector of 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, and when it became obvious that this was the preface to an assault upon the crossing, General del Valle was faced with the unpleasant necessity of deciding whether to displace the mass of the artillery to a position whence it would be possible to interdict that crossing or to retain in place a part of his strength to guard against a possible surprise from the south.

Once the decision was made, it became necessary to displace nine batteries of 75mm and 105mm guns across the Lunga. The river was in spate from rains in the foothills the previous

SCIENTIFIC EXTERMINATION was the artillerymen's objective.
This 155mm howitzer is being fired at Japanese targets west of the Matanikau by Marines of the 4th Battalion, 11th Marines.


day, and the only bridge was one of logs that was not thought to be too trustworthy. Amphibian tractors, therefore, were stationed on either bank of the Lunga to assist in moving the weapons and the necessary ammunition across, and the guns went into position areas south of Kukum.32

Studies of the terrain had shown that the coastal track lay rather close to the beach beyond the Matanikau, and that between the track and the low ridges that impinge upon the plain there was an area, restricted in extent, where it would be necessary for any assault force to assemble preparatory to following the tank attack. The range to this area was known, and the area itself divided into strips parallel to the line of fire from the emplaced batteries. Each battery was assigned one strip, which it could cover merely by increasing or decreasing ("laddering") its range. The estimate of the situation proved to be correct, and the result was the complete and scientific extermination of an enemy force.

All the activity of the night had centered about the river mouth, while the sector occupied by the adjacent battalion, the 3d Battalion, 7th Marines,33 had been perfectly quiet. No attempt had been made to cross by the Nippon Bridge for a flanking movement.

Daybreak of the 24th, however, brought evidence that the operation was not yet ended, for as soon as it was possible to see, observers for the 3d Battalion, 7th Marines discerned a strong enemy force crossing a ridge to the left rear of their position and disappearing into a ravine.34 Artillery fire and air strikes were called upon the area, but no confidence of the success of either measure was felt, considering the character of the terrain which the enemy had entered.

The seriousness of the situation, which lay in the fact that the enemy had placed a strong group in position for an attack upon the rear of the horseshoe defensive position, was mitigated to some extent by the fact that the refused left flank could be strengthened almost at once, thanks to a fortuitous happening of the day before. on that day, the 7th marines--less the 3d Battalion which was in position along the Matanikau--had "singled up" it lines,35 by turning over its regimental defensive sector east of the Lunga to its 1st Battalion36 (see below for the activity of this battalion). The balance of this regiment, consisting of the 2d Battalion and Regimental Headquarters, set out for the Matanikau for the purpose of relieving the 3d Battalion, 1st Marines.

The mission of the relieving force was changed at once as a result of the news of the presence of the menacing enemy force. Instead of going into position at the mouth of the river, the battalion took up positions along the sharp ridge on the left flank of the 3d Battalion, 7th marines, establishing visual contact with that unit on the right and stopping short of contact with the 5th Marines.

Such was the length of the sector so held that the lines were tenuous in the extreme, but, operating in favor of the defense, was the fact that the ridges along which the line ran were high and with precipitous sides. Especially was this true toward the southward, for the southern slopes were almost cliff-like in their steepness, and it was thought that any attack from the ravines below could only be delivered with its impetus greatly reduced.

The Inland Phase--24-26 October

The decision to thin the lines of the 7th Marines had been reached after some deliberation. Extensive patrolling of the area


south of the perimeter had been carried out by Marines and by details of native scouts, who had gone far up the Lunga. This valley was known to be a path of travel between the plains and the foothills. No evidence was found of Japanese activity, and this negative information was a deciding factor in the decision to weaken one sector for the strengthening of another.

By 24th October, however, the second day after the 7th Marines' lines had been attenuated, two disturbing bits of information were gathered with regard to the southern areas.37 An observer reported that he had seen what appeared to be a Japanese officer studying the airfield through field glasses from Edson's Ridge, scene of the great September battle, while a second man, member of a patrol operating up the Lunga, reported that he had seen the smoke from many small fires up the valley.

As if to confirm the suspicion which arose immediately these data were made known, there was a burst of activity in the vicinity of an outpost stationed 3,000 yards from the perimeter, southeast of the Ridge.38 The position, on top a ridge, was by-passed by the enemy, and all but one of the 46 men who manned it scattered, returning to the perimeter. The one man who remained returned two weeks later after having spent the interim in the jungle. This activity, which took place at about 2130, was followed at 0030 by a strong attack against the line held by the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. The assault struck on a narrow front against the left center of the sector. (This sector extended from Edson's Ridge eastward to the Tenaru, through lowland jungle country.)

Artillery concentrations were immediately placed in front of the threatened sector, and the reserve battalion of the 164th Regiment (3d Battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Robert K. Hall), which held the sector to the left of the threatened point, was moved in behind the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, in a difficult night movement during heavy rain. By 0330 the battalion had completed its move to the rear of the threatened sector.39

SGT JOHN BASILONE, subsequently killed in action on Iwo Jima, won the Medal of Honor
or heroic performance as a machine gunner in the defense of Henderson Field during the October battles.

Fire from mortars was used to supplement that from artillery and from automatic weapons. Penetrations of the lines occurred at several scattered points, but none involved groups large enough to be dangerous.40


The action continued until 0700 on the 25th. By this time the situation was under control, and it was possible to see that heavy casualties had been inflicted upon the enemy, especially around the wire which protected the front. Mopping-up operations began immediately, and those enemy groups which had succeeded in penetrating the defenses were wiped out. The fact that the reserve battalion of the 164th had been committed piecemeal as each small group arrived in the sector of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines meant that by conclusion of the defensive phase of the action, there was a complete intermingling of forces, and in order to regain something like order and unity, the day was spent in readjusting the lines.

The heavy rains of the preceding night, which had impeded the movement of the supporting battalion (and also of the enemy), had made the newly constructed, still unmatted fighter strip west of the main airfield and south of Kukum impossible of use for the time being. The enemy, obviously in close touch with his supporting airfields to the northwest, apparently relayed this news back, for, beginning early in the morning, and continuing well through the day, there was an unremitting series of air attacks. Some damage was suffered, but when the surface of the field dried sufficiently41 to allow planes to take off, the effect of the air strikes lessened at once. As fighter planes were able to take to the air, the enemy began to suffer losses in addition to those incurred by antiaircraft fire.

The score of enemy planes for the day was 27, of which five were accounted for by antiaircraft fire from the weapons of the 3d Defense Battalion. The rest were brought down by fighter planes from Henderson Field

UNREMITTING JAPANESE AIR ATTACKS pounded Henderson Field on 24-25 October
while U.S. aircraft were grounded by heavy rains which bogged down the airstrip. This shows a hit by a 500-pound bomb.


and from Fighter Strip #1. The total included 17 Zeros and five undescribed bombers. American losses were in material only--two F4F-4s and one TBF. All personnel of the American planes were saved.42

In the meanwhile, enemy surface craft, in the shape of three large destroyers,43 Akatsuki, Ikazuchi, and Shiratsuyo, had appeared in the area between Tulagi and Guadalcanal and had attacked and driven out of the vicinity two World War I flush-decked American destroyer transports (Trever and Zane). These ships, greatly out-gunned and out-ranged, were forced to retire, whereupon the enemy craft fired upon and sank the Seminole, a fleet tug which had been performing valuable work in transporting gasoline, weapons, and ammunition from Tulagi to Guadalcanal. At the time of sinking, she was bringing a part of Battery I, 10th Marines, to Guadalcanal. Five casualties were incurred. The 5-inch shore batteries of the 3d Defense Battalion, emplaced immediately east and west of Lunga Point, engaged the enemy craft and scored three hits on one of them.44 This opposition, together with the attacks that began to be launched by the now active fighter planes, forced the enemy to retire.45

During the night of 25-26 October, attacks against the sector held by the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, and the 3d Battalion, 164th Infantry, were renewed. A series of assaults against the position, which had been strengthened and consolidated during the day, were thrown back with what was known at the time to be heavy loss to the enemy, although the actual size of that loss was underestimated at first by the commander of 1st Battalion, 7th marines. According to enemy records, one regiment alone, the 29th Infantry, suffered the loss of one entire battalion--its total casualties amounted to 1050. Two other regiments--16th and 230th--and part of the Kawaguchi Brigade were involved in the attack and suffered likewise.46

From what little could be surmised of the enemy's plan and his manner of executing it, nothing could be discerned of a nature to increase the respect of Marines for Japanese intelligence. There was no attempt, apparently, to probe for weak spots in the perimeter defenses, for all attacks had been hammered home at approximately the same point. All were stopped with appalling loss to the enemy, inflicted by fire from automatic weapons and by artillery concentrations immediately in front of the Marine and Army positions. A Japanese sergeant who had taken part in the attacks and who was captured and questioned, was asked why it was that the assaults were repeatedly hammered against defenses that had already proved to be too strong for breaching. his reply contained much information by implication of the attitude of the men who were then in charge of enemy operations. he said that since the plan for the attack had been worked out carefully, it had to be followed, and that no one would dare to improvise.

While the attacks against Sector 3 were going on, the expected attack against the inland extension of the Matanikau sector developed. It will be remembered that an attenuated line had been thrown along the ridge line east of the Nippon Bridge crossing. This position fronted on a deep, long valley that ran parallel to the coast from the Matanikau River to an area southwest of the perimeter. It was steep and heavily wooded, whereas the ridge was bare and exposed. The action that was fought there was a bitter one, and merits a more detailed treatment than was afforded it in reports.

The ridge line was formed by two hills whose long axis ran in a generally east-west direction. The easterly of the two hills was


ANTIAIRCRAFT GUNNERS of the 3d Defense Battalion provided the sole air defense for Henderson Field
during the critical hours while U.S. airplanes were grounded.

slightly higher than the other, with which it was connected by a shallow saddle. A third hill, lower than either of the others, abutted the eastern extremity of the saddle, with its long axis at right angles to that of the ridge.

Three companies went into position at 1830, 24 October, along the ridge line, Company F on the left (east) flank, Company G across the saddle, and Company E along the eastern extremity of the western hill. Between the right flank elements of Company E and the left flank elements of the 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, in position along the Matanikau, there was a gap of about 400 yards. Visual contact was possible, but the 2d Battalion could not close the gap without an extremely dangerous attenuation of its lines. The left flank of the 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, was extended 200 yards by two strong points, which went into position after dark. These points occupied different positions each night.47

From the moment of its completion, the position was subjected to accurate, and apparently observed, artillery fire. Casualties were suffered during the daylight hours of 25 October. During the night of 24 October, at least one large infiltration of the line occurred when a large body of enemy came through the gap to the west of Company E, wiped out a mortar observation post, and, inexplicably, withdrew by the same route before morning. Other infiltrating parties succeeded n cutting communication between the


SGT MITCHELL PAIGE receives the Medal of Honor from Gen Vandegrift
as a reward for outstanding heroism while manning a machine-gun of the 2d Battalion, 7th Marines.

mortar positions near the beach and the advance battalion command post.

This post was situated about five feet below the crest line of the higher hill and ten yards from the crest, near the abutment, of the third hill. During the daylight hours of 25 October the position was under constant fire. One platoon of Company F was withdrawn at evening and directed to make its way to the right of Company E and to endeavor to prevent further infiltration through the gap on the right flank.

Enemy forces could be heard in the gully below, and the volume of sound indicated that they were large. During the night, multi-colored flashlight signals could be seen, and from their appearance it seemed that the enemy was in movement to the eastward, toward the perimeter. During the night of 25 October also a number of snipers made their way to the tops of a large grove of rain forest trees immediately to the front of the eastern hill. Such was the height of these trees that men in them had a clear downward view of the crest line of the hill. Men in the foxholes along the crest were completely exposed.

Three separate assaults were thrown at Company F, defending the left flank. At 2130 and again at 2300 there were strong enemy thrusts by a force estimated to be abut one battalion strength. These were thrown back.

At 0300, however, the company position became untenable in the face of an overwhelming attack, and the men were killed or began making their way to the northwest, toward the beach. Company G, in the meanwhile, farther to the right and not under immediate attack, fought desperately to enfilade the attacking troops, but the enemy succeeded in clearing the top of the ridge in Company F sector, capturing three machine guns and putting about 150 in position.48

In the meanwhile, the command post nearby had no knowledge of the fact that a portion of the company had made its escape. In the early morning light, enemy could be seen a few yards off, and vapor from the barrels of their machine guns was clearly visible. It was decided to try to rush the position.

At this moment, Major Odell M. Conoley, the battalion executive, had only a small group of men for the task. Three enlisted communication personnel, several riflemen, and a few company runners were at the point, together with a cook and a few messmen who had brought food to the position the evening before. These men--a total of about seventeen all told--were formed into an assault force, and were supported in the rush by elements of the Headquarters and Service Company, 7th Marines, and one platoon from Company C, 5th Marines.

The extremely short range allowed the optimum use of grenades, with which the two machine guns were knocked out, and the element of surprise permitted the small force to clear the crest. In the meanwhile, the mortar crews to the northward, operating in accordance with instructions given prior to the disruption of communications, had laid a heavy fire in the gully and began shortening the range so that approach to the crest was denied from the southern slope of the hill.


Map 13: Conoley's Action, 24-26 October 1942

This fire also, apparently, disposed of the snipers located in the grove to the front.

The action had cost the battalion 30 dead and a number, unspecified in the Final Report, of wounded.49

The Enemy Situation--21-28 October

Activity on all parts of the perimeter died away with the failure of the Japanese attacks of 25-26 October. There were fitful flare-ups before Sector 3, but these too died away within the next two days, and it became apparent that the enemy was withdrawing inland. It was possible to conduct reconnaissance in front of the sector and to appraise the damage inflicted upon the attackers. One thousand four hundred sixty-two dead were counted, and truckloads of materiel and weapons were found abandoned.

Documents subsequently found enable us to reconstruct with some degree of accuracy the plans which the enemy had made and his order of battle. It seems that instead of an uncoordinated series of attacks on separate days, and general attack upon the perimeter had been planned, and that this attack was looked upon as the culmination of a series of offensive moves.

The operation had been under the command of Lieutenant General Maruyama, commanding general of the 2d Division, and had been characterized, as is explained below, by hopelessly inaccurate intelligence data.

A provision contained in the enemy division order is included here because of the insight it gives to Japanese logistic planning and methods:

43. The division will take charge of the transportation of supplies from the landing point (between Tassafaronga and the Segilau River) to the ammunition dumps (upper Matanikau), and this will generally conform to the following methods:

The failure of the enemy operation can be laid to faulty terrain intelligence, bad weather, and inaccurate estimates of the U.S. situation. In this regard the Japanese seem to have been slightly farther off than were the Americans, for immediately before the operation under discussion, it was possible for them to estimate the total American forces on the island as something slightly in excess of 10,000 troops.

In the matter of terrain their lack of understanding is difficult to explain. By 1 October there were in the enemy forces many men who had participated in the Battle of the Ridge and who subsequently had made their way to the west and the northwest over the broken terrain of the interior. A part of the plan for the attack of 22 October involved the cutting of a trail through the interior farther inland than the native trails in order to avoid observation by patrols and by native scouts. From the point of view of concealment, the plan worked out perfectly, for there is no evidence that the presence of several enemy regiments south of the airfield was suspected until shortly before the beginning of the attack on 24 October.

The time element, however, was hopelessly misapprehended. It had been planned that the route from the headwaters of the Mamara, a small stream to the west of Kokumbona, through the interior back of Mount Austen and thence to the upper Lunga Valley would be prepared by a small engineering party who would mark it out for the main body. The character of the terrain was such that the latter, setting out shortly after the departure of the survey party and carrying only five days' rations, found the tentative schedule of attack impossible of completion. Several delays in the timetable were authorized by the commanding officer, but it appears that communication difficulties prevented dissemination of the important information.

The first attack at the mouth of the Matanikau, for instance, was delivered one day early, although it is possible that this seemingly ill-timed assault was launched in the hope that it would siphon off some of the


troops on the perimeter,51 and the subsequent attack was delayed. The assault upon the ridge, which was to have been of a diversionary character and launched prior to the main action east of Edson's Ridge, in order to cause a movement of reserves to he supposedly threatened sector, actually was not initiated until after the issue had been decided in front of Sector 3 and after all chance of accomplishing its purpose had disappeared.

Perhaps no army in history has contained within its ranks as large a number of inveterate diarists as did the Japanese. It amazed the American forces that such material was carried by the enemy individual at all times, for it was seldom that the search of the dead after a battle or the ransacking of a bivouac area did not turn up innumerable examples of it.

Troop-movement and composition were discussed freely, and plans for forthcoming operations, as far as they were known to the diarists, likewise received full and critical treatment. The value of such items was recognized early in the campaign, an full advantage of the information gained was taken as soon as the captured material could be put into usable form by the language officers of the division.52

It was from one such diary, found on the body of an enemy officer subsequent to the repulse of the late October attacks, that the following details of the movement and action of one regiment were secured. This regiment (the 29th Infantry) played an important role in the main attack, and the diarist's descriptions, while of necessity short, are remarkably graphic:

  1. The Mission: The Regiment was to assault Mukade Hill (Edson's Ridge) with one blow and sweep all the artillery positions west of the airfield and near the coast, and one detachment would seize the bridge over the Lunga River. By dawn it would capture the enemy artillery positions on the right bank of the Lunga and prepare to attack Hiyo position from the rear. (This term probably refers to positions on western sector behind Kukum.)
  2. The regiment advanced to complete the above mission, and because of the extremely confused terrain, an officer patrol was dispatched. However, it returned on the night of the 25th without being able to learn the enemy strength or position.
  3. On the way, a heavy rain storm was encountered so that the unit's advance was greatly delayed although it still kept on the move.
  4. On the 25th, about 2300, we finally had an encounter with the enemy. The Regiment was advancing with the 3d Battalion in the lead and the 1st Battalion on the right front, but as movements were not discernible, contact could not be maintained. The 2d Battalion was to be the reserve for the Infantry Group, but it followed directly behind the Regiment.
  5. When the Unit encountered the enemy, the terrain and enemy situation were completely obscure, and it was necessary to advance along a road which had been made by the enemy. To make matters worse, the enemy had excellent detectors set up which discovered our movements and there was intense machine gun and mortar fire. Even though it was night, the enemy had good plots, and were able to inflict extremely heavy losses in this way.
  6. However, the 3d Battalion commander, with strong determination, strove to break through. Each company, in accordance with its orders, began the assault, but because of the heavy concentration of mortar and machine gun fire, the break-through was delayed.
  7. About that time, the Regimental Commander, with the 7th Company, which is the Company which guards the Regimental Color, entered the enemy position.
  8. The Color entered the enemy position, but the 3d Battalion's assault made no progress. Finally the dawn broke and enemy fire became more and more intense.
  9. The 3d Battalion was practically annihilated in this assault.
  10. The 2d Battalion learned of the situation during the night, but because the enemy knew there was only the one road, dawn came without them finding any way of disposition.


  1. Commander of the 2d Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Watanabe, decided that it was not feasible to plan a day assault, and he carried out a reconnaissance of the enemy situation and terrain during the day for the night attack of the 26th which was to break through at a single blow.
  2. According to the order of the Infantry Group Commander, in the attack on the night of the 26th, the 2d Battalion would be in front, the 16th Regiment on the right front, and the 1st Battalion on the middle front. Although it was planned to break through at one blow at 1900, this night attack did not succeed on any of the fronts. In this night attack the Commander of the Infantry Group, (who was) a general officer (T.N.--probably Major General Nasu, Yumio), Commander of the 16th Regiment (T.N.--Colonel Hiroyasu, Juro) Watanabe Battalion Commander, and First Lieutenant Ueno died honorable deaths in battle.
  3. Because the losses of high staff officers and men were heavy, and enemy fire-power so intense, the attack was broken off for a while.
  4. Since the Regiment did not know the whereabouts of the Color and Regimental Commander after their breakthrough, the Division, as also the Army, were most concerned, and the Regiment did its utmost in searching for the Color.
  5. On both the night of the 26th and 27th, the Regiment sent out a searching party for the Color. The first night the Assistant Adjutant led five officers. The second night the Assistant Adjutant led ten officers and N.C.O.'s.
  6. They searched continually for the location of the Color and Regimental Commander, until unwillingly they had to leave the front lines.
  7. In round numbers, our losses at this Mukade Hill battle were:

    Killed           350
    Wounded 500
    Missing   200

  8. Movements of the Regiment after this: They recovered their wounded and were ordered to take them back to the Matanikau River as quickly as possible.

It became clear after the end of the war that the great October enemy actions had been planned as a coordinated operation between Army and Navy forces. As we have seen, a total lack of appreciation of the terrain, with an attendant breakdown of communications, had prevented proper cooperation between even the various ground units. Forthright action by United States surface forces, as will be seen below, prevented unhampered assistance by enemy bombardment groups.

LTGEN HYAKUTAKE, from his headquarters at Rabaul,
commanded the Japanese Seventeenth Army's all-out October effort to retake Guadalcanal.

Prior to the beginning of the attacks, however, there was a spirit of optimism current in the enemy upper echelons of command. perhaps the highest expression of this optimism is contained implicitly in certain paragraphs of an enemy 2d Division order--YU Operation Order No. 1784, dated 21 October 1942 and issued at a point about six miles south of the airfield. Pertinent extracts appear below:

(1) In case the enemy forwards a surrender, the following demands should be made as intentions of the Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese force:

a. The whole force will immediately stop fighting and disarm /i.e.--the American force/

b. The destruction of armament, ammunition, provisions, boats, and equipment, possessed by the enemy is prohibited.

*     *    *     *     *

(2) After the enemy commander has transacted


the terms of the first item, he shall be accompanied by a necessary number of side guards and interpreters, head toward the mouth of the Matanikau River by way of the coastal road, and agree to me terms of surrender to the commander of our force.53

VANDEGRIFT'S OPPONENT, MajGen Maruyama, sent his 2d (Sendai) Division into their costly October attacks
with specific instructions for handling the Marine commander when captured.

During the latter half of the month of October, two changes occurred in the South Pacific Area command. On 18 October, Ghormley was replaced as Commander, South Pacific Area by Vice Admiral William Halsey. On 28 October, the Marine Corps command echelon corresponding within the hierarchy to that of Turner as Commander of Task Force 62 was set up in Noumea when Major General Clayton B. Vogel opened his command post as Commanding General, First Marine Amphibious Corps. His command included all Marine Corps troops, save carrier based Marine Air personnel, in Halsey's area. His organization, however, exercised no tactical control over the Guadalcanal operation, instead busying itself entirely with administrative matters.

The Battle of Santa Cruz54

While the all-out Japanese effort of late October was taking place, American Naval forces operating east of the Guadalcanal area engaged numerically superior Japanese forces. The Battle of Santa Cruz, which took place on 25-26 October, was characterized by an increased enemy submarine activity, and by the fact that once more a major naval engagement was fought without the opposing surface forces becoming engaged as such.

Two American task forces were involved, each built around a carrier. One of these, with the Enterprise (Rear Admiral Kinkaid) as a nucleus, included also the battleship South Dakota, the heavy cruiser Portland, the antiaircraft cruiser San Juan, and eight destroyers. The second task force was composed of the Hornet (Rear Admiral Murray), the heavy cruisers Northampton (Rear Admiral Good) and Pensacola, the antiaircraft cruisers San Diego and Juneau, and six destroyers.

The enemy force confronting these two groups was numerically far superior to them. Commanded by Vice Admiral Nagumo, it included four carriers--Junyo, Shokaku, Zuikaku, and Zuiho; four battleships--Kongo, Haruna, Hiei, and Kirishima; eight cruisers, and at least 29 destroyers. It operated in three combat groups--Advance Force, Carrier Force, and Battleship Force.

The American forces had been ordered to skirt the north shore of the Santa Cruz Islands and to take station directly east of San Cristobal. While these orders were being followed,


THE COMMANDANT INSPECTS. Third from left, LtGen Thomas Holcomb, seventeenth Commandant of the Marine Corps, looks over a captured Japanese despatch-case during his front-line inspection of Guadalcanal in October 1942.

both groups were under observation both by enemy submarines and by planes from the enemy 25th Air Flotilla, operating from the Shortland Islands and from Rabaul.

By dawn of 25 October, the American ships were on station, and the Enterprise launched an unsuccessful search flight. In spite of intensive search and patrolling, it was not until the morning of the 26th that the situation was developed and battle was joined. In the ensuing engagements the American forces lost the Hornet to aircraft attack and the destroyer Porter to submarine attack. Seventy-four planes likewise were lost from all causes. Enemy losses included 100 planes and severe damage to Shokaku, Zuiho, and Chikuma, a heavy cruiser of Cruiser Division 8 and destroyer Terutsuki. Damage was likewise suffered by the Enterprise, South Dakota, San Juan, and the destroyer Smith, as well as by the enemy destroyers Terutsuki and Akikaze.


Table of Contents
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1. Final Report, Phase V, Annex T, p. 6. Even men showing no clinical evidence of the disease suffered from extreme fatigue after only moderate physical effort. Members of patrols operating inside enemy territory would suddenly collapse with weariness and lack of willingness to make effort, and would only respond to the most violent stimuli--generally threat of being left lying.

2. Ghormley ms, p. 130. Ghormley and Vandegrift were not alone in their misgivings. As early as the end of August, Under Secretary of the Navy James V. Forrestal returned to Noumea after a quick trip to the scene of action and gave it as his opinion to Ghormley that if the people of the United States knew on what a "shoestring" the operation was being conducted, and how serious were the shortages of supply and air, surface, and ground forces, there would be a revolution at home. Ghormley ms, p. 110.

3. This is a term which appears frequently in connection with the actions along the Matanikau. Built by the Japanese early in the campaign (perhaps even before the 7 August landings) it appears on all captured enemy maps of the area. The Japanese characters describing it were transliterated as "ippon-bashi", which would be translated as a bridge constructed of a single log, a "one-tree" bridge. To the Americans, this transliterated word was meaningless, but it called to mind at once the more familiar word Nippon. Thence the name. It was a small footbridge across the river at a point approximately 2000 yards inland. In regard to the name, however, another possibility must be noted. The same two characters, with one tiny difference, appear at numerous points on maps of areas west of the Matanikau and are always translated "one tree" or "lone tree." Since these areas without exception are covered with palms or with rain forest trees, the assumption that they are used descriptively simply does not make sense. It is far more likely that they are a unit name. The characters for ippon differ from ichi ki by only one tiny stroke. It may well be that the character labeling the bridge is actually the same as the similar ones appearing elsewhere on the map, and that the bridge actually was known to the Japanese as the Ichiki Bridge, in tribute to the ill-fated colonel who clashed with Pollock's battalion on 21 August. There was, however, a fallen tree which was used as a crossing, about 2000 yards from the mouth. (Comments, LtCol. Hewitt D. Adams, 4 January 1949).

4. Final Report, Phase V, p. 14.

5. "Enemy destroyers landed approximately 900 troops per night until the Japanese strength on Guadalcanal reached a peak of some 26,000 Army troops and 3,000 special naval attack troops." USAFISPA Report, p. 9.

6. Each R4D could carry sufficient gasoline to keep 12 F4F fighter planes in the air for one hour.

7. Final Report, Phase V, Annex T, p. 9.

8. Final Report, Phase V, Medical Annex. The Medical Annex to the Final Report says that a three meal per day schedule resulted from this betterment of supply. This is emphatically denied by every rifle battalion officer queried and it seems likely that only within the sickbays and hospitals were three meals served.

9. This condition is mentioned in Campaigns of the Pacific War, USSBS.

10. Marine Corps activity in the Matanikau sector, however, was causing alarm to the enemy:

"Japanese commanders were greatly alarmed with American activities along the Matanikau and with the possibility of landings along the coast to cut their communication lines. Repeated requests were made by Major General Kawaguchi to have all units alerted for such landings."
USAFISPA Report, p. 12.

11. Robinson ms.

12. Final Report, Phase V, p. 16.

13. Robinson ms, p. 6.

14. Final Report, Phase V, p. 16.

15. Rabaul, USSBS, p. 44.

16. USAFISPA Report, p. 15.

17. For example, the neutralization of the airfield at sundown so that American planes would not be able to interfere with the approach and operation of the bombardment force which struck later the same night.

18. Arrived 13 October, with the 1st Marine Air Wing and a Marine casual detachment of 300 men. Operation Plan A21 of TF62, 7 October 1942.

19. Final Report, Phase V, Annex T.

20. Notably that embodied in a fine narrative submitted by PlSgt Francis C. Pettus, of the 1st Raider Battalion. Pettus led a seven man patrol through the area early in the month. See A Four Day Patrol, Guadalcanal Doc 3GG, Marine Corps records.

21. The Island, Merillat, pp. 131-133.

22. Interview, LtCol Hill, 20 January 1949.

23. At this time a Japanese coastwatcher from the 3d Kure Special Naval Landing Force, active east of the perimeter, saw and reported Hill's landing. Marine Corps records, Guadalcanal Document 3-C.

24. Final Report, Phase V, p. 21.

25. Patrol Reports, Guadalcanal Document 1-TTT, enclosure O. MCR.

26. Final Report, Phase V, p. 21.

27. The Final Action Report calls them 18-ton medium tanks, while the Intelligence Annex to the same document refers to them as 18-ton light tanks and describes them as extremely vulnerable.

28. Final Report, Phase V, p. 22.

29. Letter, Lieutenant Colonel William R. Williams to Commandant, Marine Corps.

30. Final Report, Phase V. p. 22.

31. The Island, p. 164.

32. Details of the artillery phase described here were obtained from General del Valle during interviews held in the fall of 1947.

33. Final Report, Phase V, p. 22.

34. Final Report, Phase V, p. 22. This column was seen likewise by an observation patrol from the 11th Marines operating on the northwestern slope of Mt. Austen.

35. This odd, but appropriate, use in mutation of a technical nautical term occurs twice in the narrative portion of General Vandegrift's Final Action Report. It describes accurately the attenuation of the lines which resulted when one battalion was withdrawn and the lines of another were spread out over a two-battalion front.

36. Summary of Operations, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. Enclosure C, p. 1.

37. Final Report, Phase V, p. 23.

38. Summary of Operations, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, enclosure C, p. 1.

Final Report, Phase V, p. 24. The battalion report and the Final Report differ by one-half hour as to the time of the opening of the action.

39. Final Report, Phase V, p. 24.

40. According to Colonel Puller's report (Summary of Operations) a salient was driven into the lines at 0500, but was wiped out during the day.

41. The coral content of the soil and the subsoil gave a phenomally quick drying. It was not unusual for dust to be flying from bare earth exposed to the sun within an hour after the cessation of a torrential rain.

42. Final Report, Phase V, p. 25, and Annex Q.

43. The enemy craft had just landed troops, according to Robinson ms, p. 6. They were part of Admiral Mikawa's notorious "Tokyo Express" that operated so efficiently during almost the entire period of the campaign.

44. Final Report, Phase V, p. 25.

45. The Division Commander's Final Action Report is unstinting of praise of the services rendered by the badly hindered air units on the island: "The day, which began so badly for us, ended in success due to the skill and audacity of our air force."

46. The Marines' War. Fletcher Pratt, p. 92.

47. Letter, Williams to CMC, 17 January 1949.

48. Summary of Operations, 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, period 25-26 October 1942. See also document entitled simply Fourth Matanikau, prepared by an unidentified unit of the 7th Marines. In Marine Corps Records.

49. Final Report, Phase V, p. 25. Interview with Lieutenant Colonel Odell M. Conoley regarding details of operation of 2d Battalion, 7th Marines.

50. USAFISPA Report, P. 22.

51. Comment, F.L. Wieseman.

52. Captured maps and documents were inspected by language officers at regimental command posts, and anything of obviously immediate significance was translated forthwith. Other items were sent to Division, where they were inspected more thoroughly. Every document, theoretically, found its way ultimately to Noumea and then to Pearl Harbor, where it was fully processed by the Joint Intelligence Center, Pacific Ocean Area, better known as JICPOA.

Enemy prisoners were put through a similar routine. Questioning at regiment command posts was confined to immediately important matters. At Division, the prisoners were interrogated thoroughly about local affairs. They were taken finally to rear areas--at first to New Zealand, later to New Caledonia.

53. Hyakutake Meets the Marines, Captain William H. Whyte, Jr., p. 29.

54. Details of the Battle of Santa Cruz are taken in toto from Campaigns, USSBS, pp. 119-124.

Compiled and formatted by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation