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The Marines on Guadalcanal

DAVE TABER, 1st Raider Battalion

Converted for the Web from "Into The Rising Sun: In Their Own Words, World War II's Pacific Veterans Reveal the Heart of Combat" by Patrick K. O'Donnell

Dave Taber was one of "Horse Collar" Smith's communicators who fought bravely among Sweeney's men. Six of the seven men were casualties that night.

We were on top of the ridge near the command post. Major Bailey came up and made an eloquent speech. He said something like this: "All you fellows have buddies and friends that have been wounded and killed, and it will all be in vain if we lose the airfield. Now let's get out, hold the line, and save the airfield. If we lose the airfield, we're going to lose the island." That was about the gist of it. It was quite dramatic and got everybody moving. I thought to myself it was almost like something out of a movie.

I was with a close friend of mine, Ike Arnold. (Ike's name was really Herman Arnold, but I called him Ike.) We each had five or six grenades. We went out. I'm not sure what happened, but somehow we got separated from some of the other guys. In fact we were a little too extended, I guess. When the Japs attacked, we were throwing grenades. There was a lot of shooting going on, a lot of action: rifle fire, grenades moving so fast. Anyway, we were throwing grenades down the ridge, and then all the sudden Ike talked to me. [Choking up, Taber said, "I'd rather not go through this," but then continued.] He called me Tabe. He said very calmly, "Tabe, I've been hit." I turned to him. He was off to my side a little, and I said, "Where?" He said, "In the throat." He no more than said that, and he was dead. He must have been hit in the jugular vein or an artery. Blood just gushed out. I had my arm underneath him, across his back, and I lowered him down to the ground. [crying] There's nothing you could do. He was a very good friend of mine. I looked around, and I was all by myself.

I thought to myself that I better get back and make contact with the others. I didn't know whether to crawl back or walk back because there was danger both ways. We'd been told what to do in these cases. I acted without even thinking. I decided to stay on my feet. It was pitch dark. I was walking a little bit, and all the sudden I heard something behind me and along comes a grenade right through the air and the fuse is burning! Before I knew what I was doing, I fell on my face away from it. As I was going down, I turned to see where the grenade was falling; it fell in between my feet. I had sharpnel between my feet and legs. I was a little stunned but got up. I was in shock, and nothing was bothering me. I'm walking along slowly and heard a Japanese voice behind me and he was talking to me. He must have thought I was a Jap going up in front of him. I had a .03 rifle and I swung around and shot, and he dropped as I kept on going. I finally got back [to the CP], and one of the first people I ran into was Horse Collar Smith, who was wounded.

Copyright © 2002 by Patrick O'Donnell. All rights reserved. Converted for the Web with the permission of Simon & Schuster.

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