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The Marines on Guadalcanal

ROBERT YOUNGDEER, 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

Like Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain's last stand at Gettysburg's Little Round Top seventy-nine years earlier, the battle for Bloody Ridge was the crucial land battle for Guadalcanal. On the night of September 12 and 13, 1942, most of Major General Kiyotaki Kawaguchi's converging battalions were not in their assigned places for the attack on the ridge. As darkness fell, Kawaguchi's haphazard first attack fell on the Raiders' C Company and attached machine-gun platoon from E Company, forcing several platoons to withdraw. Robert Youngdeer, an E Company scout-rifleman, was manning a strong point along the main approach of the Japanese attack that night.

We heard them splashing across the river. They weren't very quiet. We could hear them jabbering away. They weren't attacking; they just were coming down the fire lane trying to find us. Soon they were all around our position. I could hear the bolts being pulled back on their weapons. Next they sprayed the bushes near us. We didn't fire because we knew if we did, we'd give away our position and they'd overwhelm us. So we threw grenades into them as they went around us, toward the ridge. We just kept throwing grenades. There wasn't the kind of fear you might think. There wasn't any panic or anything.

They came back through us again. Like I said, they weren't very quiet. They were making a lot of noise, talking, yelling to one another, and I heard someone getting beat up on the left. I can still hear the screams. He was begging for mercy. They [the Japanese] were berating him. Later on, I found that it was one of my friends, Ken Ritter. I'd seen him the day we went into our position. He had dysentery and was in bad shape, laying alongside the trail. As I went by, he looked up and smiled real weak-like. He didn't have anything to say. I heard from people later on that they bayoneted him.

When daylight came, well, a few more people were hit and killed by snipers. I was wounded in the morning. I finally got out of there. I was flown off the island. They were flying the wounded off.

I have a granite memorial in the garden where I live. It says "Red Mike and his gallant men, Edson's Raiders, South Pacific, WWII, Semper Fidelis." I have an American and Marine Corps flag behind it. It's my way of remembering those who didn't return.

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

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