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The Marines on Guadalcanal

FRANK GUIDONE, 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

The 1st Raider Battalion served as a reserve force after the Second Battle of Matanikau, but it was decimated by sickness and losses. Nevertheless, A Company and a machine-gun section from E Company got the call to move up into the line for what has become known as the Third Battle of the Matanikau. After probing the Japanese defenses during the day, the men dug in for the night. A pocket of about 150 Japanese soldiers was trapped on the Raider side of the river and that night led a breakout, wiping out most of the American mortar squad, as Frank Guidone remembers.

About dusk the Japanese came roaring out. It was frantic; at nighttime everybody was in their holes. There was a half-track firing across the river. Japs were coming out of the pocket. I didn't move in my foxhole that night. I just waited for somebody to jump on me. That's the kind of night it was.

The Japanese came through with their bayonets and hit the mortar squad. There was one guy, Bill Dodamead, the Jap jumped into his foxhole, and he grabbed a machine-gun barrel, and he just beat the pulp out of this Jap.

I looked up seaward toward the wire, and the Japanese were stuck on it. They hit that wire, and it really busted them up. They got hooked up in the barbed wire, and the tracers were just cutting them down. They were on the wire silhouetted. Tracers do the damnedest thing -- it's not pretty, it's deadly. It was pitch black, and you could hear the moaning and the groaning. I think about Gettysburg; it was probably nothing like it. But I think about the men lying out in those fields not getting any treatment.

I knew that whole mortar squad. That's one time I really felt it. That next morning, I went up on a short patrol, and I saw these guys laying in their foxholes dead. Joe Connolly, Neldon French, Don Steinaker, and Denny Thomas. I just had to walk away. The whole mortar patrol was gone, nine or ten guys. They were all in their outpost positions. This one guy, Joe Connolly, was an Irishman from New York, and he was older than us and we called him "Pop." I drank many a beer with him in Quantico, and I was in a boxing tournament in Samoa and Joe was my corner; that was the worst feeling I ever had. Gunnery Sergeant Cliff McGlockin, our acting platoon leader, put his arm around me and said, "That's the way it is, you know." I said, "Yeah, I know." The thing is, I was one of the first ones up there. We went up on a patrol because we didn't know if the Japs were around there again or not. I got to that spot, I just stopped, I couldn't believe it. I never forgot that.

We had a guy named Steinaker; he was in the mortar platoon. On our way up, before we left the camp area for Matanikau, he got word from the Red Cross that his wife had given birth to a baby. I can't remember if it was a boy or girl. But he was ready for it. He was passing out cigars. We were marching down this trail heading toward Matanikau. He was carrying a base plate for a mortar, and he was smiling. We called him "Pop." "Hey, Pop, how ya doing?" He was very happy. All these guys had ships named after them, destroyers.

Then we came back to the beach. A couple of days later, we went aboard a transport and we were gone, but that was a hell of a way to go. That made their deaths even worse -- being so close.

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

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