I return to the story of Guadalcanal simply because it was where the fathers of some of my old friends from rec.motorcycles.dirt had spent their time – their last time. Some fathers never came home from Guadalcanal. And some of their kids returned to visited that place:
Tassaforonga and Mantanikau, Red Beach, Iron Bottom Sound, I got some of the stories, wished I could have gotten more. I didn’t make it to the Gifu, but we did travel up the coast where the last of the Japanese left….
None of the above tries to quantify the suffering from lack of food. Recall the Navy sailed off without unloading most of the Marines’ food. The Marines survived on captured Japanese rations. Ortega’s words give us a glimpse of what the survivors were like when they left Guadalcanal:
…we were sent to the beach by Lunga Point and were there 7 days when we got the word that the Army was coming in and we were to be relieved. We were all exhausted. We had no clothes. All I had was my shoes, no socks, no underclothes. All I had was a pair of torn dungarees and a khaki shirt.
Meanwhile back to Tuesday August 18, 1942…
The time was about 12:45 this afternoon, and I was preparing to go to Kukum to join Capt. Hawkins’ troops for the excursion to Matanikau, when the air-raid alarm sounded. We took cover, and at about one o’clock the anti-aircraft guns on the field began firing.
It was the first time that I had seen all the enemy airplanes clearly; they came in two shallow V’s of four each, forming two silvery white lines against the cloudless sky, and it was a sort of shock to see them coming so deliberately and steadily in the open.
But our anti-aircraft fire was coming close. Then puffs of ack-ack blotted the sky almost directly in front of the leading wave. And suddenly a spurt of smoke came from one motor of the plane on the left flank. Then the spurt became a slender white plume trailing out behind. But the did not drop out of its place and the formation droned steadily on its course. It had not been hit badly.
Then we heard the first guttural whisper of the sticks of bombs coming, and all of us who had been watching hit the ground and rested the brows of our helmets against the earth. That was as close to digging in as we could come at a second’s notice.
From, TIME OF THE ACES: Marine Pilots in the Solomons
On 20 August, 19 planes of VMF-223 and 12 dive bombers of VMSB-232 were launched from the escort carrier Long Island and arrived safely at Henderson Field. The Marine pilots were quickly put into action over the skies of Guadalcanal in combat operations against enemy aircraft.
Allied air operations in the Solomons were controlled from the “Pagoda,” built by the Japanese and rehabilitated by the men of CUB One. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 51812