It’s been a really long time since we visited the Second World War battleground of Guadalcanal. Of course, it’s been a while since we discussed any topic at all on these pages. But I’m around this evening, so we should look at something. As you probably well know, Guadalcanal (the largest of the Solomon Islands) was the site of a pivotal six-month battle during 1942.
The First Marine Division had come ashore on the 7th of September – exactly nine months after Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor, achieving a measure of surprise of their own – and, with a bit of help from the Navy, had taken command of the situation. But the cost had been high. The cemetery on Guadalcanal held the bodies of 650 Marines. Nearly 1,300 had been wounded, and more than 8,500 had suffered through crippling tropical disease, namely malaria. They, along with their leader General Alexander Vandegrift, were ready for a rest.
And on December 9, 1942, that rest began. Transports unloaded the last of the Army’s American Division, and General Vandegrift turned over command to Army General Alexander Patch. The ceremony had little fanfare. Richard Frank writes that the departing General read “a concise letter that paid generous tribute to the soldiers, sailors, and airmen who had worked, fought, and died side by side with his marines.”
For another two months, Americans would still fight and die on Guadalcanal. But for the First Marine Division, the end of this battle was drawing to an end.
Recommended Reading: Guadalcanal