A Marine Diary: My Experiences on Guadalcanal
J. R. Garrett
Previous * * * Index * * * Next
October 1, 1942

Quiet night but rain. The battery is a slop hole. Schlemmer came over and stayed most of day. Hauled sand for galley and ourselves. Still raining. Schlemmer brought me a Jap sword taken at the Battle of Grassy Knoll.*

"The Foxhole Buddies"
Rube (behind flag with hand on sword) and fellow Marines pose with trophies.

*The sword (shown left) which was taken at the Grassy Knoll on Bloody Ridge

now resides in the United States Marine Corp Museum in Washington, D.C.

October 2, 1942

Two air raids at night. At 9 pm, three bombs. At 4:30 am, four bombs. Expecting mail today as more ships have arrived.

October 3, 1942

Two bombings at night. Seven bombs each time. A raid at dawn but they were intercepted. We lost four to their two. Major Smith was shot down. He said they'd all pay. Another raid and he got four planes. We got five altogether. Seven bombers, three Zeros strafed field. Sgt. Kruse at HQ got one with 50 cal.

"Old Kruse was a Marine private when I first met him with 12 or 15 years service. He'd been kicked out of the Marine Corps on a bad conduct discharge, and re-instated back into the service. Anyway, Frank had a whole bunch of hash marks and one Pfc. stripe (laughs).

One time we had a tent there that was supposed to be full of Japanese beer or Saki. I took a truck one day with two or three of my people...and I went down there and there was a Marine sentry walking around with a rifle in his hands and he said "Wait til I get on the other side, then duck under and get some". So he went on around and we zipped under this tent and grabbed three or four or five cases of whatever and away we went. And we get out there somewhere and we run across Frank Kruse.

So old Frank says "Garrett, what you got... what you got over there..." and I say "Hey Frank, we got a bunch of Japanese beer." He had some Japanese liquor or Saki or something - we didn't know what we had. And he said "Hey, I'll give you a bottle of this for a case of that..." I said "Hell no Frank, you think I'm crazy?" Anyway we went on to the battery and you know these bottles were all written in Japanese; they were brown bottles, looked like beer bottles. Turned out to be vinegar. I wonder if its possible it might have been wine that went bad? I have never thought of that...but I sure wished I had taken Frank Kruse up on his offer (laughs)."

October 4, 1942

Bombs again. Fired back with 20 mm. but missed. Had an alert as invasion was expected. Cofer returned from hospital to battery.

October 5, 1942

All quiet again but one of our planes dropped a bomb on the beach and it scared hell out of us.

October 6, 1942

Peaceful again for a change. No bombers. Foxworth and myself went to rear and found two clips of 25 cal. ammo. Went down to aviation unit and got news that the Cards won series.

October 7, 1942

Went with Al Schlemmer on patrol. G Co., 1st. Regiment. Found two Jap 75 mm. cannons which we disabled. Came back alone with two guys. Found dead Jap and got ammo carriers. The Jap was executed by his own men - his head was cut off.

October 8, 1942

Quiet around battery, but hear guns firing from the front. They say there is 8,000 Japs there. Dive bombers and strafing all the time. Big Battle.

*On this day, the U.S. Marines launched a new offensive to extend the defense perimeter around Henderson Field. Within a few days, advance battle positions were established along the banks of the Matanikou River.

October 9, 1942

The 'Joe Duck' was over at night and dropped one bomb. Fired back with 20 mm. and 50 cal. No damage. A bomb fell at our position but no one was hit.

"I'm not sure why I wrote 'Joe Duck'. He eventually became known as 'Washing Machine Charley', as we called him, for the sound his motor made in the night."

October 10, 1942

Had working party at beach quartermaster. No raids. One in my platoon cracked up and I took him to Dr. Queen.

"A Private had a nervous breakdown in the foxhole with me - he was crying and very shaky and all, so he reported to the hospital. He stayed at the hospital one or two days, came back and he was okay the rest of the campaign."

October 11, 1942

Rained all morning. Church services. Air raid also - 60 bombers came over. We got 16 . No bombs dropped because of heavy clouds.

October 12, 1942

Quiet at night but three raids at night. The Army came in or is supposed to.

October 13, 1942

Little firing at night. Army came - 2,500 of them. Also two raids. A wave of 21 at 11pm - 14 at 1 or 2 am. Two direct hits on runway. Schlemmer came over.

October 14, 1942

Quiet again but had three air raids. 21 first wave; eight second; six third. Didn't do much damage.

October 15, 1942

First shelling since cruiser on September 13. This time was worse as shells were falling everywhere. Few casualties. Three waves of bombers - 25 in the first, nine in the second, eight in the third.

* For several days, Japanese naval and air units unleashed heavy attacks on Guadalcanal. The battleships Kongo and Haruna bombarded U.S. positions on the island for 90 minutes with 14 inch guns and inflicted great damage. Henderson Field was knocked out temporarily. Only 42 aircraft were left operational and aviation fuel was down to critical levels. It is estimated the Japanese battleships fired 973 rounds. This was the worse shelling the Marines endured during World War II.

Communications building destroyed during shelling of Henderson Field

"All of the Cactus Air Force guys slept in the woods right behind our position. And during shellings and things you know we had large bunkers; eight or nine men could lay down in side by side and it was covered over by logs and sand bags and things like that. Of course, I don't think they would of held up to a direct hit or anything. Those pilots would come out and would get in our fox holes with us during naval shellings and night bombing raids. And there's something about combat that's mysterious in the sense that...you can be laying in a fox hole and go into uncontrollable shaking or shivering and its contagious. It'll just go right down the line. And if, say you're the one that started it - or I'm the one that started it - you'll hear somebody say "Garrett you bastard" (laughs)...and I'm shaking like hell and everybody else is shaking like hell too...its a quivering sort of state; I guess its nervous tension."


Captain Donald L. Dickson, USMCR
Capt Donald L. Dickson said of his watercolor: "I wanted to catch on paper the feeling one had as a shell comes whistling over. ... There is a sense of being alone, naked and unprotected. And time seems endless until the shell strikes somewhere."

October 16, 1942

Short shelling in night. Japs are landing on beach 20 miles distance. Six transports and four destroyers. One of our PBY's kept us awake most of night but got a Jap ship. 22 bombers came over at 12:40am. An alert at four. They say our fleet is out there. 'Maytag Charlie' came over three times with one, two, and seven bombs. Shelling that lasted 1 1/2 hours. Seven dive bombers came in morning. Raining too.

* Japanese reinforcements (about 4,000 men) landed at Tassafaronga point on Guadalcanal. U.S. supplies also reached the island, mostly aboard transport planes.


"We were shelled by cruisers beginning at midnight because they had to stay out of range of our planes. About dark they would head full speed ahead in our direction to shell, then later would cut off about 3am to give them time to get out of range before daylight. Therefore we saw a lot of activity between midnight and 3am, in regards to shelling. We had a daytime shelling from naval ships - they might have been, I guess, destroyers. We could see the shells and the Japs shelling our forces. Of course, we were inshore and we thought it was our forces shelling the Japs. But we could see the shells tumbling end over end, which is something you wouldn't hardly believe unless you'd seen it...but its true because I saw it."

October 17, 1942

Col. Bauer went up to meet Maytag. He didn't come. No shelling. Dogfights first thing this morning. Two zeros by AA, six by fighters. 19 altogether, four bombers. 105's got Jap Artillery. 18 bombers at noon - we got all of them, 37 in all.

"You know we had radios from out of wrecked fighter planes...we hooked them up to truck batteries. We would listen to dogfights on the radio, "watch that son of a bitch, he's coming your way! He's coming your way...'bloom bloom bloom', Talley Ho!" That was their victory cry. I think that might have been common in all the forces - it came from the old fox hunt."


October 18, 1942

Short shelling but our Navy was around. No Maytag. At noon, 16 bombers came. I saw five go down. We got 10 bombers, 11 Zeros.

October 19, 1942

All quiet again. No air raids. Working party for Regiment digging holes. They moved as shells and bombs from dive bombers were habitually falling too close to the field.

October 20, 1942

Expected shelling. None came off, thank God! Air raid of 16 bombers. 11 flew over. They got them farther out. Also, some Zeros.

October 21, 1942

Seven Bombers come over but they didn't drop any bombs. Most noise in dogfights but could not see anything - too cloudy. Planes at sundown. Just missed us. Got one with AA. Two more waves after. Lights were on them.

October 22, 1942

Again night raids but was so cloudy our spotlights were no good. Lt. Col. Bauer was ready to go up but they were never located. Only a few dive bombers got in. Took our gun to Pagoda Hill with 140 rounds to shoot back. They were falling close. Rained too.

The only building on Henderson Field when the Marines landed on Guadalcanal, the Pagoda was the scene of Cactus Air Force briefings
October 23, 1942

First calm in long time. Air raid - 15 planes. We got 20 Zeros and bombers. Took 130 rounds from G Battery and fired 286 rounds. The Japs started drive.

October 24, 1942

No air raid but under Jap artillery fire. Took 236 rounds to hill. Close call. We did it in rain - Smith, Kidd, Moretti, Tench, Newhouse and myself.

October 25, 1942

Battle started at 12:30. Lots of noise from planes all morning. Watched nine go down - three parachutes. More coming. At 1pm, five dive bombers dived our wrecked planes. We lost two, got 21.

*Japanese forces attempted to cross the Matanikou River. This day marked the beginning of the Battle of the Matanikou.

This arial view shows the series of ridges fought over and defended by Col. 'Chesty' Puller's 7th Marines in October and the Battle of the Matanikou. The dough-nut shaped ridge to the rear is Bloody Ridge, the site of Col. 'Red Mike' Edson's defense of the previous month, with Henderson Field in the distance.

During the first night Sgt. John Basilone defended his central position with a small handful of Marines. After charging down a jungle trail, holding his machine gun by its tripod and killing six of the enemy, he set up his weapon on a slight ridge then repaired two other machine guns which had been disabled by the Japanese. Rolling from gun to gun, Basilone kept up a murderous fire in the face of repeated assaults by a determined foe. As the enemy worked their way around to his rear, he would pause and shoot behind his position with his pistol. By morning, having fired off 26,000 rounds, his guns were burnt out. " Manilla John" Basilone received the Medal of Honor for his action. Although sent state-side, he requested and received permission to rejoin his unit. He was killed by a mortar burst shortly after landing on Iwo Jima.

On the second day of the battle, Sgt. Mitchell Paige won the Congressional Medal of Honor. Hurling genades then cradling a 30 cal. water cooled machine gun in his arms, Paige lead a charge on Japanese positions in the jungle at the foot of the ridge. After sitting down, he noticed his forearms were blistered from wrist to elbow.

Five Japanese tanks sit dead in the water near the mouth of the Matanikou River, destroyed by Marine 37mm gunfire

Col. 'Chesty' Puller had organized interlocking fields of fire along the ridges and reinforced his flanks with heavy machine guns and anti-tank artillery. That night, as wave after wave of attacking Japanese rolled in through driving rain, Puller called 11th Artillery Commander Col. Pedro del Valle. "Give us all you've got. We're holding on by our toenails."

"I'll give you all you call for, Puller", del Valle replied," but God knows what'll happen when the ammo we have is gone".

"If we don't need it now, we'll never need it. If they get through here tonight there won't be a tomorrow", Puller thundered.

"She's yours as long as she lasts", responded del Valle.

After a couple o f hours, our Howitzers were white hot at the muzzles

"To neglect mention of what our artillery did these two nights would be to overlook what might have been, as it so often was at Guadalcanal, the deciding tactical factor. The huge Howitzers (we now had 155s) roared all night, as the men of the 11th spit on their hands and pulled their lanyards." - The Old Breed

This was the scene on the slopes the morning following the final Japanese assaults of the Battle of the Matanikou

In the face of an intense artillery barrage (the heaviest in the fighting), the Japanese scored some initial success but lost an estimated 3,500 men over the two days of fighting. The Marines suffered 300 dead.

Guadalcanal Patch ...

October 26, 1942

No air raids but firing from front all day. Some snipers to the rear of battery. No one was hit though.

October 27, 1942

Firing all night. Went back and looked over dead Japs. Picked up a Jap rifle. An air alarm but no enemy planes showed up. One flew over at night.

"I went back to the battlefield and viewed the dead Japanese. I watched the burial detail. We had some Japanese soldiers...in this case though I think they may have been Korean laborers, I'm not sure, but they were piling the bodies into a hole which we would put lime over then cover with bull dozers. I also picked up a rifle as a souvenir but I lost it in the war.

October 28, 1942

Little firing from front but no air raids. Plenty of rain though.

October 29, 1942

All quiet on southern front. Slow drizzling rain all day. Another false alarm. Made water run and picked up Jap washing machine.

"One day, soon after the drive on the Matanikou, we go back to the battery - me and several troops from my section - went back to pick up whatever ammunition was left behind. I said "Harry, lets make one last bucket of coffee". So we lit a fire, and put the proper amount of water in there and the coffee was going good...it was like four o'clock in the afternoon, somewhere in that neighborhood...and we heard a creaking noise. It was a noise I didn't identify, and in combat one of the scariest things a man can do is holler "uh oh". Sombody says "uh oh", and you're saying "what is it, what is it, what is it!" And I'm listening to that weird noise and somebody says "uh oh" and takes off just running and those hard steel heels are just hitting that deck "bloom, bloom, bloom" and we were on the edge of a clear field - we were back in the trees next to the airstrip - so we all just follow...we all run like crazy, run out into the opening and here comes a tree just tumbling down - blom! Right on our tent! The tree had been cut through enough with naval shelling - shrapnel - that it was ready to fall, and when the wind hit it right, it just come right on over. When we heard one of our group running...they just stampeded, and I went with them. But some of us didn't know why we were running and I'm not sure the guy who was running did either. But that was frightening - that puts your heart up in your throat. You know, when somebody's out there shooting, that's a different kind of fear...this was sudden fright."

October 30, 1942

Quiet from front but Jap planes overhead dropped two flares. Battery to move up to Matanikou for offensive. Traded pistol for Jap watch and rifle.

October 31, 1942

Started drive and at dark was four hours ahead of schedule. Sgt Kruse was hit and killed by 'One Lung'. Plenty hot, plus Jap artillery. Reached position after dark and then had to bring up ammo.

'Here Lies a Devil Dog'

" Sgt. Kruse was killed on the same grassy hill from which he had single handedly shot down an attacking Jap Zero with a 50 cal. machine gun on October 3rd, just three weeks before. 'One Lung' or 'Washing Machine Charley' came in and dropped a bomb on him. I heard 'Charley' was finally shot down at Rabaul by ground fire. They were shooting at our planes just as 'Charley' was coming in - he got caught in the spotlights and was shot down by his own guys."

*This was the beginning of the push on Kokumbona. Japanese were trapped on the beaches as Marines crossed the Matanikou driving west.

(Photo Missing)

"The surrounded Japanese, with their backs to the ocean, were mopped up in three successive bayonet assaults." - The Old Breed

Previous * * * Index * * * Next