August 20th, Thursday
All day long there was a foreboding air around I Battery position. In the preceding days we had been working on the beach unloading supplies, patrolling to the South of our position and digging in our howitzers. I had been assigned to Lt. Colonel Cresswell's 1st Battalion, 1st Marines as a patrol guide for about a week previous. On August 20th we had been on patrol to the Southeast of our Battery position which took us through the jungle to the Tenaru River. We returned to the perimeter by going down the East bank of Alligator Creek to the sand spit and crossed to the coconut grove. We heard of Captain Brush's engagement with a group of Japanese several miles to the East.
In the late afternoon, after I had returned to I Battery, Colonel Cresswell came through our position in a Southeast direction.
At about 1600 Lt. Bradbury called out "Fire Mission". The guns reported ready to fire. He laid my howitzer on an azimuth of about 800 mils. The other gun sections aligned themselves on the axis of my gun. My section (one gun) fired about six sighting in rounds and ceased fire. We were ordered to stand down but to remain alert.
The rest of the afternoon took on an ominous air, foreboding in nature. As it grew darker there was a strange silence. No small talk just quiet. We settled down to sleep.
August 21st, Friday
Unable to sleep, around 0200 we saw a green flare go up in the area we had fired upon in the afternoon. Machine guns were firing in bursts, tracers were ricocheting up in the air accompanied by the clump of mortar explosions.
The battle carried on and we waited. At about 0400 came the order "Fire Mission", "Azimuth 828", "Range 3500", "Battery, ten rounds " The calls came from the four guns that we were ready. Then the order to fire, and forty rounds want soaring at the enemy. In a space of three minutes forty shells went crashing down on the Japanese defenses. Ten minutes later another pattern was launched on the Japs.
At this time Lt. Griffin, the assistant executive officer, called me to the command post. He told me to turn my section over to Corporal Tomilson and that I was requested to report to Colonel Thomas at the battle site. Private Baccary took me in a Jeep across the field of tall saw grass to the battle area. I reported to Colonel Thomas and he ordered me to find Colonel Cresswell and have him report to him. He told me to cross Alligator Creek (Tenaru) on a rubber raft. I told him I could walk about a half mile South and I wouldn't need to cross on the raft. He said no, my R-2 said the lagoon flows quite a way South so you use the raft. I didn't argue, you can tell a Colonel something, but you can't tell them much. I went to the bank of the lagoon where I found Lt. "Punchy" Williams, my Paris Island boxing instructor, running the boats. I told him I was to cross to the East bank. He said "If they say so, but there's nothing over there but Nips".
So I crossed to the East bank and headed South as fast as my legs could move me. After about thirty minutes in the dark , just as it was lightening up I was challenged . I gave the password and told the Sergeant who challenged me that I had a message for Colonel Cresswell.
Of his watercolor painting "Instructions to a Patrol," Capt Donald L. Dickson said that three men have volunteered to locate a Japanese bivouac. The one in the center is a clean-cut corporal with the bearing of a high-school athlete. The man on the right is "rough and ready." To the one at left, it's just another job; he may do it heroically, but it's just another job.
Captain Donald L. Dickson, USMCR
I told Colonel Cressell of my conversation with Colonel Thomas. He then ordered a group from his unit to go with us to where Colonel Thomas was. After conversing with Colonel Thomas we returned to the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines.
Contrary to what was set forth in "The Battle For Guadacanal" by Samuel Griffin, page 105. Colonel Thomas evidently was not aware of the terrain in the area as there was no stream to cross upriver from the Japanese. Alligator Creek (Tenaru) extended inland only a distance of possibly a mile. He also stated that shortly after noon the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines completed it's concealed deployment along the edge of the jungle which enclosed the coconut grove. There was a huge grassy savannah through which Cresswell advanced and it was nearer to 0900 rather than noon.
The Battalion spread out to the East about a half mile and advanced North to where we could see flashes of shells of some sort exploding in the grove. There was a chatter of 50 caliber machine guns and the shrill reply of the Nambus.
About 1300 the Battalion moved into the coconut grove and the clean-up began. About 1500, I crossed the sand spit and returned to I Battery.
I do not know who the forward observer was at this time. We had two assigned to us Brooks Johnson, Jr. and Gilbert Small, Jr.. "Jungle Jim " Mallon enters the picture somewhere about here.