Jerry McConnell - Marine Scout
K Co., 3rd Bn., 1st Reg., 1st Div.

Date: Tue, 16 Jul 1996 21:42:36 -0400 (EDT)
To: (Jim Garrett)
From: Jerry McConnell
Subject: Re: MelbCrickGrnds


*This is an email conversation between Rube Garrett and Jerry McConnell

July 16, 1996

Rube Garrett Wrote:

Great to hear from you Jerry. Your note brought back memories of those wonderful days in Australia.

Myself and the rest of the 11th Reg. and Tank Bat. were at Ballarat. The 5th Reg. and the 1st was at the cricket grounds in Melbourne. I don't know where the 7th was. Will find out at the reunion this August in New Orleans. I never was at Mount Martha, so as to where the 7th was biletted, your guess is as good as mine. I recall the 5th slept under the stands at the cricket field. We were in tents in the park at Ballarat.

The 7th must have been at Mount Martha. I went there to a demolition school for a few weeks - in between malaria attacks. Almost blew my hand off one time when a fuse ignited prematurely into a stick of dynamite, but fortunately I saw how fast the wick was burning so I threw it into a small pond. The worst that happened was that we all got a free shower out of it. But it happened to be a very cold day, so there were a lot of sniffling and sneezing for a few days.

I also stayed at a country home. I recall we helped stack hay. I worked there on the farm little bit.

I met some kind folks in Ballarat, George and Lorna King, who sort of adopted me. They gave me a bedroom and key to the house. In fact, I was practically a part of their famly. They kept beer in the 'frige for me. When I left, they hugged me and cried like children. I still have a couple of letters they wrote. They called me 'Garr'. I don't recall exactly how we met (it may have been at a guest house--you know, a pub) They would say "'allo Yank!". They became wealthy in later years--drove a Jag. A friend of mine from those days, Gasowitz, went back several years ago. He called them from the hotel and they rushed over. He said he could see their home from the hotel. When I was there, they had a small print shop business which they built into a publishing house and factory. They later sold out to their employees and retired.

Sounds like they were some special folks Rube. I also was fortunate to meet some terrific Aussie families. I was dating a girl from Sandringham and so I spent a lot of time at her house, on weekends of course. It was about a half hour train ride out of Melbourne, so I didn't go out there much during the week. Also because the last train back to town was around 10 PM I believe, so that didn't give me much time to spend out there, especially if we had been to a movie or to the "Dugout". Remember that place on Flinders Street? It was a real hangout for Marines - and, naturally, "sheilas" as the Aussies called the young girls. I also dated the singer of the band at the Dugout and one time while I was in the hospital with malaria, she sang "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" for me over the radio which was broadcast from there every Sat. night.

Great place, great people - Australia.

The 1st Marine Division Association holds the 'Aussies' in high esteem. The high point each year at the reunion is the playing of "Waltzing Matilda". Everyone stands and sings. As to the info you requested, you can reach the 1st MDA HQ at:

1st Marine Division Assoc., Inc.
14325 Willard Rd.
Suite 107
Chantilly, VA

Phone/Fax: 1-703-803-3195

The FMDA publication is "The Old Breed News".

By the way, I checked my copy of the Old Breed book and it was the 3rd Bn of the 11th Regt. that was in support of my outfit when we were on the banks of the Mantanikau. In fact, you guys were very instrumental the night the Japs tried to send a bunch of tanks across the mouth of the river, right into the area we occupied on the eastern banks of the river. Thanks for having good aim. That was quite a log-jam the next morning with all those derelict tanks sitting on the spit across the river mouth. :-)

I am familiar with the scene you describe. The photo of the 'logjam' is up on the 'Canal Diary "Index" on the home page. Being in K Co., a mortar company, you probably have an interesting story to tell about that battle. We used to say you could always spot a 'mortar man'--his back is bent and his legs are bowed ;-)

Yes we had the "Light Mortars", but I was lucky and didn't have to carry one. I was in a rifle squad and was the scout. You must remember the scout - he was the one they always told, "Go on up ahead and let us know if you see anything." I always added under my breath - "Yeah, I will if I live that long." One of the worst scares I ever got was on a point mission. I was creeping extremely carefully and quietly as we had heard some noises, when I bumped smack into a wild boar, who must have been more scared than me, because he took off like hell squealing and snorting. Later that night one of our other company squads shot the boar, so the next day, one of the guys who was a butcher in civilian life, carved that pig and we took it back way behind the lines and dug a pit, built a fire in the pit and slow roasted the pig for about a day and a half. Man when you haven't had any meat for a long time, wild boar tasted better than pheasant under glass!

In regards to action on the Matanikou, you are right, it was us shooting over your heads that night. However, other than what is in my diary, I have no specific recollections. We fired alot of rounds. They never told us what we were shooting at. They would give us orientation and we pulled the trigger. We had to be available at all times day or night.

A lot of the time that night at the Matanikou we didn't even know what we were shooting at. It was a very dark night and even lying low and looking up at silhouettes wasn't too effective. It was just pitch black. So we mostly fired at noises. But when those tanks started their droning rumble across the spit there was no question about what they were. And the Japs running alongside and behind the tanks were all jabbering away so we just fired at their voices and one by one they stopped jabbering. It was eerie quiet when the tanks were all stopped, you guys stopped firing shells and the Jap infantrymen were all wiped out. I couldn't wait for daylight. It was wierd!

You never knew when a fire mission would be called. The 2nd bat. supported the 5th, my battalion, the 3rd supported the 1st. We also had one battery of 155s. They were used where needed. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd consisted of mobile 75's. I like to think we fired the first offensive rounds on Guadalcanal at the Battle of the Teneru (the Teneru River is now called Alligator Creek, as you may know.)

Our battalion was in regimental reserve on the night of the Teneru - Alligator and some native scout even called it the Ilu, but whatever. The 1st and 2nd battalions caught the brunt of Col. Ichiki's thrust across the river, but they drove them back. We were on the left flank right on the old Beach Red. The next morning all the bodies of the ones killed during the night had gone down the river with the tide and then washed up on the beach, half buried and right in front of our positions. What a ugly sight and stench that was.

You know Rube, for about 50 years I never thought too much about that damned place. I just put it out of my mind - didn't want to think about it. But when the 50th anniversary of the landing came around, I was interviewed by several different reporters and it was like opening a old trunk. All those old memories came pouring out. Even now I sometimes remember something that I'd forgotten all those years. Strange! I'll bet you're the same. Gradual remembrances that have been long buried. It was quite an event. And I'm sure we'll never really forget it.

I'll be in touch.

Best Regards,
-Rube Garrett

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