A Marine Diary: My Experiences on Guadalcanal 
J. R. Garrett
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September 1, 1942 

Naval battle at night. 1,500 to 2,000 Japs are supposed to have landed on the Matanikou down the beach a few miles from us. They did. 

*Japanese Gen. Kawaguchi landed with 2,000 men. 

September 2, 1942 

Kidd and myself had the four to six watch. Bombing at 5pm and naval battle or bombing at sea. Another raid at noon. 39 Jap planes come over. 

September 3, 1942 

Eight to ten watch. Shelling from destroyer at night - 12 rounds. Another false Condition Red. 

*Condition Red - air raid 

September 4, 1942 

 All quiet except for a false air raid which did not mature. 

September 5, 1942 

Another naval battle and shelling of field. Been raining for two days. Kidd and I built new shelter. 

September 6, 1942 

 Quiet all night. Chaplin Dittmar held church services this morning. 

September 7, 1942 

 Working party to Regimental Ordinance. Dug ammo pits. Met seabees. Raining night and day. No bombs. 

September 8, 1942 

Very quiet again. Had an alert but no bogeys showed up. 

September 9, 1942 

Went to beach but was secured because of air raid. Didn't do a thing on working party! 

* We had gone to the beach on work detail but returned immediately due to air raid.

Amtracs being unloaded at the beach

September 10, 1942 

Quiet again so we went to river for bath. Returned to find Smith, Friedlander, Marenchik and Crane injured by bomb. Fell 20 feet away from my shack. 

*These fellows all returned to duty though. 

September 11, 1942 

Another alert at 1 or 2am. Expect 2,000 Japs. Another bombing but no damage. 

September 12, 1942 

A quiet night but morning found us under Condition Yellow. Dodging bombs all day. Are under some color of condition most of day. 

September 13, 1942 

Shelling all night from three ships. No casualties except they hit hospital. 105's and 75's fired all night and day. Three air raids. We got 52 planes. Our planes just came in. Fired 40 rounds at beach. 

*On 13 and 14 September, the Japanese attempted to support Kawaguchi's attack on Edson's ridge with thrusts against the flanks of the Marine perimeter. On the east, enemy troops attempting to penetrate the lines of the 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, were caught in the open on a grass plain and smothered by artillery fire; at least 200 died. On the west, the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, holding ridge positions covering the coastal road, fought off a determined attacking force that reached its front lines. This was the beginning of the Battle for Bloody Ridge


This was a busy day at Henderson Field. Planes from the USS Wasp, which had been torpedoed by a Japanese submarine, arrived at the base. American destroyers later sank the mortally stricken carrier 

Meanwhile, the U.S. Marines held off a determined Japanese force of two battalions which attempted to take Henderson Field. The Battle for Bloody Ridge was underway. Col. "Red Mike" Edson and his tiny force of 300 Raiders held off the attacks from atop Grassy Knoll, a high ridge just 1,000 yards south of the airfield during night engagements over a three day period. 

September 14, 1942 

Battle started at 10 pm. Askey and I were on watch. Naval battle for an hour. Battle of Raiders' Ridge. I Battery troops pulled out and sent to the front as infantry to reinforce the Raiders. P-39's strafed all morning. Casualties coming up the road by our battery. Went on patrol but gave up as jungle too thick. Dive and high altitude bombers overhead - no damage. 

*Raider's Ridge also became known as Edson's Ridge after Col. 'Red Mike' Edson, who was in command of the Raiders. 

Bloody Ridge, scene of some of the fiercest fighting on Guadalcanal

This was the second day in what would be the major battle for Guadalcanal. Col. Edson's HQ was set up atop the tallest point along the ridge and the main focus of Japanese attacks. From this spot he personally co-ordinated defense of the embattled position. As battle fatigued Marines, wearied from six days of raiding, patrolling and defending the ridge line began to fall back, Col. Edson steeled his men's resolve, pointing toward the fighting and growling, "Listen, the only thing those people have got that you haven't is guts!" The old Marine 'Devil Dog' taunt from World War I, "What do 'ya want to do, live forever?" was heard often. The Ridge held. Heavy fighting left 600 Japanese dead and 143 U.S. Marine casualties. 

Col. 'Red Mike' Edson was awarded the Medal of Honor for his defense of Bloody Ridge. 

The 11th Artillery fire their Howitzers in the background as Marines hurl grenades during the raging Battle of Bloody Ridge

The 11th Marines' 105 mm. Howitzers gave good account of themselves in the battle with the heaviest concentration of artillery fire Guadalcanal had seen so far, dropping well placed barrages into enemy positions just 200 yards from the dug-in Marines.  

When it was over, the Marines' 105 Howitzers had fired 1,992 rounds into the enemy's ranks - the 75's alone had unloaded more than a thousand. The Japanese suffered 1,200 casualties. 

"The way it fell it looked as if the artillery lads were trying to burn out their barrels, so fast and furiously did the shells go over the Raiders. Out of this barrage grew an apocryphal story: a Jap officer is supposed to have asked later, upon his capture, to see the 'automatic artillery' we used that night". 
- The Old Breed 

105 mm Howitzer 

September 15, 1942 

 Firing all night. Corrigan fired a couple of bursts of 50 cal. machine gun. Don't know what he heard. Half the Japs do not have rifles. They try to use grenades and are shot down before they can throw them. One prisoner came out wounded. Another air raid. 

*The Japanese had infiltrated the area around Henderson Field during the Battle for Bloody Ridge. 

 "In our motor section - and anybody who's ever been around an artillery motor section knows they are more or less on their own - they lived off to one side and they were pretty careless about keeping night guards and so on. For some reason, I remember a Japanese slipped in on the motor section. Pfc. Tucker woke up, saw the Japanese, as I recall, lurking around there. He had been sleeping on top of the ground - he hadn't bothered to dig a hole - and the way I understand it, the Japanese threw a hand grenade at him but it didn't go off. I think Tucker shot the guy and finished him. After searching him, we found that he had taken some coffee, some sugar and I think he had taken one of our american rifles and some ammunition. We buried him there in the motor section the next morning. He was probably starving...he was after anything which he could eat. We didn't have much food laying around so he didn't find much." 


September 16, 1942 

Small arms fire at night. On watch three to six. Saw flashes from Naval gunfire. The dope is that the General opened sealed orders. Went to the river to bathe and watched torpedo planes take off. 

*Gen. Vandegriff received orders to rotate some of his command staff stateside. This gave him the chance to promote proven leaders and ship out veteran commanders to train Marines back home. 11th Artillery commander Col. Pedro del Valle could not be spared - he was the best artillery officer Vandegriff had. General Vandegriff, commanding the 1st Marine Division, won the Medal of Honor for his role at Guadalcanal and later became Commandant of the Marine Corps. 

September 17, 1942 

Working party at beach. 7th Marines and 1st Battalion, 11th Marines came in. They had left Camp Lejeune in March and had been in the Fiji and Wallace Islands. 

Went aboard two ships and got chow and cigarettes. Looked for Lex MacAlilly but was unlucky. One of our planes shot down by our own ships. The Hayes and McCauley opened fire first. Saw gunner who was shot through stomach. Pilot was killed. SBD. 50 cal.

*I had gone to a Hospital Ship to see an old friend. 

"The plane that flew in over our fleet - he'd been instructed not to - was shot down. We could clearly see the markings of the plane from the beach, but when somebody opened fire on it, they all opened fire. The plane was trying to make it back to the beach but it fell in the water about a 100 yards short." 


 "The only incident I remember where somebody got hurt loading a Howitzer was Lex MacAllily from Geneva, Alabama, who was loading a 75 Howitzer and got his thumb caught in the breech and cut it off. It was hanging by a piece of skin and they took him to the hospital and sewed it back on. He's still got the thumb but its not much good. He had enough skin left there to save it, but I don't know how much use he gets out of it." 

September 18, 1942 

Set around all morning. Shelling in the night for about 15 minutes. Got five men. Our coast guns run them off. Saw Lex yesterday - spent the afternoon with him. 

September 19, 1942 

Had bath at river. Had alarm but no planes showed up. They didn't get here. The 105's are firing today. 

September 20, 1942 

No dope for this day. Must have been pretty busy or quiet - one or the other. 

September 21, 1942 

The 7th Marines are pretty excited as it is their first time at front. Few Japs around. Had work party at ammo dump in morning. Saw Lex in afternoon. First let up in air raids - had none for a week. 

September 22, 1942 

All quiet except for patrol bombers taking off. Had working party at ammo dump; was relieved - sick with dysentery. Went to see Lex. 

September 23 , 1942 - Wednesday  

Sgt. Askey shot the rifle out of a Jap's hands who was 20 feet off from my hole. Working party at beach - came back by to see Lex. I had the 10 to 12 watch and reported voices to rear and at 12:30, Askey got his Jap or shot at him. Jap patrol planes all night. 

"We had heard strange voices to the rear in a language we couldn't understand and we reported to Askey, who relieved us on the watch, that there was "strange voices in the woods". Pretty soon after we turned in, a Jap stood up behind us by our mud hole, which was very near. Askey saw him in plain sight in the moonlight and he shot. He hit the rifle in the breech. Apparently, the bullet deflected into the man's shoulder. He got away but was killed two or three days later by Sgt. Sawicki." 

September 24, 1942 

All quiet but for firing to rear. Got up at 4:30 am for working party at beach. Unloaded K-28. The 'Beetlegoose' Went to see Wilcox - at Kokum. 

*The Beetlegeuse was a Marine Transport Ship. 

  September 25, 1942 

Patrol planes and more gunfire to rear. Sgt. Sawicki went to rear about 50 yards and killed a Jap. I helped bring him out. Zig got a watch and bayonet from him. 

"Sgt. Sawicki had gone to the rear of the battery where he found the Japanese Sgt. Askey had shot two or three nights before. The man had worms in the hole in his shoulder and he had a stick stuck in there to keep flys out of it, I guess. Sawicki killed him with a Reising Sub-Machine Gun." 


September 26, 1942 

Working party at beach. Went aboard 'Beetlegoose' and got sandwiches. Went swimming and went to see Wilcox again. Another air raid. 

September 27, 1942 

 Our Aerocobras are strafing Japs on Matanikou. They say that 2,000 of them are cornered. We also had an air raid. 28 Japanese bombers. 

Medal of Honor winner Coast Guardsman Douglas Munro holds off the Japs as Marines evacuate
*After some initial success, Lt. Col. "Chesty" Puller's 7th Marines had gotten into a jam after being hurled back in four separate attempts to secure better positions on the Matanikou River. A circling SBD saw the word "HELP" the Marines had spelled out in the sand. The trapped battalion was evacuated off the beaches under heavy fire. 

September 28, 1942 

Had working party at beach. Went to see Wilcox and had air raid. We got 28 bombers and eight Zeros. The pilots said the Jap planes weren't even painted. 

September 29, 1942 - Tuesday 

Lots of noise to rear. Albert Schlemmer of G Co., from the 1st Regiment - a friend from home, came by for a minute on way to beach. Two alerts in morning but none showed up. One Zero slipped in and got one of our fighters which was landing - slipped in behind him. 

September 30, 1942  

Had a peaceful night and heard the Japs are trying to evacuate their troops who were dive bombed and strafed by SBD's. No raids but rain. 

"On this day, the Japs were caught trying to evacuate their troops. Two ships which were nearly beached were strafed and they were slaughtered. Not many if any got away. It was said they had formed chains to hand-pass goods or whatever to the ships and were strafed in their position; 'course I don't imagine they stayed in that position long. I think they called this a 'turkey shoot' or something like that."  

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