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Title: From Makin to Bougainville: Marine Raiders in the Pacific War
Author: Hoffman, Jon T.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber's note: Table of Contents added by transcriber and placed
into the Public Domain. Boldface is indicated by =equals signs=.


  From Makin to Bougainville: Marine Raiders in The Pacific War
  Creating the Raiders
    Sidebar: Major General Merritt A. Edson, USMC
    Sidebar: Brigadier General Evans F. Carlson, USMC
    Sidebar: Destroyer Transports
  Shaping the Raiders
  Getting to the Fight
  Edson’s Ridge
    Sidebar: Raider Weapons and Equipment
  The Long Patrol
    Sidebar: The Raider Training Center
  Reshaping the Raiders
  New Georgia
    Sidebar: The Raider Patch
  The Raider Legacy
  About the Author
  About this series of pamphlets
  Transcriber’s Notes




[Illustration: _The Browning air-cooled .30-caliber machine gun was
the weapon of choice for raider battalions because of its low weight
in comparison to other available machine guns. The raider battalions
were not armed with heavy weapons._ Department of Defense Photo (USMC)

[Illustration: _Marine riflemen take on Japanese snipers while others
put a captured 37mm field gun into operation during the raid on
Koiari. Parachutists and raiders expected to surprise the enemy, but
were themselves surprised instead when they landed in the midst of a
well-defended supply dump. The enemy pinned the Marines to the beach
with heavy fire, until evening._ Department of Defense Photo (USMC)

From Makin to Bougainville:

Marine Raiders in the Pacific War

_by Major Jon T. Hoffman, USMCR_

_In February 1942, Lieutenant General Thomas Holcomb, the Commandant
of the Marine Corps, ordered the creation of a new unit designated the
1st Marine Raider Battalion. This elite force, and its three sister
battalions, went on to gain considerable fame for fighting prowess in
World War II. There is more to the story of these units, however, than
a simple tale of combat heroics. The inception, growth, and sudden end
of the raiders reveals a great deal about the development and conduct
of amphibious operations during the war, and about the challenges the
Corps faced in expanding from 19,000 men to nearly a half million.
The raiders also attracted more than their share of strong leaders.
The resulting combination of courage, doctrine, organization, and
personalities makes this one of the most interesting chapters in Marine
Corps history._

_Creating the Raiders_

Two completely independent forces were responsible for the appearance
of the raiders in early 1942. Several historians have fully traced
one of these sets of circumstances, which began with the friendship
developed between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Evans F. Carlson. As
a result of his experiences in China, Carlson was convinced that
guerrilla warfare was the wave of the future. One of his adherents
in 1941 was Captain James Roosevelt, the president’s son. At the
same time, another presidential confidant, William J. Donovan, was
pushing a similar theme. Donovan had been an Army hero in World War
I and was now a senior advisor on intelligence matters. He wanted to
create a guerrilla force that would infiltrate occupied territory
and assist resistance groups. He made a formal proposal along these
lines to President Roosevelt in December 1941. In January, the younger
Roosevelt wrote to the Major General Commandant of the Marine Corps and
recommended creation of “a unit for purposes similar to the British
Commandos and the Chinese Guerrillas.”

These ideas were appealing at the time because the war was going badly
for the Allies. The Germans had forced the British off the continent of
Europe, and the Japanese were sweeping the United States and Britain
from much of the Pacific. The military forces of the Allies were too
weak to slug it out in conventional battles with the Axis powers, so
guerrilla warfare and quick raids appeared to be viable alternatives.
The British commandos had already conducted numerous forays against
the European coastline, and Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill
enthusiastically endorsed the concept to President Roosevelt. The
Marine Commandant, Major General Thomas Holcomb, allegedly succumbed to
this high-level pressure and organized the raider battalions, though
he himself thought that any properly trained Marine unit could perform
amphibious raids.

That scenario is mostly accurate, but it tells only half of the story.
Two other men also were responsible for the genesis of the raiders. One
was General Holland M. Smith. Although the Marine Corps Schools had
created the first manual on amphibious operations in 1935, during the
early days of World War II Smith faced the unenviable task of trying
to convert that paper doctrine into reality. As a brigadier general he
commanded the 1st Marine Brigade in Fleet Landing Exercise 6, which
took place in the Caribbean in early 1940. There he discovered that
several factors, to include the lack of adequate landing craft, made
it impossible to rapidly build up combat power on a hostile shore. The
initial assault elements would thus be vulnerable to counterattack
and defeat while most of the amphibious force remained on board its

As a partial response to this problem, Smith seized upon the newly
developed destroyer transport. During FLEX 6, his plan called for
the _Manley_ (APD 1) to land a company of the 5th Marines via rubber
boats at H-minus three hours (prior to dawn) at a point away from the
primary assault beach. This force would advance inland, seize key
terrain dominating the proposed beachhead, and thus protect the main
landing from counterattack. A year later, during FLEX 7, Smith had
three destroyer transports. He designated the three companies of the
7th Marines embarked on these ships as the Mobile Landing Group. During
the exercise these units again made night landings to protect the main
assault, or conducted diversionary attacks.

Smith eventually crystallized his new ideas about amphibious
operations. He envisioned making future assaults with three distinct
echelons. The first wave would be composed of fast-moving forces that
could seize key terrain prior to the main assault. This first element
would consist of a parachute regiment, an air infantry regiment
(gliderborne troops), a light tank battalion, and “at least one APD
[highspeed destroyer transport] battalion.” With a relatively secure
beachhead, the more ponderous combat units of the assault force would
come ashore. The third echelon would consist of the reserve force and
service units.

In the summer of 1941 Smith was nearly in a position to put these ideas
into effect. He now commanded the Amphibious Force Atlantic Fleet
(AFAF), which consisted of the 1st Marine Division and the Army’s 1st
Infantry Division. During maneuvers at the recently acquired Marine
base at New River, North Carolina, Smith embarked the 1st Battalion,
5th Marines, in six APDs and made it an independent command reporting
directly to his headquarters. The operations plan further attached
the Marine division’s sole company of tanks and its single company of
parachutists to the APD battalion. The general did not use this task
force to lead the assault, but instead landed it on D plus 2 of the
exercise, on a beach well in the rear of the enemy’s lines. With all
aviation assets working in direct support, the mobile force quickly
moved inland, surprised and destroyed the enemy reserves, and took
control of key lines of communication. Smith called it a “spearhead
thrust around the hostile flank.”

The AFAF commander had not randomly selected the 1st Battalion,
5th Marines, for this role. In June 1941 he personally had picked
Lieutenant Colonel Merritt A. “Red Mike” Edson to command that
battalion and had designated it to serve permanently with the Navy’s
APD squadron. Smith began to refer to Edson’s outfit as the “light
battalion” or the “APD battalion.” When the 5th Marines and the
other elements of the 1st Marine Division moved down to New River
that fall, the 1st Battalion remained behind in Quantico with Force
headquarters. Reports going to and from AFAF placed the battalion in
a category separate from the rest of the division of which it was
still technically a part. Lieutenant Colonel Gerald C. Thomas, the
division operations officer, ruefully referred to the battalion as “the
plaything of headquarters.”

Edson’s unit was unique in other ways. In a lengthy August 1941 report,
the lieutenant colonel evaluated the organization and missions of his
unit. He believed that the APD battalion would focus primarily on
reconnaissance, raids, and other special operations--in his mind it
was a waterborne version of the parachutists. In a similar fashion,
the battalion would rely on speed and mobility, not firepower, as its
tactical mainstay. Since the APDs could neither embark nor offload
vehicles, that meant the battalion had to be entirely foot mobile
once ashore, again like the parachutists. To achieve rapid movement,
Edson recommended a new table of organization that made his force much
lighter than other infantry battalions. He wanted to trade in his 81mm
mortars and heavy machine guns for lighter models. There also would
be fewer of these weapons, but they would have larger crews to carry
the ammunition. Given the limitations of the APDs, each company would
be smaller than its standard counterpart. There would be four rifle
companies, a weapons company, and a headquarters company with a large
demolitions platoon. The main assault craft would be 10-man rubber

The only thing that kept Smith from formally removing the 1st
Battalion, 5th Marines, from the 1st Marine Division was the lack
of troops to make the regiment whole again. As it was, many units of
the division still existed only on paper in the fall of 1941. At the
very beginning of 1942, with the United States now at war and recruits
pouring into the Corps, Smith wrote the Major General Commandant and
asked him to redesignate the battalion. On 7 January Edson received
word that he now headed the 1st Separate Battalion.

A week later James Roosevelt wrote his letter to the Commandant about
raid forces. On 14 January General Holcomb sought the reaction of his
senior generals to the President’s plan to place Donovan in charge of a
Marine Corps version of the commandos. In his 20 January reply to the
younger Roosevelt, the Major General Commandant pointed out that “the
APD Battalion ... is organized, equipped, and trained for this duty,
including in particular the use of rubber boats in night landings.”
He expressed the hope that the Navy would make destroyer transports
available on the West Coast in the near future to support organization
of a second APD battalion there. Holcomb obviously intended to use
Smith’s new force as a convenient means to channel outside interference
toward a useful end. His plan did not entirely work.

On 23 January the Navy leadership, undoubtedly in response to political
pressure, directed the Pacific Fleet to put together a commando-type
unit. The 2d Separate Battalion officially came to life on 4 February.
To ensure that this new organization developed along proper lines,
the Commandant ordered Edson to transfer a one-third slice of his
unit to California as a cadre for the 2d Separate Battalion, which
initially existed only on paper. Headquarters also adopted Red
Mike’s recommended tables of organization and promulgated them to
both battalions. The only change was the addition of an 81mm mortar
platoon (though there was no room on the ships of the APD squadron to
accommodate the increase). Holcomb even offered to transfer Edson to
the 2d Separate, but in the end the Commandant allowed the commanding
general of the 2d Marine Division, Major General Charles F. B. Price,
to place Major Carlson in charge. James Roosevelt became the executive
officer of the unit. In mid-February, at Price’s suggestion, the Major
General Commandant redesignated his new organizations as Marine Raider
Battalions. Edson’s group became the 1st Raiders on 16 February;
Carlson’s outfit was redesignated to the 2d Raiders three days later.

[Sidebar (page 2): Major General Merritt A. Edson, USMC

Merritt A. Edson’s military career began in the fall of 1915 when he
enlisted in the 1st Vermont Infantry (a National Guard outfit). In
the summer of 1916 he served in the Mexican border campaign. When the
United States entered World War I in April 1917, he earned a commission
as a Marine officer, but he did not arrive in France until just before
the Armistice.

He ultimately more than made up for missing out on “the war to end all
wars.” In 1921 he began his long career in competitive shooting as part
of the 10-man team that won the National Rifle Team Trophy for the
Marine Corps. He earned his pilot’s wings in 1922 and flew for five
years before poor depth perception forced him back into the infantry.
In 1927, he received command of the Marine detachment on board the
_Denver_ (CL 16). He and his men soon became involved in the effort to
rid Nicaragua of Augusto Sandino. Edson spent 14 months ashore, most
of it deep in the interior of the country. In the process, he won
a reputation as an aggressive, savvy small-unit leader. He bested
Sandino’s forces in more than a dozen skirmishes, earned his first Navy
Cross for valor, and came away with the nickname “Red Mike” (in honor
of the colorful beard he sported in the field).


Edson spent the first half of the 1930s as a tactics instructor at the
Basic School for new lieutenants, and then as ordnance officer at the
Philadelphia Depot of Supplies. During the summers he continued to
shoot; ultimately he captained the rifle team to consecutive national
championships in 1935 and 1936. In the summer of 1937 he transferred
to Shanghai to become the operations officer for the 4th Marines. He
arrived just in time for a ringside seat when the Sino-Japanese War
engulfed that city. That gave him ample opportunity to observe Japanese
combat techniques at close range. In June 1941, Red Mike assumed
command of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines at Quantico.

After his stint with the 1st Raiders and the 5th Marines on
Guadalcanal, Edson remained in the Pacific He served as chief of
staff of the 2d Marine Division at Tarawa, and as assistant division
commander on Saipan and Tinian. During each of these campaigns he
again distinguished himself under fire. Ultimately, the Marine Corps
discovered that Edson’s courage was matched by his skill as a staff
officer. He spent nine months as chief of staff for the Fleet Marine
Force Pacific and closed out the war in charge of the Service Command.

Following the war Edson headed the effort to preserve the Marine Corps
in the face of President Truman’s drive to “unify” the services. He
waged a fierce campaign in the halls of Congress, in the media, and
in public appearances across the nation. Finally, he resigned his
commission in order to testify publicly before committees of both
houses of Congress. His efforts played a key role in preserving the
Marine Corps. After stints as the Commissioner of Public Safety in
Vermont, and as Executive Director of the National Rifle Association,
Edson died in August 1955.

[Sidebar (page 3): Brigadier General Evans F. Carlson, USMC

Evans F. Carlson got an early start in his career as a maverick. He
ran away from his home in Vermont at the age of 14 and two years later
bluffed his way past the recruiters to enlist in the Army. When war
broke out in 1917, he already had five years of service under his belt.
Like Merritt A. Edson, he soon won a commission, but arrived at the
front too late to see combat. After the war he tried to make it as a
salesman, but gave that up in 1922 and enlisted in the Marine Corps. In
a few months he earned a commission again. Other than a failed attempt
at flight school, his first several years as a Marine lieutenant were

In 1927 Carlson deployed to Shanghai with the 4th Marines. There he
became regimental intelligence officer and developed a deep interest in
China that would shape the remainder of his days. Three years later,
commanding an outpost of the _Guardia National_ in Nicaragua, he had
his first brush with guerrilla warfare. That became the second guiding
star of his career. In his only battle, he successfully engaged and
dispersed an enemy unit in a daring night attack. There followed a tour
with the Legation Guard in Peking, and a stint as executive officer
of the presidential guard detachment at Warm Springs, Georgia. In the
latter job Carlson came to know Franklin D. Roosevelt.


Captain Carlson arrived in Shanghai for his third China tour in July
1937. Again like Edson, he watched the Japanese seize control of the
city. Detailed to duty as an observer, Carlson sought and received
permission to accompany the Chinese Communist Party’s 8th Route Army,
which was fighting against the Japanese. For the next year he divided
his time between the front lines and the temporary Chinese capital of
Hangkow. During that time he developed his ideas on guerrilla warfare
and ethical indoctrination. When a senior naval officer censured him
for granting newspaper interviews, Carlson returned to the States and
resigned so that he could speak out about the situation in China. He
believed passionately that the United States should do more to help the
Chinese in their war with Japan.

During the next two years Carlson spoke and wrote on the subject, to
include two books (_The Chinese Army_ and _Twin Stars of China_), and
made another trip to China. With war looming for the United States, he
sought to rejoin the Corps in April 1941. The Commandant granted his
request, made him a major in the reserves, and promptly brought him
onto active duty. Ten months later he created the 2d Raider Battalion.

After his departure from the raiders in 1943, Carlson served as
operations officer of the 4th Marine Division. He made the Tarawa
landing as an observer and participated with his division in the
assaults on Kwajalein and Saipan. In the latter battle he received
severe wounds in the arm and leg while trying to pull his wounded radio
operator out of the line of fire of an enemy machine gun. After the
war Carlson retired from the Marine Corps and made a brief run in the
1946 California Senate race before a heart attack forced him out of the
campaign. He died in May 1947.

[Sidebar (page 4): Destroyer Transports

The origins of the destroyer transports are relatively obscure. The
first mention of them came in the 1st Marine Brigade’s after action
report on Fleet Landing Exercise 3 (FLEX 3). Brigadier General James J.
Meade suggested in that February 1937 document that destroyers might
solve the dual problem of a shortage of amphibious transports and fire
support. With such ships “troops could move quickly close into shore
and disembark under protection of the ships’ guns.” The Navy apparently
agreed and decided to experiment with one of its flush-deck, four-stack
destroyers. It had built a large number of these during World War I and
most were now in mothballs.

In November 1938 the Navy reclassified _Manley_ (DD 74) as a
miscellaneous auxiliary (AG 28). After a few weeks of hasty work in the
New York Navy Yard, the ship served as a transport for Marine units in
the Caribbean. In the fall of 1939 _Manley_ went back into the yards
for a more extensive conversion. Workers removed all torpedo tubes,
one gun, two boilers, and their stacks. That created a hold amidships
for cargo and troops. The Chief of Naval Operations made it a rush
job so the ship would be available for FLEX 6 in early 1940. Company
A, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, was the first unit to use the revamped
_Manley_. It used rubber boats to execute its 23 February 1940 assault
landing against Culebra in the Caribbean.


Satisfied by the utility of the destroyer transport, the Navy
redesignated _Manley_ yet again, this time as the lead ship of a new
class, APD-1. The APD designation denoted a highspeed transport. By the
end of 1940 the Navy yards had reactivated five of _Manley_’s sister
ships and converted them in the same fashion. In its haste, the Navy
had left out any semblance of amenities for embarked Marines. When
Lieutenant Colonel Edson took his battalion on board the APD squadron
in the summer of 1941, each troop compartment was nothing more than an
empty space--no ventilation, no bunks, and just four washbasins for
130 men. It took a high-level investigation, launched by one Marine’s
letter to his congressman, to get the billeting spaces upgraded.

These original six APDs would be the only ones available until the
Navy rushed to complete more in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. As the
two raider battalions moved out into the Pacific, so did the APDs. All
six ships saw service in the Solomons campaign, but only _Manley_ and
_Stringham_ (APD 6) survived. Japanese bombers sank _Colhoun_ (APD 2)
on 30 August 1942, just after it had transferred a company of the 1st
Raiders from Tulagi to Guadalcanal. Enemy destroyers sank _Gregory_
(APD 3) and _Little_ (APD 4) in the early morning hours of 5 September
1942 after the two transports had participated with the 1st Raiders in
a reconnaissance of Savo Island. A torpedo bomber ended the existence
of _McKean_ (APD 5) on 17 November 1943 as she ferried troops to
Bougainville. Before the war was over, the Navy would convert another
133 destroyers and destroyer escorts to the transport role.

_Shaping the Raiders_

The raider battalions soon received first priority in the Marine Corps
on men and equipment. Edson and Carlson combed the ranks of their
respective divisions and also siphoned off many of the best men pouring
forth from the recruit depots. They had no difficulty attracting
volunteers with the promise that they would be the first to fight the
Japanese. Carlson’s exactions were much greater than those required to
fill out Edson’s battalion, but both generated resentment from fellow
officers struggling to flesh out the rapidly expanding divisions on
a meager skeleton of experienced men. The raiders also had _carte
blanche_ to obtain any equipment they deemed necessary, whether or not
it was standard issue anywhere else in the Corps.

Carlson and Roosevelt soon broke the shackles that Holcomb had
attempted to impose on them. They rejected most of the men whom Edson
sent them, and they adjusted the organization of their battalion
to suit their purposes. They also inculcated the unit with an
unconventional military philosophy that was an admixture of Chinese
culture, Communist egalitarianism, and New England town hall democracy.
Every man would have the right to say what he thought, and their battle
cry would be “Gung Ho!”--Chinese for “work together.” Officers would
have no greater privileges than the men, and would lead by consensus
rather than rank. There also would be “ethical indoctrination,” which
Carlson described as “giv[ing] conviction through persuasion.” That
process supposedly ensured that each man knew what he was fighting for
and why.

The 2d Raiders set up their pup tents at Jacques Farm in the hills of
Camp Elliot, where they remained largely segregated from civilization.
Carlson rarely granted liberty, and sometimes held musters in the
middle of the night to catch anyone who slipped away for an evening
on the town. He even tried to convince men to forego leave for family
emergencies, though he did not altogether prohibit it.

Training focused heavily on weapons practice, hand-to-hand fighting,
demolitions, and physical conditioning, to include an emphasis on long
hikes. As the men grew tougher and acquired field skills, the focus
shifted to more night work. Carlson also implemented an important
change to the raider organization promulgated from Washington. Instead
of a unitary eight-man squad, he created a 10-man unit composed of a
squad leader and three fire teams of three men each. Each fire team
boasted a Thompson submachine gun, a Browning automatic rifle (BAR),
and one of the new Garand M-1 semiautomatic rifles. To keep manpower
within the constraints of the carrying capacity of an APD, each rifle
company had just two rifle platoons and a weapons platoon. Carlson’s
system of organization and training was designed to create a force
suited “for infiltration and the attainment of objectives by unorthodox
and unexpected methods.” He and Roosevelt were developing the guerrilla
unit they had envisioned.

Edson’s battalion retained the table of organization he had designed.
It was based on an eight-man squad, with a leader, two BAR men, four
riflemen armed with the M-1903 Springfield bolt-operated rifle, and
a sniper carrying a Springfield mounting a telescopic sight. (Later
in the war he would champion the four-man fire team that became the
standard for all Marine infantry.) With smaller squads, his companies
contained three rifle platoons and a weapons platoon. His weapons
company provided additional light machine guns and 60mm mortars.
(The 81mm mortar platoon, added to the headquarters company by the
Commandant, would not deploy overseas with the battalion.)

Training was similar to that in the 2d Raiders, except for more rubber
boat work due to the convenient location of Quantico on the Potomac
River. The 1st Raiders also strove to reach a pace of seven miles per
hour on hikes, more than twice the normal speed of infantry. They
did so by alternating periods of double-timing with fast walking.
Although Red Mike emphasized light infantry tactics, his men were not
guerrillas. Instead, they formed a highly trained battalion prepared
for special operations as well as more conventional employment.

Edson’s style of leadership contrasted starkly with that of his
counterpart. He encouraged initiative in his subordinates, but rank
carried both responsibility and authority for decision-making. He was
a quiet man who impressed his troops with his ability on the march and
on the firing ranges, not with speeches. His raiders received regular
liberty, and he even organized battalion dances attended by busloads of
secretaries from nearby Washington.

The two raider battalions bore the same name, but they could hardly
have been more dissimilar. What they did have in common was excellent
training and a desire to excel in battle.

_Getting to the Fight_

It did not take long for the raiders to move toward the sound of the
guns. In early April 1942 the majority of the 1st Raiders boarded
trains and headed for the West Coast, where they embarked in the
_Zeilin_. They arrived in Samoa near the end of the month and joined
the Marine brigades garrisoning that outpost. Company D, the 81mm
mortar platoon, and a representative slice of the headquarters and
weapons companies remained behind in Quantico. This rear echelon
was under the command of Major Samuel B. Griffith II, the battalion
executive officer. (He had recently joined the raiders after spending
several months in England observing the British commandos.) This small
force maintained some raider capability on the East Coast, and also
constituted a nucleus for a projected third raider battalion.

The 2d Raiders spent the month of April on board ship learning rubber
boat techniques. The Navy had transferred three of its APDs to the West
Coast, and Carlson’s men used them to conduct practice landings on San
Clemente Island. In May the 2d Raiders embarked and sailed for Hawaii,
arriving at Pearl Harbor on 17 May.


    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 54087

_The 10-man rubber boat was designed to be the primary assault landing
craft of the Marine raiders. These members of the 1st Raider Battalion
sprint ashore after a practice landing through the surf on the island
of Samoa in the summer of 1942._]

Carlson’s outfit hardly had arrived in Hawaii when Admiral Chester W.
Nimitz, commander-in-chief of the Pacific Fleet and the Pacific Ocean
Areas (CinCPac/CinCPOA), ordered two companies of raiders to Midway to
reinforce the garrison in preparation for an expected Japanese attack.
They arrived on 25 May. Company C took up defensive positions on Sand
Island, while Company D moved to Eastern Island. Trained to fight a
guerrilla campaign of stealth and infiltration, these raiders had to
conduct a static defense of a small area. In the end, Navy and Marine
aircraft turned back the invading force in one of the great naval
victories of the war. Combat for the Marines on the ground consisted
of a single large enemy air attack on the morning of 4 June. Although
the Japanese inflicted considerable damage on various installations,
the raiders suffered no casualties. Not long after the battle, the two
companies joined the rest of the battalion back in Hawaii.


During the summer of 1942 Admiral Nimitz decided to employ Carlson’s
battalion for its designated purpose. Planners selected Makin Atoll
in the Gilbert Islands as the target. They made available two large
mine-laying submarines, the _Nautilus_ and the _Argonaut_. Each one
could carry a company of raiders. The force would make a predawn
landing on Butaritari Island, destroy the garrison (estimated at 45
men), withdraw that evening, and land the next day on Little Makin
Island. The scheduled D-day was 17 August, 10 days after the 1st
Marine Division and the 1st Raiders assaulted the lower Solomons. The
objectives of the operation were diverse: to destroy installations,
take prisoners, gain intelligence on the area, and divert Japanese
attention and reinforcements from Guadalcanal and Tulagi.

Companies A and B drew the mission and boarded the submarines on 8
August. Once in the objective area, things began to go badly. The subs
surfaced in heavy rain and high seas. Due to the poor conditions,
Carlson altered his plan at the last minute. Instead of each company
landing on widely separated beaches, they would go ashore together.
Lieutenant Oscar F. Peatross, a platoon commander, did not get the
word; he and the squad in his boat ended up landing alone in what
became the enemy rear. The main body reached shore in some confusion
due to engine malfunctions and weather, then the accidental discharge
of a weapon ruined any hope of surprise.

First Lieutenant Merwyn C. Plumley’s Company A quickly crossed the
narrow island and turned southwest toward the known enemy positions.
Company B, commanded by Captain Ralph H. Coyt, followed in trace as
the reserve. Soon thereafter the raiders were engaged in a firefight
with the Japanese. Sergeant Clyde Thomason died in this initial action
while courageously exposing himself in order to direct the fire of his
platoon. He later was awarded the Medal of Honor, the first enlisted
Marine so decorated in World War II.

The raiders made little headway against Japanese machine guns and
snipers. Then the enemy launched two banzai attacks, each announced
with a bugle call. Marine fire easily dispatched both groups of
charging enemy soldiers. Unbeknownst to the Americans, they had nearly
wiped out the Japanese garrison at that point in the battle.

[Illustration: MAKIN RAID

17-18 AUGUST 1942


At 1130 two enemy aircraft appeared over the island and scouted the
scene of action. Carlson had trained his men to remain motionless
and not fire at planes. With no troops in sight and no contact from
their own ground force, the planes finally dropped their bombs, though
none landed within Marine lines. Two hours later 12 planes arrived on
the scene, several of them seaplanes. Two of the larger flying boats
landed in the lagoon. Raider machine guns and Boys antitank rifles
fired at them. One burst into flame and the other crashed on takeoff
after receiving numerous hits. The remaining aircraft bombed and
strafed the island for an hour, again with most of the ordnance hitting
enemy-occupied territory. Another air attack came late in the afternoon.

[Illustration: _Sgt Clyde Thomason was posthumously decorated with
the Medal of Honor for his leadership in turning back a Japanese
counterattack during the Makin raid. He was the first enlisted Marine
so decorated in World War II._

    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 310616

The natives on the island willingly assisted the Americans throughout
the day. They carried ammunition and provided intelligence. The latter
reports suggested that enemy reinforcements had come ashore from the
seaplanes and from two small ships in the lagoon. (The submarines
later took the boats under indirect fire with their deck guns and
miraculously sunk both.) Based on this information, Carlson was certain
there was still a sizable Japanese force on the island. At 1700 he
called several individuals together and contemplated his options.
Roosevelt and the battalion operations officer argued for a withdrawal
as planned in preparation for the next day’s landing on Little Makin.
Concerned that he might become too heavily engaged if he tried to
advance, Carlson decided to follow their recommendation.

This part of the operation went smoothly for a time. The force broke
contact in good order and a group of 20 men covered the rest of the
raiders as they readied their rubber boats and shoved off. Carlson,
however, forgot about the covering force and thought his craft
contained the last men on the island when it entered the water at
1930. Disaster then struck in the form of heavy surf. The outboard
engines did not work and the men soon grew exhausted trying to paddle
against the breakers. Boats capsized and equipment disappeared. After
repeated attempts several boatloads made it to the rendezvous with the
submarines, but Carlson and 120 men ended up stranded on the shore.
Only the covering force and a handful of others had weapons. In the
middle of the night a small Japanese patrol approached the perimeter.
They wounded a sentry, but not before he killed three of them.

With the enemy apparently still full of fight and his raiders
disorganized and weakened, Carlson called another council of war.
Without much input from the others, he decided to surrender. His
stated reasons were concern for the wounded, and for the possible fate
of the president’s son (who was not present at the meeting). At 0330
Carlson sent his operations officer and another Marine out to contact
the enemy. They found one Japanese soldier and eventually succeeded in
giving him a note offering surrender. Carlson also authorized every
man to fend for himself--those who wished could make another attempt
to reach the submarines. By the next morning several more boatloads
made it through the surf, including one with Major Roosevelt. In the
meantime, a few exploring raiders killed several Japanese, one of them
probably the man with the surrender note.

With dawn the situation appeared dramatically better. The two-man
surrender party reported that there appeared to be no organized enemy
force left on the island. There were about 70 raiders still ashore,
and the able-bodied armed themselves with weapons lying about the
battlefield. Carlson organized patrols to search for food and the
enemy. They killed two more Japanese soldiers and confirmed the
lack of opposition. The raider commander himself led a patrol to
survey the scene and carry out the demolition of military stores and
installations. He counted 83 dead Japanese and 14 of his own killed
in action. Based on native reports, Carlson thought his force had
accounted for more than 160 Japanese. Enemy aircraft made four separate
attacks during the day, but they inflicted no losses on the raider
force ashore.

[Illustration: Nautilus (_SS 168_) _enters Pearl Harbor on 26 August
1942 following the 2d Raider Battalion raid on Makin. On deck besides
the crew are members of Companies A and B, some wearing Navy-issue
clothing to replace that which was lost in the surf attempting to
return to the sub. A number of raiders are dressed in black-dyed khaki
that they wore in the raid._]

The Marines contacted the submarines during the day and arranged an
evening rendezvous off the entrance to the lagoon, where there was no
surf to hinder an evacuation. The men hauled four rubber boats across
the island and arranged for the use of a native outrigger. By 2300
the remainder of the landing force was back on board the _Nautilus_
and _Argonaut_. Since the entire withdrawal had been so disorganized,
the two companies were intermingled on the submarines and it was not
until they returned to Pearl Harbor that they could make an accurate
accounting of their losses. The official tally was 18 dead and 12

Only after the war would the Marine Corps discover that nine of the
missing raiders had been left alive on the island. These men had
become separated from the main body at one point or another during the
operation. With the assistance of the natives the group evaded capture
for a time, but finally surrendered on 30 August. A few weeks later the
Japanese beheaded them on the island of Kwajalein.

The raid itself had mixed results. Reports painted it as a great
victory and it boosted morale on the home front. Many believed it
achieved its original goal of diverting forces from Guadalcanal, but
the Japanese had immediately guessed the size and purpose of the
operation and had not let it alter their plans for the Solomons.
However, it did cause the enemy to worry about the potential for other
such raids on rear area installations. On the negative side, that
threat may have played a part in the subsequent Japanese decision
to fortify heavily places like Tarawa Atoll, the scene of a costly
amphibious assault later in the war. At the tactical level, the 2d
Raiders had proven themselves in direct combat with the enemy. Their
greatest difficulties had involved rough seas and poor equipment;
bravery could not fix those limitations. Despite the trumpeted success
of the operation, the Navy never again attempted to use submarines to
conduct raids behind enemy lines.

Carlson received the Navy Cross for his efforts on Makin, and the
public accorded him hero status. A few of those who served with him
were not equally pleased with his performance. No one questioned
his demonstrated bravery under fire, but some junior officers were
critical of his leadership, especially the attempt to surrender to a
non-existent enemy. Carlson himself later noted that he had reached “a
spiritual low” on the night of the 17th. And again on the evening of
the 18th, the battalion commander contemplated remaining on the island
to organize the natives for resistance, while others supervised the
withdrawal of his unit. Those who criticized him thought he had lost
his aggressiveness and ability to think clearly when the chips were
down. But he and his raiders would have another crack at the enemy in
the not too distant future.


The Makin operation had not been Nimitz’s first choice for an
amphibious raid. In late May he had proposed an attack by the 1st
Raiders against the Japanese seaplane base on Tulagi, in the lower
Solomon Islands. The target was in the Southwest Pacific Area, however,
and General Douglas MacArthur opposed the plan. But Tulagi remained a
significant threat to the maritime lifeline to Australia. After the
Midway victory opened the door for a more offensive Allied posture,
the Japanese advance positions in the Solomons became a priority
objective. In late June the Joint Chiefs of Staff shifted that region
from MacArthur’s command to Nimitz’s Pacific Ocean Areas command,
and ordered the seizure of Tulagi. The Americans soon discovered
that the Japanese were building an airfield on nearby Guadalcanal,
and that became the primary target for Operation Watchtower. The 1st
Marine Division, with the 1st Raider Battalion attached, received the

[Illustration: TULAGI

7-8 Aug 1942]

In answer to Edson’s repeated requests, the rear echelon of his
battalion (less the 81mm mortar platoon) finally joined up with him
on 3 July in Samoa. The entire unit then moved on to New Caledonia.
The 1st Raiders received definitive word on Watchtower on 20 July.
They would seize Tulagi, with the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, in
support. The 1st Parachute Battalion would take the conjoined islets
of Gavutu-Tanambogo. The 1st Marine Division, less one regiment in
reserve, would capture the incomplete airfield on Guadalcanal.

Edson offered to make amphibious reconnaissance patrols of the
objectives, but the naval commander rejected that idea. Most of the
information on Tulagi would come from three Australians, all former
colonial officials familiar with the area. Tulagi was 4,000 yards long
and no more than 1,000 yards wide, and a high ridge ran along its
length, except for a low, open saddle near the southeast end. The only
suitable landing beaches from a hydrographic standpoint were those on
either side of this low ground, since coral formations fringed the
rest of the island. Intelligence officers estimated that the island
held several hundred men of the Japanese _Special Naval Landing
Force_; these were elite troops of proven fighting ability. Aerial
reconnaissance indicated they were dug in to defend the obvious landing
sites. Planners thus chose to make the assault halfway up the western
coast at a place designated as Beach Blue. They wisely decided to
make the first American amphibious assault of the war against natural
obstacles, not enemy gunfire.

The raiders sailed from New Caledonia on 23 July and joined up with the
main task force for rehearsals on Koro Island in the Fijis. These went
poorly, since the Navy boat crews and most of the 1st Marine Division
were too green. On the morning of 7 August the task force hove to and
commenced unloading in what would become known as Ironbottom Sound.
Although Edson’s men had trained hard on their rubber boats, they would
make this landing from Higgins boats. After a preliminary bombardment
by a cruiser and destroyer, the first wave, composed of Companies B and
D, headed for shore. Coral forced them to debark and wade the last 100
yards, but there was no enemy opposition. Companies A and C quickly
followed them. The four rifle companies spread out across the waist
of the island and then advanced in line to the southeast. They met
only occasional sniper fire until they reached Phase Line A at the end
of the ridge, where they halted as planned while naval guns fired an
additional preparation on the enemy defenses.

The attack jumped off again just before noon, and promptly ran into
heavy Japanese resistance. For the remainder of the day the raiders
fought to gain control of the saddle from the entrenched enemy, who
would not surrender under any circumstances. The Marines quickly
discovered that their only recourse was to employ explosives to destroy
the men occupying the caves and bunkers. As evening approached, the
battalion settled into defensive lines that circled the small ridge
(Hill 281) on the tip of the island. The 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, had
already scoured the remainder of the island and now took up positions
in the rear of the raiders.

The Japanese launched their classic banzai counterattack at 2200 that
night. The initial effort punched a small hole in the raider lines
between Companies A and C. A second assault, which might have exploited
this gap, instead struck full against Company A’s front. This time
the raiders held their ground. For the remainder of the night the
Japanese relied on infiltration tactics, with individuals and small
groups trying to make their way into the American rear by stealth. By
this means they attacked both the 2d Battalion’s command post (CP)
and the aid station set up near Blue Beach. They also came within 50
yards of the raider CP. Edson tried to call for reinforcements, but
communications were out.

In the morning things looked much better, just as they had on Makin.
At 0900 two companies of the 5th Marines passed through raider lines
and swept over the southern portions of Hill 281. The remaining enemy
were now isolated in a ravine in the midst of the small ridge. After a
lengthy barrage by the 60mm mortars of Company E and their heavier 81mm
cousins of the rifle battalion, infantrymen from both outfits moved
through the final enemy pocket. Grenades and dynamite were the weapons
of choice against the Japanese still holed up in their caves and
dugouts. At 1500 Edson declared the island secured. That did not mean
the fighting was entirely over. For the next few days Marines scoured
the island by day, and fended off occasional infiltrators at night,
until they had killed off the last enemy soldier. In the entire battle,
the raiders suffered losses of 38 dead and 55 wounded. There were an
additional 33 casualties among other Marine units on the island. All
but three of the 350 Japanese defenders had died.

On the night of 8 August a Japanese surface force arrived from Rabaul
and surprised the Allied naval forces guarding the transports. In
a brief engagement the enemy sank four cruisers and a destroyer,
damaged other ships, and killed 1,200 sailors, all at minimal cost to
themselves. The American naval commander had little choice the next
morning but to order the early withdrawal of his force. Most of the
transports would depart that afternoon with their cargo holds still
half full. The raiders were in a particularly bad way. They had come
ashore with little food because the plan called for their immediate
withdrawal after seizing the island. Moreover, since they had not
cleared the enemy from the only usable beaches until D plus 1, there
had been little time to unload anything. The result would be short
rations for some time to come.

The 1st Raiders performed well in their initial exposure to combat.
Like their compatriots in the 2d Raiders, they were both brave and
daring. Major Kenneth D. Bailey demonstrated the type of leadership
that was common to both units. When an enemy machine gun held up the
advance of his company on D-day, he personally circled around the
bunker, crawled on top, and pushed a grenade into the firing port. In
the process he received a gunshot wound in the thigh. Edson established
his reputation for fearlessness by spending most of his time in the
front lines, where he contemptuously stood up in the face of enemy
fire. More important, he aggressively employed his force in battle,
while many other senior commanders had grown timid after years of
peacetime service. Major General Alexander A. Vandegrift, commander of
the 1st Marine Division, soon wrote Commandant Holcomb that “Edson is
one of the finest troop leaders I ever saw.”


    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 50969

_This enemy Model 92 7.7mm Lewis machine gun was sited to cover the
obvious landing beaches on the southeastern shore of Tulagi. The 1st
Raider Battalion made a safe landing by assaulting unfavorable but
undefended terrain elsewhere._]


As August progressed the Japanese moved a steady stream of
reinforcements to Guadalcanal in nightly runs by destroyers and barges,
a process soon dubbed the “Tokyo Express.” The Marines repulsed the
first enemy attack at the Tenaru River on 21 August, but Vandegrift
knew that he would need all the strength he could muster to defend the
extended perimeter surrounding the airfield. At the end of the month
he brought the raiders and parachutists across the sound and placed
them in reserve near Lunga Point. The latter battalion had suffered
heavily in its assault on Gavutu-Tanambogo, to include the loss of its
commander, so Vandegrift attached the parachutists to Red Mike’s force.

[Illustration: _Marine Gunner Angus H. Goss (shown here training
other raiders in 1943) played an unexpected lead role in the seizure
of Tulagi. When Japanese holed up in caves, Goss and his demolition
platoon attached TNT charges to ends of poles and fashioned the
techniques needed to root out the remaining defenders on the island._

    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 55268

Edson quickly established a rapport with Lieutenant Colonel Thomas,
the division operations officer, and convinced him to use the raiders
offensively. The first product of this effort was a two-company patrol
on 4 September to Savo Island, where intelligence believed the enemy
had an observation post. While Griffith commanded that operation, Red
Mike planned a reconnaissance-in-force against Cape Esperance for
the next day. When the Savo patrol returned in the late afternoon on
_Little_ (APD 4) and _Gregory_ (APD 3), the men began debarking before
they received the order to remain on board in preparation for the next
mission. Once he became aware of the mix-up, Edson let the offload
process proceed to completion. That night Japanese destroyers of the
Tokyo Express sank the two APDs. It was the second close escape for the
raiders. During the shift to Guadalcanal, enemy planes had sunk the
_Colhoun_ (APD 2) just after it had unloaded a company.

[Illustration: GUADALCANAL

Sep 1942]

Marine attention soon shifted from Cape Esperance as it became evident
that the primary terminus of the Tokyo Express was the village of
Tasimboko. On 6 September Edson and Thomas won permission from
Vandegrift to raid the area on the eighth. After the loss of three
of their APDs, shipping was at a premium, so the raiders boarded the
_McKean_ (APD 5), _Manley_ (APD 1), and two converted tuna boats for
the operation. The raider rifle companies would comprise the first
echelon; the ships then would shuttle back to the Lunga for the weapons
company and the parachutists. Native scouts reported there were several
thousand Japanese in the area, but division planners discounted that
figure. However, Edson did rely on their reports that the enemy
defenses faced west toward Marine lines. He decided to land beyond the
village at Taivu Point and then advance overland to take the target
from the rear.

When the raiders went ashore just prior to dawn on 8 September, they
quickly realized the scouting reports had been accurate. As they moved
along the coast toward Tasimboko, they discovered more than a thousand
life preservers placed in neat rows, a large number of foxholes, and
even several unattended 37mm antitank guns. In previous days Major
General Kiyotaki Kawaguchi had landed an entire brigade at Tasimboko,
but it was then advancing inland. Only a rearguard of about 300 men
secured the village and the Japanese supply dumps located there, though
this force was nearly as big as the raider first echelon. The Marines
soon ran into stubborn resistance, to include 75mm artillery pieces
firing pointblank down the coastal road and the orderly rows of a
coconut plantation. While Edson fixed the attention of the defenders
with two companies, he sent Griffith and Company A wide to the left

[Illustration: _This photo, taken on Guadalcanal in 1942, captured
three men who figured prominently in the brief history of the raiders.
LtGen Thomas Holcomb, left front, authorized the activation of the
raiders in February 1942. Col Merritt A. Edson, right rear, played
a major hand in creating the raider concept. MajGen Alexander A.
Vandegrift, left rear, relied heavily on the raiders in winning the
Guadalcanal campaign, then disbanded them in early 1944 when he became

    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 5132

Concerned that he might be facing the enemy main force, Red Mike
radioed a plea for a supplemental landing to the west of Tasimboko.
The last part of the message indicated there was trouble: “If not,
request instructions regarding my embarkation.” Forty-five minutes
later Edson again asked for fresh troops and for more air support.
Division responded the same way each time--the raiders were to break
off the action and withdraw. Red Mike ignored that order and continued
the attack. Not long afterwards, enemy resistance melted away, and both
wings of the raider force entered the village around noon. The area
was stockpiled with large quantities of food, ammunition, and weapons
ranging up to 75mm artillery pieces. Vandegrift radioed a “well done”
and repeated his order to withdraw yet again.

The raider commander chose to stay put for the time being, and his men
set about destroying as much of the cache as they could. Troops wrecked
a powerful radio station, bayoneted cans of food, tore open bags of
rice and urinated on the contents or spilled them on the ground,
tied guns to landing boats and towed them into deep water, and then
finally put the torch to everything that was left. They also gathered
all available documents. As the sun went down, the men reembarked
and headed for the perimeter, many of them a little bit heavier with
liberated chow, cigarettes, and alcohol.

The raid was a minor tactical victory in terms of actual fighting.
The Marines counted 27 enemy bodies and estimated they had killed 50.
Their own losses were two dead and six wounded. But the battle had
important repercussions. The raiders had put a serious dent in Japanese
logistics, fire support, and communications. The intelligence gathered
had more far-reaching consequences, since it revealed many of the
details of the coming Japanese offensive. Finally, the setback hurt
the enemy’s morale and further boosted that of the raiders. They had
defeated the Japanese yet again, and were literally feasting on the
fruits of the victory.

_Edson’s Ridge_

The next day Red Mike discussed the situation with division planners.
Intelligence officers translating the captured documents confirmed that
3,000 Japanese were cutting their way through the jungle southwest
of Tasimboko. Edson was convinced that they planned to attack the
currently unguarded southern portion of the perimeter. From an aerial
photograph he picked out a grass-covered ridge that pointed like a
knife at the airfield. His hunch was based on his own experience in
jungle fighting and with the Japanese. He knew they liked to attack at
night, and that was also the only time they could get fire support from
the sea. And a night attack in the jungle only had a chance if it moved
along a well-defined avenue of approach. The ridge was the obvious
choice. Thomas agreed. Vandegrift did not, but they convinced the
general to let the raiders and parachutists shift their bivouac to the
ridge in order to get out of the pattern of bombs falling around the

The men moved to the new location on 10 September. Contrary to their
hopes, it was not a rest zone. Japanese planes bombed the ridge on the
11th and 12th. Native scouts brought reports of the approaching enemy
column, and raider patrols soon made contact with the advance elements
of the force. The Marines worked to improve their position under
severe handicaps. There was very little barbed wire and no sandbags or
engineering tools. Troops on the ridge itself could not dig far before
striking coral; those on either flank were hampered by thick jungle
that would conceal the movement of the enemy. Casualties had thinned
ranks, while illness and a lack of good food had sapped the strength
of those still on the lines.

[Illustration: THE RIDGE

Night of 12-13 Sep 1942]

Edson and Thomas did the best they could with the resources available.
Red Mike used the spine of the ridge as the dividing point between his
two rump battalions. One company of parachutists held the left of his
line, with the rest of their comrades echeloned to the rear to protect
that flank. Two companies of raiders occupied the right, with that
flank anchored on the Lunga River. A lagoon separated the two raider
units. Edson attached the machine guns to the forward companies and
kept the remaining raiders in reserve. (Company D was no larger than a
platoon now, since Red Mike had used much of its manpower to fill holes
in the other three rifle companies.) He set up his forward command post
on Hill 120, just a few hundred yards behind the front lines.

Thomas placed the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, in reserve between the
ridge and the airfield. Artillery forward observers joined Edson and
registered the howitzers. The Marines were as ready as they could
be, but the selection of the ridge as the heart of the defense was a
gamble. To the west of the Lunga there were only a few strongpoints
occupied by the men from the pioneer and amphibious tractor battalions.
To the east of Red Mike’s line there was nothing but a mile of empty

Kawaguchi was having his own problems. In addition to the setback
at Tasimboko, his troops were having a tough time cutting their way
through the heavy jungle and toiling over the many ridges in their
path. Some of his difficulties were self-inflicted. His decision to
attack from the south had required him to leave his artillery and most
of his supplies behind, since they could not be hauled over the rough
jungle trail. Thus he would go into battle with little fire support and
poor logistics. He then detailed one of his four battalions to make a
diversionary attack along the Tenaru. This left him with just 2,500 men
for the main assault. Finally, he had underestimated the time needed to
reach his objective.

On the evening of 12 September, as the appointed hour for the attack
approached, Kawaguchi realized that only one battalion had reached its
assigned jumpoff point, and no units had been able to reconnoiter the
area of the ridge. He wanted to delay the attack, but communications
failed and he could not pass the order. Behind schedule and without
guides, the battalions hastily blundered forward, only to break up into
small groups as the men fought their way through the tangled growth
in total darkness. At 2200 a Japanese plane dropped a series of green
flares over the Marine perimeter. Then a cruiser and three destroyers
opened up on the ridge. For the next 20 minutes they poured shells in
that direction, though most rounds sailed over the high ground to land
in the jungle beyond, some to explode among the Japanese infantry.

[Illustration: Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 310563

_Maj Kenneth D. Bailey was awarded the Medal of Honor for his part in
the battle of Edson’s Ridge, which saved Henderson Field and the entire
Marine perimeter. Although he survived that intense fight, he died just
two weeks later leading his men against a Japanese position along the
Matanikau River._]

When the bombardment ceased, Kawaguchi’s units launched their own
flares and the first piecemeal attacks began. The initial assault
concentrated in the low ground around the lagoon. This may have been
an attempt to find the American flank, or the result of lack of
familiarity with the terrain. In any case, the thick jungle offset the
Marine advantage in firepower, and the Japanese found plenty of room to
infiltrate between platoon strongpoints. They soon isolated the three
platoons of Company C, each of which subsequently made its way to the
rear. The Marines on the ridge remained comparatively untouched. As
daylight approached the Japanese broke off the action, but retained
possession of Company C’s former positions. Kawaguchi’s officers began
the slow process of regrouping their units, now scattered over the
jungle and totally disoriented.

In the morning Edson ordered a counterattack by his reserve companies.
They made little headway against the more-numerous Japanese, and Red
Mike recalled them. Since he could not restore an unbroken front, he
decided to withdraw the entire line to the reserve position. This had
the added benefit of forcing the enemy to cross more open ground on the
ridge before reaching Marine fighting holes. In the late afternoon the
B Companies of both raiders and parachutists pulled back and anchored
themselves on the ridge midway between Hills 80 and 120. Thomas
provided an engineer company, which Edson inserted on the right of the
ridge. Company A of the raiders covered the remaining distance between
the engineers and the Lunga. The other two parachute companies withdrew
slightly and bulked up the shoulder of the left flank. The remains of
Companies C and D assumed a new reserve position on the west slope of
the ridge, just behind Hill 120. Red Mike’s command post stayed in its
previous location.

The Japanese made good use of the daylight hours and prepared for
a fresh effort. This time Kawaguchi would not make the mistake of
getting bogged down in the jungle; he would follow the tactics Edson
had originally expected and concentrate his attack on the open ground
of the ridge. The new assault kicked off just after darkness fell. The
initial blow struck Company B’s right flank near the lagoon. A mad rush
of screaming soldiers drove the right half of the raider company out
of position and those men fell back to link up with Company C on the
ridge. Inexplicably, Kawaguchi did not exploit the gap he had created.
Possibly the maneuver had been a diversion to draw Marine reserves off
the ridge and out of the way of the main effort.

Edson had to decide quickly whether to plug the hole with his dwindling
reserve or risk having the center of his line encircled by the next
assault. The enemy soon provided the answer. By 2100 Japanese soldiers
were massing around the southern nose of the ridge, making their
presence known with the usual barrage of noisy chants. They presumably
were going to launch a frontal assault on the center of the Marine
line. Red Mike ordered Company C of the raiders and Company A of the
parachutists to form a reserve line around the front and sides of Hill
120. Japanese mortar and machine-gun fire swept the ridge; the Marines
responded with artillery fire on suspected assembly areas.

The assault waves finally surged forward at 2200. The attack, on a
front all across the ridge, immediately unhinged the Marine center. As
Japanese swarmed toward the left flank of his Company B, Captain Harry
L. Torgerson, the parachute battalion executive officer, ordered it to
withdraw. The parachutists in Company C soon followed suit. Torgerson
gathered these two units in the rear of Company A’s position on Hill
120, where he attempted to reorganize them. The remaining Company B
raiders were now isolated in the center. The situation looked desperate.

At this point, the Japanese seemed to take a breather. Heavy fire raked
the ridge, but the enemy made no fresh assaults. Edson arranged for
more artillery support, and got his own force to provide covering fire
for the withdrawal of the exposed raiders of Company B. For a time it
looked like the series of rearward movements would degenerate into a
rout. As a few men around Hill 120 began to filter to the rear, Red
Mike took immediate steps to avert disaster. From his CP, now just a
dozen yards behind the front, he made it known that this was to be
the final stand. The word went round: “Nobody moves, just die in your
holes.” Major Bailey ranged up and down the line raising his voice
above the din and breathing fresh nerve into those on the verge of
giving up. The commander of the Parachute Battalion broke down; Edson
relieved him on the spot and placed Torgerson in charge.

The new position was not very strong, just a small horseshoe bent
around the hill, with men from several units intermingled on the bare
slopes. Red Mike directed the artillery to maintain a continuous
barrage close along his front. When the Japanese renewed their attack,
each fresh wave of Imperial soldiers boiled out of the jungle into a
torrent of steel and lead. In addition to the firepower of artillery
and automatic weapons, men on the lines tossed grenade after grenade at
whatever shapes or sounds they could discern. Supplies of ammunition
dwindled rapidly, and division headquarters pushed forward cases of
belted machine gun ammunition and grenades.

[Illustration: THE RIDGE

Night of 13-14 Sep 1942]

One of the Japanese assaults, probably avoiding the concentrated fire
sweeping the crest, pushed along the jungle edge at the bottom of the
slope and threatened to envelop the left flank. Edson ordered Torgerson
to launch a counterattack with his two reorganized parachute companies.
These Marines advanced, checked the enemy progress, and extended the
line to prevent any recurrence. Red Mike later cited this effort as “a
decisive factor in our ultimate victory.”

At 0400 Edson asked Thomas to commit the reserve battalion to bolster
his depleted line. A company at a time, the men of the 2d Battalion,
5th Marines, filed along the top of the ridge and into place beside
those who had survived the long night. By that point the Japanese were
largely spent. Kawaguchi sent in two more attacks, but they were hit
by artillery fire as the troops assembled and never presented much of
a threat. A small band actually made it past the ridge and reached the
vicinity of the airfield; the Marines providing security there dealt
with them.

The onset of daylight brought an end to any organized effort, though
remnants of Japanese assault units were scattered through the fringing
jungle to the flanks and rear of the Marine position. Squads began the
long process of rooting out these snipers. Edson also ordered up an air
attack to strike the enemy units clinging to the southern end of the
ridge. A flight of P-400s answered the call and strafed the exposed
enemy groups. Kawaguchi admitted failure that afternoon and ordered his
tattered brigade to retreat.

The raiders and parachutists had already turned over the ridge to
other Marines that morning. The 1st Raiders had lost 135 men, the
1st Parachute Battalion another 128. Of those, 59 men were dead
or missing-in-action. Seven hundred Japanese bodies littered the
battlefield, and few of Kawaguchi’s 500 wounded would survive the
terrible trek back to the coast.

The battle was much more than a tremendous tactical victory for the
Marines. Edson and his men had turned back one of the most serious
threats the Japanese were to mount against Henderson Field. If the
raiders and parachutists had failed, the landing strip would have
fallen into enemy hands, and the lack of air cover probably would
have led to the defeat of the 1st Marine Division and the loss of
Guadalcanal. Such a reversal would have had a grave impact on the
course of the war and the future of the Corps.

Vandegrift wasted no time in recommending Edson and Bailey for Medals
of Honor. Red Mike’s citation noted his “marked degree of cool
leadership and personal courage.” At the height of the battle, with
friendly artillery shells landing just 75 yards to the front, and
enemy bullets and mortars sweeping the knoll, Edson had never taken
cover. Standing in the shallow hole that passed for a CP, he had calmly
issued orders and served as an inspiration to all who saw him. War
correspondents visiting the scene the day after the battle dubbed it
“Edson’s Ridge.”


The depleted parachutists (55 percent casualties in the campaign)
left Guadalcanal on 17 September on board the convoy that brought in
the 7th Marines. The 1st Raiders (33 percent casualties) remained,
and received precious little rest. Just six days after the battle,
Vandegrift ordered them to make a reconnaissance south of Edson’s Ridge
and destroy any Japanese stragglers. The raiders passed through their
old position, now strongly defended by the 7th Marines, and followed
the track of their beaten foe, a trail marked by abandoned weapons and
bodies. Edson made liberal use of artillery and his crew-served weapons
against the slightest sign of resistance. At a cost of three wounded,
the raiders captured a single dismantled howitzer and killed 19 enemy
soldiers. The greatest point of danger in the operation turned out to
be the return trip. As the battalion neared friendly lines, the jittery
new arrivals of the 7th Marines opened fire on the raiders. Luckily no
one was hit.

That same day Vandegrift shipped out several excess colonels and
reorganized the senior ranks of the division. Edson took command of
the 5th Marines and Griffith succeeded him as head of the 1st Raiders.
Red Mike’s departure did not take the raider battalion out of the
spotlight. Lieutenant Colonel Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller’s 1st Battalion,
7th Marines, departed the perimeter on 23 September with the mission
of clearing enemy units from the vicinity of the Matanikau River. Once
that was accomplished, division wanted to place the raiders in a patrol
base near Kokumbona to prevent the enemy’s return. That would keep
Japanese artillery out of range of the airfield.

On the 24th Puller’s men surprised a Japanese unit and routed it, but
lost seven killed and 25 wounded in the process. Division sent out
the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, as a relief force, since Puller had
to use most of his battalion to get the casualties safely back into
the perimeter. Puller then continued on with his one remaining rifle
company and the 2d Battalion. The combined force reached the Matanikau
on 26 September, proceeded down the east bank, then tried to cross the
sandbar at the river’s mouth. A Japanese company blocked the way and
drove the Marines back with heavy fire. Meanwhile another enemy company
moved into defensive positions on the eastern end of the single-log
bridge that served as the only crossing upstream. The Marines remained
ignorant of that move. That afternoon Vandegrift ordered Edson to take
charge of the operation, and sent the raiders along to assist him.

Puller and Edson jointly devised a new plan that evening. In the
morning the raiders would move upriver, cross at the bridge, and then
come back downriver on the far bank to take the Japanese at the river
mouth in the flank. To ensure that the enemy force did not retreat
out of the trap, the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, would pressure them
with its own attack across the sandbar. Finally, the bulk of the 1st
Battalion, 7th Marines, then in the perimeter after the casualty
evacuation, would make an amphibious landing beyond Point Cruz to slam
shut any possible escape route. The ambitious plan received division’s

After a night of heavy rain, the 2d Battalion launched its assault
at the river mouth, but made no progress against continuing strong
opposition. The raiders, reinforced by Puller’s lone company, advanced
upriver, but soon found themselves wedged into a narrow shelf between
the water and a steep ridge. The Japanese had placed a tight stopper in
this bottle with infantry supported by machine guns and mortars. Bailey
responded in his typical fashion and tried to lead the assault--he soon
fell mortally wounded. Griffith ordered Company C up the ridge in an
effort to outflank the enemy. The Japanese had this approach covered
too. When the battalion commander appeared on the ridgeline to observe
the action firsthand, a sniper put a bullet in his shoulder. With no
outside fire support, the raiders could make no headway against the
dug-in Japanese.

Poor communications made things worse. Edson misinterpreted a message
from the raiders and thought they were across the river. He launched
the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, in yet another assault, this time with
help from additional mortars and 37mm antitank guns, but it met the
same fate as all previous attempts. Upon landing in the enemy’s rear,
the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, was surrounded by a large-force enemy
bivouaced in the vicinity. The unit had brought no radios ashore and
consequently could not immediately inform division of its plight.
Eventually the Marines used air panels to signal supporting aircraft.
When that word reached Puller, he wanted the 2d Battalion to renew
the assault to take pressure off his men, but Edson refused to incur
further casualties in a hopeless frontal attack.

Puller eventually extricated his beleaguered force with naval gunfire
and messages passed by semaphore flags. Red Mike then ordered the
raiders to pull back to the river mouth to join 2d Battalion, 5th
Marines, after which both units withdrew to the division perimeter. The
units engaged had lost 67 dead and 125 wounded in the course of the
operation. This aborted action along the Matanikau was the only defeat
the Marines suffered during the Guadalcanal campaign.

Raider casualties during the all-day action had been comparatively
light--two killed and 11 wounded--but that total included both senior
officers in the battalion. Command now devolved upon Captain Ira J.
“Jake” Irwin. The battalion was worn down by two months of steady
fighting, and by the ravages of the tropics. Large numbers of men were
ill with malaria and other diseases. The battalion had seen more action
than any other on the island, and rumors persisted that they would soon
ship out like the parachutists. One raider later recalled that “a more
sickly, bedraggled, miserable bunch of Marines would have been hard to

The 1st Raiders had one more battle to go on Guadalcanal. In early
October intelligence indicated that the Japanese were building up their
forces west of the Matanikau in preparation for another offensive
against the perimeter. Division headquarters decided to strike first
to secure the crossings over the river. In a plan reminiscent of the
beginnings of the previous operation, two battalions of the 5th Marines
would move down the coast road, seize the near bank of the Matanikau,
and fix the attention of the Japanese forces on the far side. Three
other battalions would cross the Matanikau at the single-log bridge
and attack north toward the sea. Once they cleared the far side of
the river, a force would garrison Kokumbona and prevent further enemy
operations in the vicinity. In addition to strengthening the assault
forces, this time division provided ample fire support. All units were
to move into position on 7 October in preparation for launching that
attack the next morning.

When the 5th Marines deployed forward on 7 October, they ran into a
Japanese company dug in on the near side of the river just inland
from the sandbar. Edson’s 2d Battalion managed to secure most of its
assigned frontage farther upriver, but his 3d Battalion was unable
to break the enemy resistance centered on a well-fortified defensive
position. He committed Company L to the battle and then radioed
division for reinforcements so he could reconstitute a regimental
reserve. Division assigned Company A, 1st Raiders to the task and the
unit marched off down the coast road to bivouac next to Red Mike’s CP.

That night the Japanese on the near side of the river probed the lines
of the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, and mauled the company nearest the
sandbar. Early in the morning of 8 October, Edson decided to commit
the raiders of Company A to the task of reducing the Japanese pocket.
He placed Major Lewis W. Walt in charge of the effort. (Walt had been
Company A’s commander until Edson had brought him over as operations
officer for the 5th Marines.) The raiders drove in a few enemy
outposts, but could make little headway against the interlocking fires
of the concealed Japanese positions. Meanwhile, heavy rains during the
night had continued into the day, and division delayed the move across
the river for 24 hours. Vandegrift also decided to alter his original
plan to a quick envelopment of the west bank and a return to the

Based on these changed circumstances and his own observation at close
range of Company A’s predicament, Edson halted the attack on the
strongpoint. His 3d Battalion would continue to encircle most of the
enemy position, while Company A went into the defense on their right
flank. The latter’s position was shaped like a horseshoe, with the left
linking up with the 3d Battalion and facing south toward the bunker
complex, the center facing west toward the sandspit, and the right
on the beach facing north toward the sea. To fill out the thin line,
mortarmen and company headquarters personnel occupied the left flank
positions. The raiders expected a Japanese assault across the river
mouth to relieve the surrounded bridgehead, so the Marines strung
barbed wire at the friendly end of the sandbar. The remainder of the
raider battalion came up the coast road and went into reserve.

Just after dusk the Japanese in the strongpoint rushed from their
positions in an effort to break through to their own lines. They
quickly overran the surprised left flank of Company A and hit the
center of the raider line from the rear. The enemy who survived the
close-quarters fighting in both locations then ran headlong into
the wire, where fire from the remaining Marines cut them down. The
lieutenant commanding the raider company tried to recover from the
confusion and establish a fresh line farther back along the coast road.
In the morning there was some more fighting with a handful of Japanese
who had sought refuge in Marine foxholes. Company C of the raiders
moved up to occupy the abandoned enemy position and killed three more
Japanese still holed-up there. They found an elaborate complex of
trenches and bunkers connected by tunnels to an underground command
post. The Marines counted 59 bodies stacked up against the wire or
strewn about the perimeter. The battalion lost 12 dead and 22 wounded
during this stint on the Matanikau.

The raiders suffered one additional casualty during the operation.
When Red Mike had gone over to the 5th Marines, he had taken with
him his longtime runner, Corporal Walter J. Burak. While carrying
a message along the river on the afternoon of 9 October, Japanese
machine-gun fire killed the former raider. He was the last member of
the 1st Raiders to die in action on Guadalcanal. On 13 October a convoy
delivered the Army’s 164th Infantry to the island and embarked the
raider battalion for transport to New Caledonia. There were barely 200
effectives left in the unit--just a quarter of the battalion’s original

[Sidebar (page 18): Raider Weapons and Equipment

Given their special priority early in the war, the raider battalions
had ample opportunity to experiment with weapons and equipment. The
result was an interesting collection of items that were often unique
to the raiders. The most famous of these were the various models of
raider knives. One was a heavy Bowie-type knife with a blade more
than nine inches long. These were manufactured specifically for the
2d Raiders and consequently came to be known as “Gung Ho” knives. An
entirely different version, a lighter stiletto-type, was modeled on the
Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife used by the British commandos. These
raider stilettos were issued to all four battalions for the later

The emphasis on rapid movement on foot drove both Carlson and Edson to
emphasize the acquisition of light weapons with a lot of firepower.
Both men rejected the standard heavy machine guns and 81mm mortars
carried by regular infantry and adopted lighter models. The 2d
Raider Battalion was one of the first Marine units to receive the
semiautomatic M1 Garand .30-caliber rifle as standard issue; most
units, including the 1st Raiders, started the Guadalcanal campaign with
the old bolt-action Springfield M1903. The Browning automatic rifle,
the reviled Reising sub-machine gun, and the more dependable Thompson
sub-machine gun, were favored weapons, particularly in the 2d Raiders,
where each fire team boasted a BAR and a Thompson.

Perhaps the oddest weapon carried by the raiders was the Boys antitank
rifle, a 35-pound behemoth firing a .55-caliber round. Edson adopted
these Canadian weapons to provide his men with a light but serviceable
capability against enemy armor. The rifle eventually saw use with other
raider battalions. The heavy round was accurate at more than 1,000
yards, and the 2d Raiders used a Boys on Makin to destroy two Japanese

The raiders experimented with a number of odd items of equipment,
everything from collapsible bicycles to belly bands. Carlson
introduced the latter, a cloth rectangle that could be wrapped around
the midsection, where it supposedly prevented intestinal disorders.
The 2d Raiders also employed a hunting jacket that could double as
a pack--inevitably it was dubbed the “Gung Ho” jacket. Edson’s men
tried out portable individual field stoves, toggle ropes, and other
innovative items. The eight-foot toggle ropes had a loop at one end
and a peg at the other; they were helpful when it came time to scale
cliffs. The raiders also pioneered the use of camouflage-patterned
uniforms and of burlap strips to break up the distinctive outline of
their helmets.

[Illustration: _A two-man Boys antitank rifle crew mans their weapon
during a training exercise in 1943. Two other raiders provide flank
protection against enemy infantry. The Boys rifle fired a .55-caliber
round guaranteed to penetrate armor._

    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 56107

_The Long Patrol_

Not long after the departure of the 1st Raiders, it was the turn of the
2d Raiders to fight on Guadalcanal. Carlson’s outfit had been refitting
in Hawaii after the Midway and Makin battles. In early September the
unit boarded a transport for Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides, the
primary staging area for most reinforcements going to the southern
Solomons. There they continued training until Rear Admiral Richmond
Kelly Turner (Commander, Amphibious Force, South Pacific) decided to
land a force at Aola Bay on the northeast coast of Guadalcanal to build
another airfield. He assigned Carlson and two companies of raiders
to secure the beachhead for an Army battalion, Seabees, and a Marine
defense battalion. The _McKean_ and _Manley_ placed Companies C and E
ashore on the morning of 4 November. There was no opposition, though it
soon became apparent the swampy jungle was no place to put an airfield.

On 5 November Vandegrift sent a message to Carlson by airdrop. Army
and Marine elements were moving east from the perimeter to mop up a
large force of Japanese located near the Metapona River. This enemy
unit, the _230th Infantry Regiment_, had cut its way through the jungle
from the west as part of a late-October attack on Edson’s Ridge by
the _Sendai Division_. For various reasons, the _230th_ had failed to
participate in the attack, and then had completed a circumnavigation
of the Marine perimeter to reach its current location in the east.
The Tokyo Express had recently reinforced it with a battalion of the
_228th Infantry_. Vandegrift wanted the raiders to march from Aola and
harass the Japanese from the rear. Carlson set out with his force on
6 November, with a coastwatcher and several native scouts as guides.
Among the islanders was Sergeant Major Jacob Vouza, already a hero in
the campaign. The men initially carried four days of canned rations.

[Illustration: CARLSON’S PATROL


The raiders moved inland before heading west. The trails were narrow
and overgrown, but the native scouts proved invaluable in leading the
way. On 8 November the point ran into a small Japanese ambush near
Reko. The Marines killed two Japanese; one native suffered wounds.
The next day the column reached Binu, a village on the Balesuna River
eight miles from the coast. There Carlson halted while his patrols made
contact with Marine and Army units closing in on the main Japanese
force. On 10 November Companies B, D, and F of the 2d Raiders landed at
Tasimboko and moved overland to join up with their commander. (Company
D was only a platoon at this point, since Carlson had used most of
its manpower to fill out the remaining companies prior to departing
Espiritu Santo.) From that point on the raiders also received periodic
resupplies, usually via native porters dropped on the coast by Higgins
boats. Rations were generally tea, rice, raisins, and bacon--the
type of portable guerrilla food Carlson thrived on--reinforced by an
occasional D-ration chocolate bar.

On the nights of 9 and 10 November about 3,000 Japanese escaped from
the American ring encircling them on the Metapona. They were hungry
and tired, and probably dispirited now that they had orders to retrace
their steps back to the western side of the perimeter. But they were
still a formidable force.

On the 11th the 2d Raiders had four companies out on independent
patrols while the fifth guarded the base camp at Binu. Each unit had a
TBX radio. At mid-morning one outfit made contact with a patrol from
1st Battalion, 7th Marines, and learned of the enemy breakout. A few
minutes later Company C ran into a large force of Japanese near Asamama
on the Metapona River The Marines had been crossing a wide grassy
area. When the advance guard entered a wooded area on the opposite
side it surprised the enemy in their bivouac. In the initial action,
the advance guard inflicted significant casualties on the Japanese,
but lost five men killed and three wounded. In short order the enemy
had the remainder of the company pinned down in the open with rifle,
machine gun, and mortar fire.


    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 51728

_Native scouts lead a combat/reconnaissance patrol of the 2d Raider
Battalion across the hills of Guadalcanal. The patrol lasted for less
than a month, during which the Marines covered 150 miles and fought
more than a dozen actions._]

Carlson vectored two of his patrols in that direction to assist, and
dispatched one platoon from the base camp. As it crossed the Metapona
to reach the main battle, Company E tangled with another enemy
group coming in the opposite direction. The more numerous Japanese
initially forced the Marines to withdraw, but Major Richard T. Washburn
reorganized his company and counterattacked the enemy as they attempted
to cross the river. The raiders inflicted significant casualties on
their opponent, but could not push through to link up with Charlie
Company. In mid-afternoon, Carlson himself led Company F toward Asamama.

[Illustration: _Maj James Roosevelt, the president’s son, served as
executive officer of the 2d Raiders during the Makin raid and commanded
the 4th Raiders after that unit was activated._

    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 56328

By the time he arrived, Company C had extricated itself under covering
fire from its own 60mm mortars. Carlson called in two dive bombers
on the enemy, ordered Company E to break off its independent action,
and launched Company F in a flanking attack against the main Japanese
force. Those raiders completed the maneuver by dusk, only to find
the enemy position abandoned. The battalion assembled back at Binu
that night. There Company D reported that it had run into yet another
group of enemy and been pinned down for most of the afternoon. The
understrength unit had lost two killed and one wounded.

On 12 November Carlson led Companies B and E back to the woods at
Asamama. Throughout the day enemy messengers attempted to enter the
bivouac site under the mistaken notion that it still belonged to their
side; the raiders killed 25 of them. In the afternoon Carlson ordered
Company C to join him there. The next day he observed enemy units
moving in the vicinity, and he placed artillery and mortar fire on
five separate groups. After each such mission the raiders dealt with
Japanese survivors trying to make their way into the woods. On 14
November Carlson decided to pull back to Binu. That same day a Company
F patrol wiped out a 15-man enemy outpost that had been reported by
native scouts.

After a brief period to rest and replenish at Binu, the 2d Raiders
moved their base camp to Asamama on 15 November. During two days of
patrolling from that site, Carlson determined that the main enemy force
had departed the area. At Vandegrift’s request, the raider commander
entered the perimeter on 17 November. Vandegrift directed Carlson to
search for “Pistol Pete,” an enemy artillery piece that regularly
shelled the airfield. The battalion also was to seek out trails
circling the perimeter, and any Japanese units operating to the south.
The raiders moved forward to the Tenaru River over the next few days.

On 25 November Company A arrived from Espiritu Santo and joined the
battalion. For the next few days the 2d Raiders divided into three
combat teams of two companies apiece, with each operating from its
own patrol base. Each day they moved farther into the interior of the
island, in the area between the headwaters of the Tenaru and Lunga
rivers. Carlson remained with the center team, from which point he
could quickly reinforce either of the flank detachments.

On 30 November the battalion crossed over the steep ridgeline that
divided the valleys of the Tenaru and Lunga. Discovery of a telephone
wire led the raiders to a large bivouac site, which held an unattended
75mm mountain gun and a 37mm antitank gun. Marines removed key parts
of the weapons and scattered them down the hillside. Farther on the
advance guard entered yet another bivouac site, this one occupied
by 100 Japanese. Both sides were equally surprised, but Corporal
John Yancey charged into the group firing his automatic weapon and
calling for his squad to follow. The more numerous enemy were at a
disadvantage since their arms were stacked out of reach. The handful of
raiders routed the Japanese and killed 75. Carlson called it “the most
spectacular of any of our engagements.” For this feat Yancey earned the
first of his two Navy Crosses (the second came years later in Korea).

The next day, 1 December, a Douglas R4D Skytrain transport air-dropped
badly needed rations, as well as orders for the battalion to enter the
perimeter, Carlson asked for a few more days in the field and got it.
On 3 December he held a “Gung Ho” meeting to motivate his exhausted
men for one more effort. Then he divided the 2d Raiders in half,
sending the companies with the most field time down to Marine lines.
The rest he led up to the top of Mount Austen, where a raider patrol
had discovered a strong but abandoned Japanese position. The force had
barely reached their objective when they encountered an enemy platoon
approaching from a different direction. After a two-hour fire fight and
two attempts at a double envelopment, the Marines finally wiped out
their opponents. The result was 25 enemy dead at a cost of four wounded
Marines (one of whom died soon after). The raiders spent a tough night
on the mountain, since there was no water available and their canteens
were empty. The next day Carlson led the force down into the Marine
perimeter, but not without one last skirmish. Seven Japanese ambushed
the point and succeeded in killing four men before the raiders wiped
them out.

The long patrol of the 2d Raiders was extremely successful from a
tactical point of view. The battalion had killed 488 enemy soldiers at
a cost of 16 dead and 18 wounded. Carlson’s subsequent report praised
his guerrilla tactics, which undoubtedly played an important role in
the favorable exchange ratio. Far away from the Marine perimeter, the
Japanese became careless and allowed themselves to be surprised on a
regular basis, a phenomenon other Marine units had exploited earlier
in the campaign. Since the 2d Raiders operated exclusively in the
enemy rear, they reaped the benefit of their own stealthiness and this
Japanese weakness.

The stated casualty figures, however, did not reflect the true cost to
the Marines. During the course of the operation, the 2d Raiders had
evacuated 225 men to the rear due to severe illness, primarily malaria,
dysentery, and ringworm. Although sickness was common on Guadalcanal,
Carlson’s men became disabled at an astonishing rate due to inadequate
rations and the rough conditions, factors that had diminished
significantly by that point in the campaign for other American units.
Since only two raider companies had spent the entire month in combat,
the effect was actually worse than those numbers indicated. Companies
C and F had landed at Aola Bay with 133 officers and men each. They
entered the perimeter on 4 December with a combined total of 57
Marines, barely one-fifth their original strength. Things would have
been worse, except for the efforts of native carriers to keep the
raiders supplied. Guerrilla tactics inflicted heavy casualties on the
enemy, but at an equally high cost in friendly manpower.

Nevertheless, the 2d Raiders could hold their heads high. Vandegrift
cited them for “the consumate skill displayed in the conduct of
operations, for the training, stamina and fortitude displayed by all
members of the battalion, and for its commendable aggressive spirit and
high morale.”

[Sidebar (page 24): The Raider Training Center

The Raider Training Center got its start in late 1942, when the Major
General Commandant authorized a slight increase in the table of
organization of the newly formed 4th Raider Battalion. These additional
two officers and 26 enlisted men became the cadre for the center,
which formally came into being at Camp Pendleton, California, on 5
February 1943. The purpose of the center was to train new men up to
raider standards and thus create a pool of qualified replacements for
the battalions overseas. Prior to this, each raider unit had solicited
fresh volunteers from other organizations in rear areas and then
incorporated them directly into their ranks. Since most of these young
Marines had only rudimentary training in weapons and tactics, the
raiders had to expend considerable effort on individual instruction.
Worse still, that old system provided no means to replace casualties
during prolonged combat operations. Lieutenant Colonel Samuel B.
Griffith II had been a prime proponent of the improved setup.

The course was eight weeks long. Carlson’s vision of the raiders
initially influenced the training program, probably via Lieutenant
Colonel James Roosevelt’s part in setting up the center. Their hands
were obvious in the selection of classes on guerrilla warfare and
“individual cookery.” The latter was a fetish of Carlson’s--he thought
regular infantry relied too heavily on bulky field kitchens. There
also was a week-long field problem in which the students divided into
a main body and two guerrilla bands acting as aggressors. Rubber boat
operations occupied a significant block of the schedule. Otherwise, the
course focused heavily on traditional individual skills and small unit
tactics: marksmanship, scouting, patrolling, physical conditioning,
individual combat, and so forth.


    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 54683

_While other raiders watch, two instructors demonstrate the dexterity
required for hand-to-hand knife fighting._]

[Illustration: _Clad in camouflage utilities and fully combat equipped,
a raider vaults a barbed-wire obstacle while in training._

    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 55237


    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 55234

_Shown here is one aspect of raider training, crossing a river on a
two-rope bridge, not often encountered in combat._]


    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 54686A

_Negotiating an obstacle course while TNT charges explode nearby, this
raider carries a folding-stock Reising gun._]

[Illustration: _Hiking was a major training component for raiders,
considering their primary mission as light infantry in combat._

    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 54678

_Reshaping the Raiders_

The 2d Raiders boarded a transport on 15 December and returned to Camp
Gung Ho on Espiritu Santo. There they recuperated in pyramidal tents in
a coconut grove along the banks of a river. The camp and the chow were
Spartan, and the only relief came when a ship took the battalion to
New Zealand in February 1943 for two weeks of liberty. The 1st Raiders
had returned to Camp Bailey in New Caledonia in October 1942. Their
living conditions were similar, except for a slightly better hillside
site looking over a river. They spent a month in New Zealand over the
Christmas holidays.

These were no longer the only raider battalions in the Marine Corps.
Admiral Turner had tried to force each Marine regiment to convert one
battalion to a raider organization, but General Holcomb, with an assist
from Nimitz, put a stop to that interference in the Corps’ internal
affairs. However, the Commandant did authorize the creation of two
additional battalions of raiders. The 3d Raiders came into being on
Samoa on 20 September 1942. Their commander was Lieutenant Colonel
Harry B. “Harry the Horse” Liversedge, a former enlisted Marine and
a shotputter in the 1920 and 1924 Olympics. The battalion drew on
volunteers from the many Marine units in Samoa, and also received small
contingents from the 1st and 2d Raiders.

The Corps activated the 4th Raider Battalion in Southern California on
23 October 1942. Major Roosevelt commanded this new unit. The 3d and
4th Raiders both arrived in Espiritu Santo in February 1943.

There as yet existed no common raider table of organization. Carlson
retained his six companies of two rifle platoons and a weapons platoon.
Griffith adopted the fire team concept, but added a fourth man to
each team and retained the four rifle companies and a weapons company
established by Edson. Roosevelt’s battalion had four rifle companies
plus a Demolition and Engineer Company.

On the anniversary of the creation of the 2d Raiders, Carlson addressed
his men in a “Gung Ho” meeting. He issued a press release later
to publicize his words. In addition to announcing his decision to
establish Marine Raider Organization Day, he reviewed the battalion’s
first year of existence. He noted that his morale had been “low” at
times, as the officers and men struggled to learn and implement the
philosophy of “Gung Ho.” In his mind, the tactical successes of the
outfit were less significant than the way in which he had molded it.
“Makin brought the story of our methods of living and training to
the world. Perhaps this fact was of even greater importance than the
material gains of the raid.” However, the days of Carlson’s influence
on the raiders were numbered.


_Col Harry B. “Harry the Horse” Liversedge brought the 3d Raider
Battalion into existence in September 1942 and then became the first
commander of the 1st Marine Raider Regiment upon its activation in
March 1943. Here he cuts a cake for his raiders in honor of the Marine
Corps birthday on 10 November 1943._

    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 67934

On 15 March 1943 the Marine Corps created the 1st Raider Regiment and
gave it control of all four battalions. Liversedge, now a colonel,
took charge of the new organization. A week later, Lieutenant Colonel
Alan Shapley took over command of the 2d Raiders. He was an orthodox
line officer who had earned a Navy Cross on board the _Arizona_ (BB
39) on 7 December 1941. He thought the Makin Raid had been a “fiasco,”
and he had no interest in “Gung Ho.” Shapley wasted no time in turning
the unit into “a regular battalion.” Carlson temporarily became the
regimental executive officer, but served there only briefly before
entering the hospital weak from malaria and jaundice. Soon thereafter
he was on his way stateside. A month later Lieutenant Colonel Michael
S. Currin, another officer with more orthodox views, took command of
the 4th Raiders from Roosevelt.


    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 60133

_MajGen Alexander A. Vandegrift (with riding crop) troops the line of
the 2d Raider Battalion in New Caledonia in 1943. LtCol Alan Shapley,
the battalion commander, is on Vandegrift’s left. Shapley ended
Carlson’s “Gung Ho” experiments._]

The regiment enforced a common organization among the battalions. The
result was a mixture of Edson and Carlson’s ideas. Carlson bequeathed
his fire team and squad to the raiders (and later to the Corps as a
whole). But each battalion now had a weapons company, and four rifle
companies composed of a weapons platoon and three rifle platoons.
Edson’s other imprint was the concept of a highly trained, lightly
equipped force using conventional tactics to accomplish special
missions or to fill in for a line battalion. The 1st Raider Regiment
was no guerrilla outfit. Given the changing thrust of the Pacific war,
the choice was a wise one. In the future the Marines would be attacking
Japanese forces holed up in tight perimeters or on small islands.
Guerrilla tactics provided no answer to the problem of overcoming these
strong defensive positions.

_New Georgia_

As the fighting on Guadalcanal drew to a close in early 1943, American
commanders intensified their planning for the eventual seizure of
Rabaul, the primary Japanese stronghold in the Southwest Pacific.
This major air and naval base on the eastern end of New Britain was
centrally located between New Guinea and the northwestern terminus of
the Solomons. That allowed the Japanese to shift their air and naval
support from one front to the other on short notice. Conversely,
simultaneous American advances through New Guinea and the Solomons
would threaten Rabaul from two directions. With that in mind, Admiral
William F. Halsey’s South Pacific command prepared to drive farther up
the Solomons chain, while MacArthur continued his operations along the
New Guinea coast.


    Department of Defense Photos (USMC) 54765

_A BAR man in the bow of the rubber landing craft provides covering
fire as the 10-man boat crew reaches the undefended beach of Pavuvu in
the Russell Islands._]


    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 54468

_The 3d Raider Battalion squad pulls its boat into cover on Pavuvu and
heads inland._]

[Illustration: _As the raider skirmish line maneuvers cautiously
through the coconut groves and keeps an eye out for snipers in the
treetops, it is also wary of enemy elsewhere._

    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 54473

Halsey’s planners initially focused on New Georgia, a large island
located on the southern flank of the Slot about halfway up the Solomons
chain. By December 1942, the Japanese had managed to complete an
airstrip on New Georgia’s Munda Point. Seizure of the island would
thus remove that enemy threat and advance Allied aircraft one-third
of the way to Rabaul. However, the South Pacific command also was
worried about enemy activity in the Russell Islands, located 30 miles
northwest of Guadalcanal’s Cape Esperance. The Russells had been a
staging point for the enemy’s reinforcement and subsequent evacuation
of Guadalcanal. Strong Japanese forces there would be a thorn in the
side of an operation against New Georgia and possibly a threat to
Guadalcanal itself. Halsey thus decided to seize the Russells prior to
action elsewhere in the Solomons. As an additional benefit, American
fighter planes stationed in the Russells would be able to provide more
effective support to the eventual assault on New Georgia.

The landing force for Operation Cleanslate (the codename for the
Russells assault) consisted of the 43d Infantry Division and the 3d
Raider Battalion. The Army division would seize Banika Island while the
Marines took nearby Pavuvu. The APDs of Transdiv 12 carried the raiders
from Espiritu Santo to Guadalcanal in mid-February. Four days prior to
the 21 February D-day, a lieutenant and a sergeant from the raiders
scouted both objectives--they found them empty of the enemy. The 3d
Raiders thus made an unopposed landing in their first offensive action.
The 159th Infantry followed them ashore and assisted in the occupation
of the island.

The greatest challenges the Marines faced on Pavuvu were logistical
and medical. Due to the Navy’s legitimate concern about an enemy air
and naval response, the landing plan relied on a rapid offload and
quick withdrawal of the transports. The Higgins boats of the APDs were
preloaded with raider supplies, while the men went ashore in their
rubber boats. A rash of outboard motor failures played havoc with the
landing formations, and Liversedge’s after action report noted that
this could have resulted in “serious consequences.” Once ashore, the
light raiders suffered from their lack of organic transport as they
struggled to manhandle supplies from the beach to inland dumps. During
the battalion’s subsequent four-week stay on Pavuvu, the diet of
field chow and the tough tropic conditions combined to debilitate the
troops. Fully one-third developed skin problems, all men lost weight,
and several dozen eventually fell ill with malaria and other diseases.
Although it was not entirely the fault of planners, the hard-hitting
capabilities of the Marine battalion were wasted on Cleanslate. Only
the two-man scouting team had performed a mission in accordance with
the original purpose of the raiders.

In the midst of the execution of Cleanslate Halsey continued
preparations for subsequent operations in the Central Solomons. This
included repeated use of the scouting capability demonstrated in the
Russells. At the end of February a Navy lieutenant and six raiders
landed at New Georgia’s Roviana Lagoon. With the aid of coastwatchers
and natives, they spent the next three weeks collecting information
on the terrain, hydrographic conditions, and Japanese defenses. On 21
March Consolidated Catalina PBYs landed four raider patrols at New
Georgia’s Segi Point. From there they fanned out with native guides and
canoes to scout Kolombangara, Vangunu, and New Georgia. Other groups
visited these areas and Rendova over the course of the next three
months. The patrols provided valuable information that helped shape
landing plans, and the final groups emplaced small detachments near
designated beaches to act as guides for the assault forces.

During May and June the Japanese reinforced their garrisons in
the central Solomons to 11,000 men, but this number was grossly
insufficient to cover all potential landing sites on the numerous large
islands in the region. That gave Halsey’s force great flexibility. The
final plan called for several assaults, all against lightly defended
or undefended targets. On D-day the Eastern Landing Force, consisting
of the 103d Infantry, an Army regiment, and the 4th Raider Battalion,
would occupy Wickham Anchorage, Segi Point, and Viru Harbor. Naval
construction units would immediately build a fighter strip at Segi
and a base for torpedo boats at Viru. The Northern Landing Group (the
1st Raider Regiment headquarters, the 1st Raider Battalion, and two
army battalions) would simultaneously go ashore at Rice Anchorage,
then attack overland to take Enogai Inlet and Bairoko Harbor. This
would cut off the Japanese barge traffic that supplied reinforcements
and logistics. The last D-day operation would be the Southern Landing
Group’s seizure of the northern end of Rendova and its outlying
islands. On D plus 4 many of these same units from the 43d Infantry
Division would conduct a shore-to-shore assault against the undefended
beaches at Zanana and Piraka on New Georgia. Planes from Segi Point and
artillery from the Rendova beachhead would render support as the Army
regiments advanced overland to capture Munda airfield. D-day was 30

[Illustration: RUSSELL ISLANDS



Things did not go entirely according to plan. During June the
Japanese used some of their reinforcements to extend their coverage
of New Georgia. They ordered a battalion to Viru with instructions
to clean out native forces operating in the vicinity of Segi. The
Solomon Islanders, under command of Coastwatcher Donald G. Kennedy,
had repeatedly attacked enemy outposts and patrols in the area. As
the Japanese battalion advanced units closer to Segi Point, Kennedy
requested support. On 20 June Admiral Turner ordered Lieutenant Colonel
Currin and half of his 4th Raiders to move immediately from Guadalcanal
to Segi. Companies O and P loaded on board APDs that day and made
an unopposed landing the next morning. On 22 June two Army infantry
companies and the advance party of the airfield construction unit
arrived to strengthen the position.

Viru presented a tougher problem. The narrow entrance to the harbor
was flanked by high cliffs and covered by a 3-inch coast defense gun.
Numerous enemy machine guns, including .50-caliber models, occupied
supporting positions. Most of the defenses were oriented toward an
attack from the sea, so American leaders quickly decided to conduct an
overland approach. But that was not easy either, given the difficulty
of the trails. After reconnaisance and consultation with higher
headquarters, Currin decided to take his raiders by rubber boat to
Regi, where they would begin their trek. The assault on Viru would
be a double envelopment. Lieutenant Devillo W. Brown’s 3d Platoon,
designated Task Force B, would take the lightly defended village of
Tombe on the eastern side of the harbor. The remainder of the force
would attack the main enemy defenses at Tetemara on the opposite
shore. The simultaneous assaults were to take place on the originally
scheduled D-day. Once the approaches were secured, APDs would land two
Army infantry companies.


    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 60166C

_Raiders cross one of the many rivers encountered during the New
Georgia campaign._ (_Note that two of the men are armed with Boys
.55-caliber antitank rifles._)]

The Marines departed Segi the evening of 27 June and landed at Regi
just after midnight. They rested a few hours and then moved out single
file on the narrow trail. Company O took the lead with Company P
bringing up the rear. Native scouts served as guides and the point.
The small force had not gone very far when the path disappeared into a
swamp. After three hours of tough movement, firing erupted at the end
of the column. One of the Japanese patrols known to be in the area had
stumbled upon the rear guard. The raiders killed four of the enemy and
suffered no casualties. About an hour later a Japanese force of about
20 men, possibly the same force, came up from a side trail and hit the
rear guard in the flank. After an hour of firing the enemy broke off
the action. There were no known casualties on either side, but the
five-man rear point failed to rejoin the Marine column. (They later
turned up back at Segi.)

The raiders crossed the Mohi River late in the afternoon and set up a
perimeter defense for the night. The wicked terrain and the two forced
halts convinced Currin that he would not make it to Viru in time for
D-day. Since he no longer had any working radios, he sent two native
runners to Kennedy asking him to relay a message to higher command that
the 4th Raiders would be a day late in making its attack.

After a miserable rainy night, the Marines moved out. They reached
the Choi River late in the morning. As the rear elements crossed, an
enemy force on a hill 300 yards to the battalions flank opened up with
heavy fire from machine guns and rifles. The battalion halted again as
Currin tried to determine what was transpiring. After about three hours
he knew that his rear had successfully engaged a small unit, probably
another enemy patrol, so the remainder of the force proceeded on its
way. The raiders crossed the snakelike Choi River twice more before
halting for the night at 1800. The 3d Platoon reached the perimeter at
2100. They had lost five killed and another man was wounded, but they
had counted 18 enemy dead.

It seemed likely that the enemy at Viru was now aware of the Marine
presence. Since the native scouts indicated that the area north of the
harbor was considered impassable, Currin suspected that the Japanese
would reinforce Tombe against an attack from the east. In view of that
and the losses to Brown’s unit, the colonel decided to strengthen that
wing of his assault. Captain Anthony “Cold Steel” Walker would now lead
two platoons of his Company P against Tombe. Given the difficulties
with the terrain and communications, there would be no attempt to
coordinate the two arms of the envelopment; Walker was free to attack
whenever he chose after dawn on 1 July. With the plans finalized, the
raiders settled in for another night of rain.

The battalion resumed the march early the next morning, but Walker’s
unit soon branched off on the shorter route to Tombe. During the course
of the day the main force crossed several ridges and the Viru and Tita
rivers. Everyone, to include the native bearers carrying the heavy
weapons ammunition, felt exhausted. But the worst was yet to come. In
twilight the Marines had to ford the Mango, a wide, swift river that
was at least six feet deep. They formed a human chain and somehow
managed to get everyone across without incident. The tough hills now
disappeared, but in their place was a mangrove swamp waist deep. In
the pitch darkness the men stumbled forward through the mess of water,
roots, and mud. Finally the natives brought forward bits of rotting
jungle vegetation from the banks of the Mango. With this luminescent
material on their backs, each raider could at least follow the man in
front. At the end of the swamp was a half mile climb to the top of a
ridge where the unit could rest and prepare for the attack. The nightly
rain and the struggles of hundreds of men soon made the steep slope
nearly impassable. Several hours after nightfall the battalion finally
reached level ground and the Marines huddled on the sides of the trail
until dawn.

Unbeknownst to the raiders, the amphibious portion of the assault
against Viru had taken place as previously scheduled. Although the
Navy commander in charge was aware of Currin’s message altering the
date of the land attack, he chose to order his APDs to approach the
harbor on 30 June. The Japanese 3-inch gun quickly drove them off.
Unable to contact Currin, higher headquarters then decided to land the
Army force embarked in the APDs near the same spot where the raiders
had begun their trek. The new mission was to move overland and support
the Marines, who were apparently experiencing difficulties. The
Japanese commander at Viru reported that he had repulsed an American

Both wings of the raider assault force moved out early on the morning
of 1 July. By 0845 Walker’s detachment reached the outskirts of Tombe
without being discovered. The men deployed, opened fire on the tiny
village, and then rushed forward. Most of the defenders apparently
died in the initial burst of fire. The two Marine platoons secured the
village without a single casualty and counted 13 enemy bodies. Just as
that engagement came to a close, six American aircraft appeared over
the harbor. These were not part of the original plan, but headquarters
had sent them to soften up the objective when it realized that the
raider attack would be delayed. Although this uncoordinated air support
could have resulted in disaster, it worked out well in practice. The
planes ignored Tombe and concentrated their efforts on Tetemara. The
Japanese abandoned some of their fixed defenses and moved inland,
directly into the path of the oncoming raiders.

Currins point made contact with the enemy shortly after the bombing
ceased. Company O, leading the battalion column, quickly deployed two
platoons on line astride the trail. The raiders continued forward
and destroyed Japanese outposts, but then ran into the enemy main
body, which was bolstered by several machine guns. Progress then was
painfully slow as intermittent heavy rains swept the battlefield.
Company O’s reserve platoon went into line to the left as noise
indicated that the enemy might be gathering there for a counterattack.
As the day wore on the raiders pushed the Japanese back, until the
Marine right flank rested on high ground overlooking the harbor. Currin
fed some of Company P’s machine guns into the line, then put his
remaining platoon (also from Company P) on his right flank. Demolitions
men moved forward to deal with the enemy machine guns.

In mid-afternoon a handful of Japanese launched a brief banzai attack
against the Marine left. Not long after this effort dissolved, Currin
launched Lieutenant Malcolm N. McCarthy’s Company P platoon against
the enemy’s left flank, while Company O provided a base of fire.
McCarthy’s men quickly overran the 3-inch gun and soon rolled up the
enemy line, as the remainder of the Japanese defenders withdrew toward
the northwest. The raiders had suffered 8 dead and 15 wounded, while
killing 48 of the enemy and capturing 16 machine guns and a handful of
heavier weapons.

The 4th Raiders consolidated its hold on Viru and conducted numerous
patrols over the next several days. The two Army companies landed near
Regi finally reached Tombe on 4 July. The Navy brought in more Army
units on 9 July and the Marines boarded the LCIs for Guadalcanal.

The other half of the 4th Raider Battalion (Companies N and Q)
received its baptism of fire during this same period. This unit
was under command of the battalion executive officer, Major James
R. Clark. It was assigned to assist the Army’s 2d Battalion, 103d
Infantry (Lieutenant Colonel Lester E. Brown) in seizing Vangunu and
the approaches to Wickham Anchorage on 30 June. Intelligence from the
coastwatchers indicated that there were about 100 Japanese occupying
the island. The plan called for the raiders to make a predawn landing
at undefended Oloana Bay. The Army would follow them ashore after
daylight, establish a beachhead, and then deal with the enemy, thought
to be located in a village along the coast several miles to the east.

The night landing under conditions of low visibility and heavy seas
turned into a fiasco. The APDs began debarkation in the wrong spot,
their Higgins boats lost formation when they attempted to pass through
the LCIs loaded with soldiers, and the two raider companies ended up
being scattered along seven miles of coastline. When the Army units
began to land after daylight, they found just 75 Marines holding the
designated beachhead. A two-man patrol (one lieutenant each from the
raiders and the Army battalion) had been ashore since mid-June to
reconnoiter with the aid of native scouts. They provided the exact
location of the Japanese garrison, and the joint force soon headed
to the northeast toward its objective. Native scouts and the handful
of Marines led the way, with two Army companies (F and G) in trace.
The remaining raiders were to join up with their unit as soon as they
could. All but one platoon did catch up by the time the Americans
reached their line of departure a few hundred yards north of the

The plan of attack was simple. The Army units passed through the
raiders on the east-west trail to assume the eastern-most position.
The entire column of files then merely faced to the right, which
placed the composite battalion on line and pointing toward the enemy
to the south. Company Q held the right flank on the bank of the
Kaeruka River. Company N in the center and Company F on the left flank
would guide on the movements of Q. Company G held back and acted as
the reserve. Within minutes of beginning the advance, the attack
ran into resistance. Japanese fire from the west bank of the river
was particularly heavy and Company Q crossed over to deal with this
threat. At the same time Company F moved to its left to skirt around
strong defenses. Company G soon moved in to fill the gap. By late
afternoon the Americans were able to clear the east bank of the river.
Lieutenant Colonel Brown ordered Company Q to disengage from the west
bank and join in the battalion’s perimeter defense at the mouth of the
river. The Marines had lost 10 dead and 21 wounded, while the Army had
suffered similarly.


JUNE 1943]

The enemy made no ground attack that night, but periodically fired
mortars and machine guns at American lines. During a lull at 0200
three Japanese barges approached the beach, apparently unaware that
ownership of the real estate was under dispute. As they neared shore,
the Marines guarding the seaward portion of the perimeter opened up.
One craft sank and the other two broached in the surf. Two Marines
and one soldier died in the firefight, but the entire enemy force,
estimated at 120 men, was destroyed in the water or on the beach.

The next morning Brown decided to disengage and move to Vura Village,
where he could reorganize and direct fire support on the remaining
enemy at Kaeruka prior to launching another attack. The Americans
received only harassing fire as they withdrew. After a day of prepatory
fire by air, artillery, and naval guns, the composite battalion
returned to Kaeruka on 3 July. They seized the village against minimal
resistance, killed seven more Japanese, and captured one. The raiders
returned to Oloana Bay by LCI later the next day. On 9 July they made
a predawn landing from an LCT on Gatukai Island to investigate reports
of a 50-man Japanese unit. The Marines found evidence of the enemy but
made no contact. They returned to Oloana Bay on 10 July and departed
for Guadalcanal the day after. There they joined up with Lieutenant
Colonel Currin and the rest of the 4th Raider Battalion.

[Sidebar (page 29): The Raider Patch

The use of Marine Corps shoulder patches in World War II originated
with the creation of the 1st Marine Division insignia following the
Guadalcanal campaign. This was not a new practice for Marines, since
members of the Fourth Marine Brigade wore the Star and Indian Head
patch of the Army 2d Infantry Division in France during World War I.


The 1st Marine Division emblem consisted of the word “Guadalcanal”
lettered in white on a red numeral “1” placed on a sky-blue diamond.
The white stars of the Southern Cross surrounded the number. By July
1943, the I Marine Amphibious Corps had adopted a variation for its
own patch--a white-bordered, red diamond, encircled by the white stars
of the Southern Cross, on a five-sided blue background. Non-divisional
corps units each had a specific symbol inside the red diamond. The
emblem of the I MAC raider battalions was a skull. While the raider
insignia may not have been the most artistic of Marine Corps shoulder
patches in the war, it certainly was the most striking.

The skull device originated with the 2d Raider Battalion, which began
using it not long after that unit came into existence. Carlson issued
paper emblems, consisting of a skull-like face superimposed on crossed
scimitars, to his raiders prior to the Makin raid. Each piece of paper
was backed with glue and allegedly raiders were to use them to mark
enemy dead for psychological effect, but they stuck together in the
humid tropics and proved impractical. By the time Carlson’s battalion
reached Guadalcanal, the emblem had evolved into a skull backed by
a crossed “Gung Ho” knife and lightning bolt. It is not clear who
selected the skull for the official raider patch, but that device
readily conveyed the image the raiders effectively cultivated--that
of an elite force trained to close with and destroy the enemy in
commando-style operations.


The 1st Raider Battalion and the raider regimental headquarters joined
in on the New Georgia operation in the early hours of 5 July. They
spearheaded the night landing of the Northern Group at Rice Anchorage,
a spot selected because previous reconnaissance showed it to be
undefended. Coastal guns from Enogai and the island of Kolombangara
fired on the APDs during the landing, but their accuracy was poor
in the driving rain. The only serious interference came from enemy
destroyers; a long-range torpedo sunk one of the American transports.
Nevertheless, the troops and most of their equipment and supplies
made it ashore, and the amphibious group was able to withdraw before
daylight left them vulnerable to further enemy counter-action.

From Rice Anchorage the 1st Raider Battalion was to advance overland
to seize Dragons Peninsula and the enemy’s barge bases at Enogai and
Bairoko. The Army’s 3d Battalion, 148th Infantry, would head deeper
into the interior and establish a blocking position on the trail
connecting Enogai-Bairoko with Munda. Another Army unit--3d Battalion,
145th Infantry--would divide itself, with half securing the beachhead
and the remainder serving as the reserve force. Intelligence reports
indicated 500 Japanese troops were in place on Dragons Peninsula.
Liversedge and the regimental headquarters accompanied the 1st Raiders.


    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 59009A

_The 1st Raider Battalion captured this Japanese 140mm coastal defense
gun after striking Enogai from the rear following the unopposed landing
on 5 July 1943._]

A reconnaissance patrol headed by raider Captain Clay A. Boyd had
already been on the island for some time when the American force landed
on 5 July. His small detachment, a coastwatcher, and the ever-present
native scouts helped guide the initial waves of Marines to shore. The
natives had also cut fresh trails leading to the Giza Giza River at the
head of Enogai Inlet. With this advance preparation, the units covered
the seven miles of rough terrain to the Giza Giza before nightfall.
With darkness came heavy rain. There were no trails through the swamp
on the far side of the Giza Giza, and the rain rendered the Tamoko
River unfordable, so it took all of the next day for the force to move
less than a mile and cross the Tamoko. There they halted and endured
another night of rain.



Late in the morning on 7 July the raider advance guard met up with
the enemy for the first time. In a brief fight it killed two men and
captured the remaining five members of a small Japanese patrol near the
village of Maranusa. From there the trail followed the steep sides of a
coral ridge for a mile. In the village of Triri, at the western end of
the ridge, the advance guard encountered a second patrol. The raiders
killed 11 Japanese here, but lost three dead and four wounded. The
attackers set up around Triri for the night and arranged ambushes along
the trails entering the village. At dawn on 8 July a strong enemy force
bumped into the platoon of raiders from Company D blocking the trail to
Bairoko. The fight lasted all morning and the Japanese did not break
off till Company C arrived on the scene. The enemy left behind 50 dead.

While the Army companies held Triri, the raider battalion moved out in
the afternoon for Enogai. That trail entered yet another swamp along
the southern edge of the inlet. This one was so bad that Griffith
decided to return to Triri and try a new route the next day. It was
just as well, for the Japanese had renewed their counterattack on the
Bairoko trail and were pressing hard on the soldiers. A raider platoon
from Company B slipped around the enemy flank and soon caused the
Japanese to withdraw again.

On the morning of 9 July the 1st Raider Battalion headed down a
different trail toward Enogai. It crossed the swamp by an easier route
and led onto the high ground that dominated the objective. At 1500
Company C made contact with the Japanese defenses. Company A went into
line on the left of Company C, anchoring its left flank on Leland
Lagoon. Company B took the right flank. Thick jungle canopy prevented
the use of mortars, but the lack of light also kept undergrowth to a
minimum, leaving good fields of fire for small arms. Companies A and
C were soon pinned down, though Company B reported no contact to its
front. As night fell the firing slacked off.

Early the next morning Company B patrols moved forward and discovered
their portion of the front unoccupied. Griffith then ordered his right
flank to attack through the open terrain near the inlet. Mortars
provided valuable support and Company B advanced quickly. With their
flank turned, the Japanese began to pull out and cross to the spit
of land on the north side of Leland Lagoon. Company A’s machine guns
turned that into a bloody retreat, but its infantry platoons still
could not crack the tough resistance in their immediate front. By
evening, however, the raiders had surrounded these final holdouts. At
first light the following day (11 July), Company D attacked with hand
grenades and cleaned out the area.

American losses in the campaign against Enogai were 54 dead and 91
wounded. But the Marines and soldiers had killed 350 Japanese and
seized 23 machine guns and four 140mm coastal defense guns. These
results were remarkable given the handicaps which the American forces
faced. The rough terrain had made it impossible for the troops to carry
all the rations and ammunition they needed. (The 1st Raiders had gone
without food for more than a day when supplies air-dropped to Triri
finally reached them on the front lines at Enogai the evening of 10
July.) With the exception of one air strike, fire support had come
entirely from the raiders’ handful of 60mm mortars.

There was also no way to quickly evacuate wounded to adequate hospitals
until the Marines had taken Enogai. Then, on July 11, three PBYs
flew in to carry the casualties to the rear. That mission almost had
an unhappy ending when two Japanese planes appeared and strafed the
PBYs as they sat on the water boarding the wounded. Luckily damage
was slight and the amphibian planes were able to take off after the
attack. When the PBYs departed they carried two of Liversedge’s staff
officers with a plea for better aerial resupply and for the 4th Raider


Things were worse for the 3d Battalion, 148th Infantry. After breaking
off from the line of march of the 1st Raiders on 6 July, the soldiers
had moved over equally difficult terrain to assume their blocking
position on the Munda-Bairoko Trail on 8 July. After initial success
against surprised Japanese patrols, the Army battalion fought a
bloody action against an enemy force of similar strength that pushed
the American soldiers off high ground and away from the important
trail. Heavy jungle and poor maps prevented aerial resupply of their
position, while illness and casualties sapped manpower. Liversedge led
a reinforcing company from the 3d Battalion, 145th Infantry, to the
scene on 13 July. Disappointed at the results of this portion of the
operation, and unable to reinforce or resupply this outpost adequately,
the raider colonel decided to withdraw the force to Triri. There the
soldiers would recuperate for the upcoming move on Bairoko and disrupt
enemy movement on the Munda-Bairoko Trail with occasional patrols.


    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 54650

_A raider 60mm mortar crew goes into action on New Georgia. Because the
raiders had no heavier weapons, their initial efforts at Bairoko were
mostly unsuccessful._]

Prior to dawn on 18 July four APDs brought the 4th Raider Battalion and
fresh supplies to Enogai. Most of the Rice Anchorage garrison had also
moved up to join the main force. This gave Liversedge four battalions,
but all of them were significantly understrength due to losses already
suffered in the New Georgia campaign. The 4th Raider Battalion was
short more than 200 men. The 1st Raiders reorganized into two full
companies (B and D), with A and C becoming skeleton units. A detachment
of the 3d Battalion, 145th Infantry, remained at Rice Anchorage. More
important, the enemy at Bairoko was now aware of the threat to its
position. Marine patrols in mid-July noted that the Japanese were
busily fortifying the landward approaches to their last harbor on the
north coast of the island.

Liversedge issued his order for the attack. It would commence the
morning of 20 July with two companies of the 1st Raider Battalion and
all of the 4th advancing from Enogai while the 3d Battalion, 148th
Infantry, moved out along the Triri-Bairoko Trail. The American forces
would converge on the Japanese from two directions. The remaining Army
battalion guarded Triri; Companies A and C of the raiders defended
Enogai. These units also served as the reserve. Liversedge requested an
air-strike on Bairoko timed to coincide with the attack, but it never



(Less Companies N and Q)

28 JUNE-1 JULY 1943]

The movement toward Bairoko kicked off at 0800 and the 1st Raider
Battalion made contact with enemy outposts two hours later. Companies
B and D deployed into line and pushed through a series of Japanese
outguards. By noon Griffith’s men had reached the main defenses, which
consisted of four fortified lines on parallel coral ridges just a few
hundred yards from the harbor. The bunkers were mutually supporting
and well protected by coconut logs and coral. Each held a machine gun
or automatic weapon. Here the 1st Battalion’s attack ground to a halt.
Liversedge, accompanying the northern prong of his offensive, committed
the 4th Battalion in an attempt to turn the enemy flank, but it met
the same heavy resistance. The raider companies slowly worked their
way forward, and by late afternoon they had seized the first two enemy
lines. However, throughout this advance enemy 90mm mortar fire swept
the Marine units and inflicted numerous casualties.



The southern prong of the attack was faring less well. The Army
battalion made its first contact with the enemy just 1,000 yards from
Bairoko, but the Japanese held a vital piece of high ground that
blocked the trail. With the lagoon on one side and a deep swamp on the
other, there was no room for the soldiers to maneuver to the flanks of
the enemy position. With the approval of the executive officer of the
raider regiment, the commander of the Army battalion pulled back his
lead units and used his two 81mm mortars to soften the defenses.

When news of the halt in the southern attack made it to Liversedge
at 1600, he asked the commanders of the raider battalions for their
input. Griffith and Currin checked their lines. They were running out
of water and ammunition, casualties had been heavy, and there was no
friendly fire support. Neither battalion had any fresh reserves to
commit to the fight. Moreover, a large number of men would be needed to
hand-carry the many wounded to the rear, The 4th Raiders alone had 90
litter cases. From their current positions on high ground the Marine
commanders could see the harbor just a few hundred yards away, but
continued attacks against a well-entrenched enemy with fire superiority
seemed wasteful. Not long after 1700 Liversedge issued orders for
all battalions to pull back into defensive positions for the night
in preparation for a withdrawal to Enogai and Triri the next day. He
requested air strikes to cover the latter movement.

The move back across Dragons Peninsula on 21 July went smoothly from
a tactical point of view. After failing to provide air support for
the attack, higher echelons sent 250 sorties against Bairoko to cover
the withdrawal. The Japanese did not pursue, but even so it was tough
going on the ground. Water was in short supply and everyone had to
take turns carrying litters. The column moved slowly and halted every
few hundred yards. In the afternoon rubber boats picked up most of the
wounded and ferried them to the rear. By that evening the entire force
was back in its enclaves at Enogai and Triri. PBYs made another trip
to evacuate wounded, though this time two Zero fighters damaged one of
the amphibian planes after take-off and forced it to return to Enogai
Inlet. Total American casualties were 49 killed, 200 wounded, and two
missing--the vast majority of them suffered by the raider battalions.

The failure to seize the objective and the severe American losses were
plainly the result of poor logistics and a lack of firepower. A Joint
Chiefs of Staff post mortem on the operation noted that “lightly armed
troops cannot be expected to attack fixed positions defended by heavy
automatic weapons, mortars, and heavy artillery.” Another factor of
significance, however, was the absence of surprise. The raiders had
taken Enogai against similar odds because the enemy had not expected
an attack from anywhere but the sea. Victory at Enogai provided ample
warning to the garrison at Bairoko, and the Japanese there made
themselves ready for an overland assault. The raiders might still have
won with a suicidal effort, but Bairoko was not worth it.

The 1st Raider Regiment and its assorted battalions settled into
defensive positions for the rest of July. The sole action consisted of
patrols toward Bairoko and nuisance raids from Japanese aircraft. In
early August elements of the force took up new blocking positions on
the Munda-Bairoko Trail. On 9 August they made contact with Army troops
from the Southern Landing Group. (Munda Airfield had fallen four days
earlier.) Later in the month two Army battalions moved cautiously
against Bairoko and found their way barred by only an occasional small
outpost. The main enemy force had escaped by sea and the soldiers took
control of the harbor on 24 August.



30 JUNE-3 JULY 1943]

The raider headquarters and both Marine battalions embarked in
transports on 28 August and sailed for Guadalcanal. The New Georgia
campaign had been a costly one. Each raider battalion had suffered
battle casualties of more than 25 percent. In addition, sickness had
claimed an even greater number. The 1st Raiders now had just 245
effectives; the 4th Raiders only 154.


In the immediate aftermath of the fall of New Georgia, the Allies
seized other islands in the vicinity, to include Arundel, Vella
Lavella, and Kolombangara. Thereafter the South Pacific command turned
its attention to the next major step in the encirclement of Rabaul.
There were several options, but the final choice was a landing on
Bougainville, the largest island in the Solomons group. A month later
MacArthur’s command would assault Cape Gloucester on the western end
of New Britain. Rabaul would then be within range of Allied land-based
fighter aircraft coming from two directions. Air power thus could
neutralize the Japanese bastion and allow it to be by-passed. The
scheduled D-day for Bougainville was 1 November 1943.

[Illustration: _Cape Torokina on Bougainville is seen after the Allies
built an airstrip. Threatening Puruata Island, assaulted by the 3d
Raider Battalion on 1 November 1943, is in the foreground. Tiny
Torokina Island lies in between Puruata and the Cape._

    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 68047

Several factors dictated Halsey’s scheme of maneuver for the offensive.
First, he had too few transports and Marines to make a direct assault
on the heavily defended enemy airfields located on the northern and
southern ends of the island. Another consideration was the range of
land-based fighters from bases in the Central Solomons--they could only
effectively cover a landing in the southern half of Bougainville. The
planners settled on the Empress Augusta Bay-Cape Torokina region on
the western side of the island. Defenses were negligible there, and
Bougainville’s difficult terrain would prevent any rapid reaction from
enemy ground forces located elsewhere on the island. Once ashore, the
invasion force would seize a defensible perimeter, build an airfield,
and eventually neutralize the remainder of the island from this
enclave. A patrol landed by submarine in late September discovered
that the areas back of the landing beaches were swampy. Aerial
reconnaissance in October also discovered the construction of new
defenses. Neither of these facts changed the plan, however.


1 NOVEMBER 1943]

For this operation, the 2d and 3d Raider Battalions were organized as
the 2d Raider Regiment, with Shapley in command. Lieutenant Colonel
Joseph P. McCaffery took over the 2d Raider Battalion. Because of
insufficient shipping, the initial landing consisted of just two
regiments of the 3d Marine Division, reinforced by the raiders and the
3d Defense Battalion. The remainder of the Marines and the Army’s 37th
Division would follow at a later time.

On 1 November, the 3d and 9th Marines, assisted by the 2d Raider
Battalion, seized a swath of the coast from Cape Torokina to the
northwest. At the same time, the 3d Raider Battalion (less Company M)
assaulted Puruata Island off Cape Torokina. Japanese defenses in the
landing area consisted of a single company supported by a 75mm gun.
One platoon occupied Puruata and a squad held Torokina Island, while
the rest of the Japanese infantry and the gun were dug in on the cape

The small Japanese force gave a good account of itself. The 75mm gun
enfiladed the eastern landing beaches, while machine guns on the two
small islands and the cape placed the approaches to this area in a
crossfire. The result was havoc among the initial right flank assault
waves, which landed in considerable disorder. The 75mm gun destroyed
four landing craft and damaged 10 others before Sergeant Robert A.
Owens of the 1st Battalion, 3d Marines silenced it. (He received a
posthumous Medal of Honor for his single-handed charge against the key

The 2d Raider Battalion, landing just to the left of Owens’ battalion,
suffered from the gun, and from mortar and machine gun fire raking the
beach. McCaffery succeeded in reorganizing his force on the beach and
launching an attack that swept away the enemy defenses, but he fell
mortally wounded in the process. Other battalions farther to the west
met little or no resistance, except from high surf that caused many
landing craft to broach. Company M, 3d Raiders, temporarily attached
to the 2d Raider Battalion, moved out at noon and occupied a blocking
position 1,500 yards up the Piva Trail, the main avenue of approach
into the beachhead. The 3d Raiders silenced the machine guns on Puruata
on D-day, and destroyed the last defenders on that island by late
afternoon on 2 November. Total raider casualties to this point were
three killed and 15 wounded.


    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 63165

_Demolition men of the 3d Raider Battalion landed on Torokina Island on
3 November, but found that supporting arms had already killed or driven
off all Japanese._]

Over the next several days the Marines advanced inland to extend
their perimeter. There were occasional engagements with small enemy
patrols, but the greatest resistance during this period came from the
terrain, which consisted largely of swampland and dense jungle once
one moved beyond the beach. The thing most Marines would remember
about Bougainville would be the deep, sucking mud that seemed to cover
everything not already underwater. On 4 November another unit relieved
the 2d Raider Battalion on the line, and both battalions of the raider
regiment were attached to the 9th Marines. The raiders maintained
responsibility for the roadblock, and companies rotated out to the
position every couple of days.

[Illustration: _Raiders pose during a lull in the battle next to one of
the Japanese dugouts they cleared on Cape Torokina on 1 November._

    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 68117

Two small attacks hit Company E at the roadblock the night of 5
November, and a larger one struck Company H there two days later.
Company G came forward in support and the enemy withdrew, but the
Japanese kept up a rain of mortar shells all that night. On the morning
of 8 November Companies H and M occupied the post and received yet
another assault, this one the heaviest yet. In midafternoon Companies
E and F conducted a passage of lines, counterattacked the enemy, and
withdrew after two hours.


    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 70785A

_Raiders move up the muddy Piva Trail to safeguard the flank of the

The next morning Companies I and M held the roadblock as L and F
conducted another counterattack preceded by a half-hour artillery
preparation. Japanese resistance was stubborn and elements of Companies
I and M, and the 9th Marines eventually moved forward to assist.
Shortly after noon the enemy retired from the scene. Patrols soon
discovered the abandoned bivouac site of the Japanese _23d Infantry
Regiment_ just a few hundred yards up the trail. In the midst of this
action PFC Henry Gurke of Company M covered an enemy grenade with his
body to protect another Marine. He received a posthumous Medal of Honor
for his heroic act of self-sacrifice.

The raider regiment celebrated the Marine Corps’ birthday on 10
November by moving off the front lines and into division reserve. Other
than occasional patrols and short stints on the line, the next two
weeks were relatively quiet for the raiders. The Army’s 37th Division
began arriving at this time to reinforce the perimeter. On 23 November
the 1st Parachute Battalion came ashore and temporarily joined the
raiders, now acting as corps reserve. Two days later the 2d Raider
Battalion participated in an attack extending the perimeter several
hundred yards to the east, but it met little opposition.

On 29 November Company M of the 3d Raider Battalion reinforced the
parachutists for a predawn amphibious landing at Koiari several miles
southeast of the perimeter. This operation could have been a repeat of
the successful Tasimboko Raid, since the Marine force unexpectedly came
ashore on the edge of a large Japanese supply dump. However, the enemy
reacted quickly and pinned the Marines to the beach with heavy fire.
Landing craft attempting to extract the force were twice driven off. It
was not until evening that artillery, air, and naval gunfire support
sufficiently silenced opposition that the parachutists and raiders
could get back out to sea.

Army troops continued to pour into the enlarging perimeter. On 15
December control of the landing force passed from the I Marine
Amphibious Corps to the Army’s XIV Corps. The Americal Division
gradually replaced the 3d Marine Division, which had borne the brunt
of the fighting. For much of the month the 2d Raider Regiment served
as corps reserve, but these highly trained assault troops spent most
of their time on working parties at the airfield or carrying supplies
to the front lines. On 21 December the raiders, reinforced by the 1st
Parachute Battalion and a battalion of the 145th Infantry, assumed the
position formerly occupied by the 3d Marines. The regiment remained
there until 11 January, when an Army outfit relieved it. The raiders
boarded transports the next day and sailed to Guadalcanal.

_The Raider Legacy_

While the 2d Raider Regiment had been fighting on Bougainville, the
raiders who had participated in the New Georgia campaign had been
recuperating and training in the rear. Both the 1st and 4th Battalions
enjoyed a month of leave in New Zealand, after which they returned to
their base camps in New Caledonia. Just after Christmas 1943 Colonel
Liversedge detached and passed command of the 1st Raider Regiment to
Lieutenant Colonel Samuel D. Puller (the younger brother of “Chesty”
Puller). The regiment embarked on 21 January and arrived at Guadalcanal
three days later. In short order the 2d Raider Regiment disbanded and
folded into the 1st, with Shapley taking command of the combined unit
and Puller becoming the executive officer.

Bougainville, however, was the last combat action for any raider unit.
Events had conspired to sound the death knell of the raiders. The main
factor was the unprecedented expansion of the Corps. In late 1943
there were four divisions, with another two on the drawing boards.
Even though there were now nearly half a million Marines, there never
seemed to be enough men to create the new battalions needed for the 5th
and 6th Divisions. In addition to the usual drains like training and
transients, the Corps had committed large numbers to specialty units:
defense battalions, parachute battalions, raider battalions, barrage
balloon detachments, and many others. Since there was no prospect of
increasing the Corps beyond 500,000 men, the only way to add combat
divisions was to delete other organizations.

Another factor was the changing nature of the Pacific war. In
the desperate early days of 1942 there was a potential need for
commando-type units that could strike deep in enemy territory and keep
the Japanese off balance while the United States caught its breath.
However, there had been only one such operation and it had not been a
complete success. The development of the amphibian tractor and improved
fire support also had removed the need for the light assault units
envisioned by Holland Smith at the beginning of the war. Since then
the raiders generally had performed the same missions as any infantry
battalion. Sometimes this meant that their training and talent were
wasted, as happened on Bougainville and Pavuvu. In other cases, the
quick but lightly armed raiders suffered because they lacked the
firepower of a line outfit. The failure at Bairoko could be partially
traced to that fact. With many large-scale amphibious assaults to come
against well-defended islands, there was no foreseeable requirement for
the particular strengths of the raiders.

[Illustration: _Weary members of the 2d Raider Battalion catch a few
moments of rest in the miserable, unrelieved wetness that was the
hallmark that all troops experienced as soon as they advanced inland
from the beach in the Bougainville operation._

    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 70777


    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 59036

_Marine raider Pvt Roy Grier examines the Nambu pistol he liberated
from an enemy officer of the_ Special Landing Force _in an encounter on

Finally, there was institutional opposition to the existence of
an elite force within the already elite Corps. The personnel and
equipment priorities given to the first two raider battalions at a time
of general scarcity had further fueled enmity toward these units. Now
that the war was progressing toward victory, there was less interest
on the part of outsiders in meddling in the details of Marine Corps
organization. Just as important, two senior officers who had keenly
felt pain at the birth of the raiders--Vandegrift and Thomas--were now
coming into positions where they could do something about it. On 1
January 1944 Vandegrift became Commandant of the Marine Corps and he
made Thomas the Director of Plans and Policies.

In mid-December 1943 Thomas’ predecessor at HQMC had already set the
wheels in motion to disband the raiders and the parachutists. Among
the reasons cited in his study was that such “handpicked outfits ...
are detrimental to morale of other troops.” A week later, a Marine
officer on the Chief of Naval Operation’s staff forwarded a memorandum
through the Navy chain of command noting that the Corps “feels that
any operation so far carried out by raiders could have been performed
equally well by a standard organization specially trained for that
specific mission.” The CNO concurred in the suggestion to disband
the special units, and Vandegrift gladly promulgated the change on 8
January 1944. This gave Thomas everything he wanted--fresh manpower
from the deleted units and their stateside training establishments, as
well as simplified supply requirements due to increased uniformity.

The raiders did not entirely disappear. On 1 February the 1st Raider
Regiment was redesignated the 4th Marines, thus assuming the lineage
of the regiment that had garrisoned Shanghai in the interwar years and
fought so gallantly on Bataan and Corrigedor. The 1st, 3d, and 4th
Raider Battalions became respectively the 1st, 3d, and 2d Battalions
of the 4th Marines. The 2d Raider Battalion filled out the regimental
weapons company. Personnel in the Raider Training Center transferred
to the newly formed 5th Marine Division. Leavened with new men, the
4th Marines went on to earn additional distinctions in the assaults
on Guam and Okinawa. At the close of the war, the regiment joined the
occupation forces in Japan and participated in the release from POW
compounds of the remaining members of the old 4th Marines.

The commanders in the Pacific Theater may not have properly used the
raiders, but the few thousand men of those elite units bequeathed a
legacy of courage and competence not surpassed by any other Marine
battalion. The spirit of the raiders lives on today in the Marine
Corps’ Special Operations Capable battalions. These infantry units,
specifically trained for many of the same missions as the raiders,
routinely deploy with amphibious ready groups around the globe.

[Illustration: _Seabee Chief Earl J. Cobb and Marine raider Cpl
Charles L. Marshall shake hands at the site of a sign erected near
Bougainville’s travelled “Marine Drive Hi-Way.”_

  So when we reach the “Isle of Japan”
  With our caps at a Jaunty tilt
  We’ll enter the city of Tokyo
  On the roads the SEABEES Built.

    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 73151


The best primary documents are the relevant operational and
administrative records of the Marine Corps held by the Washington
National Records Center in Suitland, Maryland. Of particular note
are the files of the Amphibious Force Atlantic Fleet, which detail
the efforts of Edson and Holland Smith to create their version of
the raiders. Another important source is the Edson personal papers
collection at the Library of Congress Manuscript Division. The various
offices of the Marine Corps Historical Center provide additional
useful information. The Reference Section holds biographical data on
most significant individuals. The Oral History Section has a number
of interviews with senior raiders and other Marines, particularly
Brigadier General Charles L. Banks, Brigadier General Fred D. Beans,
Colonel Justice M. Chambers, Brigadier General Samuel B. Griffith II,
Major General Oscar F. Peatross, Lieutenant General Alan Shapley, and
General Gerald C. Thomas. The Personal Papers Section holds numerous
items pertaining to the raiders.

A number of secondary sources deal with the history of the raiders in
some depth. The Marine Corps’ own World War II campaign monographs
were based on interviews and other sources of information in addition
to the service’s archives. Jeter Isely and Philip Crowl’s _The U.S.
Marines and Amphibious War_, James Roosevelt’s _Affectionately,
F.D.R._, Michael Blankfort’s _Big Yankee_, and Samuel Griffith’s
_Battle for Guadalcanal_ are valuable books. _The Marine Corps Gazette_
and _Leatherneck_ contain a number of articles describing the raiders
and their campaigns. Of particular interest is Major General Peatross’
account of the Makin raid in the August and September 1992 issues of
_Leatherneck_. Charles L. Updegraph, Jr.’s _U.S. Marine Corps Special
Units of World War II_ and Lieutenant Colonel R. L. Mattingly’s
_Herringbone Cloak--GI Dagger_ are two monographs specifically
addressing the formation of the raiders. The publications of the two
raider associations, _The Raider Patch_ and _The Dope Sheet_, contain a
number of first-person accounts written by former raiders.

_About the Author_


Major Jon T. Hoffman, USMCR, has spent more than 12 years on active
duty as an infantry officer, an instructor at the Naval Academy, and
a historian at Headquarters Marine Corps. Presently he is serving as
a reserve field historian for the Marine Corps History and Museums
Division. He has a master’s degree in military history from Ohio State
University and a law degree from Duke University. In 1994 Presidio
Press published his biography of Major General Edson, _Once A Legend_,
which won the Marine Corps Historical Foundation’s Greene Award. He is
the author of numerous articles in the _Marine Corps Gazette_, _Naval
Institute Proceedings_, _Naval History_, _Leatherneck_, and _Vermont
History_. His works have earned several writing prizes, including the
Marine Corps Historical Foundation’s Heinl Awards for 1992, 1993, and


  In the pamphlet, _The Right to Fight: African-American Marines in
  World War II_, in this series, among “Sources” listed on page 29 is
  _Blacks and Whites Together Through Hell: U.S. Marines in World War
  II_. The bibliographic listing misspells the name of one author and
  assigns a wrong World War II unit to the second. The volume is by
  Perry E. Fischer, a veteran of the 8th Marine Ammunition Company,
  and Brooks E. Gray, who was a member of the 51st Defense Battalion.


THIS PAMPHLET HISTORY, one in a series devoted to U.S. Marines in
the World War II era, is published for the education and training of
Marines by the History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine
Corps, Washington, D.C., as a part of the U.S. Department of Defense
observance of the 50th anniversary of victory in that war.


    =Brigadier General Edwin H. Simmons, USMC (Ret=)

    =Benis M. Frank=

    =George C. MacGillivray=

    =Robert E. Struder=, Senior Editor;
    =W. Stephen Hill=, Visual Information Specialist;
    =Catherine A. Kerns=, Composition Services Technician

    Marine Corps Historical Center
    Building 58, Washington Navy Yard
    Washington, D.C. 20374-5040


    PCN 190 003130 00


Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced
quotation marks retained.

To make this eBook easier to read, particularly on handheld devices,
most images have been made relatively larger than in the original
pamphlet, and centered, rather than offset to one side or the other;
and some were placed a little earlier or later than in the
original. Sidebars in the original have been repositioned between
chapters and identified as “[Sidebar (page nn):”, where the
page reference is to the original location in the source book. In the
Plain Text version, the matching closing right bracket follows the last
line of the Sidebar’s text and is on a separate line to make it more
noticeable. In the HTML versions, that bracket follows the colon, and
each Sidebar is displayed within a box.

Page 27: “Consolidated” was printed as “Condolidated”; changed here.

Page 40: “Corrigedor” was printed that way.

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