USMC and US Army hold out on Guadalcanal
25th October 1942: Medal of Honour for John Basilone as the Marines fight off waves of Japanese infantry attacks
There were pivotal battles in several places around the world this week. On the 23rd, just as the British attacked at El Alamein, the Germans launched another 'final assault' at Stalingrad. On the other side of the world the Japanese were determined to evict the the US Marines from their positions around Henderson Field, on Guadalcanal.
General Vandegrift1, commanding USMC on Guadalcanal, had flown off to brief Admiral Halsey on the 23rd:
I impressed on him the poor physical state of my command - the inevitable result of two and a half months of restricted diet, sleepless nights and disease. I described what frequent surface and aerial bombardments meant to the troops, how the critical shortage of planes and materiel was hurting us, and the deadly effect of the constant run of Jap ships to our feelings.
I told him that to hold we simply had to have air and ground reinforcement, that our people were practically worn out. Besides fighter and dive bomber squadrons we needed at a minimum the rest of the Americal Division [of the US Army2] and an other regiment of the 2nd Division. I quoted casualty figures in the 5th and 1st Regiments and gave the latest malaria figures which amounted to six or seven hundred cases in the past week.
It was in these conditions that they now faced yet another Japanese assault. After re-assuring Halsey that the Marines could nevertheless still hold on, Vandegrift returned to Guadalcanal. He wrote a contemporaneous account3 of the following action:
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