The Long Patrol
Not long after the departure of the lst 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 soo became apparent the swampy jungle was no
place to put an airfield.
On 5 November Vandegrift sent a message to Carlson by air-drop.
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.
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 2nd
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 salt pork - 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
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 Japa nese near Asarnana 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.
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 rnain battle, Company E tangled with another enemy group
coming in the opposite direction. T'he more numerous Japanese forced the
Marines to withdraw. Captain Richard T, Washburn reorganized his company
and counterattacked the enerny 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 midafternoon, Carlson
himself led Company F toward Asamana.
By the time he arrived, Company C had extracted 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 batallion assembledback 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 under strength unit had lost two killed
and one wounded.
On 12 November Carlson led Companies B and E back to the woods at Asamana.
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 rnortar 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 Asamana 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.
Pictures Sent by John Innes of the Burial Ceremony
at the Burial of Major Ashley (Bill) Fisher USMC on Guadalcanal
The ceremony (above) took place where the
2nd Raiders had a fight with the
Japanese on the 3rd December 1942. Bill slept that night where
poppies are behind me and the table and to the left of the
These are the ladies from Barana Village
on Mount Austen who sang Onwards Christian Soldiers
Placing Bills ashes
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 beforethe 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 regu lar 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 malarial 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 E 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 2nd 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"
A Personal View of the Guadalcanal