It is 5:45 in the morning, the traces of dawn starts, and the
morning chorus of bird noises wakes me. After about 60 seconds
of not wanting to get up, I swing out of bed, put on my shorts,
t-shirt, walking shoes and begin my one-hour walk. Wrestling with tiredness I grumpily convince myself that this
is a good habit to have. The morning exercise is good for you,
gives you time to think and balance up for the day ahead.
It is still quite dark as I leave the house, walk the 100 yards
down to the road. The road runs alongside the shoreline and the
lights of the ships in the sound stand out. I turn right and at
a brisk pace walk along. There are usually a few other people already
out jogging or walking. A few cars go by as the town starts to
wake up. About 500 yards later I take another right turn and go up a steep
hill that starts to test the fitness. Half way up the heart starts
pumping and the breaths come quicker. Nearing the top you anxiously
want the hill to end. With relief you finally arrive panting at
Hesitating while getting your breath back you find yourself facing
inland where dawn is now breaking and the sun is just reaching
for the trees. The view is of grassy ridges and jungle, a special
jungle, this is Guadalcanal. As I walk along a jungle trail you start to imagine the dawns
taking place in 1942. At this very time in this very place the combatants
of those days would also be welcoming the dawn. For the Americans
mostly it would probably have been relief that the Japanese did not
attack that night. All Japanese attacks occurred at night.
One sunset I remember asking visiting veteran Marine Wilbur Bewley
(G/2/1), did he enjoy the spectacle of Guadalcanal sunsets during
the war? “Hell no”, he answered “The Japanese
sea and land attacks always took place at night, I’d be thinking
about what the night might bring.”
As backdrop to the jungle I look at Mount Austen and the Japanese
stronghold known as the Gifu. I think of veteran Bill Fisher
of the 2nd Raiders who ended their epic patrol there. I think of
the ring belonging to Fred A Kucera (132nd Infantry) that I found
in a foxhole there. Fred died from wounds received there on 2nd
In my imagination, as I walk down the trail, I exchange good mornings
with the Americans (and occasionally the Japanese) in their foxholes. At the end of this trail I cut back to a road on a ridge that
will take me back to the main road. As I walk through the crest
of the Ridge I remember that Marine Fighter pilot, Jefferson
De Blanc, pointed out the area where he was had a bivouacked
on this ridge. I try to guess exactly where his tent may have been.
Walking on down from the ridge I find myself facing Honiara golf
course. In 1942 I would have been facing Fighter Two or Kukum Strip.
In fact today’s line of factories behind the golf course
are built on the coral runway of the runway. This runway was De Blanc's favourite. When I asked why and he
told me that “On landing you could approach from the sea
and on take you could immediately turn towards the sea. If
you used Henderson or Fighter One it meant you had to fly over
land where someone might take a pot shot at you”.
As I walk down towards the runway I can ‘hear’ the
sounds of piston engines of Corsairs and Lightnings and I reflect
that this was the runway used on the mission to shoot down Admiral
Yamamoto. Trees on fairways of the Honiara Golf Club built on Kukum (Fighter
Two) complex. Buildings in background are built on the original
coral runway. When I reach the main road I turn left walking parallel to the
golf course. I walk past a ridge that comes down to the edge of
the road. Across the road is the western end of the golf course.
This Ridge was part of the western perimeter in August and September.
The front line was subsequently moved down to the Matanikau River.
On 14th September 1942 L company 3rd Battalion 5th successfully
defended this position, defeating a Japanese attack (Oka) attack
supporting Kawaguchi’s attack on Bloody Ridge. I think of
the late Ore Marion who helped maintain the history of his company
and whose book L/3/5 has just been released.
Last year Japanese remains were found in a playing field about
50 yards west of this Ridge. They were discovered while Telekom
were laying cables. The workmen came to my office and told me about
the bones. While examining the recently found bones in the pit
I stood up and found myself looking straight at the ridge and thinking “L
Continuing now on my way back home I pass a roundabout and walk
on what used to be a minefield laid to protect the runway if Japanese
tanks made it across the Matanikau. The Engineers cleared them
in February 1943. I wonder if they missed any and hope if they did
they were anti-tank not anti-personnel mines. Turn left at my street and I go back for my shower and a spot
of breakfast. It is now a twenty to eight and time to drive to
the Post Office to check the mail before I go to the office.
The road runs parallel to Iron Bottom sound. Across the waters
are Savo Island and the Floridas. I imagine the violent sea fights
that gave the Sound its name. I think of friends I have met
that fought there. I especially remember Frank Teague of the USS
Portland that was torpedoed but survived and ‘Red Snipe Garing
who was stationed at Gavutu on an APC.
As I approach the Matanikau Bridge, I pass the hospital
known by locals as ‘Number Nine’ a term inherited from
the Americans who had named it "Number Nine Field Hospital" in
1943. I cross the Bridge 75 yards inland from the mouth of the river
the scene of many actions. I think of Raiders fighting their
last battle on the Canal on the 8th October when they should already
have been relieved from the line. I think of Al Deleara of 3rd
Battalion 1st Marines facing the Japanese tank attack later in
Just the other side of the River I see the site of the ill-fated
Geottge Patrol. We are undertaking another search for their remains,
seen but not recovered by L3/5 on their patrol of 19th August 1942.
One of the knocked out Japanese tanks can still be seen at low
tide. I drive on to the Post Office past Point Cruz Yacht
Club where I will go for a beer after work and to the Town Grounds
where my friend the late Bishop Paul Moore, 2/5, earned his Navy
Cross. I collect the mail and return to the office by eight o’clock.
Saturdays and Sundays I visit and explore the battlefields but
going to work helps keep me focused!