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    Tenaru (Ilu, Alligator Creek) Guadalcanal | Guadalcanal Province Solomon Islands
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USMC August 22, 1942

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March 23, 1943

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Peter Flahavin 1996

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Peter Flahavin 1999

Tenaru village and the Tenaru River are located on the north coast of Guadalcanal. The river in the area was nicknamed "Alligator Creek" by the Americans, a misnomer, as only crocodiles inhabit Guadalcanal. After the battle, the western side of the Alligator Creek (Ilu River) became known as Hell's Point. Further to the west is Henderson Field and Lunga.

Battle of the Tenaru
The Battle of the Tenaru is also known as the "Battle of the Ilu River" or "The Battle of Alligator Creek". After the Japanese Army's "Ichiki Regiment" 28th Infantry Regiment, under the command of of Colonel Kiyonao Ichiki landed by destroyers at Taivu Point on August 19, 1942 and marched westward toward the Marine perimeter at Tenaru. Prior to the battle, the Japanese did not perform any reconnaissance of the American positions.

First wave: On August 21, 1942 at 1:30am Ichiki's force opening fire with machine guns and mortars on the Marine positions on the west bank of the Tenaru River. The first wave of about 100 Japanese soldiers charged across the sandbar towards the Marines. Marine machine gun fire and 37mm canister rounds killed most of the Japanese soldiers as they crossed the sandbar. A few of the Japanese soldiers reached the Marine positions, engaged in hand to hand combat with the defenders, and captured a few of the Marine front-line emplacements. A company of Marines, held in reserve just behind the front line, attacked and killed most of the remaining Japanese soldiers that had breached the front line defenses, ending Ichiki's first assault about an hour after it had begun.

Second wave: At 02:30 about 150 to 200 Japanese troops again attacked across the sandbar at Hell's Point and was again almost completely wiped out. At least one of the surviving Japanese officers from this attack advised Ichiki to withdraw his remaining forces, but Ichiki declined to do so. As Ichiki's troops regrouped east of the creek, and Japanese mortars bombarded the Marine lines. The Marines answered with 75mm artillery and mortar barrages into the areas east of the creek.

Third wave: About 05:00, another wave of Japanese troops attacked, this time attempting to flank the Marine positions by wading through the ocean surf and attacking up the beach into the west bank area of the creek bed. The Marines responded with heavy machine gun and artillery fire along the beach front area, again causing heavy casualties among Ichiki's attacking troops and causing them to abandon their attack and withdraw back to the east bank of the creek. For the next couple of hours, the two sides exchanged rifle, machine gun, and artillery fire at close range across the sandbar and creek.

At daybreak, the 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, under Lieutenant Colonel Lenard B. Cresswell, crossed the river upstream (south) of the battle area, enveloped Ichiki's troops from the south and east, cutting off any avenue for retreat, and began to "compress" Ichiki's troops into a small area in a coconut grove on the east bank of the creek. Aircraft from Henderson Field strafed Japanese soldiers that attempted to escape down the beach. Later in the afternoon, five Marine M3 Stuart tanks attacked across the sandbar into the coconut grove firing their machine guns and canister shot and rolling over the bodies, both alive and dead, of any Japanese soldiers unable or unwilling to get out of the way. When the tank attack was over, Vandegrift wrote that, "the rear of the tanks looked like meat grinders."

By 5:00pm, Japanese resistance had ended. Colonel Ichiki was killed by mortar fire. Curious Marines began to explore the battlefield, some injured Japanese troops shot at them, killing or wounding several Marines. Thereafter, Marines shot or bayoneted all of the Japanese bodies that they encountered, although about 15 injured and unconscious Japanese soldiers were taken prisoner. About 30 of the Japanese troops escaped to rejoin their regiment's rear echelon at Taivu Point.

West Bank
American occupied. After the battle, this area remained defended and later a camp area, and finally a dump area. Today, the area is overgrown. To the left (west) of the trail to the beach is a Marine camp area, with water tank. To the right of the trail on the west bank, just along the river line, is a large area where they seem to have buried aircraft bits and pieces from Henderson Field There were metal remains everywhere: mountings for radial engines, pieces of wing, aircraft parts, pieces of wing, propellers, rusted lids of  37mm ammo cans.  Unfortunately, this dump is on top of the Marine August 1942 positions, burying them.

Fighter 3 (Emergency Field)
Built after the Battle of the Teneru as an emergency airfield to the east of the Ilu River, south of Tenaru village.

Ilu River Memorial at Tenaru
White Memorial pillar near the beach, obscured by high grass, plaque ripped off since 1995. This memorial is reportedly at the position where U. S. Marines Albert Schmid, Corporal Leroy Diamond and Pfc John Rivers manned a single .30 caliber water-cooled machine gun inside a sandbag and coconut log emplacement camouflaged with palm fronds and jungle greenery. During the Japanese attack, Johnny Rivers opened fire at the advancing Japanese, breaking up their advance. Screams of rage and pain came from the other side as the Japanese concentrated their firepower against this gun position and on another machine gun position 150 yards downstream. The machine gun on their right stopped firing when it was put out of action. Then a dozen bullets hit Rivers in his face, killing him instantly. His finger froze on the trigger, sending 200 rounds into the darkness. Schmid shoved Rivers' body out of the way and took over the gun. Corporal Diamond got in position to load it for him, but was hit in the arm, the bullet knocking him partially across Schmid's feet. He could not load anymore, but while Schmid fired the gun, Diamond stood beside him, spotting targets. Schmid now was both loading and firing the machine gun. When he got close to the end of a 300 round belt of ammunition. Schmid continued loading and firing the machine gun for more than four hours, with and without help, and once the enemy got close enough to throw a grenade into Schmid's position, wounding him in his eye and afterwards was later evacuated. On February 18, 1943, Schmid received the Navy Cross "for extraordinary heroism and outstanding courage."

Japanese Memorial at Tenaru
Simple pillar memorial to the Ichiki Regiment. The memorial reads in English & Japanese:
"Ichiki Party" was organized in Ashikawn, Japan. They landed on this land in August, 1942 and most of them were to die in fierce battle. We praise the soldiers of Ichiki and those of all nations who died here, for their nation. It is our sincerest wish that the world will remain peaceful, forever without anymore wars.

P-39K Airacobra Serial Number 42-4287
Pilot Farron crashed October 15, 1942 identified 2013 remains recovered 2015

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Last Updated
October 23, 2019


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