Survivor's Story of Guadalcanal

Marines on Guadalcanal

Source

A Chance Meeting

My husband met a survivor of the battle at Guadalcanal in WWII at a doctor’s appointment at the Veteran’s Administration on April 26th. The man told his story of that event to my husband. My husband was very touched by the man’s experience, and he wrote an account of that meeting a few days later.

My husband was sitting in the waiting room when an older gentleman walked in pulling his oxygen tank behind him, and he sat next to my husband, which was the only available seat. My husband noticed the man was having some difficulty breathing, so he did not speak to him right away. He also noticed a tattoo on the man’s right wrist, which was a navy anchor with the words “USS Atlanta CL-1942.”

At this time he didn’t know what to do. I think I said, "Were you on the Atlanta in the battle of Guadalcanal?” He answered yes. I said that I had just finished the second of two books about the naval battles at Guadalcanal, and I would like to hear about what happened. He didn’t look at me, but he said OK. This next section is what my husband told me the man said.

"I can only tell it the way I remember it."

I suggest you go to the web site ussatlanta.com and read the battle report to understand some of the terms I will use in this story. The following is primarily the words of the elderly man and a few underlined phrases that are my husbands.

The Battle Begins According to the Old Man

"The night of the battle is not when she sunk (in the Atlanta). She sank the next day, and I did not see her go down. We had been at general quarters-battle stations for about three hours. The night was so dark, and we were all so scared; you couldn’t see anything.

He said I was on the number five 1.1 inch AA-anti aircraft gun. The gun captain told all of us in the gun tube that targets unknown had been sighted. Unknown targets will scare the sh** out of you if you can’t see them. We had all guns loaded but had not been given the open fire order yet. When the lights came on all hell broke loose. If you read the battle report on the website you will know what he meant when the lights came on."

"Every gun that could started shooting at the lights because when you are in the lights you are the target. I don’t know how long this went on; it felt like hours. It seemed like every ship was shooting at us, and we were shooting at every gun flash we saw. Our gun was not on radar control. We had not been given the order to open fire, but when someone is shooting at you, you shoot back. The ship was taking hits all over above the water line. Then, there were two big jolts that I now know were torpedo hits. The first was kind of light, but the second was pretty big."

"The whole gun crew were cussing the guys in the ammo handling room for being slow to get us ammo. Shortly after the second torpedo hit there was a big explosion, and the next thing I know I am in the water. Evidently the whole gun tube was blown off the ship. I don’t know how many men were killed outright, but I and the gun captain were the only two men from that tube that were rescued the next day. When you are in the water staying alive is the only thing you think about. The battle was still going on with everybody shooting at everybody. Ships came by me so close you could reach out and touch them."

Map of Gaudalcanal

Source

I'm in the Water

"The battle started moving away from us and the first thing I thought is that they left us. We could see muzzle flashes from the guns on all the ships moving away, and they were getting farther and farther away. I don’t know how long or how far that went on. It seemed like a long time. When I saw the gun fire coming back I thought rescue; then, it dawned on me that no one is going to stop for a rescue while the battle is going on. At this point he went silent. I couldn’t speak and when I looked up at him. He was wiping tears from his face. It was only then I realized I was crying too. I didn’t ask any more about the battle but in just a minute he started talking again."

"At this time the ships and the battle were far away. I noticed that there were ships on fire, some dead in the water. Some were sinking, but I don’t know if they were ours or theirs. By the time the battle started coming back I had drifted close to other survivors of the Atlanta and other ships. Some our guys and some Japanese."

"When the ships came back, guns blazing, men in the water were bound to be run over. One ship, I don’t know who’s it was came within about fifty feet of me, right through the middle of maybe thirty men in the water. When the ship cleared there were maybe ten men left. The next thing I remember is two maybe three ships dead in the water and on fire. I could see men jumping over the sides. The battle kept on moving farther away and the guns finally stopped. This time there were a lot of men in the water. We were all just trying to stay alive. The groups of men drifted closer and closer."

Surviving a Night in the Water - Sharks!

"As the groups got larger and larger, we became a mix of Japs and our guys. Some of the Japs started trying to drown us. More than a few men were killed, ours and theirs. Finally, things started to calm down. It got to be almost quite. Some of the ships had explosions going off, but other than that it seemed quite."

"After a while I heard someone scream. It was a short scream. Then not long after that I heard someone else scream and someone yelled shark. This happened a few more times that night. I felt something bump up against me, and I thought it was a shark. I think I sh** my pants. Turns out it was just a body drifting into me. I don’t know if it was ours or theirs. I remember it was so dark and that made thing worse. As the ships close by sank, and the fires went out. it got even darker. I got more and more scared. I don’t think anything could scare me that much ever again."

"In a while I drifted into a man that was on my gun crew. Turns out, he and I were the only men from my crew that lived. We stayed together, and I don’t know how long it was. We drifted into some men on a copack flotation raft. Someone still had their shoes on, so he took off his shoe laces, and we tied ourselves to the raft. Odd thing was they had pulled one Jap out of the water and when we got there, they put him in the water and tied him to the raft. One or two men were burned really badly, so we put them on the raft first. One man died, so we took his life jacket off and let him go under. We had to, the raft was overloaded as it was.

As we drifted through the night we became more and more scattered from the other groups. It got quieter and almost silent. The silence was terrifying. One thing I remember is when we were in the water, and the battle came close. Some of the shells meant for ships would fall in the water. When they went off the pressure from the explosion would knock the breath out of you, and we couldn’t breathe. Man that was bad. The night seemed a month long, but finally the sun started coming up."

Then almost as far as you could see, there were men and things from the ships that had sunk. That was all you could see. When it got light enough to see better, some of the Japs in the water started attacking us again. I thought what the hell. We were all just trying to stay alive, and these monkeys were trying to kill us. The sharks came back from time to time but not one came at me. I don’t think they even came close to our raft. The little Jap in our group was just as scared as we were. We were all just trying to stay alive.

Sunrise

"Then almost as far as you could see, there were men and things from the ships that had sunk. That was all you could see. When it got light enough to see better, some of the Japs in the water started attacking us again. I thought what the hell. We were all just trying to stay alive, and these monkeys were trying to kill us. The sharks came back from time to time but not one came at me. I don’t think they even came close to our raft. The little Jap in our group was just as scared as we were. We were all just trying to stay alive."

"Finally, an hour or so after day light, boats from Guadalcanal, Savo Island and Tulagi came out and started picking up men from the water. It seemed like they were all moving in slow motion. It might have only been a few hours after we first saw the boats coming out that they got to my group. When they got close I heard someone scream, and I knew a shark had got him. I don’t know if it was ours or theirs, but I thought, after living through the night and with help in sight a damn shark had to take just one more."

Battle 1944

Rescued

"I think the closer it got to be my turn to be pulled out, the more scared I got. By the time they got to me I can’t remember the feel of anyone helping me. I think about being pulled from the water, and it’s like I had no feeling in my body. I have wondered about that many times, and I just can’t feel anyone touching me; yet I know they did. I don’t know what happened to the Jap that was with us. He might have been taken prisoner or maybe he was shot in the water. Some of that went on also."

"My gun captain and I wound up on the canal. The doctors didn’t see us for a couple of days. We both weren’t hurt more than scratches and bruises. There were so many of our guys that were bad off, and they had wounded men from the fighting in the jungle. They couldn’t get to us. We were good anyway."

"When we were in the water and our raft was overloaded, we had taken our trousers off and made flotation devices out of them. So when we first got to the canal the only thing I had on was my shirt. I had lost my skivvies somehow. So for about a day and a half I went around naked from the waist down. Sh**, I didn’t care. I was on dry land and that was good enough. Besides there were some other guys that had done the same thing. We must have been a sight. Going from place to place, standing in the chow line with our fun guns sticking out. That must have been a sight."

My husband stated, "I looked up about this time and I saw a little smile on his face. That smile I got to see is priceless. I will remember the smile and carry it with me until the day I die."

Surviving on the Island

"The Marines there did give us some pants but they were only rags. They had been there for months with very little resupply. Ammo and food was more important than uniforms. We stayed on the canal for about a week, and every night the Japs made air raids, small ones, but when the bombs are falling it doesn’t seem small."

"My buddy and I, plus, some other guys were shipped to Pearl Harbor, and after a week I was given leave to go home. I asked if I would have to come back, and they told me yes. I thought about it, so I volunteered to stay. I wound up on the Air Craft Enterprise. I wound up as a loaded on a 40 MM. Boffer. Boffer is an antiaircraft gun. I had never even seen a boffer, but they said they would train me on the way back to the canal. I stayed because I knew if I ever got home I would die before they could make me come back. The trip back was short and not much happened. We did hlow up some for air strikes on some islands on the way."

Enterprise

Source

Air Craft Enterprize

I remember thinking, at least I am on a bigger ship. We got to the invasion of Truk, and the Jap fighters and bombers came at us. Then, I realized, we were just a bigger target. I think it was on the second day my gun tube was strafed pretty well, and I got my million dollar wound. The shell fragments broke my leg and hip. I was sent to the states, and when I healed enough they assigned me to the quarter master part of Treasure Island in San Diego. That’s where I spent the rest of the war. Keeping track of things being combat loaded, that is for fast unloading, when the ship gets to where it’s going. I said I know what combat loading is, and he said, “sure you do.”

My Husband's Words

Our conversation was broken up several times when we were called in for vital signs, and he had to go back in for blood to be taken. Somehow we managed to sit next to each other, so we could talk some more. At one time I saw a young Afrocan American girl that limped when she came in. I noticed at one point she was wiping tears from her face. Guess she was listening. I know other people there heard at least part of his story. Maybe that is why we got seats together.

I knew our time together was coming to an end. I thanked the man for telling his story, and he said, “Thank you for caring and asking, I have told you things that I never told before. I can tell you have been in the sh** too, so I knew I could tell you.”

With that I said to him “I was enlisted and you were too, neither of us were officers but it would be my honor to salute you.” He just smiled through his tears and said “it would be my pleasure to return the salute.” Then, I stood and he tried also, but I told him to sit it would be OK.

Then, when I started to come to attention for the salute, the young African American girl asked if it would be OK if she saluted as well. We both said "hell yes". She stood, came to attention with me and with the best salute I was able to give I saluted the old man.

His face went stern and eyes straight ahead, he returned the salute. In my four years in the military I have had return salutes from many officers, some good some great and some real sh** heads. That salute was the best I ever received. We must have been a sight. One young black female, one old man and one very old man. All of us with tears on our face, in the middle of the VA waiting room, giving each other salutes. I don’t think anyone stared at us, and no one said a word. I like to think they all knew whatever was going on, we were OK.

My Husbands Comments Driving Home

When I got into my car I sat there and recorded notes on my phone recorder. I knew I would forget if I didn’t. It was a long ride home and half way there I realized I didn’t ask his name. I will probably never see that man again, but I can tell you one thing. If I ever see him again I will know his face. I can see him sitting, stern faced, and returning my salute is burned into my memory and will never be lost.

The reason we are a free is because men like him were willing to sacrifice everything for their country. There were 1,592 U.S. men killed fighting on Guadalcanal, but what is basically unknown is 5,041 sailors lost their lives supporting those men.

I hope you enjoyed reading this true account of one man's sacrific for his country. It made me cry.

© 2013 Pamela Oglesby

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45 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

It made me cry too. I recently wrote a hub about war and my dad's recollections of World War II....the stories are unbelievable and the lessons are so important if we are willing to listen and learn. :)


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Billy, I think it is so important for us to remember the past. We can learn from history and hopefully not make the same mistakes. I'll check out your hub as I had a viruse that kept me off the computer for quite a while as it targeted Hubpages partiuclarly. Thanks for your comments.

Hubpages has taken all the advertisements off this hub and I am not sure why, but I think it is pathetic.


FitnezzJim profile image

FitnezzJim 3 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

Pamela, don't worry about the advertising. I'm guessing this article will get a lot of reads.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Jim, That is what I decided. I did write to Hubpages and they put the advertising back on. I really wanted the story to be told, regarless of advertsing as I think we sometimes don't realize what some warriors have endured for our country. Thanks for the comment.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 3 years ago from Southern Illinois

OMG, It made me cry too, so many heroes who were never recognized. I know of one man who was blown out of a foxhole and was the only surviver twice. He recieved two purple hearts and refuses to tell his story. Thank you for sharing,,,


SubRon7 profile image

SubRon7 3 years ago from eastern North Dakota

Wow, Pamela, that is an unforgettable story, and you are so right that we don't realize what the true warriors went through in war to keep America free.

Thank you, and thanking that warrior by proxy.

James W. Nelson


old albion profile image

old albion 3 years ago from Lancashire. England.

Hi Pamela99. It brought a tear to my eye, so well written and the photographs are first class. All to easily people forget what was done for us. So many gave their all that we might be free today. Here in the uk many gave everything they had. Different battles yes but all fighting for what was right.

voted up and all.

Graham.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Ruby, I have known men that will not tell their stories. I think it is just too painful. My husband will not talk much about his Vietnam experience and he ended up spending 2 years there. Thanks for your comments.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

James, Your view is exactly like mine. Thank your so much for your comments.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

old albion, I know that there are many warriors in the U.K., and even the people suffered such awful bombing during WWII. I appreciate your comments.


aethelthryth profile image

aethelthryth 3 years ago from American Southwest

So you sat down next to "some old guy" and asked questions as if he might actually know something about something, and look what you got for it! I don't mean that sarcasm towards you, but because that is what so many of us have thought for so much of our life. I myself am only now starting to realize any time I sit by someone white-haired without asking questions, I have missed some amazing story.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 3 years ago from Southern Illinois

This is a wonderful story, it made me sad. God bless that old man and your husband. War is horrible. Our leaders need to serve so they will not be so quick to order another war. Thank you Pam.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

aethelthryth, I think we would all be better off if we did take the time to talk with some of the older generation as you implied because we have little understanding of what it was really like two generations ago. If we don't learn from the past, we repeat the same mistakes. Thanks so much for your comments.

Ruby, I agree. I am so sick of seeing our men come home without their limbs or thinking of the ones that don't come home at all. I sure don't want to see our men in Syria, and I wish they would bring them all home. Thanks for your comments.


epbooks profile image

epbooks 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

Well-written story, yet so very sad. Thank you for sharing this.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

This is a powerful and engrossing hub, Pamela. Thank you very much for sharing this amazing story.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Liz, It is a sad story and I really do not believe this man has told this story before that day. That is quite typically for many vets with such painful memories. I appreciate your comments.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Alicia, When my husband wrote this story, and I read it, I felt it was a story that needed to be told. I am glad you like the story and I appreciate your comments.


DDE profile image

DDE 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

An excellently written hub and what a heartfelt story I learned so much from your hub thanks for sharing this story


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

DDE, I am glad you enjoyed the hub and that you learned from it. I always appreciate your comments.


Elias Zanetti profile image

Elias Zanetti 3 years ago from Athens, Greece

A well written and powerful hub, Pamela and a excellent read. Thanks for sharing!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Elias, I am so glad you enjoyed this story, and I appreciate your comments.


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 3 years ago

Interesting but sad story. I admired his bravery and what he endured. Thanks for sharing.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

anglnwu, It is amazing he lived through such an awful time. I appreciate your comments.


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 3 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

Dear Pamela,

It is impossible to read this with dry eyes...you did a powerful job in the relay of this inspirational story of survival. I believe you and your husband were meant to be in that waiting room to hear this hero's story and thank you for, in turn, shaing it with us.

Voted UP and Beautiful. Love, Maria


drbj profile image

drbj 3 years ago from south Florida

This is fascinating, amazing and very well-written. Thank you, Pamela, for sharing your husband's recollection of that visit with another Canal veteran.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Maria, I think it is amazing how sometimes in life something so unexpected comes along. This man's remarkable story surely was one of those unique times. Thank you so much for your comments. Love, Pam


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

drbj, I didn't kow you were a Canal veteran. I imagine you could also tell some touching stories. Many suffered. I appreciate your comments very much.


femmeflashpoint 3 years ago

Pamela,

I'm having a magic moment. I've read this amazing story and ... oh my goodness, it's fantastic and I can't thank you enough for writing it! I also hope you'll please extend my thanks to your husband for his service, and for relaying it to you!

I have several friends I'm sending the link to who will be as moved by it as I have been.

And the topping on the pudding came with Doc BJ's comment. For all the reasons she dazzles me, she just got moved into a brand new and even higher echelon. Cyber hugs and a "Thank you for your service" to her as well!

I also have to send cyber-hugs to Nurse Mar (Maria Jordan), for giving me the heads up to run back to Hubville to read this. She's a sharp cookie and knows good medicine when she reads it.

Beautiful, BEAUTIFUL story Pamela.

femme


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Angela, I was surprised about Doc BJ and am so appreciative about her service as well. I am glad you enjoyed this story. I agree that Matia is a sweetheart as well, always thoughtful and supportive. Thank you so very much for your comments.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 3 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

What a beautiful story of soldiers coming together and sharing their experience. So many are heros and so many are recognized as such by fellow military personnel.


brakel2 profile image

brakel2 3 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

I read this hub last night and almost cried. The heart wrenching portions when they in the water were so realistic, like a picture. I hated the idea later when the men had no pants, and it was normalcy. War is so unreal. That man was such a hero. Thanks to you and your husband for sharing this story. Hugs. Audrey. Sharing hub


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

mckbirdks, I think it is great for those that fought and suffered to get the recogniotion they deserve. I appreciate your comments.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Audry, The story touched you like it did me. I thought it should be shared and I appreciate your comments very much and the share.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 3 years ago

Oh my gosh, what a tale! I am always amazed at how much our military endures in order to keep us safe and free. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Dianne, It is amazing and I hate the thought of those that suffer. Thank you so much for your comments.


drbj profile image

drbj 3 years ago from south Florida

Just wanted to set the record straight, Pamela. When I wrote the comment to thank you '... for sharing your husband's recollection of that visit with another Canal veteran,' I was referring to the veteran your hubby spoke with. NOT ME! True, I am older than soil but not yet, God willing, that old! :)


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

drbj. I certainly didn't think you were old enough, but since I haven't seen a recent picture, how could I know? haha Thanks for setting the record straight.


carol7777 profile image

carol7777 3 years ago from Arizona

I was very touched by this and I have some special feelings about WWll. YOu told the story beautifully and felt the emotions...For those of us who treasure our Country and patriotism..this is a must read..Going to share.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Carol, Thank you so much for your comments. I am glad you were touched by this story and it has great meaning to me also. Thanks for the share.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

What a great story this was although so sad what they all went through. My dad was in war and wounded but he never spoke of it. My mom told little tid bits like Dad seeing a pregnant woman cut open, with the infant showing so the horrors are just so big and widespread to fill many books. Thank you for sharing. ^


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 3 years ago from California

So good to read this today--I am reminded of my father-in-law--and his service during WWII


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Jackie, I have heard so many people say that the men that went to war whether wounded or not seldom, if ever, talked about it. I think they saw so many horse like the one you wrote about that it was just too difficult to talk about.

As I said in the story my husband cried when he heard this man talk and the man cried also. I think it's so important for us to remember how much our military men and now women have sacrificed so we can be free. I am glad you enjoyed the story, and I appreciate your comments.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

I think those of us that have any family member that served in World War II need to remember their great sacrifice as these men are getting so old that soon many of their stories will die with them.

I'm glad you enjoyed the story, and I appreciate your comments.


bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

What a story Pam. Simply amazing. Thank God for men like that WWII vet who were willing to sacrifice everything for their country.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

bdeguilio, So true. Thank you for your comments.

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