Matanikau Actions

In late September, the marines launched a series of actions near the Matanikau River. Japanese forces had retreated to that area to regroup after Bloody Ridge, and the marines thought they would be easy pickings. Three battalions were sent in to "mop up" the enemy stragglers.

Little did they know, the Japanese had actually been building up for another attack on Henderson Field. Where the marines expected about 400 enemy troops, they actually encountered more like 4000.

The initial round of marines moved in and attempted to cross the Mantanikau. They were turned back at several points. But a garbled radio transmission led HQ to believe that they HAD actually crossed the river. A flanking force was sent in, landing west of the river and then moving south to positions on a ridge. They encountered heavy resistance, and were soon completely surrounded.

Back at HQ, Lt Colonel "Chesty" Puller refused to abandon his men. He deployed a navy destroyer to go and rescue the trapped marines. The ship shelled the Japanese positions behind the marines (though the marines did suffer some friendly fire from the shelling) and opened a path for them to retreat to the beach. Landing craft manned by US Coast Guard crews were waiting for them.

Under heavy fire, the marines got into the boats. One of the patrol boats moved itself between the main Japanese force and the other boats, acting as a shield while providing covering fire. Its commander, Coast Guard Signalman First Class Douglas Munro, was killed, but the other two crew continued providing cover until the last boat had cleared the beach. For his gallantry, Munro was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the only Coast Guard member to have received the medal.

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