The Marines improvised whatever defences they could while they awaited the Japanese attack. A single strand of barbed wire, stripped from the nearby plantations, provided a useful early warning, tripping over the first assault.

The Japanese reacted quickly to the U.S. Marines landing on Guadalcanal. Colonel Kiyono Ichiki of the Imperial Japanese Army and 900 of the 28th Infantry Regiment were sent by fast destroyers to counterattack the Marines who had established themselves near the airfield.

Colonel Ichiki led a force of 900 Japanese that made their first attack on U.S ground forces on 21st August.

They landed some twenty miles away and advanced through the thick jungle. Ichiki did not wait for the balance of his forces – a further 1200 men – to join him. A Japanese advance patrol was wiped out out by the Marines on the 18th, who also received warning from one of the Coastwatchers, Jacob Vouza, late on the 20th.

They were dug in and ready and waiting by nightfall of the 20th August. Marine Jim Donoghue was to record the action in his diary:

It all started about 3 a.m. in the morning. However, we were warned about 11 o’clock to “Stand by your guns.” Each man passed on to the other all the way down the line. Was this going to be the real test?

All of a sudden our listening posts reported troops moving toward us… The point was heavily fortified. I don’t mean with big guns, but we had a platoon of machine gunners there and a 37mm gun crew… The Japs still came across and we kept knocking them off. Their machine guns would throw up a barrage for them but their field of fire was limited.

They finally succeeded in getting a machine gun across, which was set up right below. Len Beer threw a hand grenade, which silenced it… The 37 MM gun did plenty of damage with its canister shot. The Japs brought up their field pieces and started laying them into the line and point. Following soon our 105’s silenced them. Japs were using rifle grenades and mortars.

After about two hours, reinforcements came up. They sent two light machine guns, which were mounted between Bottles’ and my position and Beer’s and Dignan’s. Within ten minutes the whole two crews were shot up, this due to the fact that they were not below the deck.

At this point, Sgt. Muth picked up a gun and started running down the line. He would stop, fire a few good bursts and then take off to a new position. J. moved up behind Murray, and I and he had a BAR. He shouted if there was room for him in the foxhole. There wasn’t, so we had to make room. He would be killed if he stayed on the deck.

A machine gun had been mounted in an abandoned alligator and they were throwing plenty of lead our way. J. crept as close as possible and made a dive for our hole. He landed okay and Murray and I continued our fire.

About five minutes later, I said to Bottles, “Why the hell don’t he fire?” Murray said slowly, “He’s dead.” I said, “Are your sure?” And he said, “Here is his blood; feel his pulse.” But we couldn’t determine whether he was alive. We couldn’t move an inch either, for the Japs were really spraying our lines. So I reached over and felt his pulse. His face was sunken and there was no pulse. The blood began to fill the hole, so we fixed a poncho so that the blood would stay on the other side. The next morning I saw that he had been hit in the head and chest.

While our artillery was finding the Japs’ range, they landed three in our lines so close to us that we were covered with dirt. We thought that the next one would land square on top of us…

See much more from the diary of James A. Donahue on Guadalcanal Journal.

The Marines had won a famous victory, proof that the Japanese were far from invincible. Over 700 Japanese lay dead against 37 Marine casualties.

Lt. Colonel Pollock, the Marine Commander summarised the action:

From about 4 AM to daylight, the battle continued more or less as a state of siege, with all weapons firing and no one knowing the exact situation. When daylight came, the gruesome sight on the sandspit became visible. Dead Japs were piled in rows and on top of each other from our gun positions outward. Some were only wounded and continued to fire after playing dead. Others had taken refuge under a two-foot sand embankment and around the trunks of the coconut trees, not fifty yards from our lines. But our mortars finally cleaned them out.

Dead Japanese soldiers, killed assaulting United States Marine positions, lie on the sandbar at the mouth of Alligator Creek, Guadalcanal after the battle on August 21, 1942.

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Aug

20

1942

Jacob Vouza escapes to warn the U.S. Marines

20th August 1942: Jacob Vouza escapes to warn the U.S. Marines

He was in an awful mess. I could hardly bear to look at him. After he chewed free of his bonds, he set off to try to contact the Marines, but after a bit, he became so weak that he had to crawl on all fours. He must have crawled nearly three miles, right through the whole battle [area].

Aug

19

1942

Operation Jubilee – the raid on Dieppe

19th August 1942: Operation Jubilee – the raid on Dieppe

In the initial assault Major Porteous, working with the smaller of the two detachments, was shot at close range through the hand, the bullet passing through his palm and entering his upper arm. Undaunted, Major Porteous closed with his assailant, succeeded in disarming him and killed him with his own bayonet thereby saving the life of a British Sergeant on whom the German had turned his aim.

Aug

18

1942

SS man spends a day at the Gas Chambers

18th August 1942: An SS man spends a day at the Gas Chambers

In fact the first train arrived after some minutes, from the direction of Lemberg. 45 wagons with 6,700 people of whom 1,450 were already dead on arrival. Behind the barred hatches children as well as men and women looked out, terribly pale and nervous, their eyes full of the fear of death. The train comes in: 200 Ukrainians fling open the doors and whip the people out of the wagons with their leather whips.

Aug

17

1942

The USAAF makes its first raid on Occupied Europe

17th August 1942: The USAAF makes its first raid on Occupied Europe

When the last of the three 190’s broke off combat, I moved to the other side of the waist gunners’ station and observed at least a dozen puffs from exploding shells. They were deadly accurate as to altitude but several hundred yards to port. Meanwhile there was fighter activity overhead and to our rear. The RAF wing covering our withdrawal had climbed above us and passed somewhat astern as we left the target area.

Aug

16

1942

British POWs ‘entertained’ by the Germans

16th August 1942: British POWs ‘entertained’ by the Germans

The first film was a short extolling the virtues of the Hitler Youth Organisation. It showed a “troop” in camp in a rock climbing district; a slight story seemed to be woven into the film to give it interest but the effect of the rather good photography was spoiled by “wordiness” of the dialogue and the theatrical scenes of camp life showing much (too much) of the flag and the youths “devotion” to duty, leader and country. What the “big” picture was about only the Lord and the Germans know — it seemed to me to be one long chatter.

Aug

15

1942

Montgomery makes his mark in the desert

15th August 1942: Montgomery makes his mark in the desert

At the same time, Monty made it very clear that all belly-aching was to cease. This was a favourite phrase of his, by which he meant that orders are orders, and not a basis for discussion. Since General Ritchie’s days, the tendency had crept in for subordinates to query their instructions when they thought they knew better; with Monty this was an anathema.

Aug

14

1942

The battle to save the Ohio

14th August 1942: The battle to save the Ohio

The KING has been graciously pleased to award the GEORGE CROSS to Captain Dudley William Mason, Master, SS Ohio. During the passage to Malta of an important convoy Captain Mason’s ship suffered most violent onslaught. She was a focus of attack throughout and was torpedoed early one night. Although gravely damaged, her engines were kept going and the Master made a magnificent passage by hand-steering and without a compass.

Aug

13

1942

Attacks on Pedestal from every quarter

13th August 1942: Attacks on Pedestal from every quarter

We steamed towards one of the crippled ships, the SS Empire Hope and we saw some of her crew struggling in the water and others were in the boats. Lifeless and mutilated objects that had once been men floated past on both sides and our bows struck two corpses as we steamed forward to assist the remaining survivors. Some of our crew shouted to them to hurry up as we all had the jitters by now and we wanted to feel some speed under us.

Aug

12

1942

Pitched battles all around Pedestal convoy

12th August 1942: Pitched battles all around Pedestal convoy

I decide to carry out a second depth-charge attack and the ship is just turning when a roar goes up, ‘There she is.’ It was a successful attack, and the U-boat has come to the surface, but the job is not yet finished. Perhaps she will crash-dive and try to escape. We can take no chances. So, ‘Full ahead both engines; prepare to ram.’ The guns need no orders. They have already opened fire and the U-boat is getting seven bells knocked out of her.