Bloody fight for Guadalcanal continues

Fresh troops from the 2d Marine Division during a halt on Guadalcanal, circa November, 1942. Most of these Marines are armed with M1903 bolt-action rifles and carry M1905 bayonets and USMC 1941 type packs. Two men high on the hill at right wear mortar vests and one in center has a World War I type grenade vest. The Marine seated at far right has a Browning Automatic Rifle.

A U.S. Marine patrol crosses the Matanikau River on Guadalcanal in September, 1942. It was near this location that Anthony Casamento’s machine gun team, from Company D, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, made their stand. Every single one of them was killed or seriously wounded.

On Guadalcanal the Marines continued to hold out in the defence of the base at Henderson Field. The Japanese strategy was to throw men into the fight to seek to overwhelm the Marines positions, resulting in wholesale carnage. The Marines clung on but not without sustaining many casualties, it took extraordinary tenacity to hold up against the onslaught. One man was to distinguish himself on 1st November, although it was to take a long time before he was recognised for what he did:

CORPORAL ANTHONY CASAMENTO
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Company “D”, First Battalion, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division on Guadalcanal, British Solomon Islands, in action against the enemy Japanese forces on November 1, 1942.

Serving as a leader of a machine gun section, Corporal Casamento directed his unit to advance along a ridge near the Matanikau River where they engaged the enemy. He positioned his section to provide covering fire for two flanking units and to provide direct support for the main force of his company which was behind him.

During the course of this engagement, all members of his section were either killed or severely wounded and he himself suffered multiple, grievous wounds. Nonetheless, Corporal Casamento continued to provide critical supporting fire for the attack and in defense of his position.

Following the loss of all effective personnel, he set up, loaded, and manned his unit’s machine gun, tenaciously holding the enemy forces at bay. Corporal Casamento single-handedly engaged and destroyed one machine gun emplacement to his front and took under fire the other emplacement on the flank.

Despite the heat and ferocity of the engagement, he continued to man his own weapon and repeatedly repulsed multiple assaults by the enemy forces, thereby protecting the flanks of the adjoining companies and holding his position until the arrival of his main attacking force.

Corporal Casamento’s courageous fighting spirit, heroic conduct, and unwavering dedication to duty reflected great credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

Anthony Casamento’s actions were not officially recognised until 1980, which must be unique amongst Medal of Honor recipients. The process of making the award only began in 1964 when two eyewitnesses to his actions were found.

In a White House ceremony, former Cpl Anthony Casamento, a machine gun squad leader in the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, was decorated by President Jimmy Carter on 22 August 1980, 38 years after the battle for Guadalcanal. Looking on are Casamento’s wife and daughters and Gen Robert H. Barrow, Marine Commandant.

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