NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
19 Jul 2002
Two-Track Mono recording
Show: Frank Guidone Interview
Log of DAT #: 1
Engineer: Bill McQuay
Date: July 19, 2002
World War II - Guadalcanal
Q = Neal Conan
Q what is your strongest memory?
I think my strongest memory would have been during the night, we actually were on the extreme right flank with the japans on the lunga, no axial penetration on that side, laying in the foxhole, having to stay awake, trying to react to every noise you hear ¿ because we could hear the firing and the shooting and the Japanese going through the jungle and just laying there on your back and look up at the sky, what you could see with the jungle overhead, and we spent most of the night that way, most of us did, makes an awful long night not being able to do anything just waiting of the attack o come on you then or jumping in your foxhole. Those were the longest hours, the ones that I remember the most. During the day you were busy doing different things, going on patrol, laying barbed wire, those nights were what suck in my mind the most.
Yes, 13th of September I think
Q. probes. First night?
That they were going to probe into us. We knew they were out there, and we knew there was an attack coming and we were about as ready as we¿d ever be because we spent the whole day to prepare the defensive line. We often wondered how they selected us to put us in that prime spot.
We had a whole division perimeter circling the airport, Henderson field, and they pulled us off the beach because we just came from a raid on Tasimboko, and they said they were going to move us to a better spot, inland, up to this ridge, and we though ¿well, this is pretty good¿ it was a nice area, and we had our bivouacked area just down in the jungle. and Gen Edson they knew they were defending the most logical place the Japanese could hit
Yes, we were going up to the rest area. The planes would come and bomb, we were so close to Henderson Field that some of them would drop on us. We figured it would be because we were so close, that would have been the only bad feature of having that area as a rest area, because they bombed every day at noon.
Q. when you know, what¿s that like?
Well the first thing is that most of us had foxholes, and that was the first place you when¿ we didn¿t have too many strong bomb shelters, later on they made coconut logs and steel plates, that time the early refuge was a foxhole. You expected to come over and there you go you run in our foxhole and most of us laid on our back and you could see the big V¿s, the bombers coming over there and it¿s just matter of waiting. You could get killed in a couple of ways, one of their bombs could go off in the coconut trees and drown you with shrapnel or could come down, make impact and wipe you out totally. It was just luck, that was it.
Q nothing you could do
There was nothing you could do. The fighters went up thank god, and they would disrupt the attack effectively, most of the time.
Q. football game?
If we could see the dogfight, there were times we could look off towards Tulagi and see the dogfights, the planes making loops, and you could hear the noise, but you couldn¿t ever tell really who was winning, I don¿t know about the rooting part, they might have rooted a bit after the fighters came in after the battles.. I can¿t surmise or do I know of any rooting going on, it would have been difficult because we were at well dispersed foxholes for one thing, and you had no idea who was getting shot down, they were too far away.
Q. sept 1942. what was life like? Daily routine?
Well if we weren¿t out on a patrol or on the lines, back in the ¿ our first place was really in the coconut grove, on the beach, and it was beautiful. We had the casual breeze, and we had overhead shade, it was a matter of then just cleaning up our weapons. Having different type training, and just kinda waiting for the next move. We never knew what was coming up next, what our position was, we could.. What they called scuttlebutt, kind of gossip about a certain unit that went out and ran into much of bad japs, in that way we were kept up.. I used to get copies of a ships newspaper that told us about what was going on that would come ashore and then we would get some orders to go out on patrol. We went on a lot of patrolling for being on a rest area, they were small patrols¿ with a squad or a platoon to scout out different areas, there were no recreation, magazines laying around things like that. A lot of rumors, the meals were scant, we got tired of eating spam and powdered eggs, and strong coffee and hard biscuits and very little fruit. Sometimes some of the guys who would come out to the ship would come back with some surprise things with canned peaches, the ships were always good ¿ guys would come out to the ship with some goodies like that. That was generally it.
Q hungry all the time?
No, not hungry.. close to it though. All we had were the canned rations. And I could remember like after a battle or something, that I went poking down a trail looking for a full an of rations that someone could have thrown off to the side, personally there was no.. I had no feeling that way. I was never that hungry. We had our breakfast, they would make pancakes for breakfast, powdered eggs, and we never had to go too far ahead of our lines, then you couldn¿t back THEN you would be hungry, but most of the time we were within the perimeter and there was always food around somewhere, there was a book that came out later that called it ¿starvation island,¿ and I never knew where he was coming from.
Q. japs called it that
they did have a bad time.. I have always given them a lot of credit I¿m talking about their soldiers, to be in that situation they were in guad, dehydrated, still making those attacks, a lot were nothing but bones by the time they got killed. The artillery they had was awesome, our artillery as going over our heads, and they were a half a mile from our front lines, and maybe closer. Like an artillery machine gun, all night long, they had no idea where they were or where they were going, and they just piled up by the heaps. I don¿t know how our Americans would be able to do the same thing, fortunately we didn¿t going for night fighting. They did the night fighting, we did the day fighting. When it got dark, we ducked down our holes and hard our fire lanes up but no patrols, not at night, and in the morning we would pack our gear, get ready go out on our patrols and they would lay back and wait for us, just the opposite, see. but they were great night fighters, and they had a lot guts to do that. I can really admit that the American solders were not geared for night fighting.
Q was it scarier at night?
Well, yes it was scarier at night. We generally knew they were out there, and they were great at making different noises and yelling at us, distract us, it was uncanny how they could find a break on the line, several times on the ridge they would get between c and a company, right between us, and they did that with a couple of other lines. that all attributed to their ability at night ¿ we did the same thing in the daytime.
Q if you could hear them¿
Sure. Well, there¿s not much maneuvering you can do at night, we usually had a reserve, a somebody hit the crack, you¿d have to alert that reserve, they¿d have to make a movement in the dark for a counter position, so that¿s what happened down there between a dn c, and when they hit that crack it as murder, you had no idea how to tell who was Japanese and who was a marine. I think Joe Alexander covered it well in his book in Edson¿s raiders. The same thing happened in Matanikau and you don¿t dare get up because you¿d get shot down and they broke through our first line and they wanted to get to the beach so they could swim out and get away, and they ran over a lot of guys in their fox holes.
Q. first night ¿ a company¿ were you in the jungle?
No, it wasn¿t jungle, it was just low vegetation. As a matter of fact I had the right squad on the right flank of our company bordering right on our river, and I don¿t think it was really thick jungle, I remember I was in the area quite a bit, and the jungle didn¿t start like from the bottom of the ridge to maybe another 25 yards before the jungle really started, we had cut a lot of the jungle for fire lanes, things like that, but it wasn¿t like a jungle we had to patrol through. That¿s funny that most of our battles, the big battles, were open compared to the thicker jungles in the interior. You go on those patrols and you have jungle on both sides of you you just have a narrow trail to follow to get to a fighting area to get to a village or to a piece of high ground.
We at Guadalcanal ..was nothing at new Georgia, that was thick growth, in swamp. I think guad was not that bad for us. The army units came in there and did some probing in different places but Personally I didn¿t .. don¿t remember it as being thick there around the ridge.
Q. when on patrol, did scouts go with you?
Oh yeah. We always had a couple native guides, and we had a coast watcher division, Martin Clemens, in the intelligence section, and he would send native guides out with instructions where we wanted to go, and they helped us a lot. And they.. a lot of the had a pretty good idea where the japs were, especially if they were in one of their villages prior to the landing, the japs took a lot of those villages over, and they probably had a little garden in there with vegetables with a couple of chickens running around or something, those natives would go all out to take you to one of their villages in the hopes of getting it back. Martin Clemens was he had been stationed at Guadalcanal when the Japanese took it over, so he knew every river and mountain, a tremendous help to have someone like that, especially when we didn¿t have adequate maps when we landed, maps that showed you high ground, low ground, whatever, that you need.
Q. more about the second night.. what thin
we had moved over for a little bit for the next day a little more to the left away from the river, more supporting d company, a cnd c were on line but d might have been in that area too. We did change our position. We had survived that first night, and so the next day spent shifting the lines, and that¿s where Edson made the good move of moving up closer towards the top of the ridge, and kind of secretly he didn¿t want to do it out in the open because the japs were still out there ahead of us, they¿re probably al wounded our tired an they had to make another attack, and kawaguchi¿ edson had hoped that when he moved his front line position up a little higher, now when the japs came in at night they would anticipate that his line would be at the same place, but not B company had more firing lanes and they were not immediate to the attack that they were before. The japs had more ground to cover than they thought. On that day, that night¿ we could hear the japs out there edson wanted to find out where they were and what they were doing, so they put up a combat control of probably a platoon and I was selected to take a squad in that platoon. So we took a point at the lunga river , and we were probing to the jap line, when you can hear them chomping and talking, but you don¿t know where they are but they¿re ahead of you and we¿re going to move along as close as you could get¿and we had a sgt. By the name of Joe Bunton, he was a platoon leader. And we started getting closer and closer¿ and we were like in a column with a point out and moving up and we had also security on the flanks, they moved a little slower because they had to move through the jungle, and finally I heard the rifle and so I new where we had contact, that was our only orders was to make contact and we¿d know where their location was up and down the line. The point saw the japs and the japs saw the point, and Bam bam they started firing and we all jumped off the trail, waiting on the side waiting for further orders, were probably going to be turn around and start back, it was just about noon and here come the bombers, they got over us and dropped their bombs, and they dropped them on us and dropped them on the japs, and the last bomb was dropped maybe 3, 4 hundred yards and me and a friend, he¿d be near the roots of a bamboo tree and it literally picked us up and dropped us, and it dumped all these vines and foliage in front of us. And we were lucky because the bombing patterns will start way out on your left and this one stopped fortunately where it did or I wouldn¿t be here today. When they got back to their lines our squad leader went up and made his report
our bivouac area was behind the ridge and the bombs hit that place and ripped up our personal belongings, pup tents, personal belongings. We had a couple of casualties. One of those casualties was a sgt., he was in the same platoon, and one of us had to go on that patrol. My platoon leaders said that ¿i don¿t care which one of you go,¿ and we flipped a coin, and I lost and I went on the patrol .. and he was the first one I saw when I came back. We continued that day fortifying those positions and waiting the same way during the night, and gen edson had a meeting with his staff that day and he said ¿this is not over, they¿ll be back,¿ and we took his words, because he was one oft hose veteran fighters, he spent his younger days in Nicaragua and Haiti, fighting all over those jungles and most of us looked up to him and rightfully so. he later won the congressional medal of honor for fighting on the ridge that night. As a matter of fact it was the same thing for me in a company that I had done the night before, I wasn¿t in the thick of the fighting but I new what was going on, and I¿m just thankful that I was just on the edge of it. None of the japs ran through our position, and they would be back the next night. The next day we just pulled all our wounded. They never pulled their wounded much, When they were wounded, the y were half dead beoer they were hit from being worn out and dispirited, there was a couple who got through our lins and got clear through to Henderson when they got hit. They may have had the desire, maybe the will to do it but not the physical capability.
I was a Sgt. I was a private, pfc, corp, then on tulagi, sgt. , with a citation I made sgt. Then I made staff sgt. Then I went to gunnery sgt., then 2nd lt, 1st lt, then I broke my contract for a while, and I went out, and I came back as a tech sgt., 2 lt, 1st lt, then retired as a captain.
I was most proud of that rank. On Tulagi, night after one of our battles, there, my comp commander was capt walt, later made asst. 4-star commandant, he came up to my place, I was in a foxhole, he told me, he says ¿good work, good work, I¿m promoting you for sgt, and recommending you for navy cross.¿ Well I didn¿t hear the navy cross.. but when he told me sgt, I was so proud of that. That was the best rank, even with commissioned rank, I always wanted to be as close as I could be to the troops, with the troops, among them. I think that was one of my best qualities. I had to think about taking that rank because it takes you so far away from the enlisted.
Q. next morning
Well I think we came off of there.. you could look around and see weapons and brass, equipment, gas masks scattered all over, there weren¿t just a few straggled jap bodies, nothing like a big heap.. they were further down in the jungle where the artillery caught most of the m. the artillery did the biggest job wiping those out. If it weren¿t for the artillery we wouldn¿t have held that hill. The next day they had army fighter planes and staffed that whole area and that was a sight to be seen, I don¿t know if there was anybody still living down there, but there weren¿t afterward I tell you! That¿s about all I can remember seeing, The battlefield was littered with al kinds of equipment, mostly¿
Q we think of a ridge as a gentle slope.. this was ¿ steep
Yeah, yeah.. it¿s got a crown, where the ridge ended right at the crown, and then it drops a pretty good grade. It¿s probably what may be.. I can¿t put it in degrees.. it was clear, all clear ground, bald is a good definition. The slope itself
You would pump up.. you would bend those knees going up that slope.
Q. naval shelling.
Oh, well. Fortunately, in a lot of cases, when this happened our position was on the beach, a whole coconut grove for the whole length of that sector, there was coconut grove you could call it, and we were in those trees, and at this time we had better shelter ¿ we dug deeper, and had more cover with coconut logs and everything like that, sand and everything else. Early in the morning we could look at and we would be looking north toward Tulagi, and we would see those battleships blinking, they were firing and we would wait and you could almost count 1 2 3 4 and they would go over us, like a boxcar fright I¿m telling you it made such a noise! and it would land in Henderson airfield, we were never shelled ourselves, because we weren¿t in the position to be shelled. Once in a while, there was one jap which was up what would be west of us, on the jap side, with a like probably a 75 mm or something like that, they said operated out of a cave, and he¿d come out and he¿d fire, and they¿d call him pistol pete, and he would fire intermitted, just enough to keep us awake during the night towards Henderson field, so he was a pain, and so would the other guy in the airplane.. he would fly over us, and go into a dive, and he wouldn¿t do anything. Later on they brought in some anti aircraft, and surprised him. They called him washing machine Charlie, and pistol pete. Those two guys bothered us more than naval shelling. The shelling just played havoc with Henderson airfield, and the pilots too,I don¿t know what.. how many casualties they suffered or anything, they had some pretty well built shelters, and I think one night admiral turner was in charge of the whole naval task force, and came over one day and spent the night and he went through one of those shellings, and he said ¿get me out of here,¿ so they had a good idea of what were ere going through every night.
Q could you feel it
Oh yeah, we could feel it, there was a shake, more like 16in shells from the battleships, I seem to think.. I¿m trying to think you can actually see those shells in the daytime, if you pick them up right away, I kind of remember that, I can¿t if that¿s true or not I don¿t know, we used to observe mortar shells, 81s, you get right behind the tube and they drop it in and follow it out in the sky and that¿s much smaller than a shell. I think that¿s not apropos to what we¿re talking about, new Georgia¿
(new Georgia story)
And our navy came in about dawn and they hit that thing, they threw shells for a half our and we could see hitting down around the airfield. That¿s one time that I had observation of our own navy treating them like they treated us, it just felt good.
Q. what was your feeling after the first couple of days.. adm turner.. transports.. left..
exactly. And I tell ya, we were on tulagi then, that was our first objective, raider battalion, we landed on august the 7tha and it was almost aug 8th we had the island pretty well controlled, I was on the beach and we had some reports that some japs were going to come in on the beach and we dug in on the beach and it rained, it rained all night and on the sea we saw some gun flashed and it roars, and the thunder of the guns we said ¿wow, I can¿t believe that,¿ and we were soaking wet ¿ actually that naval battle was going around near savo, and the next morning and we woke up and looked around there was not a ship in sight, before that our task force was out there. They sunk 5 of our cruisers that night there then we later got word that they had to leave because there was a jap task force coming down, we never realized the whole story until it came in on the radio, but we didn¿t find out about the exact lost when we found out about it, there was a lot going on that night and I¿m glad I wasn¿t a part of it. 2 or 3 days later I was with the company we went over the savo island to make a recon, and that¿s when we saw al the ship debris, lifejackets and things of that stuff up on the beach that had come in from the battle then we surmised that maybe this was worse than we thought it was. So that was bad night for the navy. And we did, we didn¿t get any supplies, the only thin that dared come in was the APDs, the destroyers that were turned into troop transports, specifically for our raiders, they could put one company of raiders on an APD, and they put emergency supplies and dropped them off at guad and zoomed back there, but it was a little while before the ships started coming in.
they didn¿t say much because we didn¿t know, we really didn¿t know. I did a lot of reading about it since then, you know and it¿s just.. they goofed, they made some mistakes, and they didn¿t have some ships where they should have been, and that night they lost those 5 cruisers and Admiral by the name.. a British admiral, Crutchley, right¿ and he was up on some other flagship, not that he could have done any more, I don¿t know. When you look at that battle plan, you got to credit the japs it was unbelievable how they did that, coming down one side of savo, rounding savo, going right back out, how they snuck in between those two destroyers..that were out there on patrol, everything happened for perfection. and the good thing for us is they could have gone over to guad to wipe out all our transports, because they were there then. Those were bad days, I think..there probably was only 2 times where you might say that the issue was in doubt on Guadalcanal definitely, divisions had plans to destroy all of our equip and move into the interior and fight as guerrillas, they actually had battle plans for that ¿ and I¿m glad we didn¿t have to do that - and the other time maybe was tarowa, was a time when we could have lost and didn¿t. Outside of that I don¿t think the issue was ever in doubt throughout the pacific from then on.
Q touch and go
Yes, I think so. It was great the way things we slowly started to managed to build up, the raider battalion got into really one of their worst battles just about two or three day before we went about ship to leave the island, you know and it was near the end of our tour then and we had to go up to up to the Matanikau River
and the ship we were to go aboard was already out there anchored, we probably were to go aboard in a couple of days, and we were up in the line, and our line was.. we were defending the line where we had 150 japs trapped against the river, they couldn¿t get back and so we surrounded them, and that night they came out and this was called the 2nd battle of Matanikau and they came out charging and killed quite a number of guys. That next morning we went back to our rest are and maybe a day or two later we went aboard ship and went to new Zealand, those guys I think there was probably seven or eight of them that were killed by japs as they laid in their foxhole, and it was night and they had put smoke up and those japs came thought here with their bayonet, nobody saw anything because it was dark and we didn¿t realize until the next morning that they were dead, and every one of them got the navy cross and had a ship named after them. But that¿s no big deal these days, right?
Q. as you think back, what do you remember most?
yeah¿.Well, I¿m glad.. I remember the guys that didn¿t come back. Weather was nothing really, food a little bit, threat of being captured, things like that ¿ those are didn¿t even enter my mind. I was 18, 19 years old, most of us were, I think we had the best training that anyone had. I don¿t think we doubted in our mind that we could beat these guys. If I sit down and start thinking about that.. some of those guys I was with for two years. We were like family I¿m proud to say that that is what I remember the most and will probably do so until I die.