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    Tenaru (Ilu, Alligator Creek) Guadalcanal Solomon Islands

Click For Enlargement
Click For Enlargement
Click For Enlargement
August 22, 1942

Click For Enlargement

March 23, 1943

Click For Enlargement
Click For Enlargement
Peter Flahavin 1996

Click For Enlargement

Click For Enlargement
Peter Flahavin 1999

Location
Tenaru village and the Tenaru River are located on the northern coast of Guadalcanal, to the east of Henderson Field and Lunga. The river in the area was nicknamed "Alligator Creek" by the Americans, a misnomer, as no alligators inhabit Guadalcanal, only crocodiles.

Fighter 3 (Emergency Field)
Built after the battle, emergency airfield to the east of the Ilu River, south of Tenaru village.

Battle of the Tenaru
Also, "Battle of the Ilu River" or "The Battle of Alligator Creek". The Japanese Army's "Ichiki Regiment" 28th Infantry Regiment, under the command of of Colonel Kiyonao Ichiki had landed by destroyers at Taivu Point on August 19, 1942 and marched westward toward the Marine perimeter at Tenaru. Without preforming any reconassiance about the American positions.

First wave: The Ichiki's force attacked on August 21, 1942 at 1:30am, opening fire with machine guns and mortars on the Marine positions on the west bank. The first wave of about 100 Japanese soldiers charged across the sandbar towards the Marines. Marine machine gun fire and 37mm canister rounds killed most of the Japanese soldiers as they crossed the sandbar. A few of the Japanese soldiers reached the Marine positions, engaged in hand to hand combat with the defenders, and captured a few of the Marine front-line emplacements. A company of Marines, held in reserve just behind the front line, attacked and killed most of the remaining Japanese soldiers that had breached the front line defenses, ending Ichiki's first assault about an hour after it had begun.

Second wave: At 02:30 about 150 to 200 Japanese troops again attacked across the sandbar and was again almost completely wiped out. At least one of the surviving Japanese officers from this attack advised Ichiki to withdraw his remaining forces, but Ichiki declined to do so. As Ichiki's troops regrouped east of the creek, and Japanese mortars bombarded the Marine lines. The Marines answered with 75mm artillery and mortar barrages into the areas east of the creek.

Third wave: About 05:00, another wave of Japanese troops attacked, this time attempting to flank the Marine positions by wading through the ocean surf and attacking up the beach into the west bank area of the creek bed. The Marines responded with heavy machine gun and artillery fire along the beachfront area, again causing heavy casualties among Ichiki's attacking troops and causing them to abandon their attack and withdraw back to the east bank of the creek. For the next couple of hours, the two sides exchanged rifle, machine gun, and artillery fire at close range across the sandbar and creek.

At daybreak, the 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, under Lieutenant Colonel Lenard B. Cresswell, crossed the river upstream (south) of the battle area, enveloped Ichiki's troops from the south and east, cutting off any avenue for retreat, and began to "compress" Ichiki's troops into a small area in a coconut grove on the east bank of the creek. Aircraft from Henderson Field strafed Japanese soldiers that attempted to escape down the beach. Later in the afternoon, five Marine M3 Stuart tanks attacked across the sandbar into the coconut grove firing their machine guns and canister shot and rolling over the bodies, both alive and dead, of any Japanese soldiers unable or unwilling to get out of the way. When the tank attack was over, Vandegrift wrote that, "the rear of the tanks looked like meat grinders."

By 17:00 on August 21, Japanese resistance had ended. Colonel Ichiki was killed by mortar fire. Curious Marines began to explore the battlefield, some injured Japanese troops shot at them, killing or wounding several Marines. Thereafter, Marines shot or bayoneted all of the Japanese bodies that they encountered, although about 15 injured and unconscious Japanese soldiers were taken prisoner. About 30 of the Japanese troops escaped to rejoin their regiment's rear echelon at Taivu Point.

West Bank
American occupied. After the battle, this area remained defended and later a camp area, and finally a dump area. Today, the area is overgrown. To the left (west) of the trail to the beach is a Marine camp area, with water tank. To the right of the trail on the west bank, just along the river line, is a large area where they seem to have buried aircraft bits and pieces from Henderson Field There were metal remains everywhere: mountings for radial engines, pieces of wing, aircraft parts, pieces of wing, propellers, rusted lids of  37mm ammo cans.  Unfortunately, this dump is on top of the Marine August 1942 positions, burying them.

Ilu River Memorial at Tenaru
White Memorial pillar near the beach, obscured by high grass, plaque ripped off since 1995. This memorial is reportedly at the position where Albert Schmid and two other Marines: Corporal Leroy Diamond and Pfc John Rivers, manned a .30-caliber water-cooled machine gun inside a sandbag-and-log emplacement camouflaged with palm fronds and jungle greenery. Johnny Rivers opened fire and the mass broke up. Screams of rage and pain came from the other side as the Japanese concentrated everything they had on his position and on another machine-gun position 150 yards downstream. The machine gun on their right stopped firing, put out of action. Then a dozen bullets tore into Rivers' face, killing him. His finger froze on the trigger, sending 200 rounds into the darkness. Schmid shoved Rivers' body out of the way and took over the gun. Corporal Diamond got in position to load it for him, but was hit in the arm, the bullet knocking him partially across Schmid's feet. He could not load anymore, but while Schmid fired the gun, Diamond stood beside him, spotting targets. Schmid now was both loading and firing the machine gun. When he got close to the end of a 300-round belt of ammunition. Schmid continued loading and firing the machine gun for more than four hours, with and without help, and once the enemy got close enough to throw a grenade into Schmid's position, wounding him in his eye and afterwards was later evacuated. On February 18, 1943, Schmid received the Navy Cross "for extraordinary heroism and outstanding courage."

Japanese Memorial at Tenaru
Simple pillar memorial to the Ichiki Regiment. The memorial reads in English & Japanese:
"Ichiki Party" was organized in Ashikawn, Japan. They landed on this land in August, 1942 and most of them were to die in fierce battle. We priase the soldiers of Ichiki and those of all nations who died here, for their nation. It is our sincerest wish that the world will remain peacful, forever without anymore wars.

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Last Updated
August 27, 2014

 

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