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Harold C. Holden
USMC Dog Tag Found on Tulagi & Returned

by John Innes 2004

Click For EnlargementIt is 7.30 am, 7th August 1942, Corporal. Harold Holden is preparing to go to war. He is in a landing craft on his way to Blue Beach on Tulagi. The United States is about to commence their first offensive land operation in the Second World War and Harold Holden is at the spearhead of that assault.

Many thoughts must be going through Harold’s mind. Such as; ‘I am scared’, ‘what is going to happen’, ‘are the Japanese waiting for us", ‘will I make it’, ‘I must not let my unit down’.

Harold is part of an elite group of people, the US Marines. He is also part of another elite group, the 1st Marine Raider Battalion. This is a special Battalion chosen from volunteers from the US Marines. They were guaranteed early action against the enemy.

At 8.00 am Harold’s boat touches the coral and with his rifle held above his head Harold wades ashore at Blue Beach. The enemy does not oppose the initial landing. Harold’s D Company gets ashore and wheels right to find and engage the enemy. They find them. Running across a bridge across a small cutting D company finds the Japanese. Harold has found himself on a hill designated as Hill 281 by the military planners. This is where the main Japanese defences and headquarters are on Tulagi. A labyrinth of Japanese caves and fighting positions confronts the Raiders and Harold Holden. Fierce and deadly fighting now begins.

9.30 am 23rd November 2002, a picnic group has travelled from Guadalcanal to Tulagi to have an early Christmas party. Many of them had never been to Tulagi before. One of their group was fascinated by the history of the Second World War and was keen to show off all the historic sites. He showed them the Cutting, made by prisoners. This was a road way cut through the rock of a hill. Then on Blue Beach the scene of American landings during the war. Up to the site of the British Resident Commissioners house on the highest point with wonderful views. This had become the Headquarters for the US Marines during the war. The group then moved on to Hill 281 where the Japanese main defensive positions were. They went through some Japanese caves used as defensive positions and stood in Japanese gun emplacements on Hill 281.

Click For EnlargementA local Tulagi resident noting the interest being shown approached the group and offered something he had found while he was digging. It was an American dog tag. The name on the dog tag was initially hard to see. After a bit of cleaning a name became readable, the name was Harold Holden. John Innes, the man showing the group around was intrigued. Was Harold killed in the fighting? How can I find the family? Was he in the Raiders?

Returning to Guadalcanal John emails some friends of his in America. Stan Jersey, a veteran of the 13th Air Force who flew C-47s out of Henderson Field, and Major Bill Fisher a 2nd Raider and an executive of the Marine Raider Association. “Was Harold in the Raiders and what happened to him”?

25th November 8.00 John goes to work and to his delight finds emails from both of his friends waiting, ‘Harold Holden lives in Oceanside California and this is his phone number!’

The first thing John does after reading that email was to immediately ring Harold. Harold was flabbergasted and so happy. He couldn’t explain how he lost his dog tag. After the fighting was over on Tulagi the Raiders transferred to Guadalcanal and it was on Guadalcanal that he noticed his dog tag was missing. He often wondered whether he had lost it Tulagi or Guadalcanal. He now knew.

Harold went on to participate in some of the most famous actions on Guadalcanal. He was with the Raiders at Tasimboko, Bloody Ridge, Matanikau 1 and Matanikau 2.

He visited Tulagi one more time. When the Raiders were sent into action in New Georgia in the Central Solomons he fell into a coma, suffering from the rare and deadly form of "black widow" malaria. While in this state, the Medics picked him up and sent him on a PBY (Catalina Flying Boat) back to Tulagi. His unit didn’t know this and posted him as Missing In Action (MIA). His parents were notified he was MIA although he was safe in Tulagi.

The long arm of coincidence has reached across the years and once again Tulagi enters Harold’s story, this time with the discovery of his 1942 dog tag. The discovery has given us the opportunity to once again reflect on those climactic times and the heroism shown by Harold and those Marine Raiders.

The above story is by John Innes, Harold's son Butch Holden, himself a Marine, tells of his fathers recollections of that 7th August:

"He went over the side of a WWI four stack destroyer especially converted to transport Marine Raiders rapidly into combat, and finally into a Higgins Boat, forerunners of Marine Corps amphibious landing craft. Six Higgins Boats had come along to each side of the transport picking up approximately 25 marines each. Dad's boat was designated to land on Blue Beach. He was a 21 year old Corporal a member of Weapons Platoon, D or "Dog" Company and team leader "the main gunner" of a 30 calibre light machine gun team.

Besides being scared like everyone Holden and his assistant gunner Mickey Kincannon were peaking looks over the landing craft gunnels trying to get a quick view of where they were heading and checking to see if the landing would be opposed or not. It was a rough ride in a moderate surf and some of the troops had a difficult time keeping their last meal down.

The same old questions kept coming back in Holden's mind; will I get my team off the beach without loosing anyone, will I perform my duties without freezing up, was the battalion's intelligence any good, how close will the Higgins Boat get us to shore and can I survive the next few minutes?

Age old questions warriors ask themselves prior to any battle and Holden was no different then anyone else in Edson's Raiders this first morning where America went on the offense for the first time August 7, 1942. Then from the rear of the boat he heard a gruff voiced Navy Higgins Driver say, "You two on the starboard gunnels get your damn heads down before you loose them before the war starts!"

The boat Holden was in was the 3rd landing craft to hit the beach to start hostilities against Japan in WWII. And at the end of the surf and Blue Beach at the edge of the jungle was an omen of tragic and grizzly times to come.

As Edison's Raiders leaped and rolled over the sides of their boats and into the surf as they charged ahead in full combat gear to Blue Beach dodging shell holes made from the 5" guns on the converted transports and into the jungle where many Raiders along with my father drove for limited cover into an old British Colonial Cemetery on Tulugi!

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