It 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
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
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.
A 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
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!