Chris Merillat  Marine Combat Correspondent

Interview by Peter Flahavin


(L to R) Chris Merillat
Thayer Soule
Canal photography officer
Norm Hatch
Combat cameraman with 2 Marine Div

Guadalcanal Journal
One more entry from my journal in which Martin Clemens is mentioned.  This was written September 13 1942 , during the Battle of Bloody (or Edson's) Ridge.  The battle wa going on 2-300 yards from the Command Post and a few Japanese were infiltrating the spur of the ridge on which the CP had been set up:

".. I watched the time closely, praying for dawn., when I knew the mess would be cleared up.   I lay there for an hour at least, then as it began to grow light I realized I was in full view of snipers on the opposite ridge.  Others about me had already begun to find other cover and though it was now so light that I knew I could be clearly seen & might draw fire from Marines as well as Japs I dashed up the slope into the D-2 tent & hit the deck.  Two others closely followed & just as we got inside a bullet pinged against a steel plate propped near the entrance - in a direct line with me, it seemed.

I ducked around behind the D-2 tent, saw Col. Buckley  [the D-2, chief Intelligence officer] who also seemed to be looking for cover, asked him where everyone was going  (no one was in sight), and he said I could hop in one of the D-2 shelters - which I did with alacrity, to find that I shared it with Capt. Clemens (who didn't recognize me in the dark and was inclined to dispute my entry), a wounded Raider, two British missionaries huddled in the far corner, & 2 Marines.  This was about 0500 and I stayed until the sky was bright.

Recently, for the first time in many years, I have been looking at the journals I kept during the campaign there. The entry for October 19 1942, during a lull after the most stressful few days of the whole show, includes the following.  Sadly ironical now

Monday, October 19, 1942
Last night I lay on a poncho outside the tent, looking up at a brilliant half moon, chatting with Cromie and Keyes and our 2 District officers - Martin  Clemens & Major Mathers.  Listening to their descriptions of Guadalcanal in peacetime, of its marvellous fertilitiy, its pleasant places, I could scarcely remember there is a war on, that the Japs are making a major drive to annihilate us.  There had been an incredibly beautiful sunset - soft rosy glow over jagged blue mountains

1944 Book, "The Island"
Despite my careful avoidance of anything barred for security reasons -- not that I knew much of anything  at the time -- the Navy banned publication of the book for many  months, on so-called security grounds, until Gen. Vandegrift became USMC Commandant early in 1944 and got it released.  There could be no mention at that time, of course, of  coastwatcher work, and I had carefuly avoided it in the book.  I suspect the main reason for holding the book up was public relations.

Mantanikau Sandbar
No, I didn't inspect the knocked out tanks at the Mantanikau sandbar.  I only wandered among the corpses at Alligator Creek and picked up, from an officer's bag, a bakelite - this was before plastics now familiar - toothbrush case that I use to this day when traveling.

 

  Discussion Forum Daily Updates Reviews Museums Interviews & Oral Histories  
 
Pacific Wrecks Inc. All rights reserved.
Donate Now Facebook Twitter YouTube Google Plus Instagram