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    Mount Austen (Mt. Austen, Grassy Knoll) Guadalcanal Province¬†Solomon Islands

Click For Enlargement
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USMC 1942

Click For Enlargement

Peter Flahavin 1995

Click For Enlargement
Justin Taylan 2006

Location
Lat 9° 28' 60S Long 159° 58' 60E ¬†Mount Austen has an elevation of 1,514' at summit and is the highest peak in the vicinity. The local people call the feature "Mombula" or "Mambula" meaning rotting body in the local language. During the Guadalcanal campaign known as "Grassy Knoll" to the Americans. To the west is The Gifu, Seahorse and Galloping Horse.

The view across the northern coast of Guadalcanal are magnificent. Located inland from Honiara, overlooking the entire area including Henderson Field and the Lunga Point. Today, a surfaced road goes to the summit of Mt. Austen, over top the original "East-West Trail".

Wartime History
On August 7, 1942 U.S. Marines (USMC) were tasked with occupying the "Grassy Knoll" (Mount Austen) as an objective, but moving inland, the Marines became lost in the jungle and were unable to reach their objective due to poor maps and intelligence about Guadalcanal. Invasion planners did not realize the mountain was far inland.

Japanese Observation Post at the summit of Mount Austen
During the night of September 21-22, 1942 a Japanese observer took up position on the top of Mt. Austen was used by a Japanese Navy observer, Lt. Commander Kenji Mitsui who operated a radio and made reports about American forces. Clearly visible from his observation post was Henderson Field, the entire American perimeter and shipping off Lunga Point and even Tulagi. This observation post was likely camouflaged with netting and not visible from the air. This position was occupied until early December 1942. According to Mitsui, his position was compromised when an American artillery shell was fired at his position forcing him to withdraw and he was evacuated in January 1943 by submarine.

October 7, 1942 a patrol of eight Marines from G-2-1 was the first patrol that reached Grassy Knoll to observe the Marine offensive at the Matanikau River. While atop, the patrol's radio operator Sam Philps interference from a nearby transmitter, likely from the Japanese Observation Post. A few minutes later, they came under attack and withdrew as their mission was compromised.

On December 2, 1942 Marine Raiders led by Col. Carlson during his "Long Trek Patrol" patrol crossed the Lunga River, got a report that the summit was unoccupied and got permission to explore the southernmost east-west trail. On December 3, 1942 they encountered Japanese positions at the summit and suffered four casualties: Jack Miller, was WIA in the chest by a fire from a captured Thomspon sub-machine gun and was carried out, but died the next day. Killed during the patrol were: Cpl Albert L. Hermiston, 276542 (KIA, BNR, MIA), Richard C. Farrar (KIA, BR) and Cyrill A. Matelski, Glenn Mitchell. Seriously wounded and later died were Lt. Jack Miller and Pvt Stuveysant Van Buren. All three were buried near the summit. During 1947, their remains were recovered by AGRS. Carlson's raiders inflicted at least eight Japanese casualties. They observed a trail leading inland towards The Gifu (Barana) before withdrawing towards the Matanikau River.

References
Real Blood! Real Guts! U.S. Marine Raiders and their Corpsmen in WWII by James Gleason, page 115-116
FindAGrave - Richard C Farrar buried Kinsey Cemetery in Poplar Bluff, Missouri
FindAGrave - Cyrill Anthony Matelski buried National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) C, 1384
FindAGrave - Glenn L Mitchell buried Golden Gate National Cemetery section D, site 184 date of death incorrect

Around December 17-18, 1942 the remaining Japanese atop Mount Austen withdrew from the summit towards The Gifu (Barana).

On December 29-31, 1942 a patrol from the U.S. Army 16th Infantry Regmient, 1st Battalion patrolled Mount Austen and observed eight dead Japanese and postions atop the summit, plus the field burials of three Marines and made a more accurate map of the summit area.

References: Patrol of 1st Bn. 164th Infantry -- December 29, 30 and 31st. 1942 page 1-2, map 104 overlays

On January 1, 1943 the 132nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion made a flanking attack towards Mount Auten, captured Hill 27 placing Mount Austen within the American lines.

Sea Horse
January 8-11, 1943 battle area on Guadalcanal located to the west of "The Gifu".

Galloping Horse
January 10-13, 1943 battle area on Guadalcanal with Sims Ridge and Exton Ridge

The Gifu
Strong point near Mount Austen between Hills 31 and Hill 27), named for Gifu Prefecture, the hometown of most of the defenders.

US Memorial Pillar on Mount Austen
Plauqe missing since late 1990s.

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Last Updated
August 5, 2017

 

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Map
Aug 1942

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