The "Galloping Horse" is the American nickname for a series of kunai grass covered hills and ridges inland from the north coast of Guadalcanal.
From the air, the feature resembles the shape of a galloping horse, with the Matanikau River forking around it to the north and south. To the east of Galloping Horse is Sea Horse, The Gifu and Mount Austen.
After the Japanese Army failed to penetrate the American perimeter on Guadalcanal, the Japanese 228th Regiment, 3rd Battalion commanded by Major Haruka Nishiyama and elements from the 230th Infantry Regiment dug into this area prepared to fight a defensive battle at this location using defenses including machine guns, mortars and infantry. By January 1943, the Japanese were weakened from disease and poorly supplied.
During early January 1943, as the Battle of Sea Horse was concluding, U. S. Army soldiers cleared a trail from the Matanikau River to Galloping Horse to eliminate the Japanese defenders in the area. On January 10, 1943 the Battle of Galloping Horse began at dawn and lasted for three days. At least 170 Japanese were killed and fewer than 100 Americans killed in the area. Mopping up operations continued until January 22, 1943 with an estimated 400 Japanese killed. The remaining Japanese including Major Nishiyama escaped further to the west.
Located at the eastern end of the battlefield, forming the "tail"
of the galloping horse. From Hill 50, U. S. Army 25th Infantry Division, 27th Regiment, 2nd Battalion advanced westward towards Hill 52.
Located at the flank of the galloping horse battlefield, nearest to Sea Horse and Hill 44. On January 10, 1943 during the morning captured without resistance by U. S. Army 25th Infantry Division, 27th Regiment, 3rd Battalion.
Located halfway along the battlefield, the center of the galloping horse. Japanese defenders emplaced at least six machine guns on this hill. On January 10, 1943 at dawn, the Japanese opened fire on soldiers from the U. S. Army 25th Infantry Division, 27th Regiment, 3rd Battalion. After further bombardment by artillery and aircraft, the summit was captured by 4:25pm with six machine guns eliminated and roughly thirty Japanese killed.
Hill 53 / Knoll
Hill on the western most portion of the battlefield, the "head" of the galloping horse with a kunai grass covered knoll at the "neck". Japanese forced defended this knoll with machine guns and mortar positions. On January 11, 1943 at 9:00am, the U. S. Army 25th Infantry Division, 27th Regiment, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Battalion began attacking Hill 53 but were stopped by Japanese mortar and machine gun fire and from heat exhaustion due to lack of water. On January 12, the 2nd Battalion continued the attack and nearly reached the summit but were hampered by Japanese infiltrators and were again stopped by heavy weapons fire. On January 13, four men led by Captain Charles W. Davis crawled to the knoll at the "neck". Spotted, the Japanese tossed two grenades at the attackers, but they failed to explode. The group tossed grenades back then Davis stood up and fired his rifle and pistol, rallying his men and visible to the entire line. For his actions, Davis later earned the Congressional Medal of Honor. Inspired, the Americans captured Hill 53 by noon and established positions around the perimeter area.
Located between Hill 53 to the west and Exton Ridge to the east a the "neck" of the galloping horse. On January 12, 1943 the U. S. Army 25th Infantry Division, 27th Regiment, 2rd Battalion E and F Company advanced around Sims Ridge towards Hill 53.
Located between Hill 52 to the east and Sims Ridge and Hill 53 to the west forming the body of the Galloping Horse. By January 11, 1943 the U. S. Army 25th Infantry Division, 27th Regiment, 3rd Battalion advanced to the eastern edge of Exton Ridge forming the front line. H Company and F and E Company advanced around Exton Ridge towards Hill 53.
Located at the eastern end of the battlefield, forming the "rear leg"
of the galloping horse. From Hill 55 and Hill 54, the U. S. Army 25th Infantry Division, 27th Regiment, 3rd Battalion attached over open ground ahead of Hill 52 and Hill 53. On January 10, 1943 at 6:35am their attack began, quickly capturing Hill 51, then proceeded towards Hill 52 but were pinned down by machine gun fire.
Located at the eastern end of the battlefield. The U. S. Army 25th Infantry Division, 27th Regiment, 3rd Battalion advanced from this location towards Hill 54.
Located at the northern portion of the battlefield. On January 10, 1943 at dawn, the U. S. Army Americal Division were at this position in reserve during the battle.
Located at the northwestern end of the battlefield, the "front leg" of the galloping horse. A water hole is located to the northeast near the North Fork of the Matanikau River. On January 10, 1943 following six battalions of artillery support and attacks by twenty-four aircraft, the U. S. Army 25th Infantry Division, 27th Regiment, 1st Battalion initiated their attack at 7:30am from Hill 66 towards Hill 57. Facing only light resistance, they captured the summit by 11:40am.
Located at the northern end of the battlefield. On January 10, 1943 following six battalions of artillery support and attacks by twenty-four aircraft, the U. S. Army 25th Infantry Division, 27th Regiment, 1st Battalion initiated their attack at 7:30am from Hill 66 crossed the North Fork of the Matanikau River and advanced to Hill 57.
The Galloping Horse battle is fictionalized as "The Dancing Elephant" in the novel Thin Red Line by James Jones a member of the 27th Regiment and participated in the battle. The attack on "The Dancing Elephant" was adapted into two Hollywood movies: Thin Red Line (1964) and Thin Red Line (1999).
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June 15, 2019