“The silence was deafening.”
The World War II Battle of Guadalcanal was the first major offensive and a decisive victory for the Allies in the Pacific. Japanese troops were stationed in this section of the Solomon Islands, when U.S. Marines launched a surprise attack in August 1942 and took control of an air base under construction.
Reinforcements came in, a series of clashes unfolded, and both sides suffered heavy losses. But the Japanese losses were greater, forcing them to withdraw from Guadalcanal by February.
Marine Platoon Sergeant Mitchell Paige had a part to play in this fight. He was a United States Marine who won the Medal of Honor for his actions at the Battle of Guadalcanal.
One thing to know about Guadalcanal. At the start, neither side had seen defeat, and neither side was going to back down.
Sergeant Paige and his 33 men were dug in on a hill when over 2,000 enemy approached. The fight was on.
Paige and his men poured out lead to beat them back, but nobody was begging off. Soon it was hand-to-hand in the foxholes, while the Marine machine gunners kept firing on the main enemy force.
The enemy had swept his left flank and driven Fox Company out of position. To his right another George Company could not fire as it was on higher ground and might hit them.
In the dark, Paige realized he had been moving from one machine gun to another and except for the nearby enemy he was alone:
“I didn’t have time to really think about it. I was too busy shooting as fast as I could, trying to get a bead on the oncoming troops.”
At one point a group of enemy overran his position. Paige had to swing his gun around and take them out before they could go over the crest and down the to the battalion command post.
It was time. He yelled to George Company, “Fix bayonets; follow me.” He tossed two belts of ammo over his shoulders, unclamped his machine gun, and led the charge at a dead run. The rest of the Marines were “whooping and hollering like a bunch of wild Indians.”
And when they reached the bottom of the hill, where the jungle began, there was nothing left to shoot. The battle was over.
Platoon Sergeant Paige said that after ten hours, “The silence was deafening.”