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him. >> right. no, no. >> he's going to withstand every issue. i've got to go, ed. i'm sorry. michael goodwin and ed tonight on "war stories," it was called the gettysburg of the pacific. >> if you weren't dug in, you were dead. >> i especially looked for survivors in the water. i couldn't see nothing. >> it was america's first round of defense in world war ii. >> it was enough to scare anybody. maline, you die. they loved to run bandits through you and then shoot you. >> that's tonight on "war stories." good evening.
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i'm oliver north and welcome to war stories. we're here at the national museum in texas. this exhibit memorializes one of the bloodiest campaigns of world war ii. guadalcanal. he saw guadalcanal as a crucial stepping stone on the road to tokyo from august 1942 until february 1943, guadalcanal became better known as the gettysburg of the pacific. as you'll see, mistakes were made on both sides, and what became the longest campaign of the second world war. the bloody fighting cost the lives of some 7,000 americans and over 30,000 japanese. tonight you'll hear from the heroes who fought from the air, on the ground, and the seas around this sweltering green hell. joe was the farm boy from sioux falls, iowa, who dreamed of becoming the next charles
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lindburg. >> i want to go to war. i said i'll do anything. i want to do anything to get in a fighter. >> john was a long way from columbus, ohio, and hiss father's saloon. >> it was hell, and it was spotted with screams, hollering, both japanese and marines. >> mitch had walk 2d 00 miles from his pennsylvania home to sign up for the marines. >> all of a sudden you see nothing but bayonets coming at you and the most horrible screaming. >> and frank had just graduated from new jersey's eaton high school. >> next thing i know i was coming out of the water and we had shots all around us. >> summer of 1942, they were just four of the 105,000 boys headed to guadalcanal. at the time nearly a million americans were serving their country overseas. back home it was a time of sacrifice and determination.
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>> now that the national rubber crisis has caused tires to be rationed, this is one. we see the car balding along on wooden tires. >> part of the solomon island chain, guadalcanal is about twice the size of long island, new york. it's been described as a hung of pes ta'u lands and rot that's been diabolical all the time. >> i think everyone on the island had malaria. >> near australia, guadalcanal seemed an unlikely stepping stone for america to turn the tide against the japanese. >> the japanese used this. >> richard frank is a vietnam veteran who's written a definitive history on guadalcanal. >> why did they pick guadalcanal as a target for this first offensive. >> they determined that it was
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essential. he determined that the place go was guadalcanal because that's where the japanese were threatening to move down through the southern part of the pacific and cut the lines of communication between australia and new zealand. what's interesting is the commander in chief had no intention of launching an offensive in the pacific, mainly because he didn't believe his forces were ready for the attack. >> what's remarkable about this is that true let's one man who does it. it's king. >> admiral earnest king was wasn't described as being, quote, meaner than hell, one with respect, not love. he grew up in ohio, the sop of a railway mechanic. at the age of 63 he was a member of the naval office and member of the president's joint chiefs of staff. the two men, polar opposites in style respected each other and shared a special distrust of general douglas macarthur. >> in the aftermath of the fall
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of the philippines and mack car thursday's precipitous departure, is he still in washington considered a great leader? >> douglas macarthur was probably as popular an american as any juncture. they also realized they were dealing with an ego maniac. he was versus expect to people in washington. >> the political stakes were enormous. macarthur, nimitz, and king had no way of knowing. for that victory our navy had broke the crip toe graphic code used by the japanese. no one was supposed to know about it. but a day after the battle the "chicago tribune" printed the story and headline. it wasn't cleared of the government's censors, and fdr
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was furious. the president ordered attorney general francis biddle to be tried for treason, punishable by death but the navy didn't want a trial and refused to cooperate. nonetheless the secret was out. >> the japanese changed their main operational code at the end of may 1942 and again in august 1942. this effectively shut us out from actual decoding of japanese messages throughout the entire guadalcanal campaign. >> and the reality was the japanese army had never tasted it. i had crushed the americans in the philippines, the dutch in east indies, and the british in berlin, malia, singapore, and hong kong. now their target was australia. they began a systematic seizure that no one knew exactly why. >> after the battle at midway american commanders were in sort of a three-way competition as to what to do. >> describe that friction.
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>> general nemitz believed. macarthur proposed a relief and also wanted the navy to provide him with a cup of carriers to support that. >> in addition the areaiers, macarthur told king he wanted him to take over the first marine division. he waged a political war against the navy. >> admiral king was adamant that the navy must move onto an offensive. he was equally adamant that no carriers were going to be subjected to the command of general macarthur and he under the politics of it, that by seizing the mission, the navy would dominate the resources and hence the operation in the past tock come. >> macarthur got no carriers but the decision by the joint chiefs of staff was indeed solomonic. they committed the command along the 159th meridian. they would get all islands east. macarthur got new guinea, new
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britain, and islands west. >> what intelligence did we have at the time about what the japanese had on the island of guadalcanal? >> intelligence is one of the shortfalls in american planning. we did not have a good fix on how many japanese were actually on guadalcanal. >> but someone did. what the americans didn't know was that a spy network was already in place in the solomons. in 1939 native scouts were coast watchers were coordinated by 27-year-old martin clemons and his boss, australian lieutenant commander eric feldt. >> he thought of the design. he realized we'd never have enough troops and we were learning to use those long before the japans came anywhere near. >> martin had lived in the solomon island as a british officer years before the war
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began. the islands were then a british protectory. >> we then were sent off to different districts to do work like counting out the rations and visiting villages way up in the hills, learning a bit about the native language. they used to comb their hair up. it stuck right up over their head. they'd wear any length of cal o calicos as they called it, materials wrapped around their middle. >> martin maintained himself. up in the hills rorpting on what was going on. and later on organized what was an extraordinarily effective intelligence network that the marines made full use of throughout the campaign. >> i said, now, this is what you've got do. we've got to find out the caliber of guns, we've got to to find out the number of people. we had things ready, which would carry about 400 miles.
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had two frequencies. you could switch from one the other. that was very important for us. once the japanese arrived, they could hear our transmissions, but they couldn't find us because we had a code, a simple code, and the men were taking turns to report any strange object on the sea or in the sky or on the land. >> one of clemons' 400 scouts stood out, 42-year-old retired police sergeant jacob buza. >> he had 25 years. he came and reported to me and said i offer my services. he was the first to meet the americans. >> strange lead coach watchers to watch their movements so the imperial army decided to wipe out the naval scouts. one of those they left for dead
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they will not be seen again till after this war. >> during the summer of '42, blackouts became routine in no, even in times square. 8,000 miles away martin clemons and his scouts including jacob boozer were gathering intelligence against the japanese. >> once they got knocked on the head, well, who's going to report to them. they had spears and bow and arrows, axs. they can lop heads off . >> it was still formidable.
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and on the ground intelligence estimates put 8,000 jungle-hardened enemy troops on the two islands, but the reality was about 2,500 on guadalcanal and a thousand on the other. but the enemies' intent on guadalcanal was chris cal clear. >> martin clemons was sending information about the japanese and was starting to build an airfield along the point of guadalcanal. that threatened the sea lanes between new zealand and australia as far as america was concerned. >> from san diego 24-year-old captain john sweeney shipped out with the first fattbattalion. he just didn't know where he was headed. >> beyond the seas were the orders we received. we didn't know at that time how we were going to be used. we were called a mobile reserve
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for a larger force. >> unlike sweden, 24-year-old sergeant mitch page already knew the enemy from his time in china. >> many of them were mongolians and many were over 6 feet tall and over 200 pounds. they would run bayonets through you and shoot you. i wanted to be honest. i wanted to share everything i knew or heard about or saw in >> john sweeney and mitch page found themselves attached to a hastily created new marine division under general major arch. a virginiain' with a liquid drawl was given the orders. >> he was given high marks for what he did and how he did it. >> how much time does the first ma marine division have? >> one of the things about guadalcanal, the order is listed on the fourth of july, the land
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is on the 7th of august. that's five weeks to land, plan, coordinate. it's absolutely astonishing. in fact, i can't think of any operation comparable to the size the u.s. has mounted parallel to guadalcanal. >> under vandergrift, it called for am fib dwus yus assault. >> they go through a frantic effort to cut down on the supplying plierks not that there was much to begin with. they call it operation shoestring. >> they had to load the ships and reload it into shape of what we call combat loading where the rations would be the first offloading that. was the first problem to start with and the ideawhere the idea of shoestring operation became commonplace. >> the operation required 82 u.s. navy ships with air cover.
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later the army was to come in and relieve the marines. >> who's in overall command of the operation? >> robert gormley. he's the textbook example of health, rest, and recreation for a leader in march 1942. he has abscessed teeth, unable to rest, overworks himself and moves from being pessimistic to being an absolute defeatest and uses egregious judgment and does not attend the conference for la t landing. >> he never came to guadalcanal. >> they met in melbourne, australia, and questioned the logistics of the entire mission. this enraged admiral king but he did give archer vandergrift another week to prepare. things go from bad to worse in the navy. that's next on "war stories."
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82 american ships loaded with 14,000 marines from major general archer vandergrift's first marine division. the enemy was caught completely off guard. >> why don't the japanese oppose the landing? >> japanese garrison on guadalcanal is there to construct an airfield. it's compressed korean laborers. when the marines first show up, the first instinct of the commander is this is just going to be a raid. >> but this was a different
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story. brigadier general rupert led john sweeney and 3,000 marines against a thousand japanese soldiers. >> they started yelling enough to scare anybody. maline, maline, you die. that was a common one. >> they were the extermination fights to being the hall mark of the battle in the pacific of world war ii. >> the first to encounter the opposition across the open field. we lost two officers and one man right there within a matter of 30 seconds or so. >> for 31 hours, over 800 japanese soldiers fought to the death. the marines lost 115 and the navy lost seven sailors. >> when did the japanese make the decision to reinforce guadalcanal? >> the japanese in the south pacific decided immediately upon learning the marines had landed
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to launch. >> on a moonless tropical night his eight-ship fleet snuck past an american picket patrolling the channel between guadalcanal and there. the japanese were able to blast one allied ship after another in the battle for the island. >> we thought we were winning the war. it was like that was the common word. we're knocking the hell out of them out there. and it was just the opposite. >> as dawn broke on august 9th, over a thousand allied sailors lie dead. three other american warships were severely damaged and another 700 sailors had been wounded. the japanese suffered minimal damage to its fleet and few losses. 129 dead and only 85 wound. >> the bat sl without a doubt the most humiliating defeat ever
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suffered by the united states navy and war. it simply is a story of incredible series of events of miscalculation and bad luck. >> back at his headquarters in hawaii, admiral nemitz was shaken by the news. as he relayed the message he didn't understand what went wrong. >> how does the japanese navy get that close? >> the problem was the radar sets in 1942 were not as powerful as the later versions. no one fully appreciated the fact that with islands close at hand it greatly affected the degragation of the radar. >> back on guadalcanal, scout jac jacob boozer introduced himself to the leathernecks and warned them about the island's terrain. >> it's a tall grass and in some places that i've gone through were six feet high. you could put thousands of men in there and no one would ever
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see you. if it hit you the wrong way, you'd get a pretty good welt. >> the whole plan was to make guadalcanal the -- >> the key to their survival is an airfield at guadalcanal. >> jios worked day and night to expand the field into a 4,000-foot runway. enemy watched their ever move. >> they could observe it. they knew where our lines were. >> it became an endless sea saw where the americans owned the day and the japanese owned the nights. magnesium flares sailed over the jungle settling for brutal hand to hand combat. the brutal battle for the ridge next on "war stories."
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