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Last Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Guadalcanal USMC Colonel Mitchell Paige has died ^

Posted on 11/16/2003 8:15:05 PM PST by ErnBatavia

I probably blew the format for starting a thread...and didn't see posted elsewhere.

A true hero has moved on. My 56 year old self just went outside, faced the sky, and offered the best salute I've snapped in 35 years.

Rest In Peace, Mitch....proud and honored to have had your aquaintance.

TOPICS: Announcements; Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: guadalcanal; japan; marines; suprynowicz; usmc; vinsuprynowicz; worldwar2; worldwareleven; worldwarii; wwii
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1 posted on 11/16/2003 8:15:06 PM PST by ErnBatavia
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To: Admin Moderator
Request correction of title - should be CMH (Congressional Medal of Honor)
2 posted on 11/16/2003 8:16:36 PM PST by ErnBatavia (Taglineus Interruptus)
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To: ErnBatavia
"The Mitchell Paige GI Joe figure was released in 1998."
3 posted on 11/16/2003 8:17:37 PM PST by RedBloodedAmerican
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To: RedBloodedAmerican
"The Mitchell Paige GI Joe figure was released in 1998."

He signed mine (which was tough to get)...and he gave me a hard time when I called it a "doll" - I was quickly corrected.

4 posted on 11/16/2003 8:20:24 PM PST by ErnBatavia (Taglineus Interruptus)
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To: ErnBatavia

Medal of Honor
Solomon Islands

The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to

for service as set forth in the following


"For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the Second Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division, in combat against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands Area on October 26, 1942. When the enemy broke through the line directly in front of his position, Platoon Sergeant Paige, commanding a machine-gun section with fearless determination, continued to direct the fire of his gunners until all his men were either killed or wounded. Alone, against the deadly hail of Japanese shells, he manned his gun, and when it was destroyed, took over another, moving from gun to gun, never ceasing his withering fire against the advancing hordes until reinforcements finally arrived. Then, forming a new line, he dauntlessly and aggressively led a bayonet charge, driving the enemy back and preventing a break through in our lines. His great personal valor and unyielding devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."


5 posted on 11/16/2003 8:22:07 PM PST by NormsRevenge (Semper Fi .....)
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To: ErnBatavia
You knew him?
6 posted on 11/16/2003 8:23:52 PM PST by RedBloodedAmerican
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To: ErnBatavia
Colonel Mitchell Paige
United States Marine Corps, Retired
Colonel Mitchell Paige was born in Charleroi, Pennsylvania, August 31, 1918. He enlisted in the Marine Corps September 1, 1936 and went to recruit training at Parris Island, South Carolina.
He is the sole surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the ground battle for Guadalcanal, America's first ground offensive of WWII.
He has held practically every rank and assignment in a Marine Corps Infantry battalion from private to commanding officer. He received a Field Commission from Platoon Sergeant to Second Lieutenant at Guadalcanal, Decemberl 9,1942. Col. Paige completed a four year college equivalency in the Marine Corps. He was the director for all Marine Corps Schools in Japan 1954.
He attended the Amphibious Warfare School, Quantico, Virginia and the Army Language School, Presidio of Monterey, California.
His field experience has taken him to the Philippines, China, Cuba,
Guadalcanal, Soloman Islands, New guinea, Cape Gloucester, New Britain Island, Pavuvu, Russell Islands, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.
After retirement July 1, 1 964, he researched and developed miniature rockets, miniature rocket weapons systems, penetration aids, and hypervelocity acceleration. He assisted in the design and development of a four-inch rocket launcher capable of firing 13mm gyro-jet flares, smoke, radar chaff and explosive rounds while working at MB Associates, Science and Rocketfy, San Ramon, California. He used the 13mm hand gun and 13mm Foliage Penetrating Signal Distress Kit in combat in Vietnam in 1967, with orders from President Johnson. He was involved in research and development of air-inflated devices and related recovery equipment. He invented the"TUPIT"(The Universal Paige Inflatable Tent) which he donated to the Army laboratories in Natick, Mass. Author of an autobiography "A Marine Named Mitch" published inl 975. He is a member of: The Congressional Medal of Honor Society of the US, Army andNavyLegionofValoroftheUS, MilitaryOrderofthePurpleHeartofthe US, PastpresidentofTheFirstMarineDivisionAssociation, MarineCorps League, BritishRoyalMafines, GuadalcanalCampaignVeterans, National OrderofBattlefieldCommissions, DisabledAmericanVeterans, TheAmerican Legion, AMVETS, VFW, Naval order of The United States, and The Mafine Corps Mustang Association.
He has been speaker to numerous civilian and military groups since WWII. He was "Special Ambassador", representing the president, with The US State Department in The Solomons, at the 1 Oth anniversary celebrating Guadalcanal's independence.
He is the liaison officer from The Congressional Medal of Honor Society to the FBI and works with an assigned Special Agent exposing MOH imposters. He was Marine, "GI Joe" Action Figure (WWII) ... produced in 1998 by Hasbro Toy Company. He is a member of California State Governors "Blue Ribbon Task Force" on veterans.
He is the recipient of numerous awards and letters of commendation from the government, civic and fraternal organizations.
Col. Paige currently resides in La Quinta, California with his wife, Marilyn.
7 posted on 11/16/2003 8:26:48 PM PST by NormsRevenge (Semper Fi .....)
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To: RedBloodedAmerican
You knew him?

Yes...and I'm heartbroken; I didn't even hear this on the news, just found out by cruising the web.

?He lived here in La Quinta, California - and through my mother/Marilyn Paige's DAR connection, I was floored to get to meet him and shoot the breeze on occasion.

I'm just wigged out with shock right now...He was a fabulous guy

8 posted on 11/16/2003 8:30:07 PM PST by ErnBatavia (Taglineus Interruptus)
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To: ErnBatavia
Heree's a good article on Sgt. Paige:

'Autumn, 1942: It came down to one Marine, and one ship'

9 posted on 11/16/2003 8:31:52 PM PST by quidnunc (Omnis Gaul delenda est)
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To: Admin Moderator; ErnBatavia
10 posted on 11/16/2003 8:33:40 PM PST by wardaddy (we must crush our enemies and make them fear us and sap their will to fight....all 2 billion of them)
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Thank You, Mitchell Paige, for your service to your country in times of war and peace. Godspeed, Marine and God Bless.

I caught a program on KQED (PBS) the other night called American Valor, a 1 1/2 hour program that looked at the Cingressional Medal of Honor, its origins and such. There were a number of honorees interviewed and their stories retold. Mitchell Paige was one of those interviewed. Excellent program, very touching and revealing of human nature; foibles, frailties and all.

11 posted on 11/16/2003 8:34:35 PM PST by NormsRevenge (Semper Fi .....)
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To: ErnBatavia
My condolences. I am sure he is in a great place surrounded by the best.
12 posted on 11/16/2003 8:34:38 PM PST by longfellow (
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Congressional not Cingressional :-)
13 posted on 11/16/2003 8:36:04 PM PST by NormsRevenge (Semper Fi .....)
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To: ErnBatavia
bump :(
14 posted on 11/16/2003 8:38:35 PM PST by PGalt
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To: ErnBatavia
May he rest in peace. God bless him.
15 posted on 11/16/2003 8:41:07 PM PST by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: ErnBatavia
A respectful Bump to the top.
16 posted on 11/16/2003 8:42:27 PM PST by carpio
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To: ErnBatavia
EB, my thanks to you. By honoring Mitch Paige you made his story real to others who didn't know about him.

Like me.

I looked up his website. Of interest to me was the Bible verse that he read from his Bible after the battle on Guadalcanal that day. While looking for something to bandage a bayonet wound, his Bible fell out of his pack.

He picked it up and read from it where it opened, in his own words, providentially:

"Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight."---Proverbs 3:4,5

He realized the Lord had not left him alone on that ridge that day--October 26, 1942---and had not left him since.

EB, this was a man who had faith in his Lord, and in whose presence he finally stands. He left a great testimony and a great legacy of courage and steadfastness in the face of incredible odds. He eft a message of the importance of love for God and country and American values.

And you honor this man by bringing his story to others.

Thank you for letting the FreeRepublic know about Mitch Paige.
17 posted on 11/16/2003 8:47:33 PM PST by exit82 (Sound off to your elected reps in DC: Capitol switchboard toll free number 1-800-648-3516.)
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Who's Who in Marine Corps History


Marine Colonel Mitchell Paige, of Redwood City, California, won the nation's highest decoration during the campaign for Guadalcanal in October, 1942, when he made a desperate lone stand against enemy Japanese after they had broken through the lines and killed or wounded all of the Marines in his machine gun section.

Colonel Paige, (then a platoon sergeant) fired his machine gun until it was destroyed, then moved from gun to gun, keeping up a withering fire until he finally received reinforcements. He later led a bayonet charge that drove the Japanese back and prevented a breakthrough in our lines.

The Marine Corps' World War II Commandant, General Alexander A. Vandegrift presented the Medal of Honor to Colonel Paige at Melbourne, Australia, in the Spring of 1943.

Colonel Paige was born on August 31, 1918, at Charleroi, Pennsylvania, and graduated in 1936 from McKeesport High School at McKeesport, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the Marine Corps on September 1, 1936, at Baltimore, Maryland.

Completing his "boot camp" training at Parris Island, South Carolina, in November, 1936, he was transferred to Quantico, Virginia. Later he served aboard the USS Wyoming as a gunner and took part in maneuvers via Panama to San Clemente Island off the coast of California.

In February, 1937, he was transferred to Mare Island Navy Yard for guard duty, and two months later was ordered to Cavite in the Philippine Islands. While on Cavite he became a member of the All-Navy-Marine baseball team which gained prominence throughout the island and the orient. He served in China from October, 1938 to September, 1939. During his tour he guarded American property during the famous Tientsin flood.

He left North China and returned to the U.S. in April, 1940, for guard duty at the Brooklyn and Philadelphia Navy Yards. In September, 1940, he rejoined the 5th Marines, at Quantico, Virginia, and the following month participated in maneuvers at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Culebra, Puerto Rico. In March, 1941, he was transferred back to the States and ordered to New River, North Carolina, to help construct and prepare a new training base for Marines which later became Camp Lejeune.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Paige was once more sent overseas with the 7th Marines and landed at Apia, British Samoa. From Samoa the 7th Marines went to Guadalcanal, landing in September of 1942. He remained there until January, 1943, when he went to Melbourne, Australia with the 1st Marine Division. While on Guadalcanal he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the field on December 19, 1942. In June 1943, he was promoted to first lieutenant.

In September, 1943, he left with the 1st Marine Division for New Guinea where they joined the 6th Army for the attack on Cape Gloucester, New Britain, on December 26, 1943.

In May 1944, the Division left Cape Gloucester for a rest area in the Russell Islands, Pavuvu. In July, 1944, Major Paige was sent back to the States and assigned duty at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

In June, 1945, he became Tactical Training Officer at Camp Matthews, California, and the following September, was sent to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot as a recruit training officer.

Captain Paige was placed on inactive duty in May 1946, returning to active duty again in July 1950, and was assigned duty at Camp Pendleton, Oceanside, California.

He was later transferred to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at San Diego, California, as Plans and Operations Officer of the 2d Recruit Training Battalion. At this time he also went on a special assignment as Plans and Training Officer in charge of setting up a PLC training program for the Special Training Company. He was promoted to the rank of major on January 1, 1951.

In October 1951, Major Paige became Executive Officer of the 2d Recruit Training Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, California, until October 1952, when he was transferred to the 4th Special Junior Course, Marine Corps Educational Center, Company B, Headquarters Battalion, Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, Virginia. He attended school there until May 1953, then served as Division Recruiting Officer, 2d Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, until February 1954.

Major Paige was next assigned to Sub-Unit #2, Headquarters Company, Headquarters Battalion, 3d Marine Division, San Francisco, California, serving as Officer in Charge, Division Noncommissioned Officers School, 3d Marine Division, until April 1955. During this period he also served briefly as Assistant Officer in Charge of Sub-Unit #1.

From there he served as Battalion Executive Officer and later Commanding Officer of the 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, from April 1955 until August 1955 when he reported to the 12th Marine Corps Reserve and Recruitment District to serve as Officer in Charge of Marine Corps Recruiting Station in San Francisco and he was promoted to lieutenant colonel in May 1957.

In August 1957, Lieutenant Colonel Paige was assigned duty as Inspector-Instructor, 7th Infantry Battalion, USMCR, at San Bruno, California, until August 1958, when he was detached to Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, D.C.

In May 1959, he entered the U.S. Army Language School in Monterey, California, and remained there for 9 months until he was ordered to the Marine Barracks, U.S. Naval Station, San Diego, California, to serve as Executive Officer until October 1959. He was placed on the Disability Retired List on 1 November 1959. For being specially commended for performance of duty in actual combat he was promoted to colonel upon retirement.

A complete list of the colonel's decorations and medals includes: the Medal of Honor, the Purple Heart, the Presidential Unit Citation, the Good Conduct Medal, the China Service Medal, the American Defense Service Medal with Base clasp, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with two bronze stars, the American Campaign Medal, the Victory Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Service Medal, the Marine Corps Reserve Ribbon, and the United Nations Service Medal.

18 posted on 11/16/2003 8:48:08 PM PST by NormsRevenge (Semper Fi .....)
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To: ErnBatavia

At ease Marine
Take your leave, you have earned it.
19 posted on 11/16/2003 8:51:50 PM PST by taxcontrol (People are entitled to their opinion - no matter how wrong it is.)
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To: ErnBatavia
did he say "Action figure!!"
20 posted on 11/16/2003 9:06:51 PM PST by GeronL (Visit
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To: NormsRevenge
The man was a Giant amongst Giants. Men such as he is why The United States of America is free.
21 posted on 11/16/2003 9:08:25 PM PST by cpdiii (RPH, Oil field Trash and proud of it)
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To: NormsRevenge
wow. Thats quite a life!
22 posted on 11/16/2003 9:08:55 PM PST by GeronL (Visit
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To: ErnBatavia; 68-69TonkinGulfYatchClub
ErnBatavia: Thanks for letting us know. So sorry...

Tonk: FYI
23 posted on 11/16/2003 9:25:25 PM PST by amom
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To: ErnBatavia; amom

24 posted on 11/16/2003 9:35:40 PM PST by 68-69TonkinGulfYachtClub (THANK YOU TROOPS, PAST and PRESENT)
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To: 68-69TonkinGulfYachtClub
Thanks Tonk.

Here's a link to his 'my story' page. Amazing read...simply amazing.
25 posted on 11/16/2003 9:53:38 PM PST by amom
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To: ErnBatavia
bump for later read
26 posted on 11/16/2003 9:57:52 PM PST by cars for sale
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To: cars for sale
27 posted on 11/16/2003 10:06:23 PM PST by katykelly
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To: NormsRevenge
Mom's brother was in the 7th Marines on the 'canal'.
28 posted on 11/16/2003 10:07:05 PM PST by Chapita
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To: ErnBatavia
"All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated...As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness....No man is an island, entire of itself...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

John Donne
29 posted on 11/16/2003 10:31:29 PM PST by Old Professer
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To: ErnBatavia

We'll meet him later on. No doubt he and his fellow Guadacanal Marines (like my Uncle) will be doing sentry duty at the Pearly Gates.

30 posted on 11/16/2003 10:41:23 PM PST by Mortimer Snavely (Ban tag lines!)
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To: ErnBatavia
Thanks for posting this. I met Mitch a while back and he was a helluva a guy. I filmed a 2 hour interview of him a few years ago and couldn't believe the story he told us about his life and his experience in WWII and in subsequent years.

For years, Mitch was instrumental in tracking down MOH "imposters" throughout the years and he worked closely with the FBI to punish the people who dared to falsely claim they were recipients of the Medal.

I recently read a funny story that he only recently was awarded his Eagle Scout award after realizing decades after earning it, that he wasn't recognized on the national Eagle Scout roster. He inquired about it and discovered that sometime after rushing off to find his destiny in WWII, his records were lost, but the scouts were able to track down someone who vouched for him from way back and he finally got his Eagle Scout designation.

It's a sad day for the country to see him go.

Rest in Peace, Mitch.

31 posted on 11/16/2003 10:59:23 PM PST by Vetnet ("Into this Mosaic of Freedom is laid, this precious piece of The Angels Brigade")
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To: ErnBatavia; RaceBannon
RIP Colonel Paige ~!
32 posted on 11/16/2003 11:26:49 PM PST by F14 Pilot
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To: ErnBatavia
My condolences to family and friends ...
33 posted on 11/17/2003 4:32:19 AM PST by manna
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To: GeronL
did he say "Action figure!!" Yes...with a smirk!
34 posted on 11/17/2003 5:47:21 AM PST by ErnBatavia (Taglineus Interruptus)
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To: exit82
Here's how he inscribed the box on the G.I. Joe...:

"With my warmest personal regards and every good wish. Semper Fidelis and God's richest blessings - Mitchell Paige Col. USMC, Ret"

35 posted on 11/17/2003 5:53:42 AM PST by ErnBatavia (Taglineus Interruptus)
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To: ErnBatavia
Ern,thank you for posting this. A sad bump to a personal hero of mine.
36 posted on 11/17/2003 6:15:30 AM PST by MadelineZapeezda
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To: NormsRevenge
37 posted on 11/17/2003 6:18:38 AM PST by Chancellor Palpatine
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To: Poohbah; hobbes1; wimpycat
38 posted on 11/17/2003 6:19:46 AM PST by Chancellor Palpatine
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To: MadelineZapeezda
to see an old read only thread on Col. Paige
39 posted on 11/17/2003 6:22:31 AM PST by MadelineZapeezda
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To: ErnBatavia; 68-69TonkinGulfYachtClub; yall
Last Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of
Guadalcanal USMC Colonel Mitchell Paige has died

Rest in peace, Colonel Paige ...

40 posted on 11/17/2003 6:51:22 AM PST by MeekOneGOP (I won! I won!
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To: MeeknMing; NormsRevenge
The weirdness of how I found about his death yesterday....On Veteran's Day, both my mother (WAC in World War II) and I had our names inscribed on our city's Veteran's Monument. Of course, at the head of the Marine Corps side was Mitchell Paige's name.

I sent some digital pics off to the extended family yesterday after checking out the monument, with a little note to do a Google search on that top Marine Corps name....for the hell of it, I did same yesterday evening, and voila. No mention in the media until this morning's paper. Kinda shocking at the time.

I'm going to keep my autographed GI Joe and copy of his book tucked away just a little tighter now. How I wish I could have one more tour of his study; quite a place.

41 posted on 11/17/2003 7:01:07 AM PST by ErnBatavia (Taglineus Interruptus)
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To: ibheath
Bump for later read.
42 posted on 11/17/2003 7:06:27 AM PST by ibheath (Born-again and grateful to God for it.)
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To: ErnBatavia; snippy_about_it; PhilDragoo

Colonel Mitchell Paige, USMC

43 posted on 11/17/2003 7:06:46 AM PST by SAMWolf (Talk is cheap except when Congress does it.)
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To: ErnBatavia
Two of my dad's cousins, brothers from Middle Village Queens, died on Guadalcanal. They served in the same unit.
44 posted on 11/17/2003 7:09:39 AM PST by wtc911
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To: SAMWolf
Thanks SAM.
45 posted on 11/17/2003 7:44:44 AM PST by snippy_about_it (Fall in --> The FReeper Foxhole. America's History. America's Soul.)
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To: ErnBatavia
He and Chesty are havin' a ball.

46 posted on 11/17/2003 8:05:55 AM PST by reagandemocrat (from a Proud Recallian)
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To: ErnBatavia
My local PBS station had a documentary on Medal Of Honor winners on last weekend. Mitchell Paige was interviewed at length.
47 posted on 11/17/2003 8:13:28 AM PST by CaptRon
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To: ErnBatavia
Here's an old Vin Suprynowicz column about two certified American Heroes.

Oct. 26 falls on a Thursday this year.

Ask the significance of the date, and you're likely to draw some puzzled looks—five more days to stock up for Halloween?

It's a measure of men like Col. Mitchell Paige and Rear Adm. Willis A. "Ching Chong China" Lee that they wouldn't have had it any other way. What they did 58 years ago, they did precisely so their grandchildren could live in a land of peace and plenty.

Whether we've properly safeguarded the freedoms they fought to leave us, may be a discussion best left for another day. Today we struggle to envision—or, for a few of us, to remember—how the world must have looked on Oct. 26, 1942. A few thousand lonely American Marines had been put ashore on Guadalcanal, a god-forsaken malarial jungle island which just happened to lie like a speed bump at the end of the long blue-water slot between New Guinea and the Bismarck Archipelago—the very route the Japanese Navy would have to take to reach Australia.

On Guadalcanal the Marines built an air field. And Japanese commander Isoroku Yamamoto immediately grasped what that meant. No effort would be spared to dislodge these upstart Yanks from a position that could endanger his ships during any future operations to the south. Before long, relentless Japanese counterattacks had driven supporting U.S. Navy from inshore waters. The Marines were on their own.

World War Two is generally calculated from Hitler's invasion of Poland in 1939. But that's a eurocentric view. The Japanese had been limbering up their muscles in Korea and Manchuria as early as 1931, and in China by 1934. By 1942 they'd devastated every major Pacific military force or stronghold of the great pre-war powers: Britain, Holland, France, and the United States. The bulk of America's proud Pacific fleet lay beached or rusting on the floor of Pearl Harbor. A few aircraft carriers and submarines remained, though as Mitchell Paige and his 30-odd men were sent out to establish their last, thin defensive line on that ridge southwest of the tiny American bridgehead on Guadalcanal on Oct. 25, he would not have been much encouraged to know how those remaining American aircraft carriers were faring offshore.

(The next day, their Mark XV torpedoes—carrying faulty magnetic detonators reverse-engineered from a First World War German design—proved so ineffective that the United States Navy couldn't even scuttle the doomed and listing carrier Hornet with eight carefully aimed torpedoes. Instead, our forces suffered the ignominy of leaving the abandoned ship to be polished off by the enemy ... only after Japanese commanders determined she was damaged too badly to be successfully towed back to Tokyo as a trophy.)

As Paige—then a platoon sergeant—and his riflemen set about carefully emplacing their four water-cooled Brownings, it's unlikely anyone thought they were about to provide the definitive answer to that most desperate of questions: How many able-bodied U.S. Marines does it take to hold a hill against 2,000 desperate and motivated attackers?

The Japanese Army had not failed in an attempt to seize any major objective since the Russo-Japanese War of 1905. Their commanders certainly did not expect the war to be lost on some God-forsaken jungle ridge manned by one thin line of Yanks in khaki in October of 1942.

But in preceding days, Marine commander Vandegrift had defied War College doctrine, "dangling" his men in exposed positions to draw Japanese attacks, then springing his traps "with the steel vise of firepower and artillery," in the words of Naval historian David Lippman.

The Japanese regiments had been chewed up, good. Still, the American forces had so little to work with that Paige's men would have only the four 30-caliber Brownings to defend the one ridge through which the Japanese opted to launch their final assault against Henderson Field, that fateful night of Oct. 25.

By the time the night was over, "The 29th (Japanese) Infantry Regiment has lost 553 killed or missing and 479 wounded among its 2,554 men," historian Lippman reports. "The 16th (Japanese) Regiment's losses are uncounted, but the 164th's burial parties handle 975 Japanese bodies. ... The American estimate of 2,200 Japanese dead is probably too low."

Among the 90 American dead and wounded that night were all the men in Mitchell Paige's platoon. Every one. As the night wore on, Paige moved up and down his line, pulling his dead and wounded comrades back into their foxholes and firing a few bursts from each of the four Brownings in turn, convincing the Japanese forces down the hill that the positions were still manned.

The citation for Paige's Congressional Medal of Honor picks up the tale: "When the enemy broke through the line directly in front of his position, P/Sgt. Paige, commanding a machinegun section with fearless determination, continued to direct the fire of his gunners until all his men were either killed or wounded. Alone, against the deadly hail of Japanese shells, he fought with his gun and when it was destroyed, took over another, moving from gun to gun, never ceasing his withering fire."

In the end, Sgt. Paige picked up the last of the 40-pound, belt-fed Brownings—the same design which John Moses Browning famously fired for a continuous 25 minutes until it ran out of ammunition at its first U.S. Army trial—and did something for which the weapon was never designed. Sgt. Paige walked down the hill toward the place where he could hear the last Japanese survivors rallying to move around his flank, the gun cradled under his arm, firing as he went.

The weapon did not fail.

# # #

Coming up at dawn, battalion executive officer Major Odell M. Conoley first discovered the answer to our question: How many able-bodied Marines does it take to hold a hill against two regiments of motivated, combat-hardened infantrymen who have never known defeat?

On a hill where the bodies were piled like cordwood, Mitchell Paige alone sat upright behind his 30-caliber Browning, waiting to see what the dawn would bring.

One hill: one Marine.

But that was the second problem. Part of the American line had fallen to the last Japanese attack. "In the early morning light, the enemy could be seen a few yards off, and vapor from the barrels of their machine guns was clearly visible," reports historian Lippman. "It was decided to try to rush the position."

For the task, Major Conoley gathered together "three enlisted communication personnel, several riflemen, a few company runners who were at the point, together with a cook and a few messmen who had brought food to the position the evening before."

Joined by Paige, this ad hoc force of 17 Marines counterattacked at 5:40 a.m., discovering that "the extremely short range allowed the optimum use of grenades." In the end, "The element of surprise permitted the small force to clear the crest."

And that's where the unstoppable wave of Japanese conquest finally crested, broke, and began to recede. On an unnamed jungle ridge on an insignificant island no one had ever heard of, called Guadalcanal. Because of a handful of U.S. Marines, one of whom, now 82, lives out a quiet retirement with his wife Marilyn in La Quinta, Calif.

But while the Marines had won their battle on land, it would be meaningless unless the U.S. Navy could figure out a way to stop losing night battles in "The Slot" to the northwest of the island, through which the Japanese kept sending in barges filled with supplies and reinforcements for their own desperate forces on Guadalcanal.

The U.S. Navy had lost so many ships in those dreaded night actions that the waters off Savo were given the grisly sailor's nickname by which they're still known today: Ironbottom Sound.

So desperate did things become that finally, 18 days after Mitchell Paige won his Congressional Medal of Honor on that ridge above Henderson Field, Admiral Bull Halsey himself broke a stern War College edict—the one against committing capital ships in restricted waters. Gambling the future of the cut-off troops on Guadalcanal on one final roll of the dice, Halsey dispatched into the Slot his two remaining fast battleships, the USS South Dakota and the USS Washington, escorted by the only four destroyers with enough fuel in their bunkers to get them there and back.

In command of the 28-knot battlewagons was the right man at the right place, gunnery expert Rear Adm. Willis A. "Ching Chong China" Lee. Lee's flag flew aboard the Washington, in turn commanded by Captain Glenn Davis.

Lee was a nut for gunnery drills. "He tested every gunnery-book rule with exercises," Lippman writes, "and ordered gunnery drills under odd conditions—turret firing with relief crews, anything that might simulate the freakishness of battle."

# # #

As it turned out, the American destroyers need not have worried about carrying enough fuel to get home. By 11 p.m. on Nov. 13, outnumbered better than three-to-one by a massive Japanese task force driving down from the northwest, every one of the four American destroyers had been shot up, sunk, or set aflame, while the South Dakota—known throughout the fleet as a jinx ship—managed to damage some lesser Japanese vessels but continued to be plagued with electrical and fire control problems.

"Washington was now the only intact ship left in the force," Lippman writes. "In fact, at that moment Washington was the entire U.S. Pacific Fleet. She was the only barrier between (Admiral) Kondo's ships and Guadalcanal. If this one ship did not stop 14 Japanese ships right then and there, America might lose the war. ...

"On Washington's bridge, Lieutenant Ray Hunter still had the conn. He had just heard that South Dakota had gone off the air and had seen (destroyers) Walke and Preston "blow sky high." Dead ahead lay their burning wreckage, while hundreds of men were swimming in the water and Japanese ships were racing in.

"Hunter had to do something. The course he took now could decide the war. 'Come left,' he said, and Washington straightened out on a course parallel to the one on which she (had been) steaming. Washington's rudder change put the burning destroyers between her and the enemy, preventing her from being silhouetted by their fires.

"The move made the Japanese momentarily cease fire. Lacking radar, they could not spot Washington behind the fires. ...

"Meanwhile, Washington raced through burning seas. Everyone could see dozens of men in the water clinging to floating wreckage. Flag Lieutenant Raymond Thompson said, "Seeing that burning, sinking ship as it passed so close aboard, and realizing that there was nothing I, or anyone, could do about it, was a devastating experience.'

"Commander Ayrault, Washington's executive officer, clambered down ladders, ran to Bart Stoodley's damage-control post, and ordered Stoodley to cut loose life rafts. That saved a lot of lives. But the men in the water had some fight left in them. One was heard to scream, 'Get after them, Washington!' "

Sacrificing their ships by maneuvering into the path of torpedoes intended for the Washington, the captains of the American destroyers had given China Lee one final chance. The Washington was fast, undamaged, and bristling with 16-inch guns. And, thanks to Lt. Hunter's course change, she was also now invisible to the enemy.

Blinded by the smoke and flames, the Japanese battleship Kirishima turned on her searchlights, illuminating the helpless South Dakota, and opened fire. Finally, standing out in the darkness, Lee and Davis could positively identify an enemy target.

The Washington's main batteries opened fire at 12 midnight precisely. Her new SG radar fire control system worked perfectly. Between midnight and 12:07 a.m., Nov. 14, the "last ship in the U.S. Pacific Fleet" stunned the battleship Kirishima with 75, 16-inch shells. For those aboard the Kirishima, it rained steel.

In seven minutes, the Japanese battleship was reduced to a funeral pyre. She went down at 3:25 a.m., the first enemy sunk by an American battleship since the Spanish-American War. Stunned, the remaining Japanese ships withdrew. Within days, Yamamoto and his staff reviewed their mounting losses and recommended the unthinkable to the emperor—withdrawal from Guadalcanal.

But who remembers, today, how close-run a thing it was—the ridge held by a single Marine, the battle won by the last American ship?

In the autumn of 1942.

When the Hasbro Toy Co. called up some years back, asking permission to put the retired colonel's face on some kid's doll, Mitchell Paige thought they must be joking.

But they weren't. That's his mug, on the little Marine they call "GI Joe."

And now you know.

Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and editor of Financial Privacy Report (subscribe by calling Nicholas at 612-895-8757.)

48 posted on 11/17/2003 8:19:03 AM PST by ArrogantBustard
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To: ErnBatavia
49 posted on 11/17/2003 8:19:31 AM PST by in the Arena (Richard Thomas Kastner - KIA - Phuoc Long, South Vietnam - 15 November 1969))
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To: CaptRon
"American Valor" on PBS Bump
50 posted on 11/17/2003 8:23:08 AM PST by NormsRevenge (Semper Fi .....)
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