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Wounded at the Teneru River

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Frank Stewart was in the hospital on Espiritu Santos. After about ten days, he decided to go down the hall to the bathroom by himself. When he got down the hall, he opened the door and saw a French head [Annotator's Note: head is navy and Marine Corps slang for restroom], just a hole in the floor with no where to sit. He passed out. Stewart was put aboard a hospital ship. His friend Al Schmid was also aboard. One of the wounded men who had lost an arm was complaining. Stewart told him to shut up. His friend Al had lost his eyesight and that was much worse. During the day, Stewart would roam the ship stealing cigarettes from the doctors and would give them out to the wounded aboard. He asked the doctors for something to help him sleep at night but the doctors thought he was lying. At the time, his arm was completely wrapped up. When they opened the bandages and saw the extent of his wounds they gave him whatever he needed. The ship went to New Zealand and the guys were allowed to go ashore. Then they were taken to the naval hospital in San Diego. Stewart and Schmid worked for the Halls of Montezuma radio program. Stewart had a friend in the boiler room at the hospital who would take orders from the men and would go out and buy booze then it was delivered to the patients by a man in a wheel chair. Stewart and Schmid got to meet a lot of stars. They had a party with Paul Whiteman and Felix Mills. After getting out [Annotator's Note: out of the Marine Corps] Stewart saw Al a few times. The last time they saw each other was the year before Al died. Al had married his Ruth and they had a nice place in St. Petersberg, Florida. A college professor contacted Stewart asking him how he felt about the difference in the way he and Al were treated. Stewart told the professor that there were alot of things that went into the story. Al never regained any of his sight but learned to use a CB radio and how to play the organ. Al had one son. Over the years Al ran into people who called him a murderer. One guy named Rivers always challenged Stewart to box. Stewart went one round with him. Rivers was a nice guy. There is a club in Pennsylvania named after him.

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There were a lot of good guys in Frank Stewart's unit with the exception of some of the officers. On Guadalcanal, Stewart's company commander was Ferguson. Stewart was acting platoon sergeant. One of the officers was shipped back to the United States and promoted. In North Carolina, Stewart was a corporal. His captain resented him. He was the first in his group to make sergeant. The new lieutenants that joined the unit were all inexperienced. Stewart was placed in charge of two machine guns. Lt. Port made Stewart platoon sergeant. On Guadalcanal, Stewart's group was attached to Company E. The Company E commander brought the men beer and sake. He was determined to take care of the men under him. In Leckie's book [Annotator’s Note: Robert Leckie'’s book “Helmet for my Pillow”] he states that William Chalfont, III was taking items from the men who were on their way to the Tenaru. Stewart's group was attached to Company E on the day they arrived. They arrived at the river the day before [Annotator's Note: the day before the Battle of the Tenaru River]. The men dug in and built four gun emplacements. The emplacements would have needed a direct hit to knock them out. The captain came along and ordered that the emplacements be opened up. The captain was an Academy graduate.

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When the Battle of the Tenaru River had ended, Lt. Port recommended Frank Stewart for the Navy Cross but the captain turned him down. Stewart was the platoon sergeant at the Tenaru but after the battle his company commander claimed that he had appointed someone else as platoon sergeant. Stewart got no credit for his actions there. Stewart was born in Manhattan. His father died when he was nine. He was always in the hospital for something. In high school he joined the National Guard. He was only 16 and when the Guard found out they discharged him after a year. After being kicked out of the National Guard, Stewart went into the CCC [Annotator's Note: Civilian Conservation Corps] and stayed there until he was 18 at which time he joined the Marines. There was one guy who was so big that they there were no uniforms big enough to fit him so he was turned down for military service. Stewart and the two others accepted into the Marines from New York went by boat to Savannah, Georgia. There were about 20 guys in Stewart's boot camp platoon. After boot camp Stewart went to Quantico where he joined the Fleet Marine Force. At this time, promotions in the Marine Corps were very slow. The second time Stewart was put up for PFC [Annotator's Note: Private First Class] he was second on the list in the entire battalion. After Stewart had been in the Marine Corps for a couple of years he was sent to Cuba. The military was now gearing up for war. Stewart took part in amphibious training in Cuba. During training they would carry all of their weapons. When the Marines returned to the United States they formed the 1st Marines New River. The 1st Marines was made up of guys primarily from the East Coast.

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Frank Stewart was standing outside of the White House in Washington D.C. when he heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was then on his way back to Quantico. War was expected but it was thought that it would be with the Germans. Stewart's godson was in the Merchant Marines. His ship was sunk on a run to Murmansk [Annotator's Note: a seaport located in the extreme northwest part of Russia] and he was severely wounded. Stewart believes that the United States was waiting for a catastrophe. The Japanese code had been broken and it was known that an attack was coming. A catastrophe would give the American people something to fight for. Korea and Vietnam were United Nations fights. We followed the rules and a lot of people got killed. He is not sure that the war with Iraq was necessary. Stewart took a train across country. People at the stops would bring them food. He got to see some beautiful country and enjoyed the trip. When they got to San Francisco, California, Stewart volunteered for SP [Annotator's Note: Shore Patrol] duty so he could see the town. When he had come back to the United States he went from San Diego to San Francisco with a friend.

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Frank Stewart stopped to see one of his brothers in Oklahoma on his way to Boston when he returned to the United States. The Marines had no knowledge of what was going to happen when they got to Guadalcanal. The Japanese had no defenses set up and just took off when the Marines landed. Stewart's group was attached to Company E [Annotators Note: Company E, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division] and spread out on the beach. The natives carried machetes and the Japanese were afraid of them. The natives were good people. During the first few days they had no naval protection and had lost most of their big guns. The Elliott [Annotator's Note: USS George F. Elliott (AP-13)] had been sunk. Japanese cruisers would come by and shell the Marines every night. The Marines had 75s [Annotator's Note: 75mm pack howitzers] but they did not have any heavy guns to return fire with and they had no planes. The planes came in the day after the Tenaru [Annotator's Note: 21 August 1942]. The ground crews were brought in by converted four stackers [Annotator's Note: World War 1 era destroyers converted into high speed troop transports]. When Stewart was aboard the Little [Annotator's Note: USS Little (APD-4)] awaiting transport to Espiritu Santos, word was received that a Japanese cruiser was coming toward them. The only ships present were the converted four stackers. Stewart's group got orders to go to the Tenaru River. He believes that Col. Pollock did the right thing by sending them. When they got to the Tenaru River Stewart split up the guns in his section. He placed two of them off to the right and the other two by a little sand spit. Robert Leckie was one of the men Stewart sent off to the right. The guns on the right side of the line were in a better position than the guns on the left. Rivers was already there when Stewart arrived and had his gun set up in the center of the line. Boykin, Hoglan, and Dougherty were with the two guns down at the end. The Japanese were very confident. This turned out to be an advantage for the Marines. Most of the men Stewart lost were down at the end. Had the Marines not been dug in at the Tenaru River the Japanese could have taken everything and won the battle of Guadalcanal. It was the extra men and guns that helped win the fight. Stewart believes that the men did an excellent job of stopping the Japanese.

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When Frank Stewart's group arrived at the Tenaru River [Annotator's Note: actually, the Ilu River, in August 1942] they were not able to dig in or set up as well as they would have liked to. The Marines were taking fire. Everyone was firing everything they had. When the fight started, Stewart was in the middle of the line with the lieutenant. During combat there is no sense of time. Lt. Porter had Stewart and a private go into a 37mm gun emplacement where the crew had been knocked out. Stewart fired everything he had including canister shot. The Japanese had set up a machine gun in a halftrack in the middle if the river. The 37mm he was manning was right in the machine gun's line of fire. The first time it fired at his position he had just gone down to get some ammunition for the gun and saw the rounds hit near him. Stewart's 37mm gun could not be depressed enough to hit the Japanese machine gun position in the halftrack. The next time Stewart went to get more ammunition for the gun he took eight bullets from the machine gun. He feels he was lucky. His forearm was damaged but all of the bullets missed his elbow. The doctor in New Zealand who worked on Stewart had been in the Russian-Finnish war. After he was hit, Port came over and helped him get out of the position. Stewart and Port walked back around the hill and gave the mortar platoon the location of the halftrack. The mortar platoon took care of the halftrack. Stewart was given a shot [Annotators Note: a styrette of morphine]. He climbed up on the running board of a truck and was taken to an aid station. When he got to the aid station he passed out and when he came to he was aboard the Little [Annotator's Note: USS Little (APD-4)]. Later on Stewart got information about what had taken place. It was then that he learned that Johnny Rivers had been killed. When Stewart left the battle was still going on. There was no way for him to check on his positions. There was also no way of knowing what was going on. He just focused on his job. Stewart believes that the Japanese were savages at that time and there would have been no mercy if they had broken through. Stewart had gone into the 37mm gun pit because the guys operating it had been shot up. The Marines used every weapon they could. The 37mm was an important weapon to have. The Japanese had landed 1100 troops. There were about 175 Marines. The Japanese colonel committed hari kari [Annotator's Note: ritual suicide] after the battle. Stewart believes that the way the Japanese fought saved the lives of just about everybody and possibly even the battle for Guadalcanal.

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Harold Horseman was the historian for the Guadalcanal veterans. Horseman wrote about the same area and about the same pit that Frank Stewart was in. Stewart is confused as to which gun pit he was in. His group had just arrived in the area the day before. The men had no idea that they were going to have problems there. After being hit, Stewart was shipped to Espiritu Santo. He was then put aboard the USS Mercy (AH-4) which took him into New Caledonia. There, he went to the captain and asked to be let off to see his brother. Stewart was able to spend the day in New Caledonia. His brother was not there. Stewart had lied. When Stewart was in San Diego, a friend of his would go get booze and bring it back to the hospital. It would then be delivered to the patients by a guy in a wheel chair. At one time the entire orthopedic ward could not get out of bed but they were all happy. Stewart went up to Pennsylvania to see Al Schmid. Fifty years later Stewart started getting letters and phone calls from people he had served with. He was told about the reunions. Major Benson and Port would play golf together after they retired. Port had been the acting First Lieutenant. Port retired as a colonel. Corregan had been Stewart's platoon leader. Benson told Stewart that he had played golf with Port many times and Port told him that Stewart was the best Marine he ever knew. Stewart thinks that Lt. Whorf was the leader of the 3rd Platoon. Stewart had been in 1st Platoon and Corregan was his lieutenant.

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[Annotators Note: This segment begins with Frank Stewart showing the interviewer some newspaper clippings that had been written about him.] In New Zealand the Marines had to reload their ship. The ship had to be combat loaded but the dock workers were on strike at the time. Stewart reads out the dates he left and arrived at various places during his deployment. In New Zealand, Dr. Teffinmeier [Annotator's Note: unsure of spelling] took care of Stewart. He was a good doctor. When the doctor tried to knock Stewart out for his operation it took eight cans of ether. Stewart shows the interviewer a photograph of himself and several other Marines and their corpsman, Bob Day. Bob Day took care of Al Schmid when Al was hit. Bob Day's father had been a rum runner. Stewart has been trying to get in touch with Bob Day but has not been able to find him.

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Frank Stewart shows the interviewer a photograph that was taken at the naval hospital in San Diego. Bob Day had also been hit and that is why he was there. Stewart shows the interviewer a photograph of Burns and Allen and Bill Goodman. The photograph was taken at Consolidated Air in San Diego. Bob Day and Stewart are also in the photograph. Bob Goodman got booze delivered to them. They were at Consolidated Air to give a talk. Bob Day was only about 18 or 19 when the photograph was taken. Another photograph shows the public relations officer who had accompanied Stewart. The photograph was taken at the Palladium. Stewart had a photograph published showing some men with a record player but no records. One photograph shows K. Kaiser. Stewart was on the radio program. The Halls of Montezuma was a once a week radio program.

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