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Always Dig a Foxhole

Chesty Puller

John Basilone

Always Dig a Foxhole

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[Annotators note: Interview starts off in mid conversation about the format of the interview.] Richard Greer was born in October 1917 in Cincinnati. His father was an executive in furniture manufacturing. Greer grew up during the depression in Rocky Mount, Virginia and was 12 years old when the depression started. The men who ran the industries in the town Greer lived in ran them all at a loss throughout the depression years to keep the people employed. There was never a bread line in the town Greer grew up in. Greer was the oldest of ten children. Greer went to work right after high school and worked until he earned enough money to go to National Business College which he finished in two years. He was listening to music on the radio on the Sunday afternoon Pearl Harbor was attacked. He went the few blocks to the local newspaper and got a copy of the paper announcing the attack. The following morning [Annotators Note: 8 December 1941] Greer quit his job and enlisted in the Marine Corps. The recruiter asked if he wanted to go the OCS and he said no. He wanted to go straight to Paris Island. Greer chose the Marine Corps because he had decided when he was 12 years old that if anything ever broke out he was going to be a Marine. There were a lot of guys from Roanoke at Parris Island when Greer was going through boot camp. Word went around that 44,000 young men joined the Marine Corps on 8 December 1941. Since Greer lived on the riverbanks and in the mountains of Virginia, training on Paris Island was easy for him. Some of the people Greer trained with were sent to New River [Annotators note: Marine Corps Barracks New River, now Camp Lejune]. One or two guys were assigned to the same weapons company Greer was in and one of them was in his platoon. Greer's Senior Drill Instructor was Sergeant Evans who came from FMF [Annotators Note: Fleet Marine Force]. Greer learned a lot from him. Corporal Brown was very tough and treated all of the recruits the same. They were all dirt. The training they had was very good. Greer was in a machinegun company. His weapon was a Browning 1917 water cooled heavy machinegun. Because of his education he was called on numerous times to go down and help the First Sergeant. This led to him being acting First Sergeant at times for years.

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After basic training Richard Greer and the other Marines from his boot camp class went to Norfolk, Virginia where they were interviewed by an officer whose job it was to send them in the right direction. After the interview Greer was told that he would make a fine pay officer. Greer declined and was assigned to a machinegun company. After Norfolk they went into Raider training. At the time the Japanese 17th Army was sweeping down through Asia. They had also built Rabaul. If they got the airfield going on Guadalcanal and made the 500 mile jump down to Samoa they would effectively have Australia locked off. They had to be stopped. The 7th Marine Regiment had fantastic commanders like Louie Puller, Horrible Herman Hanneken, and Farrell [Annotators Note: unsure of spelling]. The 7th was tasked with going to Samoa. They boarded a ship in Norfolk and were in the canal [Annotators Note: the Panama Canal] when Doolittle bombed Tokyo. They stopped in American Samoa then went to British Western Samoa. They unloaded the ships and began building defenses. Greer was there from early May 1942 until the last week of August 1942. The rest of the 1st Marine Division went to New Zealand to prepare for the landings on Guadalcanal. There were not enough ships to transport the 7th Marine Regiment so they were forced to wait. The 7th Marine Regiment boarded ships the last week in August and started for Guadalcanal but were forced back three or four times by Japanese naval forces in the area. One time they diverted to Caledonia, another time they went to Tongatabu, and once they went to the Hebrides. They finally went ashore on Guadalcanal on 18 September 1942. During their arrival the North Carolina [Annotators Note: USS North Carolina (BB-55)] was damaged and the Wasp [Annotators Note: USS Wasp (CV-7)] was sunk. When the 7th Marine Regiment landed they joined the 1st Regiment, 5th Regiment, and 11th Regiment. When the 7th landed they rounded out the division. Greer and the 7th landed in the midst of a Japanese air raid. Greer moved in behind Red beach into a coconut grove on the first night. He took alot of pictures during his time there. Some of his photographs have been seen around the world including those he took of John Basilone. Greer knew John Basilone and J.P. Morgan from back at New River [Annotators Note: US Marine Corps Barracks New River, now Camp Lejune, North Carolina]. He and the other Marines had worked about 14 hours that day and were too tired to dig a foxhole so they just slept out on the ground. A few hours later a 14 inch shell detonated in the coconut grove and he lay down on his side and began digging. He was never caught out in the open again. Greer took part in all three battles on the Matanikau. After that he took part in the Point Cruz landing. They made the landings in Higgins boats then fought their way up the hill. At the top of the hill Puller's [Annotators Note: US Marine Corps Lieutenant General Lewis B. Puller, also known as Chesty Puller] assistant battalion commander, Otha Buck Rogers, was killed by a Japanese mortar or artillery round. When Puller realized they were in trouble he made contact with a destroyer armed with five inch guns and had the destroyer fire on the Japanese positions while the Marines charged back down the hill. When they got back down to the beach they were picked up by Coast Guard manned landing boats. One of the Coast Guardsmen was Munro [Annotators Note: US Coast Guard Signalman 1st Class Douglas A. Munro] who was awarded the Medal of Honor. The Marines who were stranded on top of the mountain had taken their shirts out and spelled out the word help. A pilot saw the signal and got the word back to Puller. During the fighting on top of the mountain the Marines lost 26 men killed and 26 men wounded. One of the Marines who was killed was from Greer’s hometown and died right in front of him.

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Richard Greer served as a machinegunner in Company A, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. During the fighting on Guadalcanal, the Japanese were jumping off on their attacks from their side of the Matanikau [Annotators Note: the Matanikau River]. During one of them they attacked with tanks. During that battle the Marines knocked out six or seven Japanese tanks. The Japanese launched many attacks across the Matanikau. They did not go out to the Koli Point area until late November or December. At the same time the Marines were doing their best to defend the airfield [Annotators Note: Henderson Field] perimeter. The airfield was vital to both the Americans and Japanese. Whoever controlled the airfield controlled Australia. When Greer arrived on Guadalcanal they believed that there were about 20,000 Japanese on the island and about 20,000 Marines. The 1st Marines and 5th Marines had been on the island for about a month. Their clothes were all tattered and they had all lost a lot of weight. When Greer landed he weighed 190 pounds and weighed 145 pounds four months later. Greer had been under Chesty Puller's [Annotators Note: US Marine Corps Lieutenant General Lewis B. Puller, also known as Chesty Puller] command since February of 1942. The training he and the other Marines in his outfit had under Puller was very good. Puller trained his Marines hard but when good times came around he played hard with them as well. Puller was also a very good combat leader. He was always up front. On 8 November Puller was hit by a shell that put some pieces in Greer as well. Puller had more success on the Matanikau than anybody else. The Japanese side of the Matanikau was well defended. Their .25 caliber Nambu machine gun fired very fast and when bullets from it hit someone they stayed in them unlike the .30-06 rounds that went right through. On 28 September 1942 Greer took part in the third offensive on the Matanikau. The landing was a SNAFU [Annotator's not: US military acronym SNAFU meaning Situation Normal All Fouled Up]. After landing Greer saw a Japanese officer moving up leading a company of men. The officer was waving a sword above his head. They opened fire on the Japanese who then returned fire pinning the Marines down in the kunai grass. Greer had a lot of respect for the Japanese as fighters. The Marines were in defensive positions like what would have been seen in 1917 and 1918 in France [Annotators Note: during World War 1]. They were dug in with heavy machineguns supported by riflemen. That was how the 1st Battalion [Annotators Note: 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division] was set up at the Lunga area. The line was about 2,500 yards long just below the fighter strip. Both the 1st and 2nd Battalions were manning the line until the 2nd Battalion was moved to the Matanikau leaving only the 1st Battalion to man the entire front. The 1st Battalion set up its defensive positions along the line. Most of the gun emplacements were fixed. When the Japanese attacked they did what they were supposed to do. On the night of 24 and 25 October the Japanese broke the Marine line twice. Once they broke through by the company CP [Annotators Note: Command Post]. They got in about 30 or 40 yards then stopped to rest. Marines from the CP and from the mortar platoon attacked them and killed them. Most of the Japanese soldiers were asleep when the Marines attacked. Another group of enemy soldiers broke through but were taken care of quickly. The Japanese hit sector three that night with about 7,000 people. There were about 700 Marines manning the perimeter defenses. The defenses set up by the Marines were well prepared. The Battle for Henderson Field lasted two nights and one day. When the Japanese pulled back into the jungle they left 3,500 dead in front of the Marine lines.

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Richard Greer experienced some bayonet fighting during the Battle for Henderson Field but more so at Point Cruz. They kept their bayonets fixed but the fighting rarely came down to that. The closest a Japanese soldier ever got to Greer was six or seven feet. During the fighting on Bloody Ridge Greer had been pulled out of the 1st Platoon and was sent to the First Sergeant's office. They went through five First Sergeants on Guadalcanal. One of them was killed by the same shell that wounded Puller [Annotators Note: US Marine Corps Lieutenant General Lewis B. Puller, also known as Chesty] and Greer. Twice on Guadalcanal Greer was made acting First Sergeant. Greer was pulled out of 1st Platoon and put in Headquarters Platoon. He was made a runner and in addition to doing the morning reports he ran items for officers and ammo on 24 and 25 October during the defense of Henderson field. During the battle Greer and two other Marines from Headquarters Platoon were the only Marines available to guard the CP [Annotators Note: Command Post]. The Master Gunnery Sergeant was loading machine gun belts along with another sergeant and when several belts were ready Greer would run them to the front lines. Greer saw many of the guys from his outfit, including Basilone [Annotators Note: John Basilone]. In addition to running ammunition to the front lines Greer was still responsible for the defense of the CP. The hardest part of the battle was the first night. There was not much fighting during the day then they came back again the next night but not as hard. The following morning the Japanese made a few attacks around daybreak but nothing serious then pulled back. After the Japanese left Greer and his outfit were pulled off the line and moved to Bloody Ridge. Another unit came in and took their place on the line. During the battle the army 164th [Annotators Note: 164th Infantry Regiment] came in. The army unit was parceled out. Soldiers were mixed in with Marines at strong points. The soldiers were carrying M1 rifles and did real well that night. The nicest thing Greer heard was the sound of 24 machineguns firing. The Japanese carried dynamite and grenades and also used a small mortar known as a knee mortar. The Americans had 81 millimeter mortars. To Greer they were the heaviest weapon they had short of naval gunfire. The noise of battle was unbelievable. The smell was terrible too. The closest Greer ever came to hand to hand combat was on Point Cruz. At night Greer was moving up when he came across a Jap colonel. He aimed his weapon at the enemy officer but quickly realized that the top of the man’s head was missing. The Japanese had long range artillery and Pistol Pete [Annotators Note: nickname given to Japanese heavy artillery on Guadalcanal] was active at all times. The Japanese had a group of 155s [Annotators Note: 155 millimeter howitzers] and could reach a lot of areas. The worst night of Greer’s life was 12 October 1942 when a force consisting of two battleships, four cruisers, and a bunch of cans [Annotators Note: navy slang for destroyers] dropped anchor in the Slot and shelled the heck out of the Marines. That is when Greer lost his hearing. It was the worst shelling the Marines took during the entire war. At the time he was below the fighter strip at Henderson Field. They were new to that area and were preparing their defenses when the shelling took place. The Japanese hit their lines 12 or 13 days later. The American intelligence guys would sometimes see Japanese officers up on the mountain looking down at them. The Marines also knew that their positions were on the main line running to Henderson Field. They did their best to get their positions ready for the attack. Both sides lost a lot of guys. Puller was an expert at setting up defensive positions.

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To Richard Greer the staff NCOs in the weapons company were the heroes. They had a lot of old staff NCOs that they looked up to including Master Gunnery Sergeant Farrell. Greer soldiered under an NCO named Dawkins [Annotators Note: unsure of spelling] and learned a lot from him. When Greer went out on Puller's [Annotators Note: US Marine Corps Lieutenant General Lewis B. Puller, also known as Chesty] patrols his role was rear guard. He really became an infantryman on these patrols. He credited Harold Dawkins for helping him become the soldier he was. They went across the Matanikau one time and a Japanese company hit them from the rear. Greer and the other rear guard Marines hit the deck. While they were lying face down in the kunai grass Greer asked Dawkins what they were going to do. Dawkins told him not to move. He had checked out the terrain and knew that the enemy machine gunner could not depress his gun low enough to hit them. Soon after that American mortar rounds began falling which forced the Japanese to pull back. The big battle for Henderson Field ended on 25 October [Annotators Note: 25 October 1942]. After the battle Greer’s outfit was moved to Bloody Ridge. After three days Greer’s regiment was placed in division reserve and moved down behind Red Beach where they got word that the Japanese were building up their forces at Koli Point and supposedly had 10,000 troops there. They boarded Higgins boats and landed down near Koli Point. At the time they landed the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment was under Colonel Hanneken. American troops started flooding the area. The army's 164th [Annotators Note: 164th Infantry Regiment] came down and two regiments of the 2nd Marine Division came down as well. After maneuvering around for about a week they crossed a sand spit and walked into an area where they were hit by Japanese 77s [Annotators Note: 77 millimeter guns]. The First Sergeant was killed, Greer was wounded, Puller was wounded, and two or three others were killed. The Japanese counterattacked over the army 164th. To Greer the 164th was untrained for jungle warfare. Greer’s unit was in the area for about a month before breaking the enemy concentration up. Then they went into reserve. On 5 January [Annotators Note: 5 January 1943] the 7th Marine Regiment left for Australia. While Greer was at Koli Point the Japanese came down with 14 transports that were knocked out by the navy and Cactus Air Force [Annotators Note: name given to the aviation units based at Henderson Field]. Also during this time the Raiders pulled off one of the greatest campaigns of the entire war [Annotators Note: Greer is referring to the long patrol carried out by the 2nd Raider Battalion]. The operation at Koli Point was a joint army and Marine Corps operation. The army was not trained well enough. The Marines knew how to move well in the jungle. Puller marched the Marines around a lot in the jungle. He always seemed to know where he was. They covered a lot of ground and were in firefights all the time. The morning after the battle that took place on 24 and 25 October the ground was littered with bodies and body parts. Greer’s machinegun section was always attached to Company A so the 1st Platoon guys always hung out with the guys from that company. The morning after the battle was the first time Greer had ever seen bodies piled up like that. That morning Greer felt grateful that he had survived. When Greer was wounded he was knocked out. When he came to the pharmacist's mate was bandaging his left ankle. He thought he had a hole in his chest because he was bleeding from his nose and mouth but it was only a concussion. He had also had a piece of shrapnel go through his Boondockers [Annotators Note: his boots].

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Richard Greer thought very highly of the navy medical personnel who worked with them. The pharmacist’s mates were always right there and were considered Marines. They always got their wounded out. Dawkins [Annotators Note: Dawkins was a sergeant in the Headquarters Platoon with Greer] taught him to tie knots at the opposite ends of a blanket, place the wounded Marine on it, and slide him out. Greer used this method during the war and after. They seldom had any food to speak of. They usually ate Japanese rice. They would have one B-17 a day that would come in from the Hebrides or New Caledonia with either food or ammo. It was usually ammo. The food situation was bad. The average weight loss was almost 40 pounds, caused by tension and starvation. Sometimes they got C rations. They always managed to have something although it was never enough. Malaria was rampant. It was worse than the division knew because a lot of Marines would not turn themselves in to the hospital. When they got to Australia they started out as a 20,000 man reinforced Marine Division. When they got back to Australia at one point they had 10,000 cases of malaria. Greer suffered from malaria for 40 years. He believes that the division suffered close to a 100 percent malaria rate. All of the hospitals around Melbourne were full all the time. The malaria would hit them and knock them down without any notice. They got their first replacements while they are at Koli Point. They got some privates and second lieutenants but not many. They got a lot of replacements when they got to Australia. They were glad to see the replacements. One day while they were on Samoa Greer was playing cards with John Basilone, J.P. Morgan, and another Marine when he saw a couple guys coming toward them carrying sea bags. They sent the new guys to the First Sergeant's office. They played a joke on one of the new men telling him that he was the new company barber. He did a very bad job but after the war he opened a string of barber shops that did very well for him. The man’s name was Phil Hernandez. Hernandez was Puller's [Annotators Note: US Marine Corps Lieutenant General Lewis B. Puller, also known as Chesty] point man. He was a good Marine. Greer cannot figure out how military decorations are handed out. John Basilone was the best machine gunner Greer ever saw and feels that he truly deserved the Medal of Honor but after the night on Bloody Ridge, for which Basilone was awarded the Medal of Honor, there were more dead Japanese in front of Company A’s lines but nobody from that outfit got any decorations. Basilone could take machineguns apart and put them back together blindfolded and he could fire it very accurately. There was no part of the machinegun that was a mystery to Basilone. They had a lot of good machine gunners in their outfit.

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Richard Greer left Guadalcanal on 5 or 6 January 1943 and went to Melbourne. He was very happy to be leaving the island. Rupertus [Annotators Note: US Marine Corps Major General William H. Rupertus] had a Dalmatian dog that was always with Greer and the guys in the mortar platoon. Rupertus would send his jeep to get the dog but the dog would always go back to them. When they left Guadalcanal for Australia one of the Marines brought the dog with him. The Marines were all very weak when they left Guadalcanal. Many of them could not make it up the cargo net onto the transport ship without assistance. When Greer went aboard he went straight to sickbay to weigh himself. He was six foot three inches tall and weighed 145 pounds. In Melbourne they were well fed and put their weight back on quickly. In addition to the food Melbourne was full of available women. All of the young men had gone to North Africa to fight alongside the British. They had been at war since 1939. Every Marine had at least one serious affair while they were in Australia. They went from hell straight to heaven. Greer had a good looking gal. Greer lived and went on liberty with the staff NCOs. One night Greer went to the Hotel Australia with Master Gunnery Sergeant Farrell, Master Gunnery Sergeant Stauerson [Annotators Note: unsure of spelling], and Master Sergeant Dawkins. Greer was surprised to see that the hotel bar served real scotch and bourbon. Greer had a double scotch then walked over to a good looking girl and asked her to dance. After a couple dances Greer walked back by his friends. When he saw the girl getting ready to leave he asked if he could see her home. They boarded the electric train that took them back to her place. That was the beginning of an eight month relationship. Greer would visit her and her family whenever he could. Her brothers were gunners in the Australian Army and her father had passed away. During their stay in Australia Greer and his fellow Marines made different kinds of liberties. Greer made a lot of liberties with Basilone [Annotators Note: Medal of Honor recipient John Basilone]. Sometimes they would go to a small town and get a room at a hotel that had a decent kitchen. They would make arrangements with the barkeep and John would mix drinks. He made one drink that he called the Blockbuster which had a one ounce shot of eight different kinds of booze in it. After drinking the Blockbuster they would eat a six course meal that only cost them one pound. After eating they would go pass out. Another kind of liberty they made was going to Melbourne and finding the girls then going dancing and hanging out somewhere like Mario’s. One night John told Greer that he wanted to do something different so Greer called up a couple of girls that he knew. It was on this liberty that John told Greer that he had been ordered home. On 4 July 1943 they took the train up to the Australian Alps. They arrived in the middle of a snowstorm. They played around all day then took the last train back. Company D, 1st Battalion, 7th [Annotators Note: 7th Infantry Regiment, 1st Marine Division] hung out at a place on Little Collins Street called Vamanos. That was Greer's favorite place to hang out in Melbourne. The bar was run by an old World War I veteran whose three daughters worked as the barmaids. They kept their hand off the barmaids. At Young and Jackson’s there was a painting titled Chloe. Greer took his wife to see it in 1970 because she was also a painter. At another place in the building was a lounge that served a sandwich called an oyster fillet. It was a fillet sliced open with an oyster in it.

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Richard Greer was in the hospital when John Basilone was awarded the Medal of Honor. Greer was supposed to have been in the color guard but fell out with an attack of malaria. Greer never spoke with him again after he left but Greer did stay in contact with Basilone's sister Mary. The bond tour was tough for Basilone and he requested FMF [Annotators Note: Fleet Marine Force]. He went back but did not make it on Iwo [Annotators Note: John Basilone was killed in action on Iwo Jima on 19 February 1945 at the age of 28]. In September of 1943 Greer and his company [Annotators Note: Company D, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division] boarded an LST for the 3,000 mile trip to New Guinea. They went ashore at Cape Sudest and moved inland to the foot of the Owen Stanleys and prepared for the campaign on Cape Gloucester. They carried out some patrols because there were still some Japanese in the area but most of their time was spent training. Then they began losing Marines to scrub typhus. The disease was carried by fleas that bit the Marines and they would keel over dead. The Marines started hunting the rats that carried the fleas. They would award beer prizes to the Marines who killed the most rats. They piled up rats and poured gas on them and burned them. Greer and his fellow Marines arriver there in September [Annotators Note: September 1943] then left the area on Christmas Day. The ammo depot was right next to their positions and one day the Japanese attacked with 100 planes. The ammo depot was hit and burned for two weeks. Greer watched the air battle overhead and in the middle of all the Japanese planes he saw the Lightening [Annotators Note: Lockheed P-38 Lightening fighter aircraft] flown by army Major Richard Bong. He watched Bong shoot down five enemy planes before pulling up and leaving the area. Bong was one of the best fighter pilots of all time and Greer got to see him in action once. One nice thing Greer saw on New Guinea was a vegetable garden which provided fresh vegetables for the troops. They spent about three months there and when Greer had some time off he would go down to the burn center and would hold cigarettes for the wounded guys and talk to them. They got a campaign battle star for New Guinea. They got three of them while Greer was there for Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester, and New Guinea. The weather on New Guinea was worse than on Guadalcanal. Only one time during the three months he was there did Greer see the top of the Owen Stanley Mountains. It was a beautiful sight. From there they moved to Cape Gloucester. Greer was part of Pullers [Annotators Note: US Marine Corps Lieutenant General Lewis B. Puller] 1,000 man patrol. At the time Puller had been promoted out of a job. He had been promoted to full colonel but did not have a regiment to command. Towards the end of the fighting there were a lot of stray Japanese so Puller put together a patrol from whoever he could get his hands on. The Marines called the patrol the Puller Parrish [Annotators Note: unsure of spelling] Patrol because Pete Parrish from the weapons company had a lot to do with it. The mission of the patrol was to wipe out the remaining Japs hanging around in the area. By that time they were half starved and half dead. By the end of Pullers 1,000 man patrol there were none left. Cape Gloucester gets 400 inches of rainfall per year. The shoes would rot off the feet of the Marines in 30 or 40 days. Their rifle slings would rot off in 30 or 40 days. It never quits raining and it is just not a place for people. Morale was not worth a damn but they still performed. They left there in May and went to Pavuvu which was a step backwards. It was knee deep with the biggest land crabs they ever saw and it was full of rats. The Marines still complain about Pavuvu. It was terrible. By the end of June or July [Annotators Note: June or July 1944] suicides were not uncommon. Then came the rotation. They got one point for very month overseas, five points for each campaign, and five points for each wound. That gave Greer enough point to rotate home. He had 27 months overseas, three campaigns, and a Purple Heart.

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Richard Greer saw a few Red Cross things and the show Bob Hope was in on Pavuvu. He only watched for a little while then left. They also had a coconut grove next to a stream where they showed movies. Anything went down there. During one movie a Marine pulled out his .45 and fired off a shot. The Marines all ran. Greer only knows of one suicide but was told about others. In July 1944 Greer rotated out. He does not know who came up with it but whoever it was knew that they had been there too long. Time and time again Greer saw Dawkins exhibit courage and bravery under fire. The gunnery sergeants were all also good at keeping the men calmed down. Two powerful nations were fighting and both side put everything they had into it. On Guadalcanal a rumor was passed around that the Marines would need to evacuate the island or go into the mountains and act as commandos. The Marines did not care. They would fight. The Japanese were controlling the seas most of the time and Cactus [Annotators Note: Cactus Air Force was name given to the aviation units based at Henderson Field] was fighting them in the air. They also provided close air support. They brought in Bell Airacobras [Annotators Note: Bell Aircraft P-400 and P-39 Airacobra fighter aircraft flown by army pilots] which had poor high altitude performance but worked great for close air support. Sometimes the pilots would visit the Marines on the lines. The Marines on the ground knew that the pilots would eventually win. Greer watched as the Japanese Zeros [Annotators Note: Mitsubishi A6M fighter aircraft, known as the Zero or Zeke] strafed them on Bloody Ridge. It was a miserable feeling being strafed. They would take shots at them when they could. They had one guy named Trigger McCray [Annotators Note: unsure of spelling]. McCray tried several times to hit the enemy planes but had missed so far. The story went that the next time the Zeros came down McCray had his machine gun belts loaded with incendiary rounds and fired at the enemy planes which flew into his stream of fire. The plane pulled away smoking. McCray does not know if he shot it down or not but he was sure trying. The Japanese would come around at 10, two, and four to bomb the airfield [Annotators Note: Henderson Field]. If they over shot or under shot the airfield then the bombs fell on the lines.

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The last thing Richard Greer and his fellow Marines did before leaving Guadalcanal was to dedicate a cemetery in honor of their dead. The Marines formed a very special bond that lasted their entire lives. Greer is still close with some of the guys he served with. When Greer got home he just picked up where he left off. He went to work and tried to rebuild his life. He was always disciplined. He came from a disciplined family and is thankful for his Christian upbringing. Greer has a lot of respect for the men who put this country together like Payne, Franklin, Washington, Jefferson, and Jackson. The United States was just coming out of a depression when World War 2 started. At the time very few people could afford to buy a car or anything like that. After the war there was a demand and people started living off the cuff. Greer believes that it has finally caught up to us. It is clear to Greer even after all these years that they had to fight World War 2. It had to be done. When the Japanese attacked 44,000 young men with an average of two years of college joined the Marine Corps. Others joined in the tens and hundreds of thousands. Greer hopes that the current generation feels the same way. He has spent a lot of time all over the world. He worked until he was about 62 then did a lot of work for the State Department volunteering on projects in Central America, South America, and Africa. Greer is also a specialist in forest projects. He has traveled the world and knows that this is the best country on Earth. [Annotators Note: Greer describes the photographs he has, many of which are of John Basilone, the liberties they made, and the ceremony during which Basilone was awarded the Medal of Honor]. Greer and Basilone made a lot of liberties together. Basilone was nearly a year older than Greer and easy to get along with but he was dead serious about being a Marine. He also spoke a lot about his army service and about his time in Manila. J.P. Morgan was John’s best friend. They were quite different. Morgan was not as easy to get along with and threw his weight around a lot but Greer got along with him. They heard Morgan had been killed on a motorcycle. Ambrose [Annotators Note: Hugh Ambrose] dogged it for seven years and Greer worked with him. They finally discovered that Morgan died in 1980 at the age of 60 but know nothing about him from 1944 to 1980. Morgan was ahead of Greer in the telephone line in San Diego when they got back from overseas in July 1944. When Greer saw a strange look on Morgan’s face he asked what was wrong and Morgan told him that his wife took the 44,000 dollars that he had sent home and ran off with a 4-Fer [Annotators Note: 4F is the Selective Service designation for someone who is unfit for military duty]. Morgan planned to go find them. Greer lost contact with Morgan after that. He tried for years to find out what happened to Morgan from the end of the war until 1980 but has not been able to. The battle on 24 and 25 October was the biggest battle on Guadalcanal. Greer had just moved into that section of the line and they were building up their defenses. They knew that the Japanese had a lot of troops in the area and that they were in their way. The Marines pulled .50 caliber machineguns out of wrecked airplanes and installed them in their positions. Even though they were stretched out very thin their positions bristled with weapons. Greer does not know how the Japanese were able to get as far as they did. It was the same as some of the battles that had taken place in France during World War 1. It was suicide to hit their positions with a frontal assault.

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While Richard Greer and his fellow Marines were on Guadalcanal they were bombed almost constantly. They were hit at ten, two, and four during the day then at night by Washing Machine Charlie [Annotators Note: Washing Machine Charlie was the nickname given to lone Japanese aircraft the would fly over the Marines' positions at night in an effort to keep the Americans from getting any rest]. Charlie would drop bombs sometimes but he also dropped wine bottle that made the Marines jumpy too. Greer got no sleep on Cape Gloucester and he was never dry. They all suffered from jungle rot. In New Guinea they had jungle hammocks with mosquito nets. If they were sleeping when a Japanese air raid started and they could not find the zipper they pulled out their K Bars [Annotators Note: K Bar fighting knife] and cut a hole in it. Greer preferred to sleep on the ground because it was easier to escape down there. Greer was caught without a hole once and it taught him a lesson. When they got back from the SNAFU [Annotators Note: military acronym meaning Situation Normal All Fouled Up] at Mount Austin and Point Cruz they were put on the line at the foot of the fighter strip. Gunnery Sergeant Stauers and Phil Hernandez were there with them. Greer did not dig a hole. He was so dirty that he had a friend get some water and they took a bath then washed their shorts in what was left. By the time they were done it was too dark for them to dig a hole but they found a V shaped trench where they would go if there was a bombing. Later that night they learned that the Japanese were bombing the airport and had over shot it with two sticks of bombs [Annotators Note: a stick generally refers to the number of a particular item a single aircraft holds or carries]. They ran to the ditch and jumped in and discovered that it was full of Marines. [Annotators Note: Greer shows the interviewers the only surviving photograph of the girlfriend he had in Melbourne].

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After basic training Richard Greer and the other Marines from his boot camp class went to Norfolk, Virginia where they were interviewed by an officer whose job it was to send them in the right direction. After the interview Greer was told that he would make a fine pay officer. Greer declined and was assigned to a machinegun company. After Norfolk they went into Raider training. At the time the Japanese 17th Army was sweeping down through Asia. They had also built Rabaul. If they got the airfield going on Guadalcanal and made the 500 mile jump down to Samoa they would effectively have Australia locked off. They had to be stopped. The 7th Marine Regiment had fantastic commanders like Louie Puller, Horrible Herman Hanneken, and Farrell [Annotators Note: unsure of spelling]. The 7th was tasked with going to Samoa. They boarded a ship in Norfolk and were in the canal [Annotators Note: the Panama Canal] when Doolittle bombed Tokyo. They stopped in American Samoa then went to British Western Samoa. They unloaded the ships and began building defenses. Greer was there from early May 1942 until the last week of August 1942. The rest of the 1st Marine Division went to New Zealand to prepare for the landings on Guadalcanal. There were not enough ships to transport the 7th Marine Regiment so they were forced to wait. The 7th Marine Regiment boarded ships the last week in August and started for Guadalcanal but were forced back three or four times by Japanese naval forces in the area. One time they diverted to Caledonia, another time they went to Tongatabu, and once they went to the Hebrides. They finally went ashore on Guadalcanal on 18 September 1942. During their arrival the North Carolina [Annotators Note: USS North Carolina (BB-55)] was damaged and the Wasp [Annotators Note: USS Wasp (CV-7)] was sunk. When the 7th Marine Regiment landed they joined the 1st Regiment, 5th Regiment, and 11th Regiment. When the 7th landed they rounded out the division. Greer and the 7th landed in the midst of a Japanese air raid. Greer moved in behind Red beach into a coconut grove on the first night. He took alot of pictures during his time there. Some of his photographs have been seen around the world including those he took of John Basilone. Greer knew John Basilone and J.P. Morgan from back at New River [Annotators Note: US Marine Corps Barracks New River, now Camp Lejune, North Carolina]. He and the other Marines had worked about 14 hours that day and were too tired to dig a foxhole so they just slept out on the ground. A few hours later a 14 inch shell detonated in the coconut grove and he lay down on his side and began digging. He was never caught out in the open again. Greer took part in all three battles on the Matanikau. After that he took part in the Point Cruz landing. They made the landings in Higgins boats then fought their way up the hill. At the top of the hill Puller's [Annotators Note: US Marine Corps Lieutenant General Lewis B. Puller, also known as Chesty Puller] assistant battalion commander, Otha Buck Rogers, was killed by a Japanese mortar or artillery round. When Puller realized they were in trouble he made contact with a destroyer armed with five inch guns and had the destroyer fire on the Japanese positions while the Marines charged back down the hill. When they got back down to the beach they were picked up by Coast Guard manned landing boats. One of the Coast Guardsmen was Munro [Annotators Note: US Coast Guard Signalman 1st Class Douglas A. Munro] who was awarded the Medal of Honor. The Marines who were stranded on top of the mountain had taken their shirts out and spelled out the word help. A pilot saw the signal and got the word back to Puller. During the fighting on top of the mountain the Marines lost 26 men killed and 26 men wounded. One of the Marines who was killed was from Greer’s hometown and died right in front of him.

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Richard Greer served as a machinegunner in Company A, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. During the fighting on Guadalcanal, the Japanese were jumping off on their attacks from their side of the Matanikau [Annotators Note: the Matanikau River]. During one of them they attacked with tanks. During that battle the Marines knocked out six or seven Japanese tanks. The Japanese launched many attacks across the Matanikau. They did not go out to the Koli Point area until late November or December. At the same time the Marines were doing their best to defend the airfield [Annotators Note: Henderson Field] perimeter. The airfield was vital to both the Americans and Japanese. Whoever controlled the airfield controlled Australia. When Greer arrived on Guadalcanal they believed that there were about 20,000 Japanese on the island and about 20,000 Marines. The 1st Marines and 5th Marines had been on the island for about a month. Their clothes were all tattered and they had all lost a lot of weight. When Greer landed he weighed 190 pounds and weighed 145 pounds four months later. Greer had been under Chesty Puller's [Annotators Note: US Marine Corps Lieutenant General Lewis B. Puller, also known as Chesty Puller] command since February of 1942. The training he and the other Marines in his outfit had under Puller was very good. Puller trained his Marines hard but when good times came around he played hard with them as well. Puller was also a very good combat leader. He was always up front. On 8 November Puller was hit by a shell that put some pieces in Greer as well. Puller had more success on the Matanikau than anybody else. The Japanese side of the Matanikau was well defended. Their .25 caliber Nambu machine gun fired very fast and when bullets from it hit someone they stayed in them unlike the .30-06 rounds that went right through. On 28 September 1942 Greer took part in the third offensive on the Matanikau. The landing was a SNAFU [Annotator's not: US military acronym SNAFU meaning Situation Normal All Fouled Up]. After landing Greer saw a Japanese officer moving up leading a company of men. The officer was waving a sword above his head. They opened fire on the Japanese who then returned fire pinning the Marines down in the kunai grass. Greer had a lot of respect for the Japanese as fighters. The Marines were in defensive positions like what would have been seen in 1917 and 1918 in France [Annotators Note: during World War 1]. They were dug in with heavy machineguns supported by riflemen. That was how the 1st Battalion [Annotators Note: 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division] was set up at the Lunga area. The line was about 2,500 yards long just below the fighter strip. Both the 1st and 2nd Battalions were manning the line until the 2nd Battalion was moved to the Matanikau leaving only the 1st Battalion to man the entire front. The 1st Battalion set up its defensive positions along the line. Most of the gun emplacements were fixed. When the Japanese attacked they did what they were supposed to do. On the night of 24 and 25 October the Japanese broke the Marine line twice. Once they broke through by the company CP [Annotators Note: Command Post]. They got in about 30 or 40 yards then stopped to rest. Marines from the CP and from the mortar platoon attacked them and killed them. Most of the Japanese soldiers were asleep when the Marines attacked. Another group of enemy soldiers broke through but were taken care of quickly. The Japanese hit sector three that night with about 7,000 people. There were about 700 Marines manning the perimeter defenses. The defenses set up by the Marines were well prepared. The Battle for Henderson Field lasted two nights and one day. When the Japanese pulled back into the jungle they left 3,500 dead in front of the Marine lines.

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The last thing Richard Greer and his fellow Marines did before leaving Guadalcanal was to dedicate a cemetery in honor of their dead. The Marines formed a very special bond that lasted their entire lives. Greer is still close with some of the guys he served with. When Greer got home he just picked up where he left off. He went to work and tried to rebuild his life. He was always disciplined. He came from a disciplined family and is thankful for his Christian upbringing. Greer has a lot of respect for the men who put this country together like Payne, Franklin, Washington, Jefferson, and Jackson. The United States was just coming out of a depression when World War 2 started. At the time very few people could afford to buy a car or anything like that. After the war there was a demand and people started living off the cuff. Greer believes that it has finally caught up to us. It is clear to Greer even after all these years that they had to fight World War 2. It had to be done. When the Japanese attacked 44,000 young men with an average of two years of college joined the Marine Corps. Others joined in the tens and hundreds of thousands. Greer hopes that the current generation feels the same way. He has spent a lot of time all over the world. He worked until he was about 62 then did a lot of work for the State Department volunteering on projects in Central America, South America, and Africa. Greer is also a specialist in forest projects. He has traveled the world and knows that this is the best country on Earth. [Annotators Note: Greer describes the photographs he has, many of which are of John Basilone, the liberties they made, and the ceremony during which Basilone was awarded the Medal of Honor]. Greer and Basilone made a lot of liberties together. Basilone was nearly a year older than Greer and easy to get along with but he was dead serious about being a Marine. He also spoke a lot about his army service and about his time in Manila. J.P. Morgan was John’s best friend. They were quite different. Morgan was not as easy to get along with and threw his weight around a lot but Greer got along with him. They heard Morgan had been killed on a motorcycle. Ambrose [Annotators Note: Hugh Ambrose] dogged it for seven years and Greer worked with him. They finally discovered that Morgan died in 1980 at the age of 60 but know nothing about him from 1944 to 1980. Morgan was ahead of Greer in the telephone line in San Diego when they got back from overseas in July 1944. When Greer saw a strange look on Morgan’s face he asked what was wrong and Morgan told him that his wife took the 44,000 dollars that he had sent home and ran off with a 4-Fer [Annotators Note: 4F is the Selective Service designation for someone who is unfit for military duty]. Morgan planned to go find them. Greer lost contact with Morgan after that. He tried for years to find out what happened to Morgan from the end of the war until 1980 but has not been able to. The battle on 24 and 25 October was the biggest battle on Guadalcanal. Greer had just moved into that section of the line and they were building up their defenses. They knew that the Japanese had a lot of troops in the area and that they were in their way. The Marines pulled .50 caliber machineguns out of wrecked airplanes and installed them in their positions. Even though they were stretched out very thin their positions bristled with weapons. Greer does not know how the Japanese were able to get as far as they did. It was the same as some of the battles that had taken place in France during World War 1. It was suicide to hit their positions with a frontal assault.

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While Richard Greer and his fellow Marines were on Guadalcanal they were bombed almost constantly. They were hit at ten, two, and four during the day then at night by Washing Machine Charlie [Annotators Note: Washing Machine Charlie was the nickname given to lone Japanese aircraft the would fly over the Marines' positions at night in an effort to keep the Americans from getting any rest]. Charlie would drop bombs sometimes but he also dropped wine bottle that made the Marines jumpy too. Greer got no sleep on Cape Gloucester and he was never dry. They all suffered from jungle rot. In New Guinea they had jungle hammocks with mosquito nets. If they were sleeping when a Japanese air raid started and they could not find the zipper they pulled out their K Bars [Annotators Note: K Bar fighting knife] and cut a hole in it. Greer preferred to sleep on the ground because it was easier to escape down there. Greer was caught without a hole once and it taught him a lesson. When they got back from the SNAFU [Annotators Note: military acronym meaning Situation Normal All Fouled Up] at Mount Austin and Point Cruz they were put on the line at the foot of the fighter strip. Gunnery Sergeant Stauers and Phil Hernandez were there with them. Greer did not dig a hole. He was so dirty that he had a friend get some water and they took a bath then washed their shorts in what was left. By the time they were done it was too dark for them to dig a hole but they found a V shaped trench where they would go if there was a bombing. Later that night they learned that the Japanese were bombing the airport and had over shot it with two sticks of bombs [Annotators Note: a stick generally refers to the number of a particular item a single aircraft holds or carries]. They ran to the ditch and jumped in and discovered that it was full of Marines. [Annotators Note: Greer shows the interviewers the only surviving photograph of the girlfriend he had in Melbourne].
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