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1st Marine Raider Battalion

Raider Training

Heading to Guadalcanal

Edson's Ridge and Being Wounded

Getting the Silver Star

Edson's Ridge and Feelings about Edson

Untitled Scene

The Matanikau and Ken Bailey's Death


James Smith was known as Horse [Annotators Note: also as Horse Collar] during his time in the Marine Corps. He earned that nickname because he was usually in a harness pulling a cart full of his section’s communications gear. Smith was a corporal and his section leader was a sergeant and they did not get along. Smith served during World War 2 in the 1st Marine Raider Battalion commanded by Merritt A. Edson. Sam Griffith was the Executive Officer. After the Battle of Guadalcanal, and the battle of Edson's Ridge [Annotators Note: 12 to–14 September 1942], Edson was promoted to colonel and took over the 5th Marines [Annotators Note: 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division] and Sam Griffith took over the 1st Marine Raider Battalion. Smith was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. His parents were immigrants from England. He was a competitive swimmer and went to state championships a number of times, nationals once. He also played some football. One year he learned about the CMTC [Annotators note: Citizens' Military Training Camps] and they had a camp in Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indiana. He decided to sign up for the CMTC. It was a great program. They went to camp for four years and took some extension courses and you got a second lieutenant's commission in the army. While there, he loved every bit of it especially the close order drill and the weapons. Smith’s drill instructor was a big, tough army sergeant and was the biggest most powerful man he had met in his life. All he could talk about with Smith was the Marine Corps and how he should join the Marine Corps. The army sergeant had teeth problems and could not get in. War broke out [Annotators note: In Europe] in September of 1939 and Smith went down and tried to immediately join the Marines. He had to get a tooth fixed that he had broken and he was not accepted until 1 November 1939. He was sent to Parris Island. It was rugged back then. There was no parade deck. They did all close order drill in sand which was full of sand fleas. It was miserable but the training was excellent. Smith did well at the range, particularly with pistols. He had to take an aptitude test that selected him for communications school at Quantico. Just before Christmas 1939, he was shipped up to Quantico and became a radio operator. After initial training, those who could not copy Morse Code very well and did not know much about radio physics were sent to the FMF [Annotators Note: Fleet Marine Force]. Those who were held over for the advance portion thought that they were going to be sea going [Annotators Note: assigned to capitol ships] and go to China or some exotic place. When they finished the course they were sent to FMF also. It was a blow to their pride. Smith was assigned to H and S, 5th Marines [Annotators Note: Headquarters and Service Company, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st marine Division]. In 1940 they went to Cuba to Caravella Point. They practiced landings and trained the 1st Army Division [Annotators Note: the US Army’s 1st Infantry Division]. They came down from Fort Devens, Massachusetts and the Marines trained them in amphibious tactics. The French had an aircraft carrier in the Caribbean at Martinique. They also had a number of Curtis fighter planes on the carrier. Smith heard that the reason they were really in Cuba was to take that aircraft carrier back because the French were already going over to Vichy and lining up with the Germans. The United States did not want it down in their waters. In April 1941 they returned to the United States. While in Cuba they took competitive exams for selection to go to the Naval Research Lab. Smith aced the exam and the sergeant that he did not get along with missed the final question. Smith got picked and the sergeant made life pretty miserable for him until he got detached to go to the Naval Research Lab. Smith stayed with the Naval Research Lab until February of 1942. They got telephonic orders. They wanted a young, unmarried Marine, willing to volunteer for the First Radar Battalion [Annotators Note: Smith chuckles and says that what he was told over the telephone sounded like Radar 1st Raider Battalion]. Then the written orders came through and it said the 1st Raider Battalion, not Radar Battalion. Smith did not volunteer right away. He and the Chief Pharmacist Mate got volunteered and were issued orders to report to Quantico. Before they left San Diego on 13 April 1942, he had finally volunteered and so did the chief. It was an all volunteer battalion which did not sit well with the rest of the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps thought that all the line units were every bit as good as the special units like the Raiders. Smith feels that at that point in history, he would have to differ with them. Today, he feels that would be absolutely correct. Their training is far superior to the training he had. Fitness was not a big thing back then. They did go running a lot but the degree of fitness training depended on an individual’s unit commander. But in the Raider Battalion fitness was important because Edson insisted on it. Training at Quantico, Smith would go on forced marches often. Edson would be up at the front of the column and would drop back to see how they were doing. The next thing they knew, he would be running by them to get back to the head of the column. He was in his 40s and that was an old man compared to them. Smith had just turned 21.


[Annotators Note: James Smith served in the USMC as a radioman and rifleman in the 1st Marine Raider Battalion.] The training was intense, comprehensive, and Edson [Annotators Note: Lieutenant Colonel Merritt A. Edson, Commanding officer of the 1st Marine Raider Battalion] was a stickler for fitness and training. He was also a great educator. Edson was a distinguished rifleman and captained the Marine Rifle team at one point. Their intelligence officer was Hank Adams. Adams had been on the Marine Corps rifle team as well. He had come in through the Reserves. Smith spent a lot of time with him in headquarters and he taught Smith a lot about weapons and shooting. He could take his pith helmet, drop it, draw and knock it aside and shoot. That was fast. Smith felt he could not do it if his life depended on it. He only knew of one other person that was 102 years old [Annotators Note: at the time of the interview], who was probably the best marksman ever in the Marine Corps, Walter Walsh. He is three times distinguished with rifle, pistol and international. He shot on Olympic teams, coached Olympic teams. In World War 2, he taught snipers and created a sniper unit. Walsh was in the FBI and was in the Marine Corps Reserve, because they had the best rifle team at the time. He tells great stories about those days. Walsh was involved in a shootout with the Baker Gang in Maine. They trained very hard at Quantico. They left on 1 April 1942 in Pullman cars and would rotate bunks. Edson would stop the train en route and they would all get off and run about five miles and get back on board. When they got to California, people in the towns would throw them oranges. They had not fired a shot, but since they were in uniform, they were heroes. They were in San Diego about a week and stocked up on supplies and pyrotechnics then boarded the Zealand [Annotators Note: Unknown ship] on 13 April 1942. They had no idea where they were going. They landed in American Samoa. They stayed there and until 4 July training. The training there was very rugged. They lost a Marine one night while training in the mountains. He fell over a cliff and died. Their rear echelon under Sam Griffith joined them in Samoa about a day before they left the island. From Samoa they went to New Caledonia. Smith thought it was the most beautiful island in the world. It was about 90 miles long and had beautiful beaches. There were a lot of Vichy French in the capital of Noumea. They left New Caledonia aboard five APD's [Annotators Note: World War 1 era destroyers that had been converted into high speed transports]. Smith was on the APD Gregory [Annotators Note: USS Gregory (APD-3)]. They took off from there around 1 August 1942. Living aboard the ship was pretty tough for the troops. The mess was too small to handle Marines, plus crew so the Marines ate on deck. With the destroyer underway, it was impossible for them to prepare a proper meal, so they would often get sandwiches and coffee. It would have been pretty bad if it were not for the crew. They knew what the Marines were heading into and they were great to them.


[Annotators Note: James Smith served in the USMC as a radioman and rifleman in the 1st Marine Raider Battalion.] They had a practice landing in the Fijis. It was a disaster for some of the units. This was not true for the First Marine Raiders. Before meeting up with the fleet, the Little [Annotators Note: USS Little (APD-4)] was their flagship. Edson [Annotators Note: Lieutenant Colonel Merritt A. Edson, Commanding officer of the 1st Marine Raider Battalion] was aboard the Little and was their communications officer. The Little lost its radar and it was usually radar guard for the five destroyers. Bill Stephenson, the communications officer, suggested that Smith, who was on the Gregory [Annotators Note: USS Gregory (APD-3)], be called for since he had just finished radar school at Naval Research. The Little pulled alongside the Gregory and Smith was transferred to the Little. A chief showed Smith their radar system. It was in the deckhouse in a square steel container with a little hatch. Smith and the chief figured out where the problem was. There was a switch on the front of the radar that was hit to discharge all of the condensers in the system. Smith didn't hit the switch and reached all the way around the back of the unit. As he broke the contact of a transistor with this thumb on the prongs and his hand on the rest of it, he got zapped with about 30,000 volts. He was blown out on to the deck and was out for a few minutes. All of the Raiders on board thought it was hilarious and were laughing like hell. They fixed the radar and he went back aboard the Gregory. They headed to Guadalcanal and learned their assignment was to take Tulagi. It was a Japanese headquarters and a seaplane base. When the Marines came in, it was a complete surprise to the Japanese. Two cruisers provided naval gunfire support for Tulagi. A battalion of the 2nd Marines [Annotators Note: 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division] landed just before the 1st Raider Battalion. They did not run into anything but it was nice to know that they were there. When the Raiders landed, they cut straight across the island and headed east. They took the front line to an area they called Phase Line A. Company B was on the far side by the Chinaman's wharf. It was Companies B, D, A and C. Company E was on the beach. Company B ran into trouble right away on the harbor side. This is where they lost their first troops. Lt. Miles was killed almost immediately. On the coast side, they started taking some bad shots and Ken Bailey [Annotators Note: Major Kenneth D. Bailey], who later got the Medal of Honor at Edson's Ridge, was badly wounded and out of action. Smith was up at the CP [Annotators Note: command post] right in the middle of the highest elevation on the island with Edson. They were on the former British residency which had also been the Japanese headquarters. They had a nice view. Smith did not have much to do because his job was to fix whatever was broken and inspect captured enemy gear and report on it. He was sitting there and someone noted that Company D, under Joe Chambers, was signaling with semaphore flags. Smith was ordered to communicate with them. He broke out a set of flags and went out to the porch and began replying. They could not see him so he had to stand up on the railing. It was pretty scary to do that since there were rounds going off around them. They were able to see him on the rail. Someone told Smith that the colonel wanted to see him again. Smith got up on the rail again and braced his head against the ceiling and his feet on the railing. They went back and forth communicating with semaphore. Harmond Hunt came up behind him and held his legs to keep him from falling off the porch.


[Annotators Note: James Smith served in the USMC as a radioman and rifleman in the 1st Marine Raider Battalion.] Justice M. Chambers, known as Joe, set up a mortar. The first round went into a tree and exploded, taking out Chambers and another company commander [Annotators Note: during the Battle of Tulagi, 7 to–9 August 1942]. Chambers later got the Medal of Honor at Iwo Jima. There was sporadic action during the day. The Japanese were held up in caves. It was tough getting them out. They had a brand new second lieutenant who was previously a clerk in the Sergeant Major's office. He had two college degrees and a field commission but was somewhat clueless since he had not been on maneuvers with the linemen. He told Smith he wanted him to come along on a patrol. They went on a patrol and were near the cricket field on Tulagi, right next to the area nicknamed the Gulch or the Gord where there was cut through coral rock. They started taking small arms fire and dropped into a drainage ditch. There were five or six men and the lieutenant. Smith looked around and did not think that the lieutenant would get them out of that mess. Smith said he would run up the hill with his Model 50 Reising submachine gun and lay down fire on the hill where the enemy was shooting from. This would allow the Marines to get out of their position. He dashed up the hill and cut loose. The Japanese firing stopped and Smith turned to wave the Marines up and noticed that they were all gone. They had made their way back to the command post. Now Smith was all alone. He worked his way back to the CP, but not the way that the rest of the patrol went. He went above where they had been getting the enemy fire. Things quieted down some in the afternoon and Edson [Annotators Note: Lieutenant Colonel Merritt A. Edson, Commanding officer of the 1st Marine Raider Battalion] called for naval bombardment and SBD's [Annotators Note: Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers] came in and bombarded that part of the island. The 2nd Marines [Annotators Note: 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division] came ashore where the Raiders came ashore and they headed west. Company E and Company A got hit hard the first night. They fought the Japanese all the next day and were fighting mostly in and around the holes with no safe access in and out of there. The Japanese in the Gulch had cans of gasoline poured down on them and were shot at with a tracer round to set them on fire. On the third or fourth day, there was a playing field along the coast and it was a natural amphitheater. There was a slope on the east end that went up sharply. About ten foot up or so, there was a cave mouth. There was a little hut that was about 10 to 15 yards away and Angus Goss and Smith got behind this hut. Smith used to do all the electrical work on charges. They went around while in training to all of the radar sites and other locations on Samoa and figured out the best place to blow things up. Goss would figure out what charges to do it with. Smith worked on the electronics for it. They got to be great friends. They fixed up a stick charge and Goss went around the hut and threw the stick charge into the cave mouth and started back. Before he could get back to the hut, the Japanese threw the charge out and it exploded. Smith thinks that there were two TNT blocks on that stick and it knocked Goss silly and his legs were bleeding with his blood vessels blown. They could see people on the hill and were sure a corpsman would be down at any second. Goss got angry and jumped up and grabbed his Reising gun and ran to the cave entrance and fired, killing everyone inside. General Rupertus, assistant division commander, and his staff were up on the hill watching this and he came down. Smith was now holding Goss and the General said it was the bravest thing he had ever seen in his life. Angus was awarded a Navy Cross and the British gave him another nice award. He never got to receive either one of them as he was killed on New Georgia. He was the finest Marine that Smith ever knew and was a super human being. Smith recalls that they finally killed all the Japanese. A bunch of the folks in Headquarters Company took up residence underneath the residency since the house was on stilts. General Rupertus had his staff moved into the house. The men of Headquarters would sing at night. The General and his staff got upset by the singing and they sent the Sergeant Major to keep them quiet. They invited the Sergeant Major in. When the Sergeant Major was told to address the issue again at one point, he told the general that the men singing were Raiders and the Raiders laughed.


James Smith almost starved to death with only three days rations on his back. They were not organic to the 1st Marine Division and had no logistics trail. They tried raiding some of the other units to get food. They raided the 4th Defense Battalion and 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines. The Marines in the units they raided put a guard on their food and supplies. The Raiders came close to starving. If it had not been for Japanese rice and barley they may not have made it. Their APDs [Annotators Note: World War 1 era destroyers that were converted into high speed troop transports] arrived, picked them up, and took them to Guadalcanal. The Raiders went over and as they were coming ashore in their Higgins Boats, they heard bombs coming down. The Colhoun [Annotators Note: USS Colhoun (APD-2)] was sunk. It went down fast. That was the first ship they lost. They set up camp in the coconut grove that belonged to the Lever Brother's company. The Raiders did a long reconnaissance on Savo Island because Japanese were reported there but they found no Japanese. That was under Griffith. Edson [Annotators Note: Merritt Edson, Commanding officer of the 1st Marine Raider Battalion] was at division headquarters. While he was there, native scouts reported that some 3,000 Japanese had landed at the village of Tasimboko. Nobody believed it, but Martin Clemens, the British coast watcher, believed his scouts. Edson and Jerry Thomas [Annotators Note: Gerald Thomas], G-3, convinced Vandegrift [Annotators Note: General Alexander Vandegrift was the commander of the 1st Marine Division at this time] that they should make a raid on the Japanese. The Gregory [Annotators Note: USS Gregory (APD-3)] and the Little [Annotators Note: USS Little (APD-4)] went back and forth in front of the beach. A few Jap ships came in and started firing. A PBY [Annotators note: Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boat] flew in to drop flares behind the Little and the Gregory but the next Japanese salvo blew them out of the water. It was a shock. The Raiders went to Tasimboko on 8 September [Annotators Note: 8 September 1942] aboard the USS Manley (APD-1) and the USS McCain [Annotators Note: unsure of ship]. They also had two YP boats [Annotators Note: Yard Patrol boats, converted fishing boats] with them that still had the commercial captains on board, which was unusual. Edson asked Smith’s advice on how to handle communications from Tasimboko to division. Smith told him that the TBX's that they used as radios would not cut it. They would have to relay it through one of the destroyers. Edson left Smith aboard the destroyer. None of the communicators on this ship had experience tuning a TBX radio. Smith knew them from his days at Naval Research. He got it set up and made contact with division. Freddy Serro [Annotators Note: unsure of spelling] ran the TBX crew and they reported from the beach to Smith and he would relay it to Division. They ran into the rear echelon of Kawaguchi's brigade [Annotators Note: Japanese Army General Kiyotake Kawaguchi] and killed them. They destroyed all of his heavy weapons and carried away as many Japanese weapons as they could. They fouled the rest. General Vandegrift insisted Edson leave there so they did. The Japanese bombed Tasimboko thinking that the Marines were still there, but they were not. They bombed what was left of their rear echelon. That raid does not get any publicity, but if it had not have been for that raid, then they would have lost Guadalcanal. Kawaguchi's brigade struck at the battle of the ridge [Annotators note: Bloody Ridge or Edson's Ridge]. There was a big argument at division on where the Japanese were headed. Edson thought the Japanese would travel the ridgeline, which ran to Henderson field, at night and hide in the jungle during the day. The troops needed rest so they were told to go up in to the ridge. Around the eleventh, [Annotators Note: 11 September 1942] the Japanese sent out scouts. The Raiders were struck the following night. Company E was hit hard down near the river. There were other penetrations that tested the Raiders. Some of them came through the command post and went back out. They took a few casualties down near the river, one of which was Smith's dear friend, Chief Youngdeer [Annotators Note: Robert S. Youngdeer], Chief of the eastern Cherokee and he saved a few lives. John Mielke got a Navy Cross for saving a bunch of lives there too. He stayed back and killed a bunch of Japanese while protecting other Raiders. On the morning of the thirteenth the Intel Platoon [Annotators Note: Intelligence Platoon] went down to find out where the Japanese were. Smith always hung out with the Intel Platoon. Pettis, Laverdy, Qutera, Driscoll, and Smith [Annotators not: some spelling unknown] went down the trail along the Lunga River. They found a trail cutting off from there and followed it. All hell broke loose and they realized that they had walked down a fire lane that the Japanese had cut. They all hit the deck on either side. Pettis signaled that they would get out on the count of three. Smith jumped up and as he started down the trail, the machine gun cut loose again. Every time he moved, the Japanese shot a few rounds. He set a few grenades out of in front of him and checked his .03 rifle [Annotators note: .30 caliber Springfield Model 1903 bolt action rifle]. Smith thought the gunners might be Americans. Pettis and Driscoll headed back to the command post. Griffith was ecstatic that they knew exactly where the Japanese were.


James Smith recalled that the Japanese attacked at around nine that night and things were going bad. A number of officers were in the hospital including Company B's commander. John Sweeny took over Company B. Edson [Annotators Note: Merritt Edson, Commander of the 1st Marine Raider Battalion] had a phone back to the switchboard and had a sergeant from the 11th Marines with him that helped him the day before with calling in the artillery. Edson sent Smith to the CP to get more men. The CP was only about 35 yards behind where the nose of the hill was. Smith ran by Doc Skinner who had set up an aid station. Skinner wanted them to stay there and protect the aid station. Smith took the men up and reported to Sweeny. Sweeny told Smith to take his group between Company B and the paratroopers [Annotators Note: members of the 1st Marine Parachute Battalion] on the left. That is exactly where the Japanese hit. Ikey Arnold [Annotators Note: Herman Arnold] was killed and the rest of the men, including Smith, were wounded. It was a hell of a battle. Ickey Arnold died in Dave Tabor's arms. Arnold was a nice, mousey guy from Baltimore. They could not believe he got killed. They fought for a couple of hours. A corpsman treated Tabor and Smith then took them off the ridge. They were taken to a hospital and were they stayed for two days. The hospital was a new Japanese building that was planned to be pilot's quarters. The Japanese used to bomb along that airstrip thinking that is where the American pilots lived. Dave Tabor was not ambulatory, but Smith was. He had been hit in the shoulder and could not move it. Smith was getting sick of the hospital. On the third day, Doc McLarney, Hank Adams, and Bill Stephenson came by. Doc McLarney was the battalion surgeon. Smith asked him to get him out of the hospital. Doc checked all of his wounds. The grenade got him all the way from his shoulder down to his ankle. McLarney packed the wounds with sulfa powder. Smith had a chunk by his ankle so Doc put him on a bench in the coconut grove and started digging for it. It was painful. Smith stayed with the battalion. That was better than the hospital. He fought in the first and second battles on the Matanikau River. On 8 October 1942 the last battle on the Matanikau River was fought. That was the night they lost most of the mortar section of Company A. On 13 October, they were evacuated on the USS McCawley (AP-10).


The 164th [Annotators Note: the US Army’s 164th Infantry Regiment] came ashore as the 1st Raider Battalion was preparing to board the USS McCawley (AP-10), right in the middle of a Japanese air raid. Then Japanese ships started showing up around Cape Esperance. The Raiders had to go into the compartments and seal everything. They got out of there and went to New Caledonia. New Caledonia was nice but almost everyone had malaria and other problems. Smith still had problems with his arm and his ankle. They were scheduled to take the McCawley to New Zealand for Christmas. They had to chip a lot of paint on the way to liberty. They were the first Americans that the New Zealanders had seen. Smith felt that if they lost Guadalcanal that the Japanese could have hurt American shipping to Australia and would have been able to attack New Zealand, Australia and New Hebrides. It could have been a different war and it could have taken a lot longer to fight. Smith credits the raid on Tasimboko as winning the battle of Guadalcanal by taking out Japanese supplies before the battle at the ridge. The Raiders returned from Wellington, New Zealand in the first few weeks of January 1943. One day, Smith and a few other Raiders were told to put khakis on because the admiral was coming around to give them Silver Stars. They thought they would be getting something for their campaign ribbons and had no idea what a Silver Star was. Admiral Halsey awarded a few Navy Crosses that day and pinned the Silver Stars on the men, including Smith. Smith went back in the hospital on New Caledonia then went aboard a hospital ship to have his leg operated on. Before he knew it, he was in Australia in a hospital. There were several other Raiders in that hospital as well. The old Company B commander, Lloyd Nickerson, had been in the hospital and was now establishing a field depot. He did not have many troops and wondered if any of the Raiders would like to come with him. Smith thought it over and agreed, but he did not think it was a good idea. He was the only communicator. There were all sorts of supplies and there was a rail line that went through the middle of the camp. Major Nickerson had Smith install a phone system. They had stables because the guards used to go around on horseback. He spent the rest of the war there.


[Annotators Note: James Smith served in the USMC as a rifleman and radio operator in Company B, 1st Marine Raider Battalion and took part in the battle of Edson’s Ridge.] The Japanese pounded the section of the line between Company B and the paratroopers [Annotators Note: the 1st Marine Parachute Battalion]. The Japanese threw smoke grenades which the Marines though were poison gas. They started to pull out but Ken Bailey [Annotators Note: Major Kenneth D. Bailey] ran down and got them reorganized and back on the line. The paratroopers fought all night. Earlier in the evening they had listening posts out ahead of them in the depression between the two ridges. It was about 300 yards between the two. They had been coming along that road and they kept banging away with rifle fire and grenades at Smith and the rest of Company B. They had 60mm mortars, but they did not come in until the next morning. The 11th Marines were magnificent since they provided artillery support and killed a lot of the Japanese. Edson [Annotators Note: Merritt Edson, Commander of the 1st Marine Raider Battalion] was brilliant. He figured out the Japanese signals early on. Edson was right there with them and calling in grenades or artillery. He was also nicked in the ear by an incoming round. Smith thinks Edson deserved the Medal of Honor. He saved the island and was the best officer on the island. Edson was lucky to have Jerry Thomas [Annotators Note: Gerald Thomas], the G-3. After the war Edson hosted reunions for the Raiders and when he died, Jerry Thomas took over the role as their godfather. They would not have made the raid on Tasimboko if not for Thomas siding with Edson. They concentrated their defense on the ridge at the spot where the Japanese kept attacking. Early on there were just a few of them at that spot. The Japanese ran troops around the Raider's right flank that infiltrated as far back as the General's [Annotators Note: General Alexander Vandegrift, commanding officer of the 1st Marine Division] command post. The following morning, there were snipers in the trees, but Smith was in the hospital by then. At one point there was a Japanese soldier's body in front of Smith and he laid his rifle on top of him and was firing away. He thinks the dead body probably absorbed a few rounds that should have gotten him. There was a lot of hand to hand fighting that night. Bill Carey [Annotators Note: spelling unknown] nailed a guy that was charging when Smith's weapon jammed. He took the rifle by the muzzle and swung it like a baseball bat. It almost took the Japanese soldier's head off. Carey got an embarrassing wound, he was lying down and a bullet creased his butt. Carey was a great guy. He and Smith became friends. They were also friends with Tabor. Tabor's kids called Smith Uncle Horse. They called him a few years before this interview and told him that Tabor had passed. Smith almost cries every time he thinks about Ikey's [Annotators Note: Herman Arnold, known as Ikey] death. He was a nice guy and used to hang out with Tabor too. Once on New Caledonia there were two brothers, one named Paul, and they invited Smith, Tabor and Ike to come to Sunday dinner at their village. The natives did not have much. The three Marines went down and saw that they had a cookhouse that was separate from the living quarters and a rough wood table. They broke out this wonderful tablecloth and then put out attractive crystal and silver that they got from the priests. They served the Marines wild duck, sweet potatoes, local vegetables and wine. Obviously, the whole village had contributed to this lunch.


When they [Annotators Note: James Smith and the rest of the 1st Marine Raider Battalion] went back to New Zealand, they went to Saint Louis Village. The voices at Sunday mass were wonderful. They were natural singers. When they were in Samoa, work parties would get in trucks and they would sing and have a natural harmony. When they got to New Caledonia, the natives were unloading a bale of old rags. They got into the rags and were admiring them. They broke into song and it was wonderful. The battalion was predominately Catholic. They had a lot of people from Brooklyn and Boston. They did not have a chaplain of their own so Doc McLarney would occasionally bring in an army chaplain from Philadelphia. Most of them would rather climb the hill to Saint Louis Mission for mass. Smith's Silver Star was awarded for first day of fighting on Tulagi when he bailed out the platoon. His second Silver Star was for the fighting on Edson's Ridge. He had been put in for a Navy Cross. He got the Silver Star for the Ridge first. While he was in New Zealand he was given the second one. The first one he received from Admiral Halsey. The second, he was standing in the mess line in New Zealand and he had on a sheep skinned coat with canvas exterior. The Marine Corps did not know what a Silver Star was because it had been an army award. A second lieutenant called Smith out, handed the decorations to him and walked away. That was it. Smith never really saw what happened behind him going up the hill. The 1st Marine Paratrooper Battalion landed on Gavutu, a few hundred yards from Tulagi. Gavutu and Tanambogo had a causeway in between. The 1st Paratroop Battalion landed at the causeway and the Japanese had a crossfire area prepared for this spot with machine guns on both ends. The men took horrible casualties and were very brave. They landed at an opposed beach. The Paratroopers finally got ashore and ran into the caves. Torgi Torgerson [Annotators Note: then Captain Harry Torgerson] became the exec [Annotators Note: executive officer] of the 3rd Battalion [Annotators Note: 3rd Marine Parachute battalion]. He would get above the caves and lower down gasoline and they would throw a grenade in there and blow them up. The first week on Tulagi, they sent for Smith over to Gavutu to inspect a Japanese transmitter station and put it on the air. It was similar to the American BC-610 radio set. One of the destroyers had lobbed a shell that had gone through the transmitter house and there was a hole through every transmitter. Smith dug around and found a four cathode ray scoped radar computer exactly like what the US Army used. When he returned to Tulagi, he reported that there was pretty strong evidence that the Japanese had gun laying radar.


James Smith watched the battle [Annotators Note: the battle of Gavutu] from Tulagi. [Annotators Note: Smith gets off track and talks for a few minutes about a friend of his from his work with the CIA and about Vietnam.] Bailey [Annotators Note: Major Kenneth D. Bailey] was hit on the first day of Tulagi and was evacuated to New Caledonia to a hospital. He was a major at that point. When Smith and the other Raiders were preparing for the fighting on Edson's Ridge, Bailey showed up. Bailey had gone AWOL [Annotators Note: Absent without leave] from the hospital and rejoined the battalion. He brought with him all the mail that finally caught up with them in New Caledonia. Smith’s mother had knitted him a white sweater. He was not sure what to do with it. She also sent was an apple sauce cake. By the time it got to him it had so much mold on it that they could not eat it. It was a great day when Bailey brought the mail. Smith had not received any mail since they were in Samoa. Bailey and Walter Burack, from Greenville, Tennessee, Edson's aides, were running cases of grenades up to the front of the ridge. They used to take the grenades and hook them on themselves. Since it was easy for the pin to accidently come out of the grenade, they came in a black canister. The canister was wrapped in yellow tape and the raiders would take the yellow tape off of it and put it on the grenade to keep the spoon on it in case the pin came out. At the Ridge one of the Raiders pulled the pin on a grenade and threw it, a Japanese soldier threw it back, and the Marine grabbed it and threw it again. The Japanese soldier threw it back again and the Marine took the tape off and popped the spoon off and counted to three and let it go. Smith thinks it is hilarious thinking back on it, but it was not at the time. Smith saw the grenade that got him. It was sort of spraying sparks. Time stood still and it seemed to take a week for it to get there and go off. The grenade landed between his legs and he rolled over about three or four times and he had his arm up against his face. He got the big chunks of grenade in his arm that probably would have gone into his neck had he not had his arm protecting it. Smith thinks it was a concussion grenade that wounded him because they were small black pieces of metal, unlike fragments of a fragmentation grenade. The concussion was pretty bad and the chunks in his shoulder were pinching nerves in his arm. He had no feeling in his arm or hand because of it. Also, his utilities [Annotators note: his Herringbone Twill uniform] were soaked with blood. It made the wound seem worse than it was. When he went back to battalion before the battle of the Matanikau, Sam Griffith and Ken Bailey were down in an area where the Lunga River came down through the coconut grove and formed little pools. They were in there washing and Smith thought he could go in there with his utilities on and get the blood out of them. When he got into the pool, it almost all turned red. The first engagement on the Matanikau was spooky. On 17 September Colonel Chesty Puller [Annotators Note: then Colonel Lewis B. Puller] came ashore with a battalion of the 7th Marines. They had been on Samoa and Kelly Turner, the Admiral in charge of the amphibious force wanted them for some other activity. General Vandegriff finally convinced him that those men were needed at Guadalcanal. Edson came to Smith and asked him to drive him down to the beach so he could meet with someone. Edson introduced Smith to Colonel Puller. Edson and Puller chatted for a while. Edson was telling Puller that they were going to go on a recon patrol up the Lunga River and Puller's 1st Battalion, 7th Marines would come in behind them while Edson and his men were still by the Ridge. The 7th Marines would move up and take their position while the Raiders went out on a long recon patrol and back. Smith drove Edson and Puller back to the Ridge while Edson showed Puller the best place for his troops. That night, someone fired off a round and someone shot back. They fired off a complete grouping of ammunition for the battalion that night. The Raiders were up ahead of them and trying to get some sleep.


For the first battle of the Matanikau, James Smith and the Raiders were going to go up the river and 1st Battalion, 7th Marines was going to land just west of Point Cruz on a beach assault. On 27 September, the Raiders went up. Company C had the point and they came upon a footbridge at least a quarter mile up the river. They were in a trail area with little place to hide. One guy, Ed Mertz [Annotators Note: spelling unknown] started to pass a kidney stone and he screamed and bent over and fell. They thought they were about to get killed. When Company C got to the footbridge, Ken Bailey [Annotators Note: Major Kenneth D. Bailey] and his runner started across it. They got halfway across and Bailey got cut down by a Japanese machine gun. The guys from Company C laid down a field of fire and pulled him off the bridge. He was passed back and Tom Driscoll and Smith carried Bailey the rest of the way. Bailey weighed a ton. They would shift between carrying his feet and his shoulder and would switch when they got tired. They took Bailey into the aid station. Sappowitz [Annotators Note: spelling unknown] had been shot through the shoulder and Dobson had been shot in the gut. Doc Skinner was there and when they dropped off Ken Bailey, everyone was in shock. They were down to just Sam Griffith and a few other officers. The Raiders went further up and Sam Griffith was up looking for a place to cross the river. He was on a high point looking and took a Japanese round in the shoulder from about 300 yards away. After that it was a little scary in the CP because there were a few first lieutenants that were comparing date of rank to figure out who was in charge of the battalion. Smith felt that they may be in deep trouble. Edson was in charge of the operations, even though he was over the 5th Marines now. He did not actually have authority to command them. He decided there was no way to get across the river in the shape they were in so they were put in reserve. They were down to 200 to 300 effectives out of the battalion. A lot of guys had malaria, dysentery, or any other tropical disease. He tried to get across the mouth of the Matanikau with the 5th Marines and they could not get across. He pulled them back and asked for a company of Raiders, then he asked for another company of Raiders. About the third request, all the Raiders headed to the front since they knew they were all getting called up eventually. They did not realize they had trapped a number of Japanese on the American side of the river. Company A moved along the river. Smith and Bill Carey were behind a log on the beach. The intelligence platoon was just to their left. Gooey Katero [Annotators Note: spelling unknown] was there with a Thompson submachine gun. Driscoll and Pettus were there. Laverty and Danny Hessman were on the patrol. Company A was less than thirty yards away. The Japanese bayoneted and sword slashed virtually all of Company A's mortar platoon. Joe Donnelly was killed. He had been in the navy and was a good soldier. They were thinking they would get nailed at any second. Suddenly, a halftrack pulled up near Gueterro [Annotators Note: spelling unknown] with a .50 caliber machine gun on it. It started cutting loose. That was the night that Walter Burak was killed. Smith saw Edson in a state of shock when Bailey was killed. He saw him cry when Burak was killed. Burak was like a son to him. He was a corporal from communications. He, Hank Adams and Lew Walt [Annotators Note: Lewis Walt] went with Edson to the 5th Marines for the Second Battle of the Matanikau because they had no officers above first lieutenant except for a major that did not feel competent enough to take over the battalion. Lew Walt was sent back to the Raiders for the Second Battle of the Matanikau. That was Smith's last battle of World War 2.


James Smith went home on 2 September 1945. He had a good job in New Zealand where he stayed for the rest of the war [Annotators Note: after the Battle of Guadalcanal]. He was the only technical communicator there. The liberty was good and they were out in farm land. He bought a retired race horse and used it to hunt with. It was good for him and good for his leg to be out moving and getting a work out all the time. Smith did not get the impression of an oncoming war with Japan until he joined the Marine Corps. There were many folks in the Corps that had served with the 4th Marines in China. In their mind there was no question that a fight the Japanese was coming since they were already allied with the Germans. Smith was at Naval Research in Washington D.C. when Pearl Harbor happened. He was having Sunday dinner with a couple of navy guys that lived ashore with their families. They were listening to the Redskins Game. They did not think much about it at first. They soon announced to all military in the Washington area to report to their bases in uniform. They were living in civilian clothes and their uniforms were in sea bags down at the Navy Yard. They thought they would not be let in the Navy Yard because they were not in uniform. They got their sea bags and there was a place on New York Avenue where there were valet shops that catered to the military. There were lines going around the block of people wanting to get their uniforms squared away. It was about four in the morning when they got down to Naval Research and were told to go home and report at office hours. The whole nature of the country changed overnight. Nobody knew of the extent of the damage at Pearl Harbor until the next class. There would be Marines from another class that would fill the FMF [Annotators Note: Fleet Marine Force] spots at Naval Research. A bunch of retired Chiefs that had been teaching at Capital Radio Electrical Institute were brought back on board in the Reserves and the school was expanded so there was another class started before Smith graduated. Some had come from Pearl and they described what was lost at Pearl Harbor. Everyone was thinking Guam, Samoa, and Pearl would be lost. The anti-Japanese feeling was pretty fierce. The USO [Annotators Note: United Service Organizations] came in. There were dances almost every night and flocks of women came to Washington to work for the war effort. Smith returned to Guadalcanal for the 40th Anniversary of the Battle. They stopped in Fiji to change planes where they met an interesting native. It was Sir Peter Kenmaria [Annotators Note: Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara] who had been the first Prime Minister after they got their independence from Britain. They landed at old Henderson Field. Sir Peter asked if there was anything he could do for them and they told him they wanted to see Jacob Vouza. They were told he lived down in California Village. They were driven down there and they walked out to Edson's Ridge. There was an obelisk with a bronze plaque that had been installed near where Doc Skinner's aid station had been. It was in bad shape. Sir Peter told Smith that they do not understand Americans. He did not understand why the Americans went there to fight the Japanese then walked away when the war was over. The Japanese came back to the island after the war to live. Sir Peter noted that what the Japanese could not do by force, they did commercially. There are a lot of Australians and British that work there. There were large trees and grass that had been on the ridge, but were wiped clean. The Ridge had not been cleaned up and still had parts of barbed wire and shell casings. Smith went back a second time on the 45th Anniversary with Scoop Ferrinclough [Annotators note: spelling unknown]. On the 40th the HMAS Canberra came to lay wreaths in honor of the battle of Savo Island. There were other Americans there including a corpsman and a Marine that now lived in Samoa who wrote the President because he thought it was disgraceful that there was no formal US representation there. There were seven or eight Marines or corpsmen that went back at the 40th.


After the war, James Smith had a hard time adjusting to civilian life. He got a job before he was even discharged from the Marine Corps working as a liaison with the Army Signal Depot in Philadelphia. The Marines sent him to Sperry Rand in New York where they were building a new computer. He felt antsy from time to time but did not have any serious incidents. Malaria hit him a few times during the war too. He almost died in New Zealand from it. He ran a 105.2 degree temperature at one point. He had it a few times when he came home too. He went to work for Remington Rand in late October of 1946, a month before he was discharged. He eventually became a supervisor. Smith ran into Bob Williams, who was a military secretary to the Commandant. Williams asked Smith where he was stationed. Smith informed him he was not in the Corps anymore, but if something happened he would be back. Then when the Korean War broke out Smith contacted Bob Williams to see about joining back up. Smith thought they had a wonderful officer specialist program that intrigued him, but it had been canceled so Williams gave him a hint to go to an address. It was the CIA [Annotators Note: Central Intelligence Agency]. With his Marine Raider background, he was hired. Smith was sent to communications school then his first overseas assignment was in Taiwan. At that time, the CIA had three complexes on offshore islands. They ran raids against the mainland and had a pirate fleet. This information is no longer top secret. They tied town a great number of Chinese troops that could not be released to fight in Korea. Smith was on the islands for about three months then went to Hong Kong on leave. Life was pretty good, but since they were under commercial cover and not official cover they did not get PX [Annotators Note: Post Exchange] privileges and it was hard on the families. Quite a few of the men there would have left after the first tour had it not been for such a great camaraderie. They still have a Chinese reunion once a year with their little organization. The organization [Annotators Note: the CIA] went around to football camps and picked up guys that were cut. They could have fielded two professional football teams. Smith stayed in the CIA from January 1952 to August of 1979. He retired out of England after four years there. He had four years in Germany, three in Latin America, and a couple of years in the Philippines. While in the Philippines, he used to spend a good bit of time in Laos. He went from the Philippines to Vietnam and he was the deputy to I Corps, attached to the Marine Corps there. It was great. There were active duty Marines, former Marines and a number of guys that had been with detachment 101 in Burma, OSS [Annotators Note: Office of Strategic Service, the predecessor of the CIA]. One of the Marines there later became Commandant. It was like being in the Corps only they could quit anytime they wanted to.


James Smith feels there are parts of World War 2 that can be pretty instructive to the future. He believes that with today’s weapons there will never be another D-Day. If so, there are bound to be tactical nukes involved and the whole landing force would been wiped out in a couple of seconds. There are a lot of things to be learned from OSS [Annotators Note: Office of Strategic Service, the predecessor of the CIA] and Raider ideas like small unit independent actions. The Marine Corps refers to it now as distributed actions. Amphibious warfare has changed considerably with new aircraft and faster surface vessels. The Marine Corps Systems command is always working on new ideas. Sometimes when Smith goes to Quantico he gets exposed to some of that. There is a lot of advanced thinking going on. Detachment 101 and Army Special Forces used the concept of not being a fighting force but training indigenous forces to do a bulk of the work. When Smith was in Germany the 10th Special Forces Group had a huge exercise called the Devil Jump series. Each year he would be sent down to work with them to employ clandestine assets contributing to their effort and team concepts. They gave him a green beanie [Annotators Note: a green beret]. The Agency [Annotators Note: the Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA] sent him to Staff College after his Germany tour. At Bragg, they were briefed by the Special Forces and the general who had been in charge of the 10th Special Forces Group in Germany. Smith wore his green beanie to the briefing and the general recognized him. Army Special Forces are great troops. The Marine Corps Museum and The National World War II Museum are important. It is important to provide ongoing generations with history. It is absolutely essential. Today, the British, the United States, the Germans and others study Jackson's campaign in Virginia as a lot of the lessons there still apply. Smith, two British officers and a Canadian officer went on a camping trip all along the Blue Ridge following Jackson's campaign. He feels warfare does not change much. Smith loved to box and it was a morale builder to have smokers. They would issue each guy a beer and they would sit there and watch the boxing match. It was a big thing in Edson's Raiders [Annotators Note: the 1st Marine Raider Battalion]. They only had two, Bill Kerry and Smith. Kerry won his class and Smith was runner up. He was beat in the final. It was in Samoa. Smith was barely being able to walk the next day. He collapsed on the ground and felt someone kick his foot. It was Edson [Annotators Note: Lieutenant Colonel Merritt A. Edson, Commanding officer of the 1st Marine Raider Battalion]. He smiled and told Smith that he thought he had won. Edson was a tough guy and was later President of the NRA [Annotator’s Note: National Rifle Association] and later became the Executive Director of the NRA.

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