WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Aug. 8, 2012) -- Seventy years
after the Aug. 7, 1942 start to what would be a brutal,
six-month-long battle over an island in the South Pacific,
veterans of Guadalcanal gathered at Arlington National Cemetery
to pay respects to their fellow Marines, Soldiers, Sailors and
Fifteen members of the Guadalcanal Campaign Veterans
Association gathered in the cemetery's amphitheater for a
roll call of those known and unknown battle buddies who had
passed away over the last year. In their 80s and 90s now, the
veterans were accompanied to the event by their wives, sons,
daughters, grandchildren and friends.
"We want to honor all participants of Guadalcanal ...
those who perished in the air, sea and land and those who came
home, raised families, started careers and have since
passed," said GCVA's national secretary, Gerald Mohn
Jr., whose father had served with the 1st Marine Division on
Guadalcanal. "We think it's important that these men
be honored for their sacrifice ... they are the greatest
Nicholas Schlosser, of the Marine Corps History Division,
discussed the significance of the Guadalcanal Campaign to the
eventual Allied victory over Imperial Japanese forces in the
"I would say Guadalcanal was no less than the turning
point of the war in the Pacific theater," Schlosser said.
"There were very few battles in the war that were fought
equally on air, land and sea that hang in the balance for so
long. The battle was six months, and up until mid-November, if
not December, there were still concerns that the Allies might
Schlosser said it was the determination of Allied forces that
made Guadalcanal a decisive battle in the Allie's
"It was really through the fortitude and courage of all
those fighting on the island, at sea and in the air around the
island, that enabled the Allies to achieve victory and
advance," he added. "It no longer was a question of
will the Allies win the war; it became a matter of when will
Japan lose the war and how long until surrender."
The invasion force that hit the beaches on Aug. 7, 1942, was
made up of about 16,000 Marines which would later swell to a
force of 60,000 joint service personnel, including Soldiers
from the 164th Infantry Regiment of the Americal Division. The
participating Allied forces there included servicemembers from
Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the British Solomon
Islands, Tonga and Fiji.
A SOLDIER'S STORY
One of those Americal Soldiers at Guadalcanal included William
J. Hanusek, of Mt. Pleasant, Pa. When he turned 21, Hanusek
found himself drafted while in the process of enlisting.
He had wanted to be bulldozer or crane operator, but during
processing into the Army, he was asked if he'd had any
special courses of instruction when he had been with the
Civilian Conservation Corps for youth in 1936.
Hanusek told the captain processing him that he'd once
taken a first-aid course; that was enough to get him sent off
to medic school after boot camp. Hanusek eventually found
himself caring for wounded Soldiers in Guadalcanal and carrying
Hanusek said that in the Pacific theater, unlike in the
European theater, Allied medical personnel were routinely
"I had some great friends in Guadalcanal," he
recalled. "In the position you're in, the guy next to
you in the foxhole is your best friend in the world ...
he's more than a brother to you. I remember him to this
day, Kenny Davis, a young boy from North Carolina. He made it
through the war, but died about a year after the war ended.
"At the time it was all really horrible to me. I remember
snipers, bullets right next to your ear, your head, friends who
were shot in front of you and those next to you who were
decimated by artillery fire," he said. "Seventy years
later ... I don't have the nightmares or flashbacks
anymore, those things don't bother me anymore, but what
does bother me is trying to walk and move around."
Hanusek went on to make the Army a career, retiring as a master
sergeant in 1964.
Following the tribute in the Arlington amphitheater, the
Guadalcanal vets and their families gathered at the Tomb of the
Unknowns where Marines and Guadalcanal veterans Elmer Hawkins
and Charles Farmer placed a wreath.