My Dad– C.E. Harding
Outbreak of World War 2
On 7 August 1942 the First Marine Division landed at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands under the command of MajGen Alexander Vandegrift. So began Operation WATCHTOWER, the first major ground offensive of the war. This was a misnomer in reality, since the Division went into a defensive cordon around Henderson Field, an important American airbase on the island. The fighting around Guadalcanal, called simply “the ‘canal” by Marines, quickly evolved into a complex series of air, ground and sea actions.
The First Marine Division found itself short of food, fuel, water and ammunition. Forced to subsist on captured Japanese rations, the Marines were pummeled by long range enemy artillery, nicknamed “Pistol Pete.” They also endured some of the heaviest naval gunfire barrages and air raids of the war. In one of the most desperate fights of the war, Marines on Edson’s Ridge stood firm against wave after wave of suicidal Japanese attackers during the night of 13-14 September 1942. Before the battle, Col Merritt “Red Mike” Edson told his Marines, “There it is. It is useless to ask ourselves why it is we who are here. We are here. There is only us between the airfield and the Japs. If we don’t hold, we will lose Guadalcanal.” They held.
This picture of my father was drawn by Harry Daniel Reeks, a U.S. Marine combat artist. During WW II, Reeks was in the South Pacific landing on Georgia, Bougainville, Guam, and Saipan in the Solomon and Treasury Island groups. At Iwo Jima, he was twice wounded. Some of Reeks works of this period are in permanent collections at the US Marine training base on Parris Island, South Carolina and at Brown University in the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection.