Being a bit of a romantic I dream of at some time in the abstract future living on a tropical paradise island enjoying the simple idyllic life. Swaying palms, crystal waters, golden sands, cold beers and local lovelies to serve them.
Anyway, some long long time ago I heard a story, can’t remember where, about a guy who wanted to do just that but unfortunately WW II was well underway so he searched the globe for his tropical island.
He eventually decided, so the story goes, on Guadalcanal as being just the right island to settle on to let the word and the madness of war pass by.
Well as we now know Guadalcanal “was the largest and most violent conflict in the history of mankind”
Anybody heard of this story? I must have got it from somewhere. Did it happen and if so what happened to the poor guy?
On the surface, the story seems apocryphal. I have read many histories of the battle for Guadalcanal, that lasted about 7 Aug 42 to 9 Feb 43. There is no mention in any of these histories (some quite detailed) of such a sojourner.
Guadalcanal is no island paradise. For non indigenous, it is malarial and bug infested. There is true story of Marine officer describing all the dangers and difficulties found in the flora, fauna and terrain, and one of his young Marines said, “why don’t we just let the Japs keep it”
Once the Japanese began occupying the island in the summer of 42 (at extension of their Tulagi operation, another island just across yet to be named Iron Bottom Sound), no westerner there would have been made very comfortable.
The battle was by no means the longest and most violent conflict in the history of anything (I think that phrase was used to described WWII in general). American ground deaths were about 1600; Japanese ground deaths are estimated at about 13,000 from combat, and another 5,000 from malaria and other illness, notably starvation. Some sources say as many as 31,000 Japanese died on the island, the majority of that figure from disease and starvation.
American/Allied naval casualties were much higher than in the ground fighting – about 5000; the Japanese figures are at least that number.
By WWII account, this was not one of the greatest battles, from a casualties standpoint. Strategically, however, it turned the tide in the Pacific war.
Wasn’t it really Midway that turned the tide? I mean, of course Guadalcanal was incredibly important, but wasn’t it key because it solidified the American initiative after the Japanese defeat in the early summer?
Turning tides are always subject to individual interpretation. Midway broke the back of the Japanese Naval Air Service, but if the U.S. had not immediately invested in building the Essex Class carriers, it might not have been as pivotal.
Guadalcanal ate up a lot of the Japanese resources that could have been devoted to further adventures in the Indian Ocean (letting Japan move toward India and causing the Allies a lot more grief). It was also the furthest extension of Japanese power to the Southeast, so stopping the Japanese, there, provided significant psychological benefits to the Allies, as well as needed training in tactics.
I think you could argue that the IJN got a view of what was to come at Miday. Midway was the highpoint for the IJN. At Guadalcanal they redeemed themselves some what by scoring some victories.
At Guadalcanal the IJA found out what the future held, and that what happened to the IJN was going to happen to them also.
Regarding the OP, I wonder if the story is a corrupted version of the plot to Father Goose? (In fact, the theme of the social outcast, living on a Pacific Island and getting caught up by WWII is not at all rare, although I do not know whether there was actually a person who acted as prototype to the theme. The earlier South Sea Woman, for example, had similar themes (although not exact) and involved Guadalcanal and minor coastwatcher characters show up in several WWII movies and novels in which the coastwatcher had been a bum who volunteers for that activity because he is upset that the Japanese have disrupted his idyllic life or was a military type who “went native” before the war.
Again, I have no idea whether any Coastwatchers were really beach bums who got drafted. It seems a bit unlikely.
Don’t fret. If the OP’s Guadalcanal story is just talk there is an equivalent story that is true about the US Civil War. Wilmer McLean (the linked site has two parts) owned a home that was on the battlefield at Bull Run (Manassas to you Confederates) which was the first major land battle of the war. The building is still there. After the battle he decided that the area between Washington and Richmond, VA was going to be a hot spot so he moved to Appomatox Court House, VA. The last battles between Grant-Meade and Lee were there and the surrender document for the Army of Northern Virginia was signed in McLean’s parlor.
The guy should have invested in a globe. Guadalcanal is situated directly on the straight route between Australia and Hawaii, which is why the Japanese wanted it so badly. Anybody choosing to avoid a battle scene would have chosen a less strategically placed islands to the east like somewhere in the Cook Islands or French Polynesia. He could have sat the whole war out on Bora Bora or Tahiti and never heard a shot.
Thanks for all your replies with interesting comments and links to follow up.
I was a just bit too young for the action so most of my “knowledge” comes from Discovery and History TV channels and Hollywood. A lot of additional information is becoming available over the years which makes the history of the conflicts evermore interesting even more so with input from some of you guys actually there.
I second RICO with thanks to the marines and all the support personnel that were over there somewhere, where would we be now without you?
Wasn’t the musical “South Pacific” based on a James Michener Coastwatcher story?
The “was the largest and most violent conflict in the history of mankind” I got from a search. Personally I thought that there other conflicts more worthy of the title but who am I to argue with Google.
QUARTZ “the Canadian who settled in the Falklands shortly before Argentina invaded” sounds on the same lines but I recall this story from before the Falklands happened.
Seems like the story has some merit but no specifics a bit like an urban legend.
Again thanks all Marines then and now (watching the wall for us) and posters for a mine of information that would take a lifetime to Google.
Er! Thanks “LYNWOOD SLIM” for me finding my dictionary again :o