Saturday, January 20, 2007
This is our line....and it will hold
Back to my Brothers and Forefathers. In that pantheon of Heroes that Machine Gunners pay homage to, there is one island where they were proven more than most other places. Fights have been crazy and platoons and men have done amazing things but there are those of us who were giants to say the least. The island I speak of is one that those who read this sight are familiar with....Guadalcanal. To name a few of the machine gunners who were nothing short of heroes there we find John Basilone, Al Schmidt, Lee Diamond and the man we see above.....Colonel Mitchell Paige.
Perhaps one of the greatest stories that I have ever found is that of this man's service and his life. I managed to get my hands on the last television interview Mitch gave before he passed away in 2003, which for the past year has been part of the curriculum at my Machine Gunner's program. He spoke about the fight that night on Guadalcanal and of the horrific events that went down and how proud he was of his men. Roughly six hours of fighting, much of which he did alone running from gun position to gun position halting the advancing hordes. When the sun finally rose, he gathered the men who had finally come to reinforce the lines and lead the bayonet charge down into the regrouping enemies midst, his 30.cal Machine Gun cradled in his arms. He called to them in perfect Japanese, which he had learned while on embassy duty in China, to "Get Up, the Americans are Retreating".....he patiently waited for them to get up and then lit several bursts off with his weapon and laid them down to rest in the Kunai grass for the last time. At the end of the fight, Platoon Sergeant Paige and his 33 man Machine Gun platoon managed to destroy and hold off roughly 3,000 Japanese. That is 3,000 men of conviction, from the reputed Japanese Sendai Division who didn't simply wash up against the regiment's lines. They were trying to come across HIS HILL. They simply crossed swords with the wrong warrior and his troops that night. This is his Congressional Medal of Honor citation from that action.
Rank and organization: Platoon Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps. Place and date: Solomon Islands, 26 October 1942. Entered service at: Pennsylvania. Born: 31 August 1918, Charleroi, Pa.
For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action above and beyond the call of duty while serving with a company of marines in combat against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands on 26 October 1942. When the enemy broke through the line directly in front of his position, P/Sgt. Paige, commanding a machinegun section with fearless determination, continued to direct the fire of his gunners until all his men were either killed or wounded. Alone, against the deadly hail of Japanese shells, he fought with his gun and when it was destroyed, took over another, moving from gun to gun, never ceasing his withering fire against the advancing hordes until reinforcements finally arrived. Then, forming a new line, he dauntlessly and aggressively led a bayonet charge, driving the enemy back and preventing a breakthrough in our lines. His great personal valor and unyielding devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
....A more amazing man you simply cannot ask for. One of my greatest regrets is never having gotten to meet the man myself. I have however talked with is wife Marilyn on several occasions, a truly amazing woman. She just wowed me with how she still carries on her husbands drive and principles of service, and I swear she knows every battlefield story and she carries it with her now as sacred as the Eagle, Globe and Anchor pendant she wears that her beloved husband gave her early in their marriage. What a wonderful woman.
.... The reality that I have preached in my classrooms after I play that interview is that we, as Machine Gunners simply do not have the luxury of change. What a Marine did with a colt Machine Gun at the turn of the 20th century or with a Gatling Gun prior to that is the same mission that we will ask of our young men today. As they sit and listen to Col. Paige perfectly recount what he must do with regard to the cycle of function inside his Browning 30.cal (at 84 years of age) I challenge them to have that conviction and train to such a standard that the Sendai Division would have no more of a chance today if they chose to cross swords with any one of them. It is simply the only way it can be in our world. There is no middle ground. If we do not do our part more men will die. You must never get into this business half-heartedly. Mitch taught me what a man can do who was a Machine Gunner to the very core of his being from day one at Infantry training to the day he passed away.
On a more disquieting note, I can remember my fury the days following Col. Paige's passing in 2003. As I sat home getting choked up after hearing the news through my channels, I read the newspaper and there was no mention of a Hero's Passing. The big story of the day...."Michael Jackson goes to court for child molestation". Maybe I am biased to my own little universe but I can remember being so infuriated I could hardly speak without yelling about that. I have calmed down since then, and have come to realize that it falls to us and those faithful in society at large to keep our brothers faith. That's how it's always been it just takes a minute to accept. That is after all the driving force behind this wonderful site. On my last day in the Marine Corps I saw a few Marines from 1/1 talking about who the buildings were named after and they pointed to the sign that Harrell and I hung and asked, "I wonder who he is?'.......which of course turned into my classic, "have a seat and I'll tell you a story" response. There was not a Machine Gun Team Leader or above in my 25 months as Chief Instructor who didn't know who Aaron Austin or Mitchell Paige were. Keeping the faith and holding the line is simply what we do.
Semper Fidelis My Friends.
Posted by Unknown at 1:14 PM