Monday, February 05, 2007

Blood Is Thicker Than Water: Guadalcanal - October and the Japanese Offensive (Cont'd.) *5

by Henry I. Shaw, Jr.

In the lull before the attack, if a time of patrol clashes, Japanese cruiser-destroyer bombardments, bomber attacks, and artillery harassment could properly be called a lull, Vandegrift was visited by the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Lieutenant General Thomas Holcomb. The Commandant flew in on 21 October to see for himself how his Marines were faring. It also proved to be an occasion for both senior Marines to meet the new ComSoPac, Vice Admiral William F. "Bull" Halsey. Admiral Nimitz had announced Halsey's appointment on 18 October and the news was welcome in Navy and Marine ranks throughout the Pacific. Halsey's deserved reputation for élan and aggressiveness promised renewed attention to he situation on Guadalcanal. On the 22d, Holcomb and Vandegrift flew to Noumea to meet with Halsey and to receive and give a round of briefings on the Allied situation. After Vandegrift had described his position, he argued strongly against the diversion of reinforcements intended for Cactus to any other South Pacific venue, a sometime factor of Admiral Turner's strategic vision. He insisted that he needed all of the Americal Division and another 2d Marine Division regiment to beef up his forces, and that more than half of his veterans were worn out by three months' fighting and the ravages of jungle-incurred diseases. Admiral Halsey told the Marine general: "You go back there, Vandegrift. I promise to get you everything I have."

When Vandegrift returned to Guadalcanal, Holcomb moved on to Pearl Harbor to meet with Nimitz, carrying Halsey's recommendation that, in the future, landing force commanders once established ashore, would have equal command status with Navy amphibious force commanders. At Pearl, Nimitz approved Halsey's recommendation—which Holcomb had drafted—and in Washington so did King. In effect the, the command status of all future Pacific amphibious operations was determined by the events of Guadalcanal. Another piece of news Vandegrift received from Holcomb also boded well for the future of the Marine Corps. Holcomb indicated that if President Roosevelt did not reappoint him, unlikely in view of his age and two terms in office, he would recommend that Vandegrift be appointed the next Commandant.



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