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Phantom Blooper
11-21-03, 08:33 AM
> From: Greg Johnson
> To: Distribution A
> Sent: Sunday, November 16, 2003 3:34 PM
> Subject: DISPATCHES #975: A Marine Named Mitch
>
> It is with great regret I note the passing of a Marine legend this
weekend.
> Colonel Mitchell Paige, USMC (Ret) passed away early yesterday morning.
One
> of the first things I remember my father telling me about Guadalcanal was
> how men like Colonel Paige secured Henderson Field so that the air element
> at Guadalcanal could come aboard. I was privileged to have had Colonel
Paige
> on this distribution for the past three years. The following note was
passed
> by his wife...
> - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
-
> - - - - - - - - -
>
> Dear Friends:
> My beloved husband, sweetheart, friend and hero passed away in my arms at
> 3:50 am this morning, November 15, 2003, of congestive heart failure. His
> long struggle with his heart is over and he is joyfully with the Lord
where
> there is more peace and love than this earth knows.
>
> Your friend,
> Marilyn Paige
>
> * * * * * *
> Services tentatively are to he held at Riverside National Cemetery in
> Southern California on 24 November Monday. The date & time are not secured
> ... please check with their internet link. Riverside Cemetery, 22495 Van
> Buren Blvd. Riverside, CA 92518 / (909) 653-8417
> http://www.interment.net/data/us/ca/riverside/rivnat/
> * * * * * *
>
> Epilogue: sent 26 October 2003
>
> Guadalcanal: 26 October 1942 (Sixty-one Years ago today.)
>
> Sergeant Mitch Paige and his machine gun platoon (36 Marines) were the
only
> force standing between a Japanese Regiment and their plan to shove the
First
> Marine Division from a fragile beachhead back into the sea. This 1500 man
> enemy regiment attacked all night. By the next morning Sergeant Paige was
> the only Leatherneck not killed or wounded. Nine Hundred and twenty enemy
> causalities were in front of his seven water cooled-thirty caliber machine
> guns. It had been one horrific night filled with hand to hand combat. The
> remaining attackers fled at sunrise back down the hill to their regimental
> command post as they were chased and shot by Sergeant Paige.
>
> President Roosevelt awarded the Medal of Honor to Mitch and a battlefield
> promotion to Lieutenant. This critical action in America's first offensive
> pacific campaign of the war was a turning point. Our Marines went on to
> victory throughout the South Pacific.
>
> Mitch always a humble man when recently asked by Colonel Bates and Major
> Prentice about his World War II action, he simply states, "I was just
doing
> the job I was trained to do."
>
> Today's Mitch Paige has the same humility, the same candor and the same
love
> of America he has always had. Our country and Marines, past, present, and
> future, are lucky to have .... a Marine named Mitch.
>
> Last August 31, Mitch Paige turned 85 and is still fighting a battle
against
> heart disease in Southern California.
>
> This is a special year to remember Colonel Mitch and his charming wife
> Marilyn.
>
> Lest we forget....
>
>
> ..... from the book
>
> A Marine Named Mitch
> by Colonel Mitchell Paige U.S.M.C. (Retired)
>
> About 0200, in a silence so pervasive that men many yards apart could hear
> each other breathing, I began to sense movement all along the front and
deep
> in the jungle below us and to our left. We could hear the muffled clanking
> of equipment and periodically, voices hissing in Japanese. These were
> undoubtedly squad leaders giving their instructions. At the same time,
small
> colored lights began flicking on and off throughout the jungle. I could
hear
> Price whispering for me to come to his foxhole. I quietly crawled over to
> him and he had an excellent view of someone flicking a light on and off.
> Price said, 'I thought I was cracking up seeing all those fireflies.' I
> assured him he was not cracking up because those were lights handled by
> Japanese soldiers. As I crawled around telling the men to glue their eyes
> and ears to anything and reminded them that the small lights we were
seeing
> were assembly signals for the enemy squads, I again instructed everyone
not
> to fire their guns as the muzzle flash would give away our positions and
> that we would be raked with fire and smothered with grenades. We had to
let
> them get closer as we were outnumbered, but when things started popping I
> urged each man to just hang on.
>
> Earlier Jonjock, Swanek and I stretched a piece of wire out in front of
our
> position and hung several empty blackened ration cans on it. We put an
empty
> cartridge case in each can which would rattle if hit by someone's foot. I
> had previously requested an artillery and mortar concentration. This was,
> however, denied because the enemy was still in the jungle where the effect
> would almost be nil. I then returned to my foxhole. Manning my number two
> gun was Corporal Raymond 'Big Stoop' Gaston and Private Samuel 'Muscles'
> Leiphart.
>
> Their gun was at the part of our line which bordered on the side where the
> jungle came up to meet the ridge. They both whispered to me that there was
> considerable rustling very near to the undergrowth. I said, 'Hold your
> fire.' Corporal Richard 'Moose' Stanberry arranged several grenades in a
> neat row in front of him, then nervously rearranged them. He was fond of
his
> Thompson sub-machine gun and I never worried about him as he was
> well-trained, a perfectly disciplined marine who could handle himself in
any
> situation. Now everyone
> was straining to hear and see.
>
> The bushes rustled and the maddening voices continued their soft sibilant
> mutterings, but still nothing could be seen. Then I dimly sensed a dark
> figure lurking near Gaston's position. I grabbed a grenade, pulled the pin
> and held the lever ready to throw it. Around me I could hear the others
also
> pulling pins as we did the night before. We heard the ration cans rattle
and
> then somebody let out a shriek and instantaneously the battle erupted.
> Grenades were exploding all over the ridge nose. Japanese rifles and
machine
> guns fired blindly in the night and the first wave of enemy troops swarmed
> into our positions from the jungle flanking Gaston's gun. Stansberry was
> pulling the pins out of his grenades with his teeth and lobbing them down
> the slope into the jungle. Leiphart was skying them overhead like a
baseball
> pitcher. The tension burst like a balloon and many men found themselves
> cursing, growling, screaming like banshees. The Japanese were yelling
> Banzai! and 'Blood for the Emperor!' Stansberry, in a spontaneous tribute
to
> President Roosevelt's wife, shouted back, 'Blood for Eleanor!'
>
> The battleground was lit by flashes of machine-gun fire, pierced by the
> arching red patterns of tracer bullets, shaken by the blast of shells laid
> down no more than 30 yards in front of the ridge by Captain Louis Ditta's
> 60mm mortars. It was a confusing maelstrom, with dark shapes crawling
across
> the ground or swirling in clumped knots; struggling men falling on each
> other with bayonets, swords and violent oaths. After the first volley of
> American grenades exploded the wave of Japanese crowding onto the knoll
> thickened. Pfc. Charles H. Lock was killed from a burst of enemy
machine-gun
> fire.

cont.

Phantom Blooper
11-21-03, 08:38 AM
> I screamed, 'Fire machine guns! Fire!' and with that all the machine guns
> opened up with all the rifles and tommy guns. In the flickering light, I
saw
> a fierce struggle taking place for the number two gun. Several Japanese
> soldiers were racing toward Leiphart, who was kneeling, apparently already
> hit. I managed to shoot two of them while the third lowered his bayonet
and
> lunged. Leiphart was the smallest man in the platoon, weighing barely 125
> pounds. The Japanese soldier ran him through, the force of the thrust
> lifting him high in
> the air. I took careful aim and shot Leiphart's killer.
>
> Gaston was flat on his back, scrambling away from a Japanese officer who
was
> hacking at him with a two-handed Samurai sword and grunting with the
> exertion. Gaston tried desperately to block the Samurai sword with a
> Springfield he had picked up off the ground, apparently Leiphart's. One of
> his legs was badly cut from the blows. The rifle soon splintered. The
> Japanese officer raised his sword for the killing thrust and Gaston, with
> maniac strength, snaked his good leg up and caught his man under the chin
> with his boon docker, a violent blow that broke the Japanese's' neck.
>
> The attackers ran past Gaston's gun and spread out, concentrating their
fire
> on the left flank gun, manned by Corporal John Grant, Pfc. Sam H. Scott
and
> Willis A. Hinson. Within minutes, Scott was killed and Hinson was wounded
in
> the head. Then Joseph A. Pawlowski was killed. Stansberry, who had been
near
> me, was hit in the shoulder, but the last time I saw him he was still
firing
> his tommy gun with ferocity and shouting, 'Charge! Charge! Blood for
> Eleanor!' Corporal Pettyjohn on the right, cried out in anguish, 'My gun's
> jammed!' I was too busy to answer his call for help. At the center, we
were
> beating back the seemingly endless wall of Japanese coming up the gentle
> slope at the front of the position. There were at that point approximately
> seventy-five enemy soldiers crashing through the platoon, most of them on
> the left flank, but the main force of the attack had already begun to ebb.
> The ridge was crowded with fighting men it seemed.
>
> Somehow I vividly recall putting up my left hand just as an enemy soldier
> lunged at me with a fixed bayonet. He must have been off balance as the
> point of the bayonet hit between my little finger and the ring finger,
> enough to let me parry it off, and as he went by me he dropped dead on the
> ground. The enemy started to melt back down the slope, and almost before
> they were out of sight, Navy Corpsmen began moving forward to treat the
> wounded. At Petty john's gun, James 'Knobby' McNabb and Mitchel F. 'Pat'
> Swanek were badly
> wounded and had to be moved off the line. Stansberry was still around and
> didn't want to leave. I crawled over to Pettyjohn's gun.
>
> 'What's wrong with it?'
>
> Pettyjohn said 'a ruptured cartridge which refused to budge'.
>
> I said, 'Move over,' and fumbled with stiff fingers, broke a nail
completely
> off, but somehow pried the slug out with a combination tool, which I found
> in the spare parts kit under the tripod. I also changed the belt feed
pawl,
> which had been damaged in the rough slamming trying to get the round out.
> Pettyjohn and Faust covered me.
>
> Though the first assault had flopped, a number of enemy soldiers had
> shinnied to the top of the tall hardwood trees growing up from the jungle
> between the platoon and Fox Company's position. From this vantage point,
> they could direct a punishing, plunging fire down in two directions. The
men
> in the foxholes along the crest were especially vulnerable; Bob G. Jonjock
> and John W. Price were wounded and helped back of the line by corpsmen.
>
> I was getting ready to feed a new belt of ammunition into Pettyjohn's gun.
> My left hand felt very slippery so I rubbed it in the dirt under the
tripod
> of the gun, then as I reached up to hold the belt again, I felt a sharp
> vibration and a jab of hot pain in my hand. I fell back momentarily and
> flapped my arm and stared angrily at the gun, which had been wrecked by a
> burst of fire from a Japanese Nambu light machine gun.
>
> Almost immediately, a second assault wave came washing over our positions.
> This attack was more successful than the first. Oliver Hinkley and William
> R. Dudley were wounded. Hinson, over on the left gun and already wounded,
> continued to fire until all his supporting rifles were silenced. He then
> withdrew down
> around the hill in the rear of George Company, putting the gun out of
action
> before he left as I had instructed.
>
> That section had been hit hard with mortars and grenades, causing severe
> shock to all the men; one of the first being August P. Marquez. All the
men
> on the spur had been literally blasted off, including Lieutenant Phillips,
> Bill Payne and John Grant.
>
> In the Fox Company area back toward my left rear, I saw Fox Company men
> pulling out and disappearing over the crest. I picked up a Springfield and
> fired a shot at them, yelling for them to hold the line.
>
> The Japanese swarmed up that seventy-foot cliff in great numbers, armed
with
> three heavy and six light machine guns, a number of tommy guns and several
> knee mortars. I thought, "Dear God, Major Conoley and his small command
post
> are just over the crest," but here was the only grazing fire I had with my
> machine gun, so I quickly found Gaston's gun and swung it around toward
our
> own lines as there was nothing between my gun and the crest but enemy
> soldiers.
>
> I fired a full belt of ammunition into the backs of those crouching enemy,
> praying that they could not get over the crest to the command post. I
> learned later from Captain Farrell, who was with Colonel Hanneken's
command
> post, that the word was that the enemy had one of Paige's fast firing
> machine guns and the rounds were ricocheting over the line over Major
> Conoley's position. He had also heard reports that all my men had been
> killed and in fact, some had seen me sprawled out dead on the ground
before
> they left the ridge. I learned later, too, that this information had
gotten
> back to the Division Command Post.
>
> By 0500 the enemy was all over the spur and it appeared they were going to
> roll up-the entire battalion front. A second prong of the attack aimed at
> our front had not fared as well, but my platoon was being decimated. A
hail
> of shrapnel killed Daniel R. Cashman. Stansberry had been pulled back over
> the hill after being hit again.
>
> I continued to trigger bursts until the barrel began to steam. In front of
> me was a large pile of dead bodies. I ran around the ridge from gun to gun
> trying to keep them firing, but at each emplacement I found only dead
> bodies. I knew then I must be all alone.
>
> As I ran back and forth, I bumped into enemy soldiers who were seemingly
> dashing about aimlessly in the dark. Apparently they weren't yet aware
they
> had almost complete possession of the knoll. As I scampered around the
> knoll, I fired someone's Springfield that I happened to pick up. Then
> somehow, I stumbled over into the right flank into George Company. There I
> found a couple of men I knew named Kelly and Totman. They had a
water-cooled
> machine gun. I told them I needed their gun. At the same time, I grabbed
it
> and they took off with me.
cont.

Phantom Blooper
11-21-03, 08:40 AM
> I said, 'Follow me!' and ordered several riflemen to fix bayonets and to
> follow us to form a skirmish line back across the ridge. I told the
riflemen
> not to be afraid to use the bayonet. We still had the 1905, 16-inch
bayonets
> with the front end sharpened throughout its length and the back edge five
> inches from the point.
>
> It was by then not quite as dark as it had been. Soon dawn would break. I
> knew that once the Japanese realized how much progress they had made, a
> third wave of attackers would come up the slope to solidify their hold on
> the hill. On the way back I noticed some movement of Japanese on the ridge
> just above Major Conoley's position, which I had raked with grazing fire
> earlier. I fired Kelly's and Totman's full belt of 250 rounds into that
area
> and once again the rounds were ricocheting over Conoley's head, but he had
> no way of knowing that I was doing the firing. He could only surmise that
> the enemy was now using our machine guns.
>
> As we advanced back across the ridge, some of the Japanese began falling
> back. Several of them, however, began crawling awkwardly across the knoll
> with their rifles cradled in the crooks of their arms. Then I saw with
> horror that they were headed toward one of my guns, which was now out in
the
> open and unmanned.
>
> Galvanized by the threat, I ran for the gun. From the gully area, several
> Japanese guns spotted me and swiveled to rake me with enfilading fire. The
> snipers in the trees also tried to bring me down with grenades, and
mortars
> burst all around me as I ran to that gun. One of the crawling enemy
soldiers
> saw me coming and he jumped up to race me to the prize. I got there first
> and jumped into a hole behind the gun. The enemy soldier, less than 25
yards
> away, dropped to the ground and started to open up on me. I turned the gun
> on the enemy and immediately realized it was not loaded. I quickly scooped
> up a partially loaded belt lying on the ground and with fumbling fingers,
> started to load it. Suddenly a very strange feeling came over me. I tried
> desperately to reach forward to pull the bolt handle back to load the gun,
> but I felt as though I was in a vise. Even so, I was completely relaxed
and
> felt as though I was sitting peacefully in a park. I could feel a warm
> sensation between my chin and my Adam's apple. Then all of a sudden I fell
> forward over the gun, loaded the gun, and swung it at the enemy gunner,
the
> precise moment he had fired his full thirty-round magazine at me and
stopped
> firing.
>
> For days later I thought about the mystery and somehow I knew that the
'Man
> Above' also knew what had happened. I never wanted to relate this
experience
> to anyone, as I did not want to ever have anyone question it.
>
> I found three more belts of ammunition and quickly fired them in the trees
> and all along the ridge. I sprayed the terrain with the remaining rounds
> clearing everything in sight. All the Japanese fire in the area was being
> aimed at me apparently, as this was the only automatic weapon firing from
a
> forward position. The barrage, concentrated on the ridge nose, made me
feel
> as if the whole Japanese Army was firing at me.
>
> I was getting some help from our mortars control led by Battalion with the
> George Company Commander, Captain L.W. Martin, observing. These rounds
laid
> on the spur and prevented the enemy from moving up which would have
probably
> enveloped me from the rear. Other than this, I was still alone as my
George
> Company friends were still behind me some distance.
>
> In addition to being in this position, I had an immediate need of more
> ammunition and I couldn't see anymore lying around anywhere. Just at that
> time, aid came that made me glow with pride. Three men of my platoon
> voluntarily crossed the field of fire to resupply me.
>
> The first one came up and just as he reached me he fell with a bullet in
the
> stomach. Another one then rushed in and was hit in the groin just as he
> reached me too. He fell against me, knocking me away from the gun. Seconds
> later, Bob Jonjock, who had also been wounded earlier, came from somewhere
> with more ammunition. Just as he jumped down beside me to help load the
gun,
> I saw a piece of flesh fly off his neck. He had been hit by an enemy
bullet.
>
> I told him to get back while I sprayed the area. He refused to leave. I
> said, 'Get the hell back, Jonjock!' and he again said, 'No, I'm staying
with
> you.' I hated to do it, but I punched him on the chin hard enough to bowl
> him over and convinced him finally that I wanted my order obeyed. He
somehow
> made his way back as I was afraid he would bleed to death.
>
> Meanwhile, Major Conoley, at the forward command post, was rounding up a
> ragtag force with which to retake the Fox Company spur. There were
bandsmen
> serving as stretcher bearers, wiremen, runners, cooks, even mess boys, who
> had brought some hot food up to the front lines during the night and
stayed
> just in case. Those men, numbering no more than twenty-four, mounted a
> counterattack up over the crest line that I fired some 500 rounds at. They
> found the Japanese machine guns and several of Fox Company's weapons,
> including three light machine guns, all in good working order. That
> counterattack found ninety-eight dead on the spur by actual count.
>
> That was about 0530 or so. Dawn was already breaking. I was able to
observe
> the progress of that charge from my position as I was directly out in
their
> front. I also watched quite a few enemy soldiers scrambling back into the
> jungle, but I couldn't fire in that direction. As I watched that beautiful
> charge, it gave me the inspiration to get up and yell to my George Company
> fighters with their fixed bayonets to stand by to charge. I yelled out in
> Japanese to stand up: 'Tate! -- tah- teh, tah-teh!', hurry: 'Isoge!' --
> ee-soh-geh, ee-soh-geh!' Immediately a large group of Japanese soldiers,
> about thirty in all, popped up into view. One of them looked quizzically
at
> me through field glasses. I triggered a long burst and they just peeled
off
> like grass under a mowing machine.
>
> At that point, I turned around to tell my friends I was going to charge
over
> the knoll and I said, 'I want everyone of you to be right behind me,' and
> they were. I threw the two remaining belts of ammunition that my men had
> brought me over my shoulder, unclamped the heavy machine gun from the
tripod
> and cradled it in my arms. I really didn't notice the weight which was
about
> a total of eighty pounds, and was no more aware that the water jacket of
the
> gun was red hot.
>
> I fed one of the belts into the gun and started forward, down the slope,
> scrambling to keep my feet, spraying a raking fire all about me. There
were
> still a number of live enemy soldiers on the hillside in the tall grass,
> pressed against the slope. I must have taken them by surprise, as the gun
> cut them all down. One of them I noticed, was a field grade officer who
had
> just expended the rounds in his revolver and was reaching for his
two-handed
> sword. He was no more than four or five feet from me when I ran into him
> head on.
>
> The skirmishers followed me over the rim of the knoll and they, too, were
> all fired up and were giving the rebel yell, shrieking and cat-calling
like
> little boys imitating marines, sounding like there were a thousand rather
> than a mere handful.
>
> They followed me all the way across the draw with fixed bayonets, to the
end
> of the jungle, where long hours before, the Japanese attacks had started.
> There we found nothing left to shoot at. The battle was over.
>
> The jungle was once again so still, that if it weren't for the evidence of
> dead bodies, the agony and torment of the previous hours, the bursting
> terror of the artillery and mortars rounds and the many thousands of
rounds
> of ammunition fired, it might only have been a bad dream of awful death.
It
> was a really strange sort of quietness. As I sat down soaked with
> perspiration and steam still rising from my hot gun, Captain Louis Ditta,
> another wonderful officer who had joined the riflemen in the skirmish line
> and had earlier been firing his 60mm mortars to help me, slapped me on the
> back and as he handed me his canteen of water he kept saying, 'tremendous,
> tremendous!' He then looked down at his legs. We could see blood coming
> through his dungarees. He had a neat bullet hole in his right leg.
>
> There were hundreds of enemy dead in the grass, on the ridge, in the draw,
> and in the edge of the jungle. We dragged as many as we could into the
> jungle, out of the sun. We buried many and even blasted some of the ridge
> over them to prevent the smell that only a dead body can expel in heat. A
> corpsman sent by Capt. Ditta smeared my whole left arm with a tube of
salve
> of some kind. He cleaned off the bayonet gash, since filled with dirt, and
> the bullet nicks on my hands also filled with dirt and coagulated blood.
He
> stuck a patch on my back just below the shoulder blade. (In 1955, I felt
> something irritating in my back, and then had a piece of metal about 3/4
of
> an inch long removed from my back; right where the corpsman had placed
that
> patch.) As the corpsman left he said, 'You know, you have some pretty neat

> creases in your steel helmet.' I replied:
>
> "Yes, thank God -- Made in America."
> - - - -
>
> And so we lose another special member of the Greatest Generation. Where do
> we get such men?
>