The 1st Raiders had one more battle to go on Guadalcanal. In early
October intelligence indicated that the Japanese were building up their
forces west of the Matanikau in preparation for another offensive against
the perimeter. Division headquarters decided to strike first to secure
the crossings over the river. In a plan reminiscent of the beginnings
of the previous operation, two battalions of the 5th Marines would move
down the coast road, seize the near bank of the Matanikau, and fix the
the Japanese forces on the far side. Three other battalions would cross
the Matanikau at the single-log bridge and attack north toward the sea.
Once they cleared the far side of the river, a force would garrison Kokumbona
and prevent further enemy operations in the vicinity. In addition to strengthening
the assault forces, this time division provided ample fire support. All
units were to move into position on 7 October in preparation for launching
that attack the next morning.
When the 5th Marines deployed forward on 7 October, they ran into a Japanese
company dug in on the near side of the river just inland from the sandbar.
Edson's 2nd Battalion managed to secure most of its assigned frontage
farther upriver, but his 3d Battalion was unable to break the enemy resistance
centered on a well-fortified defensive position. He committed Company
L to the battle and then radioed division for reinforcements so he could
reconstitute a regimental reserve. Division assigned Company A, 1st Raiders
to the task and the unit marched off down the coast road to bivouac next
to Red Mike's CP.
That night the Japanese on the near side of the river probed the lines
of the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, and mauled the company nearest the sandbar.
Early in the morning of 8 October, Edson decided to commit the raiders
of Company A to the task of reducing the Japanese pocket. He placed Major
Lewis W. Walt
in charge of the effort. (Walt had been Company As commander until Edson
had brought him over as operations officer for the 5th Marines.) The raiders
drove in a few enemy outposts, but could make little headway against the
interlocking fires of the concealed Japanese positions. Meanwhile, heavy
rains during the night had continued into the day, and division delayed
the move across the river for 24 hours. Vandegrift also decided to alter
his original plan to a quick envelopment of the west bank and a return
to the perimeter.
Based on these changed circumstances and his own observation at close
range of Company A's predicament, Edson halted the attack on the strongpoint.
His 3d Battalion would continue to encircle most of the enemy position,
while Company A went into the defense on their right flank. The latter's
position was shaped like a horseshoe, with the left linking up with the
3d Battalion and facing south toward the bunker complex, the center facing
west toward the sandspit, and the right on the beach facing north toward
the sea. To fill out the thin line, mortarmen and company headquarters
personnel occupied the left flank positions. The raiders expected a Japanese
assault across the river mouth to relieve the surrounded bridgehead, so
the Marines strung barbed wire at the friendly end of the sandbar. The
remainder of the raider battalion came up the coast road and went into
Just after dusk the Japanese in the strongpoint rushed from their positions
in an effort to break through to their own lines. They quickly overran
the surprised left flank of Company A and hit the center of the raider
line from the rear. The enemy who survived the close-quarters fighting
in both locations then ran headlong into the wire, where fire from the
remaining Marines cut them down. The lieutenant commanding the raider
company tried to recover from the confusion and establish a fresh line
farther back along the
coast road. In the morning there was some more fighting with a handful
of Japanese who had sought refuge in Marine foxholes. Company C of the
raiders moved up to occupy the abandoned enemy position and killed three
more Japanese still holed-up there. They found an elaborate complex of
trenches and bunkers connected by tunnels to an underground command post.
The Marines counted 59 bodies stacked up against the wire or strewn about
the perimeter. The battalion lost 12 dead and 22 wounded during this stint
on the Matanikau.
The raiders suffered one additional casualty during the operation. When
Red Mike had gone over to the 5th Marines, he had taken with him his longtime
runner, Corporal Walter J. Burak. While carrying a message along the river
on the afternoon of 9 October, Japanese machine-gun fire killed the former
raider. He was the last member of the 1st Raiders to die in action on
Guadalcanal. On 13 October a convoy delivered the Army's 164th Infantry
to the island and embarked the raider battalion for transport to New Caledonia.
There were barely 200 effectives left in the unit -just a quarter of the
battalion's original strength.