Alligator Creek, Sans Alligators

I’ll start with the video this time. It’s actually compressed. Then if you’re interested, you can get my amateur historical synopsis.

VIDEO (Quicktime, 4.7MB): Alligator Creek

[amateur historical synopsis]

Essentially at the far western end of Red Beach is Alligator Creek, which is actually the Ilu River and is known to historians as the site of the Battle of the Tenaru (the name of another river with which the Ilu was confused). It was called Alligator Creek by US Marines because of the number of crocodiles that were seen swimming in it. Anyway — Red Beach was where D-Day happened on Guadalcanal, but it was a quiet D-Day with virtually no opposition. The Battle of the Tenaru was the first real battle of the campaign.

Prior to Tenaru, Japanese ground forces had been essentially undefeated. In fact, with the exception of the Japanese taking of Wake Island (where a small force of Marines managed to hold off an overwhelming Japanese force longer than they had any right to), there’d been no indication to the Japanese that anyone in the world had the courage to stop them. They’d taken Manchuria, parts of China, Singapore, and much of Southeast Asia without much effort. In the Philippines, at the close of the Battle of Bataan, a US and Filipino force of 75,000 had surrendered to fewer numbers of Japanese soldiers (and then endured the Death March for which Bataan is famous).

With that in mind, the Japanese were expecting to be able to re-take Guadalcanal from the Americans without much effort. Which helps explains the actions of the Ichiki Regiment. Commanded by Col. Kiyono Ichiki, a group of 800 Japanese soldiers started what they’d imagined would be a walkover battle in trying to cross the mouth of Alligator Creek. Given that these were soldiers seasoned by earlier battles in Asia and that the Americans were entirely untested, it was thought that the Japanese soldiers’ superior spirit and fighting know-how would carry the day. So, with USMC machine gun emplacements at the ready, they ran across the river attempting bayonet charge after bayonet charge.

Turns out machine guns are more effective at a distance of 5-100 feet than are bayonets. The result of the battle was the majority of the Japanese regiment getting killed. (Only a few dozen Marines died in the battle.) Just from a historical context, then, Alligator Creek is where the battle occurred where Japanese soldiers for the first time in the war realized that they were not invincible and where it became apparent that the establishment of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere wasn’t necessarily a fait accompli.

[/amateur historical synopsis]

Man that was long-winded. The area around Alligator Creek was sort of pretty — at least there weren’t so many people living around there to generate the kind of garbage tossed into and around the Matanikau. Never saw any crocs there myself, though. Sadly. Maybe next time.