The story of Guadalcanal and the heroic efforts of John Basilone will be told by retired CIA officer and U.S. Navy submariner Rick Ector at this month’s Living Aviation History Days program, a series presented by the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Dixie Wing Warbird Museum. The program will begin at 11 a.m. Sept. 8 at the Museum hangar, 1200 Echo Ct., Peachtree City, Ga., adjacent to Atlanta Regional Airport – Falcon Field. Admission is $10, with veterans and active military members admitted free.
Guadalcanal is an island in the South Pacific that few Americans had ever heard of in 1942. The invasion and capture of the island, which began on Aug 7, 1942, was the first Allied offensive against Japan – a long, arduous and bloody process that culminated in Tokyo Bay on Sept.2, 1945.
One of the heroes of Guadalcanal was John Basilone, a Marine sergeant who helped stave off more than 3,000 Japanese soldiers during the Battle of Lunga Point on the night of Oct. 25 and 26, 1942. Basilone commanded two sections of machine guns that fought for the next two days until only Basilone and two other Marines were left standing. Basilone moved an extra gun into position and maintained continual fire against the incoming Japanese forces. He then repaired and manned another machine gun, holding the defensive line until replacements arrived. For his heroism, Basilone received the Congressional Medal of Honor. Basilone’s nephew, Joe, a Delta Air Lines pilot, is a member of the CAF Dixie Wing.
The Battle for Guadalcanal was a true land, air and sea struggle that lasted until the Japanese were fully evacuated in February 1943. Key to the Allies’ ultimate victory were the “Cactus Air Force” that helped defend the island against constant Japanese air raids, and the heroic efforts of the U.S. and Australian navies in the waters that became known as “Ironbottom Sound.”