Reading’s Boys Special Edition #3: Battle of Guadalcanal, Part 2

The 23rd Infantry Division Arrives

The division that was chosen to be sent to reinforce the Marines on Guadalcanal was none other than the 23rd Infantry Division. On October 13, 1942, the men of the 164th Infantry Regiment, 23rd Infantry Division splashed ashore, landing about a week before the rest of the 23rd Division so that the 1st Marine Division could get more immediate assistance. Although there were no Reading boys in the 164th Infantry Regiment (our boys were in the 182nd Infantry Regiment), it is worth noting that after the Battle of Guadalcanal, Marines would occasionally refer to the 164th Infantry Regiment as the 164th Marines because of the close bond and high level of performance the army unit had shown when it came in to aid the 1st Marine Division.

The arrival of the 164th Infantry Regiment allowed the Marines already established in the area to create a stronger line of defense for the coming Japanese counterattack. In fact, Henry Brodecki from the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment holding a 3,500-yard line of jungle would directly and almost immediately benefit from the additional personnel now manning the perimeter.

The first ground action since the 164th Infantry arrived would occur on October 20 when a Japanese patrol with two tanks ran into an American position and was forced to retreat after a gun from the 3rd Battalion began damaging the tank. For the time being, the Japanese pulled back, only to return that evening. This time, they came with artillery support, nine tanks, and infantry. Again, a gun from the 3rd Battalion knocked out one of the nine tanks and the armor began pulling back. The real fighting began on October 23, 1942, at 6:00 PM. Though there was heavy fighting in the days that followed, Henry was lucky enough to not be a part of it.

John Francis Beaudoin & Charles Everett Parry

The next infantry regiment to arrive on Guadalcanal was, of course, the 182nd Infantry Regiment from the 23rd Infantry Division. One thing to note, is that it is not clear to me which company, and therefore, which battalion, John Francis Beaudoin was in. I will be doing my best to cover the actions of each battalion even though I know Charles Everett Parry belonged to Company E, 2nd Battalion. Either way, at least Charles went ashore on Guadalcanal on November 12. It is possible that John did too, but if he was a member of the 3rd Battalion, he would not have arrived until much later.

Charles and John, assuming they both landed on Guadalcanal on November 12, entered combat on November 18. The orders were given out that the 2nd Battalion, 182nd Infantry Regiment was to cross the Matanikau River to seize Hill 66 while the 1st Battalion advanced across the river and headed west to Point Cruz the next day. The Japanese were expecting them. 

As the men of the 2nd Battalion moved forward, they met no resistance. But they were slow. Charles and John had only landed here six days before. They were not yet used to the sweltering heat, and they had spent the past few days unloading all their equipment so they were certainly tired. On each man’s back was a full load of ammunition, rations, and water. They finally reached Hill 66 around noon. Luckily for Charles, Company E was in reserve that day as everyone dug in and tried to get comfortable. 

That afternoon, two officers and 30 enlisted men from Company G went south to fill their canteens at a water hole. As one man was filling his canteen, he happened to look up. Before him was a Japanese officer and twenty soldiers. A skirmish ensued and thankfully, when the rescue party arrived, they found that only one officer and one enlisted man had been killed. 

As was the plan, the 1st Battalion, 182nd Infantry Regiment crossed the Matanikau River on the morning of November 19 but met heavy fire from the direction of Point Cruz and was forced to stop. As the morning sun began peeking up over the horizon on November 20, the Japanese slammed into the left flank of the 1st Battalion and nearly pushed them back. Right up until the end of November, American forces on Guadalcanal continued to throw themselves at the Japanese holed up on Point Cruz and continued to fail. 

On November 26, 1942, Charles Everett Parry was killed. It is not clear to me how it happened. According to his hospital admission card, his diagnosis was the following: “Boat, sinking, by mine or result of other and unspecified enemy action.” When that telegram arrived, the family living at 7 Orange Street would be forever changed. Somewhere in Guadalcanal today, there is a little patch of sand that belongs to Reading, Massachusetts. I’d like to think that somewhere in that little patch of sand is the love and nurturing presence of a grateful community, a community who gave one of her sons to her country. Somewhere in Guadalcanal today, there is a little piece of us. Remember that.

Henry Andrew Brodecki is Relieved

War doesn’t stop for one fallen soldier. As November 1942 came to a close, the military brass in the Pacific began to realize that the 1st Marine Division needed to be relieved soon. The division, which had been the first American ground troops to go on an offensive in World War II, was finally beginning to limp. Despite the enemy air raids, the risk of enemy invasion from the same beach they had landed on; despite the determined efforts of a greater Japanese force; despite everything, the 1st Marine Division had captured and held onto the ever-so-important airfield on Guadalcanal. Henry and the rest of the 1st Marine Division would be awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for their actions. From August 7 to December 7, 1942, about 600 Marines from the 1st Marine Division were killed in action or died of their wounds. During that same period, the dead of other American units on Guadalcanal would amount to 691 men. On December 22, 1942, the entire 1st Marine Division was finally pulled off of Guadalcanal. Henry would have gathered his belongings, formed up with his platoon, and Company G would have headed for the shore. As his feet sunk into the sand of that beach, I wonder what thoughts were running through his mind. How Henry managed to walk off that island in one piece is something that I have no doubt haunted him for the rest of his life. It would be the 25th Infantry Division that would come in to help fill the big shoes left behind by the 1st Marine Division.

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