25 July 2014


by Andy Weddington
Friday, 25 July 2014

Guadalcanal epitaph:
"And when he gets to Heaven to Saint Peter he will tell,
'One more Marine reporting, Sir! I've served my time in Hell.'"

A couple of weeks back while in Beaufort, South Carolina, for the F Company (of yesteryear) recruit training (drill instructors and officers) company reunion, I wandered into a used book store on Bay Street in the heart of downtown.

That store is jammed with books, with history. And more. Name the subject. It looks orderly but a bit purposely disheveled, too. It's a magnet - a great place to peruse, with a cup of coffee, on an overcast Saturday morning. Such were the conditions.

I have found some gems in old book stores - the fine art/painting section always pulls first. As it did in this store. Not finding anything out of the ordinary, I wandered over to the military section. On a shelf about eye-level were several dozen books under the header WWII. First to catch my eye was 'Guadalcanal Diary' by Richard Tregaskis.

The crimson red book, without dust jacket, was slightly faded. A couple of values darker crimson red Marine Corps emblem was lightly embossed centered on the front cover. The spine, near the top and bottom, was tattered and embossed in gold with the title and author's name near the top and 'Blue Ribbon Books' at the bottom. The back cover was plain.

On the copyright page was printed (in all upper case): This book is complete and unabridged, manufactured under wartime conditions in conformity with all government regulations controlling the use of paper and other materials.

Crude paper, and time, had yellowed the pages. Pages were not the same size. A few more than a handful of pages of black and white photographs, in the book's center, complemented the story.   

It was a first edition book. Not pricey, I did not return it to the shelf.

There were four more books of the same era and in about the same condition among the small cohort. They included: 'Last Man Off Wake Island' by Bayler and Carnes; 'Brave Men' by Ernie Pyle; 'U. S. Marine Operations in Korea (Vol. II) by Montross and Canzona; and '...and a Few Marines' by John W. Thomason, Jr.

All finds. Nor did I return them to the shelf.

This week I read 'Guadalcanal Diary' - and while reading found something I'd not seen while quickly browsing the book in the store.

Between pages 134 and 135 was a newspaper photograph clipping - of General Edwin A. Pollock, USMC (a lieutenant colonel and unit commander during the Guadalcanal fight). The clipping was positioned on those pages talking about Pollock's actions. The acid in the newsprint had caused a clipping-sized "tea stain" on either page.  

As a general officer, Pollock once commanded the recruit depot (turning over command shortly before the Ribbon Creek incident) at Parris Island. After retiring from active duty he settled in Beaufort. During my days at Parris Island (early to mid-80s) the causeway leading from Parris Island's gate to mainside was named honoring him (I did not have opportunity to meet him).

Might this book be from General Pollock's personal library? There are no markings in the book to so indicate. But with the clipping it's one logical conclusion. Might the other books, too without personal markings, be from his library? Perhaps.

I don't know why (nudge from a higher power, perhaps) but while reading the Diary I decided to research Don Adams (of 'Get (Maxwell) Smart' fame). Turns out Adams, a Marine, fought and was wounded during the Battle of Guadalcanal. He contracted blackwater fever, a life-threatening complication of malaria, and spent a year or so hospitalized in an overseas Navy hospital. And, ironically, he later served as a drill instructor (not certain if Parris Island or San Diego).

At Guadalcanal, might Adams have served under then Lieutenant Colonel Pollock?

Yesterday, shortly after finishing the Diary, a retired Marine friend (who, as a youth, met General Pollock on more than one occasion and later led the First Marine Division unit that celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Guadalcanal) sent me the famous photograph of the officers who led the Guadalcanal fight. And then he sent me a crop. Below are those photographs (with my circle) noting a particular officer - Pollock.

Marine officers of Guadalcanal

 LtCol Edwin "Alvin" Pollock, USMC (circled)
circa Feb 1943
'Guadalcanal Diary'
w/ Gen Pollock clipping 
Thank god for books and used book stores. And Marines!
Small Corps.

Semper Fidelis.
Post Script
As time passes, those WWII days do not seem all that long ago; especially when listening to the memories of a 95 years-old Marine friend who fought in some of those South Pacific battles - and spent time in the water off Guadalcanal when the transport ship he was aboard sank after a Japanese strike.
 Now reading, 'Last Man Off Wake Island.'


Robert Fowler said...

Don Adams a Marine, fought and was wounded during the Battle of Guadalcanal. And, ironically, he later served as a drill instructor

Learned something new today. I recently read a article about the Hollywood stars that were service members. There were some surprises in it. Some of the ones that served in the Corps were a real surprise and gave me a whole new outlook on some of them.

Bruce Petty said...

In that photo with Pollock circled, just behind him is Maj. William A. Chalfant III. He was executive officer of 2nd Bat. under Pollock, but was later relieved and sent home according to the information I have. He later popped up on Saipan as a Lt. Col. in charge of one or more USMC MP battalions. Again, according to the information I have, he was later courts-marshaled for unauthorized operations to island north of Saipan. As I understand it, he was then dismissed from the Corps. Might you have any information on this. You can contact me directly at: brucempetty@yahoo.com
Bruce M. Petty