Seventy-five years ago, on Aug. 7, 1942, the Allied offensive against Japan began with the invasion of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. The fight for the small tropical isle became a grueling half-year campaign, with the U.S. Marines locked in an unforgiving struggle against the Japanese troops. But a newly formed American unit was there to meet them: the Marine Raiders. Here’s how the elite force persevered, as told by one of its last surviving members.
A routine traffic stop and speeding ticket in June became the catalyst for a patriotic display on Aug. 6, when police officers escorted 96-year-old Marine Corps vet Harold Sheffield from Bristol, New Hampshire, to the state line in a “rolling salute.”
I linked up with the small team of Raiders just outside the village along a quiet two-lane highway at 0230. Blending in with the nearby tree line, they were methodical in making their final preparations. Barely a word was spoken as they checked their gear and spread loaded their supplies among one another. There was a mix of eagerness and confidence in the group; they understood the mission and had prepared extensively for weeks leading up to this moment. Off in the distance, we could see the lights of the adjacent unit approaching and with a simple nod we started to ruck up. After pleasantries were exchanged and instructions were passed, our team set out on the long foot movement that lay ahead of us. With their packs heavy and their hearts full, the Raiders were ready to honor their brothers.