The first three major land engagements on Guadalcanal, Battle of the Tenaru River (August 21), Bloody Ridge and Overland Trail (September 12-16) and Matanikau River (October 1942) all involved the very same objective of trail or road access to Henderson Airstrip. If the Japanese had control of this airfield and thus the island, they could cut off supplies between America and its allies in the area, thereby preventing other islands from coming under U.S. control. On September 2, 1942, the 3rd Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. William ‘Spike’ McKelvy, took up a position that snaked through the jungle for 3,400 yards on the eastern sector of the island. At the extreme right flank of the Battalion’s position, K Company guarded the Overland Trail, which led directly back to Henderson Airfield only one mile away. Not more than several hundred yards from the airfield’s perimeter was the headquarters of Gen. Archer Vandergrift and his staff. If Japanese forces could seize the Overland Trail, the Guadalcanal campaign would certainly take a perilous turn. It is indeed a plausible argument that the entire course of World War II in the Pacific was focused on one critical strategy: the island, the airfield and all trail access that led to it. On the night of September 13, 1942, the men of K Company fought a suicidal battle against 550 Japanese crack troops of the Kuma Battalion, led by Maj. Eiji Mizuno. Second Lt. Bill Sager and his rifle platoon of forty men courageously defended K Company’s position at the extreme right of the 3rd Battalion line, where one of their flanks was dangerously exposed. Third Platoon, commanded by Second Lt. Herman Abady, also saw heavy action during the battle won by K Company that night. The following day over 300 dead Japanese were sprawled at 3rd Battalion’s line and over 100 were in front of K Company’s area. Although Lt. Abady later rarely spoke of his experience on Guadalcanal, he did mention on occasion that it was a privilege to have commanded a platoon that fought so valiantly in battle. He received no recognition for his actions until historian William Bartsch’s article, ‘Crucial Battle Ignored’ was published in 1997, which contributed to his being posthumously awarded the Silver Star in 2001, some sixty years after the battle. Quickly thrown into combat, both sides endured six months of extremely bitter fighting in what would come to be the longest campaign for a single piece of territory in U.S. military history. Battle at the Overland Trail documents this one night of critical combat on what would come to be known as the Island of Death. It includes many letters, diary excerpts and photos never before released to the public.
Battle at the Overland Trail by Jason Abady
Battle at the Overland Trail documents one night of critical combat on what would come to be known as the Island of Death. It includes many letters, diary excerpts and photos never before released to the public.
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