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Posted: 11/18/2003 3:15:16 PM EDT
found this on www.jouster.com



Col. Mitchell Paige, a Medal of Honor Recipient, Died Nov 15, 2003 at age 85. He was awarded the MOH for his actions on Oct 26, 1942 on Guadalcanal. Below is an article which was printed Nov 2, 2000 in the Boothbay Register.

October 26, 1942: The last man did not fail.

October 26 fell on a Thursday this year. Ask the significance of the date, and you're likely to draw some
puzzled looks - five more days to stock up for Halloween?

It's a measures of men like Col. Mitchell Paige that they wouldn't have had it any other way. What they did 58 years ago, they did precisely so their grandchildren could live in a land of peace and plenty.

Whether we've properly safeguarded the freedoms such men fought to leave us, may be a discussion better left for another day. Today we struggle to envision - or remember - how the world must have looked on October 26, 1942.

A few thousand lonely American Marines had been put ashore on Guadalcanal, a god-forsaken jungle island which just happened to lie like a speed bump at the end of the long blue-water slot between New Guinea and the Bismarck
Archipelago - the very route the Japanese Navy would have to take to reach Australia.

World War II is generally calculated from Hitler's invasion of Poland in 1939. But that's a eurocentric view. The Japanese had been limbering up in Korea and Manchuria as early as 1931, and in China by 1934. By late 1942 they'd
devastated every major Pacific military force or stronghold of the great pre-war powers: Britain, Holland, France, and the United States. The bulk of America's proud Pacific fleet lay beached or rusting on the floor of Pearl Harbor.

As Mitchell Paige - then a platoon sergeant - and his rifle platoon of 30-odd men were sent out to establish a last, thin, defensive line on a ridge line southwest of the tiny American bridgehead at Henderson Field on Guadalcanal on
October 25, it's unlikely anyone thought they'd finally provide a definitive answer to the question: How many able-bodied U.S. Marines does it take to hold a hill against 2,000 desperate and motivated attackers?

The Japanese Army had not failed in an attempt to seize any major objective since the Russo-Japanese wars of 1895. But in preceding days, Marine commander Vandegrift had defied War College doctrine, "dangling'' his men in exposed
positions to draw Japanese attacks, then springing his traps "with the steel vise of firepower and artillery,'' in the words of Naval historian David Lippman.

The Japanese regiments had been chewed up. Still, American commanders had so little to work with that Paige's men had only four 30-caliber Browning machine guns on the one ridge through which the Japanese opted to launch their final
assault against Henderson Field, that fateful night of October 26.

By the time the night was over, there were 98 Japanese dead on the hills and 200 more sprawled in the gully just below, historian Lippman reports. "The American estimate of 2,200 Japanese dead is probably too low."

Among the 90 American dead and wounded that night were all the men in Mitchell Paige's platoon. Every one. As the night wore on, Paige moved up and down his line, pulling his dead and wounded comrades back into their foxholes and
firing a few bursts from each of the four Brownings in turn, convincing the Japanese forces down the hill that the positions were still manned.

The citation for Paige's Congressional Medal of Honor adds: "When the enemy broke through the line directly in front of his position, P/Sgt. Paige, commanding a machine gun section with fearless determination, continued to direct the fire of his gunners until all his men were either killed or wounded. Alone, against the deadly hail of Japanese shells, he fought with his gun and when it
was destroyed, took over another, moving from gun to gun, never ceasing his withering fire.''

In the end, Sgt. Paige picked up the last of the 40-pound, belt-fed, Brownings - the same design which John Moses Browning famously fired for a continuous 25 minutes until it ran out of ammunition in its first U.S. Army trial - and
walked down the hill with it, firing as he went.

The weapon did not fail.

Coming up at dawn, battalion executive officer Maj. Odell M. Conoley first discovered the answer to our question: How many able-bodied Marines does it take to hold a hill against 2,000 desperate and motivated attackers? Mitchell
Paige alone sat upright behind his 30-caliber Browning, waiting to see what the new dawn would offer.

And that was the second problem. Part of the American line had fallen to the last Japanese attack. "In the early morning light, the enemy could be seen a few yards off, and vapor from the barrels of their machine guns was clearly
visible,'' reports historian Lippman. "It was decided to try to rush the position."

For the task, Maj. Conoley gathered together "three enlisted communication personnel, several riflemen, a few company runners who were at the point, together with a cook and a few messmen who had brought food to the position the
evening before."

Joined by Paige, this ad hoc force of 17 Marines counterattacked at 5:40 a.m., discovering that "the extremely short range allowed the optimum use of
grenades," and that "The element of surprise permitted the small force to clear the crest."

And that's where the unstoppable wave of Japanese conquest finally crested, broke, and began to recede, because of a handful of U.S. Marines, one of whom (now 82) lives out a quiet retirement in La Quinta, California.

When the Hasbro Toy Co. called up some years back, asking permission to put the retired colonel's face on some kids' doll, Mitchell Paige thought they must be joking.

But they weren't. That's his mug, on the little Marine they call "G.I. Joe."

And now you know.


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