From YANK Magazine

AT A U.S. EAST COAST PORT-Somewhere in the Atlantic off North Carolina is a tiny group of uninhabited islands known to the men of the Marine Corps as the “Junior Solomons.” These sunbaked, jungle-ridden specks are white, sandy beaches, flanked by tufted dunes. Beyond the dunes is matter undergrowth and dank, fever-infested swamp.

It is as near as you can get to conditions in the Solomons in North America.

Here Marine regiments practice landing operations and jungle warfare in the last stages of their training, before embarking for what they call “firing for record” in the South Pacific.

solomons landing training

A wave of yelling marines jump from their landing boat and plow through the surf to shore.

Trainees here are young, eager, brutal in their desire to come to close quarters with the Japanese. Most of the men are in their teens, like 19-year-old, 200-pound Pvt. Charles Gorrell, who was a football guard at Spartanburg (S.C.) Junior College when he enlisted, or Pfc. Richard Rhoades, who was a cowpuncher on the Russell Hill cattle ranch at Bakersfield, Calif.

solomons landing training

Machine gunners quickly set up a position on the beach.

The officers are young, too—almost all of them fresh out of college. The commanding officer of one platoon is Lt. James A. Stranahan of Mercer, Pa., graduate of Wooster College who was studying law at the University of Pittsburgh when the war came along. He would have been the fourth James A. Stranahan to practice law at Mercer.

The most important phase of the marines’ advanced training is, of course, the landing operation pictured here. This is like the parachute jump to the paratrooper. After the beachhead is won, the leathernecks dig in and deploy like G.I.s in contact with the enemy.

The landing operation is the same operation as that executed by our own amphibious troops on the coast of North Africa. The men scramble down cargo nets from their transport into Higgins landing boats, usually operated by skilled coast guardsmen. The boats meet at a fixed rendezvous point at sea, just out of range of enemy shore batteries.

The attack is made in a series of waves. Each wave approaches the shore with the boats arranged in Vs aimed at a fixed point on the beach. This formation prevents swell from the advanced boat from upsetting those in the rear. It also presents a smaller target to the enemy on shore, and allows machine guns in the bow of each Higgins boat to sweep the entire stretch of beach.

The early waves almost always consist of riflemen, machete-men and machine-gunners, whose job is to clean the beach of the enemy so that heavy equipment can be landed. The last waves are almost always engineers, whose job is to construct fixed positions on the newly-won beach, build roads inland, and set up command posts.

Pharmacist’s mates from the Navy go along in an early wave to administer first aid to wounded marines in the field. These pharmacist’s mates are peculiar hybrids, allowed to wear either the Navy or Marine Corps uniforms, with Navy chevrons stitched to their sleeve. William Gates, PhM2C, a chemistry student at Penn State before the war, says, “I wear the Marine uniform. It’s healthier.”

These trainees act like our own G.I.s In a Higgins boat, they go to sleep or yell disparaging remarks about the ancestry of the platoon in the next boat of the formation. They kid each other about getting seasick and about their home towns. When they hit the shore, they get mad and tough. They whoop and holler, and yell obscene, terrible things about Wake Island and Bataan.

For More on the Battles in the Solomons Check Out:

Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle

Neptune’s Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal

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