12/04 – Carlson’s Patrol

Marine Raiders in 1944 in the Solomon Islands. (USMC)

On this day in 1942, Carlson’s Patrol – an operation by the US Marine Corps 2nd Raider Battalion – ended. Beginning in December of 1941, the Allies (led by the US Marines) had been fighting their way through the Pacific, “island-hopping” towards mainland Japan. The patrol, which began on November 6th, was intended to disrupt Japanese operations on Guadalcanal, one of the Solomon Islands. The Raiders were led by Marine officer Evans Carlson and joined by some Australians, British and native scouts familiar with the area, totalling 700 men. Over 29 days, Carlson’s Patrol covered 240 km (150 miles) in the pursuit of Japanese General Toshinari Shōji’s 2,500 men. In a number of firefights in the jungle, Carlson’s forces harassed Shōji’s troops and kept them on the run for weeks.

By the end of the patrol, Shōji’s force had been reduced to 700 men by disease, starvation, and Carlson’s attacks. The Raiders were suffering from similar ailments, and had lost 16 killed; but they had succeeded in driving Shōji into hiding and managed to defend the Allied Henderson Airfield from further attacks. The operation was a brutal series of “skirmishes” that left almost everyone involved infected with malaria. Carlson’s Patrol was one of the most significant operations by “special forces” during WWII, and proved that sometimes the jungle could be an even deadlier foe than the enemy.

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