The Battle of Edson’s Ridge

The Battle of Edson’s Ridge

Friday, September 14, 2018

The fact that many who fought on Guadalcanal September 12 – 14, 1942 referred to this period as the Battle of Bloody Ridge serves as a testament to the severity of the fighting and loss of life on the island. This second of three major Japanese ground offensives during the Guadalcanal Campaign saw the Imperial Japanese Army try to reclaim the Lunga perimeter which was lost to Allied forces on August 7. Japanese Major General Kiyotake Kawaguchi’s 35th Infantry Brigade was charged with regaining the lost territory and with eliminating Allied forces from the island. Kawaguchi made his intentions clear on September 2 when he issued an attack plan that read in part, "[We will] rout and annihilate the enemy in the vicinity of the Guadalcanal Island.”

Admiral Nimitz awards the Guadalcanal Medal to Col. Edson and his Marine Raiders, at Guadalcanal, o.1942-43. Other officers shown are Lt. Lamar, Maj. Gen. Vandegrift & Brig. Gen. Rupertus. 

U.S. Marine Lt. Col Merritt "Red Mike" Edson, commanding officer of the 1st Raider Battalion, believed that Kawaguchi’s forces would mostly likely attack at Lunga Ridge, and he fought for permission to defend the area. Edson’s beliefs proved correct on the night of September 12 when Japanese forces exited Guadalcanal's nearly impenetrable jungles to engage Marines on the ridge. But the Japanese attack came too soon as many soldiers failed to exit the jungle in time to participate in the attack. U.S. forces quickly turned the limited Japanese forces back and they retreated to the jungle to regroup. Edson used this break in fighting as an opportunity to address his men. “You men have done a great job so far, but I have one more thing to ask of you. We have to hold out just one more night. I know we have been without sleep a long time, but I expect another attack and I believe they will come through here. If we hold, I have every reason to believe we will be relieved in the morning.”

Japanese forces numbering over 2,500 men returned to attack the 800 Marines defending Lunga Ridge shortly after dark on September 13. Kawaguchi’s forces quickly pushed back the Marine Raiders of Company B from their hilltop position as well as the Marines of Company B, 1st Parachute Battalion. Edson ordered these two companies to fall back towards his command post on Hill 123 located in the center of the Lunga Ridge. Japanese forces then pushed back the Marines of C Company, 1st Parachute Battalion from their position. Edson saw the look of despair on his men’s faces and he took charge to immediately change the situation. After a spirited call to not lose hope, Edson ordered his Paramarines to affix bayonets and charge Japanese forces surging toward their left flank. Edson’s men caught the Japanese by surprise and drove them down the hill.

This appeared only to be a momentary setback for the Japanese as they continued their attack, sending wave after wave of soldiers against the Marines. The fighting was hand to hand and the toll excessive. The last of the Japanese forces were finally pushed into the jungle and off of Lunga Ridge early on the morning of Sept 14.

The Japanese losses were great with more than 850 men killed and another 500 wounded.  U.S. forces incredibly lost only 59 soldiers and saw 204 wounded. For his leadership in battle, Lt. Col Merritt Edson was awarded the Medal of Honor and the battle that many referred to as the Battle of Bloody Ridge became known as The Battle of Edson's Ridge.


Contributor: Gayne C. Young
Gayne C. Young is a graduate of St. Edward’s University, the former Editor-in-Chief of North American Hunter and North American Fisherman - both part of CBS Sports -and a columnist for and feature contributor to Outdoor Life and Sporting Classics magazines. His work has appeared in magazines such as Petersen’s Hunting, Texas Sporting Journal, Sports Afield, Gray’s Sporting Journal, Under Wild Skies, Hunter’s Horn, Spearfishing, and many others.

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