Web Site Dedication


This Website is designed and maintained in dedication to my dad, Past President Gordon W. Morgan, USMC G-2-7 and all those who served with him, on the ground, in the air and on the seas!




Gordon W. Morgan (November 1, 1923 - March 30, 2008)



Gordon William Morgan, USMC, was born in Drumheller, Alberta, Canada, on the 1st of November, 1923.  His senior year of high school was the school year
1941 and 1942.  On December 7th, 1941, the Japanese Imperial Forces attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor.  Gordon Morgan enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on Monday, December 8th 1941 in Detroit, Ml.

After completing boot camp, Gordon was eventually transferred to Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines in April, 1942, as the 7th Marines shipped out of Norfolk, VA as part of the 3rd Marine Provisional Brigade. The 2nd Battalion went aboard the USS Heywood through the Panama Canal and arrived in Apia, British Samoa on 8 May 1942. Shortly after, Golf Company 2/7 went to Savaii Island as “Strawman Detachment” on outpost duty. In August, the company rejoined the 2nd Battalion and began a period of rigorous physical training with daily and nightly marches. On or about September 1, 1942, the 1st and 2nd Battalions boarded ships in Apia and reunited with the 3rd Battalion at sea. The brigade rejoined the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal on September 18th, 1942.

Previously,  on August 7, 1942, allied forces, primarily of the United States, landed on Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and the Florida Islands in the Solomon Islands. The landings on the islands were meant to deny their use by the Japanese as bases for threatening the supply routes between the U.S. and Australia, and to secure the islands as starting points for a campaign with the eventual goal of isolating the major Japanese base at Rabaul while also supporting the Allied New Guinea campaign. The landings initiated the six-month-long Guadalcanal campaign.

Taking the Japanese by surprise, by nightfall on August 8, the 11,000 Allied troops, under the command of Lieutenant General Alexander Vandegrift and mainly consisting of United States Marine Corps units, had secured Tulagi as well as an airfield under construction at Lunga Point on Guadalcanal. The airfield was later named Henderson Field by Allied forces.

In the preceding months, the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters assigned the Imperial Japanese Army's 17th Army, a corps-sized command based at Rabaul with the task of retaking Guadalcanal from Allied forces. Beginning August 19, various units of the 17th Army began to arrive on Guadalcanal with the goal of driving Allied forces from the island.

A series of attempts at retaking Henderson Field failed for the Japanese, including the Battle at Edson’s Ridge on September 14th, 1942.  As the Japanese regrouped, the United States forces concentrated on shoring up and strengthening their Lunga defenses which included the September 18th arrival of the Allied naval convoy delivering the 4,157 men from the U.S. 7th Marine Regiment, to Guadalcanal.  These reinforcements allowed Vandegrift, beginning on September 19, to establish an unbroken line of defense completely around the Lunga perimeter.

Being aware that Japanese forces were huddled around the Lunga perimeter to the west, Marine Corps units became small operations in the area of Matanikau River in the Matanikau Valley.  After several defeats, the Marines were able to finally destroy the Japanese 4th Regiment and the 7th Marines maintained the area of the Lunga perimeter from the area controlled by the US Army’s 164th regiment south and west across Edson's Ridge to the Lunga River.

On October 12th, a company of Japanese engineers began to break a trail, called the "Maruyama Road", from the Matanikau towards the southern portion of the U.S. Lunga perimeter.  The Japanese 2nd Division had arrived and moved along the road but became strung out due to the many muddy ravines, steep ridges and dense jungle.  With what was left of the 4th regiment, and the addition of the 1,200 troops of the 124th Infantry Regiment, the Japanese had greater numbers and had maneuvered to a position to break the US perimeter by October 22nd.  On October 18th, Japanese artillery, using 150 mm howitzers, and Japanese dive bombers began pounding the US defenses around Henderson Field.  The US forces were unaware of the advance of the ground forces along the Matanikau River.

On October 23rd, two battalions of the Japanese 4th Infantry Regiment and the nine tanks of the 1st Independent Tank Company launched attacks on the U.S. Marine defenses at the mouth of the Matanikau.  Partly in response to the attacks, on October 24th, the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines under Lieutenant Colonel Hanneken deployed to the Matanikau. After Japanese forces were sighted approaching the Marine’s positions from the south, Hanneken's battalion was placed on a ridge facing south which formed a continuous extension of the inland flank of the Marine's horseshoe-shaped defenses. A gap, however, still remained between Hanneken's east flank and the main perimeter.

With the redeployment of Hanneken's battalion, the 700 troops of 1st Battalion, 7th Marines under Lieutenant Colonel Chesty Puller were left alone to hold the entire 2,500 yards line on the southern face of the Lunga perimeter east of the Lunga River. Late on October 24th, Marine patrols detected additional approaching forces, but it was now too late in the day for the Marines to rearrange their positions.

The Japanese had very little artillery or mortar support for their upcoming assault, having abandoned most of their heavy cannons along the Maruyama Road. Between 16:00 and 21:00, heavy rain fell, delaying the Japanese approach and causing "chaos" in the Japanese formations, already exhausted from the long march through the jungle. The Japanese right wing force accidentally turned parallel to the Marine lines, and all but one battalion failed to make contact with the Marine defenses. The 1st Battalion, 230th Infantry Regiment "stumbled" into Puller's lines at about 22:00 and were driven off by Puller's men. For unknown reasons, Japanese staff then reported to the command that Japanese men had overrun Henderson Field. At 00:50 on October 25th, General Hyakutake signaled Japanese command at Rabaul that, "A little before 23:00 the Right Wing captured the airfield."

Further west, the 9th Company of the Japanese 3rd Battalion charged straight into Puller's Charlie Company at 01:15. Within five minutes, a Marine machine gun section led by Sergeant John Basilone killed almost every member of the 9th Company. By 01:25 heavy fire from the Marine divisional artillery was falling into the Japanese troop assembly and approach routes, causing heavy casualties. At 04:30, General Hyakutake rescinded the message announcing the capture of the airfield and at 07:00 declared that the results of other attacks were unknown. During the day of October 25, Puller's men attacked and eradicated the enemy forces in their lines and hunted small groups of Japanese infiltrators, killing 104 Japanese soldiers. More than 300 Japanese men in total were killed in their first attacks on the Lunga perimeter.   

At 03:00 on October 26, the reinforced 3rd Battalion of the Japanese 4th regiment finally reached and attacked the Marine defenses near the Matanikau. Japanese troops assaulted all along an east-west saddle ridge held by Hanneken's battalion but concentrated particularly on Hanneken's Fox Company, which defended the extreme left flank of the Marine positions on the ridge. A Fox Company machine gun section under Mitchell Paige killed many of the Japanese attackers, but Japanese fire eventually killed or injured almost all the Marine machine gunners. At 05:00, the Japanese 3rd Battalion, 4th Infantry succeeded in scaling the steep slope of the ridge and pushed the surviving members of Fox Company off of the crest.

Responding to the Japanese capture of part of the ridgeline, Major Odell M. Conoley, Hanneken's battalion executive officer quickly gathered a counterattack unit of 17 men, including communications specialists, messmen, a cook, and a bandsman. Conoley's scratch force was joined by elements of Hanneken's Golf Company, Gordon’s unit, Charlie Company, and a few unwounded survivors from Fox Company and attacked the Japanese before they could consolidate their positions on top of the ridge. By 06:00, Conoley's force had pushed the Japanese back off of the ridge, effectively ending the Japanese attack. The Marines counted 98 Japanese bodies on the ridge and 200 more in the ravine in front of it. Hanneken's unit suffered 14 killed and 32 wounded.

Machine gun fire on 26 October wounded Gordon on Hanneken's Ridge during the battle. Mitchell Paige was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor as was John Basilone. Chesty Puller was awarded the Navy Cross.

Gordon was evacuated to New Caledonia and later by hospital ship to Auckland, N.Z. He left there December 15, 1942, and arrived at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital, Oakland, CA, New Years Day, 1943. Gordon was released to limited duty at Naval Air Station Alameda in May 1943.  He then transferred to NAS Astoria, OR in February 1945.  After hospitalization at Naval Hospital Astoria, he was discharged as a corporal of Marines on August 20, 1945.

Gordon joined the Portland Police Bureau on August 27, 1945 and patrolled the first three days on the bureau wearing his Marine Uniform.  Gordon spent many years as a detective, patrol supervisor and a detective supervisor. Gordon retired from the Police Bureau after thirty years of service on September 3, 1975 as Detective Sergeant in charge of the Homicide Unit.

After a five-day retirement, he went to work as a special agent for the Multnomah County District Attorney and retired from there twelve years later, on April 30, 1987.

Gordon is married to the former Mary Jane Donaldson. They have five sons, Bill, Mike, Ricky, Dan, Patrick, one daughter, Colleen, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild. For many years, he was active in Cub Scouts, coached Little League and Babe Ruth baseball as well serving on many school {LaSalle High School) and community activities. He was President of the Portland Police Athletic League for two successive terms. Gordon was a past commander of the Portland Police Post 2807 VFW. 

In 1981, he first heard of and joined the 1st Marine Division Association. In 1991 he founded and became the first president of the Oregon-Columbia River Chapter of the First Marine Division Association (FMDA). Simultaneously he was the editor and publisher of the monthly chapter newsletter. He continued in that position while serving as the Deputy Vice President West of the FMDA. Following a two-year term as the Vice President of the FMDA was elected to the national presidency on 7 August 1999.

Gordon continued to serve at Secretary of the Oregon-Columbia River Chapter of the FMDA. He was active with the Marine Corp Coordinating Council and served as a Key Volunteer.

In April of 2001, Gordon was asked to help dedicate the newly remodeled and renamed Chesty Puller Hall of Valor at the Virginia Military Institute. Gordon cut the ribbon with he daughters of Chesty Puller and Commandant James Jones.

He was serving  his 3rd term as National President for the Guadalcanal Campaign Veterans Association [GCV] until called to his final duty station on March 30, 2008.

 

(A special thank you to Jim Lawrence, USMC and PPD, for contributing to this article.)

 

 



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