- Duchesne, Tim
- Naval Intelligence, WWII operations, Book reviews, Naval Engagements, Operations and Capabilities
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 2000 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
ALONE ON GUADALCANAL – A Coastwatcher’s Story, By Martin Clemens CBE OBE AM MC
High on anyone’s list of largely unsung heroes of the Pacific War must come the British and Australian Coastwatchers in the island chain New Guinea to the Solomons who made a significant and courageous contribution to Allied operations out of all proportion to their small numbers.
This book provides a detailed and rivetting account of one distinguished Coastwatcher’s contribution to the critical and hard-fought struggle for Guadalcanal, from his perilous and lonely service in the months preceding the US Marine Corps’ arrival, through the desperate months when the prospect of defeat, though never acknowledged, was very real, until the Army finally relieved the battered, exhausted but victorious 1st Marine Division.
Martin Clemens’ rag-tag collection of Solomon Islander “scouts” rapidly became an essential auxiliary arm of the Marines, and Clemens himself became a fully integrated member of the HQ staff. The “scouts” carried out vital clandestine reconnaissance and intelligence gathering, they provided labour gangs, and carried out raids and harassing operations. Their loyalty, discipline and spirit remained unbroken and thus reflected what must have been extraordinary qualities of leadership possessed by Clemens. He sustained them by little other than force of personality during the Japanese unopposed occupation, and then, after the American landings, inspired them to deeds and conduct which earned the generous and undying gratitude of General Vandegrift and his troops.
The Japanese landed on 3 May 1942. The US Marines arrived on 7 August, and the Japanese were finally defeated – despite outnumbering their attackers 2 to 1 in February 1943. It was a campaign decided by dogged determination and sheer guts in appalling conditions of rain, heat and mud, with inadequate food or medical support, against a numerically superior foe who possessed sea and air superiority for much of the time. No wonder it has an almost sacred niche in the annals of the US Marine Corps. The part played by Martin Clemens in this saga is generously and gratefully acknowledged by the Marines. Perhaps this book will make his story a little more widely known by his countrymen.