(August 16, 2009)
Alexander J. Mlodzianowski, former Marine and veteran of the Battle of Guadalcanal, is greeted by Col. Daniel J. Choike, commander of Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., outside Lejeune Hall during a base tour Aug. 6, 2009.
Photo by USMC LCpl. Lucas G. Lowe
MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. (August 13, 2009)
here [to Quantico] to tell a story,” said Alexander J. Mlodzianowski, former
Marine and veteran of the World War II battle for the island of Guadalcanal.
At 95, Mlodzianowski stands erect, wearing a windbreaker and an inviting smile
that twists the lines age has made on his face. His white hair is covered by a
faded cap bearing the Marine Corps seal. He is the blueprint of an affable
grandfather. However, when Mlodzianowski enlisted in the Marine Corps in March
1942, his physique intimidated people as much as it impressed them. At the time
he was 27 years old and weighed 170 pounds. Hard labor in the coal yards around
his hometown of Lawrence, Mass., in addition to an athletic lifestyle, had
conditioned his body well, and at the time he joined the Marine Corps,
Mlodzianowski was lifting more than twice his body weight.
He happened to be working out at a local gym when President Franklin D.
Roosevelt declared war on Japan.|
“I dropped everything I was doing and headed home. On my way I stopped by the
pub where my friends would gather. They had heard the news. We got to talking,
and one of the guys there said, ‘Let's go to Boston and sign up for the
The battle for Guadalcanal has been too often neglected as a part of history,
according to Mlodzianowski, whose daughter, Mary, encouraged him to come to
Quantico's Oral History Division. Mlodzianowski also has a personal stake in the
story of Guadalcanal.
“I know I'm getting old,” he explained, “and I wanted to make sure I passed this
bit of history along before it gets too late.”
It has been more than half a century since Mlodzianowski has discussed his
experiences on Guadalcanal with 5th Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine
Division. Friday marked the 67th anniversary of the morning the first wave of
Marines hit the beach on Guadalcanal on Aug. 7, 1942.
The morning of the Marine Corps' first amphibious landing, Maj. Gen. Alexander
A. Vandegrift, then the commander of 1st Mar. Div., offered the troops a few
words of encouragement: “God favors the bold and strong of heart,” he said.
Vandegrift later became the 18th commandant of the Marine Corps and on April 4,
1945, became the first Marine on active duty to achieve the rank of four-star
Among those whom Vandegrift addressed the morning of the landing on Guadalcanal
was Mlodzianowski, whose billet as line sergeant meant he would spend most of
the next five months on the island completely alone, laying communication lines
under the cover of dense jungle.
Marines pose for a picture with World War II veterans while
visiting Gaudalcanal Aug. 6, 2009 during their islandhop trip.
The Iwakuni Marines traveled to 10 islands across the Pacific to
commemorate the 67th anniversary of Guadalcanal.
courtesy of Sgt. Adam Kruse
Mlodzianowski recalled leaving his ship to land on Guadalcanal with the first
wave of the invasion.|
“I get on this half-ton truck and they lower me in a net all alone on the
landing barge. I'm looking around like, ‘Hey, isn't anybody coming with me?' I'm
all alone . . . As I landed I got caught between to infantry units firing, and I was in the
middle, so I spent my time in a brook there up to my neck in the water. I could
here the bullets coming in over my head. I figured, ‘If I get in the water, I
won't get hit.'”
Equipped with mostly World War I-issued gear, which was common in the beginning
of the Second World War, Mlodzianowski set out into the Japanese-infested
interior of Guadalcanal in his jeep to begin laying the communication lines that
enabled Marines at the front to contact the rear for necessities such as
ammunition and food.
Mlodzianowski was wounded for the first time in September when shrapnel from
nearby shelling hit his ankle. To make matters worse, Navy Rear Adm. Richmond K.
Turner, the commander of the Pacific Fleet at Guadalcanal, had pulled his
amphibious force out of the waters surrounding the island the third day of the
battle due to intense Japanese harassment of its ships, leaving the Marines to
fend for themselves without Navy support. Therefore, Mlodzianowski could not be
medically evacuated from the island.
Never minding his wound, Mlodzianowski resumed his labor of laying down
communication lines, persevering for another five months when he, along with the
rest of the division, shipped for Australia on Dec. 23, 1942. He would spend the
next year in Australia, taking frequent trips into the country's interior and
getting to know the local populace, which included white ranchers descended from
the British colonization period as well as the more primitive Aborigines.
“I got a 72 [-hour leave] one time and walked for 25 miles into the countryside
outside Sydney,” recalls Mlodzianowski. “I got to this ranch and figured I would
stop and get a glass of water. Someone sitting outside asked me what sort of
uniform I was wearing, and I told him, ‘U.S. Marines.' Then he took me by the
arm into his house and fed me a whole dinner. I guess he knew we more or less
saved the whole country.”
Mlodzianowski's warm reception at the remote home of an Australian rancher might
very well be due to the success of Marines who held their ground against the
Japanese in the Coral Sea region.
Some historians have inferred that Japan's plans were to annex Australia, but
these plans were hampered by the Marines at Guadalcanal.
Mlodzianowski had had enough of seeing the world by the time World War II ended
and his military service was terminated. He returned to Lawrence, Mass., and
spent most of the rest of his life working in textiles, content with keeping his
memories of the war to himself.
Today, Mlodzianowski does not put off an aura of arrogance for actions that took
place 67 years ago in the South Pacific Ocean, although he could probably get
away with it. His merits as a former Marine include three separate citations:
one from President Franklin D. Roosevelt for successes at Guadalcanal, a
regimental citation from the secretary of the Navy for seizing and maintaining
Guadalcanal and a personal citation from President Harry S. Truman for service
to his country.
Rather, Mlodzianowski seems eager to share his story of war with the world,
specifically with Marines several generations removed from his. He wants them to
He came to Quantico with a story. Now he has told it.
Article by USMC LCpl. Lucas G. Lowe
Marine Corps Base Quantico
Marine Corps News
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