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Vandegrift, Lieutenant General Alexander, 1887-1972

Vandegrift led the 1st Marine Division in the first months of the campaign to take Guadalcanal. He was chosen to lead this campaign at very short notice and given a few months to prepare it. He had little time to collect intelligence and in his own words ‘there was no time for a deliberate planning phase.’ On 7 August 1942 Vandegrift and his men landed unopposed on the island and immediately began building an airstrip, which was later called Henderson Field. His men stayed there for four months facing continued attempts by the Japanese Navy, Army and Air Force to recapture the island. On 21 August 700 Japanese died in the Battle of Tenaru for the loss of 35 Marines. Vandegrift’s men fought for the next month to hold their lines and succeeded in defeating a frontal attack by 3500 Japanese in the Battle of Bloody Ridge (12/13 September 1942). General HYAKUTAKE of the Seventeenth Army led the Japanese troops himself but did not succeed in taking Henderson Field in the last major offensive on 24/25 October. The Japanese morale took a further plunge after the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal on 12/13 November and Vandegrift made further inroads into Japannese positions on the island. On 9 December Vandegrift and the 1st Marine Division were withdrawn for a well- earned rest and left with more than a third of the men unfit for combat duty. Vandegrift returned to the USA and was made Commander of the I Marine Amphibious Corps and took part in the landings on Bougainville in November 1943. He was posted back to Washington in 1944 and made Commandant of the Marine Corps and built it up by another 25,000 men. He supervised the demobilization after the war.

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