A Marine’s Story of Guadalcanal

Posted April 5, 2016

Bill Livingston was a friend of Veterans Funeral Care from the beginning of our company. Bill would stop by just to say hello and sometimes just to talk shop. Bill loved being a Marine. To give you an idea, before Bill died he made it a point to return to MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina just one last time. Bill often recounted in storytelling as well as in his own biography about how tough basic training was at Parris Island and yet he needed to see it one more time before he died. Bill Livingston was a Marine pure and simple.

United States Marine PFC William Livingston fought at Tulagi in 1942 as part of Operation Watchtower, Guadalcanal in 1942, Battle of Tarawa in 1943, Admiralty Islands in 1944, and Guam in 1944 where he received his Purple Heart.

After getting through Marine Recruit Training at Parris Island, South Carolina Bill was assigned to the 5th Defense Machine Gun Company in the 1st Marine Brigade stationed in Iceland, protecting the island from a possible German invasion. As the action in the Pacific was heating up his unit was called to action and they shipped out 250 Marines to New Zealand as it happened only 35 men would come back alive. Bill enlisted right after the attack on Pearl Harbor and now he finds himself at the forefront of the American effort to stop the Japanese.

Bill-Livingston-Clearwater-Florida
Bill frequently recounted the night of September 7, 1942 where he and the 5th Marines were positioned near the Ilu River on the north shore of Guadalcanal. Bill was manning the 30 caliber machine gun and was tasked with keeping the Japanese at bay as they were positioned on the other side of the river about 1,000 yards away. As the night fell dark, Bill heard a rustling to his left hand side and he shot off 20 rounds in that direction. “I thought there must have been a lot of Japs in that group,” Bill said. However the noise kept coming and getting closer Bill said, “after that I poured it on them and the sound stopped.” His number two man on the gun, Gus Wines, said, “I think you got ’em this time Bill.” Just then the company CO, a Captain, stomped in and yelled, “What the hell is all this shooting about?” Bill and Gus explained to the captain the noises they heard all night and said,

“There must be a lot of Japs to our left sir.”

As morning broke a patrol was sent out to see what exactly Bill had shot. They came back laughing and yelling, “Ha Livingston, you shot a cow last night!” Bill said that one was a hard one to live down but the silver lining was that everyone had a steak for dinner, one of the best dinners the Marines had while they were on Guadalcanal.

Bill told us that in 1987, 45 years later, he returned to Guadalcanal with a group of veterans to break ground on a war memorial to all the men who lost their lives during the fighting there. During his trip he walked by a field of cows standing nearby and he swore one of them walked up to him as if saying, “Are you the guy who killed my grandfather?”

The Ilu River was a high value objective because both the Americans and the Japanese wanted control of the nearby airfield. Bill said, “The Japs did try to cross the river but we held our ground. The Japanese would come all night long with fixed bayonets, yelling and screaming, and fall right on top of one another. There were Marines that we lost but the Japanese losses were terrific,” Bill described.

All of us at Veterans Funeral Care miss Bill’s visits when he would come by just to sit and talk. He would come by and swap stories just like this all the time. We absolutely miss and will never forget Bill Livingston and what he did for our country at Guadalcanal.