Arthur Pendleton of Co H, 2nd Battalion 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division honoured The Log Book with his signature in 2017.
While project founder Nick Devaux was accommodated for several effortless hours in their home one of the memories Mr Pendleton recounted was having to carry, and bury, two fallen comrades in his poncho following the battle at Alligator Creek on Guadalcanal 21 August 1942.
In later correspondence with Mrs Pendleton it has become painfully clear just how much this gruesome memory has affected them both. For several years, to the day he died, Mr Pendleton recounted the story of collecting the body parts of his friends and carrying them in a poncho…
Until the day he died, my husband spoke of that many times and I regret that I cannot remember their namesMaryanne Pendleton
It is a grim reminder of how deep the scars of battle are, one may heal physically, but probably never mentally.
This is why I personally so deeply respect and admire the courage displayed by veterans willing to tell their story. The horrific images will never be far away in their minds, and they know it, they have lived the majority of their lives with them. To then willingly and deliberately open up, despite knowing full well what surely will play out in their minds, is another kind of courage beyond charging bunkers under fire.
A person dies twice
The below sentence exists in many variations and its true origin appear to be unclear. Regardless of who uttered them, or in what context, the meaning of the words are profound.
“A person dies twice: once when they take their final breath, and later, the last time their name is spoken”.
In a way we like to believe that The Log Book Project captures and ensures that some of these names live on. Wherever possible we will always try to assist finding closure for all that may seek it. In this case we set out to bring clarity to a question and in the process also utter and preserve the legacy of two fallen Marines.
In honor of the late Cpl Arthur Pendleton and his wife Maryanne we therefore respectfully say the names Barney Sterling and Arthur J. Atwood.
The two fallen comrades
Having landed on Guadalcanal without much opposition the US forces took up defensive positions to defend the captured airfield named Henderson Field. In response to the Allied landings the Japanese landed troops east of Lunga Point on 19 August with intent to retake the airfield. In the very early hours of 21 August 1942 the first of several assaults were launched to try penetrate US defensive lines and recapture the airfield. The Marines spent the entire night fighting elements of Colonel Kiyono Ichiki’s Detachment.
At daylight the gruesome aftermath revealed the extent of the carnage with several hundred dead Japanese soldiers. All but 128 of the original 917 of the Ichiki Regiment’s “First Element” died.
US casualties amounted to over 40 soldiers, among these were two of Pendleton’s friends. Exactly how they died may never be known but sometime during the battle a large calibre shell hit their position. The result would be to horrific to describe in detail but Pendleton’s own account of the aftermath would provide an indication.
Our lieutenant gathered me and a couple of guys, and we got ponchos and picked up their body parts. We carried them up through the coconut grove and dug their graves right near the end of the Henderson Field airstrip.Arthur Pendleton
The cemetery Mr Pendleton is referring to is the 1 Marine Division cemetery established to the east and inland from Lunga Point near Henderson Field.
In the below images, courtesy of Geoff Roecker, the graves of Cpl Sterling and Pfc Atwood can be seen. Basing out of Pfc Holcombe’s grave, with his name distinguishable on the cross, one can from the cemetery map establish that the grave of Cpl Sterling is directly above. Perusing the images closer one can also distinguish the names of both, Sterling at the blue arrow and Atwood at the red.
Cpl. Barney Sterling (MCSN: 300443)
Born 26 August 1919, son of Nathan and Claire Brodsky, both listed as Russian born immigrants in the 1940 US Census. He grew up with his younger sister on 1366 E. 3rd Street in lower Brooklyn New York.
He enlists with USMC under the name of “Sterling”, unknown why but possibly to hide a Jewish heritage to prevent reprisals if captured while potentially deployed in the ETO. At the time of enlisting there would have been no way to know where deployment would occur.
Pfc. Barney Sterling is killed in his position 21 August 1942 engaged in battle with Japanese forces along the Tenaru river on Guadalcanal. Sterling is only 5 days short of his 24th birthday.
For his actions on Guadalcanal of 21 August 1942 he is awarded the Navy Cross.
After being buried by Arthur Pendleton near the end of Henderson field on Guadalcanal his remains are repatriated to US in 1949. He is today buried at Wellwood Cemetery; Block 28, Row 17, Grave 1-R, Division P.
Pfc. Arthur J. Atwood (MCSN: 348734)
Born 23 November 1929 and the only child of Edwin D. Atwood and Mary E. Atwood. He grows up on 346 Pine St, Providence, Rhode Island.
For his actions in the battle on Guadalcanal of 21 August 1942 he awarded the Navy Cross.
Very little is found on Pfc Arthur Atwood other than that his remains are today interred at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific on Honolulu, Hawaii; Section C SITE 996 (C996).
Shedding further light on this story was only possible through sterling assistance of others such as retired Marine, historian and Guadalcanal Battlefield guide Mr Dave R. Holland. We initially came into contact with Mr Holland through his excellent Youtube channel Guadalcanal – Walking a Battlefield. His episode on the Battle of Alligator Creek outlines the battle in which Sterling and Atwood perished. Mr Holland has very patiently answered questions and also made his own network of contacts available to us.
It is through Mr Holland we came into contact with Geoffrey Roecker, author of book “Leaving Mac Behind: The Lost Marines of Guadalcanal” and creator of website http://www.missingmarines.com/. Through Mr Rocker we obtained the images of the first cemetery on Guadalcanal and other valuable information.
In memory of Cpl Arthur L. Pendleton
We say your name and are honored to carry your story.
Lest we forget.
Last Updated on 21 August 2023 by Lars McKie