Colonel Mitchell Paige

Platoon Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps
Solomon Islands, 26 October 1942

“My parents and teachers instilled in me a devout love of God, family, and country. When I left home after high school to enlist in the Marines, my God-fearing mother admonished me to ‘Just trust in God always.’ Six years later, right after the fierce battle on Guadalcanal, I emptied the contents of my combat pack, and be-cause of my burned hands, I gingerly picked up my pocket New Testament which included the Psalms and Proverbs. The page prov-identially opened to Proverbs 3:5-6: ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways ac-knowledge Him and He will direct your paths.’

“My greatest earthly honor was being awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. My highest honor—bar none—is, as a sinner, to know Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and through Him to know the peace of heart that passes all human under-standing. I believe any American with firm moral convictions and courage to defend them at any cost is able to defend himself and maintain his integrity. Valor and patriotism, virtues of the highest order, are part of our beliefs which we must never forget. Since its birth in 1776, our great nation has proudly proclaimed the cher-ished slogan, ‘IN GOD WE TRUST.’ Someone once said, ‘The evi-dence of God’s presence far outweighs the proof of His absence.’”


CITATION

For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action above and beyond the call of duty while serving with a company ofMarines in combat against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands on 26 October 1942.

When the enemy broke through the line directly in front of his position, P/Sgt. Paige, commanding a machinegun section withfearless determination, continued to direct the fire of his gunners until all his men were either killed or wounded. Alone, against the deadly hail of Japanese shells, he fought with his gun and when it was destroyed, took over another, moving from gun to gun, never ceasing his withering fire against the advancing hordes until rein-forcements finally arrived. Then, forming a new line, he dauntlessly and aggressively led a bayonet charge, driving the enemy back and preventing a breakthrough in our lines.

His great personal valor and unyielding devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

TRUST IN THE LORD
When I left home to enlist in the Marine Corps, my mother told me “All I want you to do is trust in the God, don’t try to figure out everything by yourself and God will show you the way.” I joined the Marines in 1936 after I finished high school. During the battle of Guadalcanal, I was a platoon Sergeant in H Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Regiment, 1st Marines. Following the initial landing on Guadalcanal, the Marines captured the Japanese airfield and named it Henderson Field.

On October 26th, 1942, I was involved in the crucial battle that prevented the enemy from over-running and recapturing Henderson Field. My 33-man platoon was positioned on a ridge within clear observation of the Japanese and Japanese artillery fire. Throughout the day of October 25th, we waited with great antici-pation for night to fall. We knew the enemy was aware of our posi-tion. Marine patrols had reported that a large body of enemy troops was moving toward our position. Two battalions of the Japanese 124th Infantry Regiment and one Battalion of the 4th Infantry— comprised of about 2,500 to 3,000 enemy soldiers—were moving into position to assault the ridge.

Although the platoon was under strength, we knew we had to hold the ridge at all costs. I moved up and down the line to en-courage every Marine and to tell them to hold their fire until the enemy could be seen clearly. Very early in the morning on the 26th of October, we began to see movement below us. As the battle erupted, the enemy advanced to the ridge and our position. The battle became a life and death struggle all along the ridge. After the first wave, a second wave came and the enemy was close to control-ling the ridge. Every member of my platoon was either killed or wounded. It was a living hell. I continued to fire my machine gun until the barrel began to steam. In front of me, there was a large pile of dead Japanese soldiers. I ran along the ridge from gun to gun trying to keep them firing, but at each emplacement, I found only dead bodies.

Once when I was running between the gun positions, an enemy soldier rushed at me and with a thrust of his bayonet cut the fingers of my hand. I pushed his rifle aside and using my K-Bar knife, I killed the enemy soldier. A few minutes later, I found myself racing an enemy soldier to one of the gun emplacements. I got there first, but I discovered that the weapon was not loaded. As I tried desper-ately to pull the bolt back on the machine gun, a strange feeling came over me. I was unable to lean forward; it was like my body was in a vise. Even with that, I felt relaxed and had no fear. All of a sudden, I felt a release from the vise-like hold, and I fell forward over the gun. At the exact moment that this was happening, the enemy soldier had fired his full 30-round magazine at me. I felt the heat and the blast of those bullets pass close to my face and chin. Had I been able to lean forward and pull the bolt back on the ma-chine gun, the bullets would have hit me in the head. I realized I had been spared and protected by an invisible shield.

As dawn broke on the 26th of October, the platoon, now only 26 men, rallied to charge and counterattack. As we ran toward the enemy, I was carrying a red-hot machine gun cradled across my bare arms and hands. With the counterattack, the remaining enemy with-drew. Returning to my gun position, I began to empty the contents of my combat pack to find my Bible. Because my hands were burned by the hot metal barrel of the machine gun, I was unable to hold the Bible. It fell to the ground and it opened to the third chapter of Proverbs. It opened to the chapter and verse given as an admonition from my mother when I left home in 1936. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own under-standing. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” Another Marine ran up to me. He told me later that I was standing there talking to myself, saying, “Mom, Mom.” I know the greatest earthly honor that can be given to an American fighting man is the Medal of Honor. But my highest honor, bar none, is to know Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.”
—Mitchell Paige