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June 13, 2004

Canned Peaches

Every day when the kids come home from school they have a snack. If I'm working from my home office, then it's my job. The other day we had canned peaches.

I had spoken to my mother about our memorial day weekend and asked her about other veterans in the family. Her father was in the Army, which I didn't know, and her Uncle Adam served in the Pacific. In fact, he was one of the marines who fought on Guadalcanal. The short summary of the story was that he landed there and his ship was sunk. So for one month, he lived on canned peaches. When he came home (he survived!), he never wanted to eat another canned peach.

So my kids know about Uncle Adam, 30 days, canned peaches and Guadalcanal. But they really don't know about Guadalcanal and neither did I until I looked it up.

The battle for Guadalcanal was fought between August of 1942 and February of 1943. There are many different accounts of the battle. This is my favorite, the first account that I read.

On January 3rd 1943, Japanese headquarters conceded defeat and ordered the evacuation of their remaining troops from Guadalcanal and on the 7th the last of the defeated Japanese left the island via destroyers. They left 25,000 dead on the island and between 600 and 900 pilots in the sea. I don't have any figures on the number of sailors killed. 1,600 Americans were killed on the island and many more killed at sea. The rest of the Solomon Islands chain would take almost another year of fighting before being entirely in American hands.

We lost at least six ships in those six months. And Uncle Adam survived on canned peaches. Just a little perspective on our little occupation of Iraq.

Posted by mbowen at June 13, 2004 10:26 AM

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My wifes dad was at Guadalcanal with the Army. He fought in some other battles in the Pacific, but he has steadfastly refused to talk about his experiences. Once at a family gathering, he did open up for a few minutes and talked about how hungry they were on Guadalcanal. Apparently the supply system was a disaster and the Navy abandoned tons of supplies on the beach. He and some buddies snuck onto the beach and grabbed some what they thought was food from a supply area. Everything was in cans and the labels had come off so nobody knew what was inside. They wound up with one can of peaches and several cans of rifle bore cleaner. The history of the whole war is amazing, and compared to the losses in more recent wars, the lives lost were staggering. At Iwo Jima the Marines suffered 3,000 casualties a day, for days on end.

Posted by: Cerberus at June 14, 2004 11:25 PM

Let's see. My mother had two sisters. My father had a brother and a sister. In WWII, My mother's sisters both married during the war and had children while the fathers were both overseas. Both of the fathers died before they saw their children. My father's sister didn't marry her sweetheart. He was MIA-Presumed Dead. My dad, who was in the Navy in small ships (destroyer escorts) didn't talk about his experiences until 1984--his service was in the South Pacific, but I think it was the DDay anniversary that got him talking.

I am not sure that I subscribe to the "Greatest Generation" myth, but a great many men and women did make enormous sacrifices in those years.

Posted by: liz at June 17, 2004 05:06 PM