By Nancy Rineman
Atlantic News, Thursday, August 8, 2002[The following article is courtesy of the Atlantic News]
[Beach News Photo by Nancy Rineman]
HAMPTON — A crowd estimated at between 250 and 300 turned out late Sunday afternoon to enjoy a New England clambake, and to honor veterans who fought at Guadalcanal 60 years ago, on August 7, 1942.
The event, held at Bicentennial Park, was hosted by the campaign of Bob Smith for U.S. Senator, and was organized by Representative Pamela Saia, a candidate for State Senate. Saia said the idea for the tribute to local veterans was born following conversations she had recently with Hampton's Jerry McConnell as the anniversary date of the invasion drew near.
McConnell was a member of the First Marine Division, K Company, Third Battalion, 1st Regiment. On Sunday, he stood with fellow Marine Donald Bishop of Northwood, New Hampshire, who was in the same company. The two had not seen each other for at least 20 years, and spent much of Sunday evening reminiscing about the people and events of the battle at Guadalcanal.
McConnell recalled some of the events his company experienced prior to that historic date. After traveling from San Francisco to Wellington, New Zealand, they boarded the troop ship, the USS Macawley. McConnell said he remembers receiving a "little map" three days before the invasion, as the plan of attack was revealed.
"That would have been 60 years ago today," McConnell related Sunday. "And I still have the map," he informed Bishop.
Smith said the gathering was a way to thank veterans.
"We ask people to do so much," Smith, a Vietnam veteran said, noting the loss of his own father in World War II. The battle for the island of Guadalcanal has been described as one of the fiercest confrontations between the Allied Forces and the Imperial Japanese Armed Forces. The island was secured by Allied Forces on February 9, 1943.
August 7 of this week is the "launch date" of a new Web site, www.seacoastmarines.com, a Web site dedicated to all the Marines from the Seacoast area who served not only in all the wars, but in times of peace as well. The first story from McConnell's book to be featured on the Web site is entitled "Open to the Gravest Doubts." The book provides a first-hand account of the author as a young Marine private who served as a infantryman on Guadalcanal.