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    Marine Raider tells story of Guadalcanal in WWII

    Horse Collar Smith

    Photo By James Andrews | James "Horse Collar" Smith was a member of the 1st Marine Raider Battalion. He was...... read more read more



    Story by Jeremy Beale 

    Marine Corps Base Quantico

    Ninety-seven year-old James “Horse” Smith, also known as “Horse Collar”, a member of the World War II, 1st Marine Raider Battalion, was welcomed to Marine Corps Base Quantico’s Raider Hall Martial Arts Center of Excellence March 6, to speak with Marine Corps Embassy Security Group Marines about his experience on Guadalcanal and to offer words of inspiration for Professional Military Education.
    Two years ago, April 18, marked the final reunion of Edson’s Raider Battalion, in which Smith, joined by four other veterans‒Charles Pulford, Jack Richardson, Theodore Gaskin and Garland Carter‒ visited Quantico and the National Museum of the Marine Corps.
    According to retired Lt. Col. Joe Shusko, director of Raider Hall’s Martial Arts Center of Excellence, it is because of men like Smith and the Raider Battalion that the Marines of today are afforded the capability to serve.
    During WWII, Lt. Col. Merritt Edson commanded thousands of Raiders across the South Pacific. The Raiders were organized in January 1942 as a Marine Corps special mission force inspired by close quarter combat and guerilla warfare, and disbanded in 1944.
    Nevertheless, Smith, recounting his experiences, told a story about the Raiders overcoming innumerable odds, against a Japanese enemy which outmanned and outgunned his unit.
    “Some of the toughest men I knew had experienced the pressures of war, but we could not fall apart—we couldn’t afford it,” Smith said. “We bit our tongues, kept our heads down low and kept pushing forward.”
    He described his time in Guadalcanal as a firefight filled with casualty. He told stories of men climbing a steep narrow ridge alongside a river, as bullets flew past him and his unit.
    Describing the course of the four day fight, he said he was lucky to make it through his first day. He said that the Raiders lost 85 men the first day. But, Smith believed 85 paled in comparison to the hundreds of Japanese lost that day.
    “The Japanese were very courageous, some of the most courageous men I had ever had the opportunity to go against—they never gave up,” Smith said. “For them there was no losing that war.”
    However, because of this the fight was non-stop. Smith believed he could rest his eyes his first night, but a second wave of Japanese soldiers came slinging bullets at the Raiders. He told many stories of fellow Marines who fought and lost their lives.
    He described the atmosphere surrounding the aid station. Painting pictures of the chaos, he stated there were so many casualties that the tent was unable to identify soldiers by name.
    However, according to Smith, they won Guadalcanal because the Marines were flexible and willing to adjust to their surroundings, whereas the Japanese had a dictated plan they could not afford to deviate from.
    It took four days for the Raiders to take control of the small imperial supply island. They took all the food and ammunition they could carry and destroyed the rest.
    After listening to Smith’s inspiring story, the young Marines had many questions about all he was able to accomplish. The questions ranged from his experience with Central Intelligence, to his nickname and general advice on making the best of being a Marine.
    According to Smith, he said the nickname Horse Collar came from one of his former sergeants. He told the crowd that he and his sergeant would butt heads and as a result he would have to hall a cart filled with guns and ammunition up a hill by the collar.
    He said the name Horse Collar was meant to represent him being a huge zero, alluding to the shape of a horse collar, but he proved his sergeant wrong as later the word collar was dropped from his nickname and he became simply known as Horse.
    Nevertheless, Smith left the Marines with a final imparting thought.
    “You will have many opportunities in life to do some good,” Smith said. “So study and learn whenever you can, ask questions, be helpful, be useful and live a way of life where you can make a real difference.”
    Under the motto “One Mind, Any Weapon” The Martial Arts Center of Excellence resides in Raider Hall at The Basic School, and is dedicated to all the Marine Raiders who fought and died in WWII, embodying the physical, mental and character discipline being imbued on all future Marines who train within the building.
    Where the original Marine Raiders Battalion was initially disbanded in 1944, the 1st Marine Raider Battalion was activated again Oct. 26, 2006 and was re-designated as the 1st Marine Raider Battalion on June 19, 2015. The 1st Marine Raider Battalion is now organized, trained and equipped to deploy for worldwide missions as directed by the United States Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command.



    Date Taken: 03.27.2017
    Date Posted: 03.27.2017 15:49
    Story ID: 228202

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