Marine PFC Found Clutching a Sword and Surrounded by 13 Dead Japanese Soldiers

Ian Harvey
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Marine PFC Edward H. Ahrens enlisted in the Marine Corps on 3rd February, 1942. After passing through a boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Parris lsland, SC, he was transferred to the Marine Barracks in Quantico, Va., on 16th March.

Assigned to Company A, 1st Raider Battalion, Fleet Marine Force, he landed at Tulagi, British Solomon Islands, to secure the beachhead flank in the second assault wave on 7th August, 1942, with Company C, 1st Raider Battalion.

Moving inland, Company A headed down Tulagi’s central ridge’s right slope with the Marines initially escaping opposition.  Later that evening, Company A took the position for the night.

 

Edward H. Ahrens

Edward H. Ahrens Photo credit 

They were located west of a cricket ground. Later that night, a fierce counterattack was launched by the Japanese which resulted in wedge between Company A and Company C.

With Company C becoming isolated near the beachhead, the enemy focused on Company A so they could make their way up the ridge and reach the Raider command post, which was being housed in a former British government building. The Raiders stood their ground.

Marine Raiders gathered in front of a Japanese dugout on Bougainville.

Marine Raiders gathered in front of a Japanese dugout on Bougainville.

PFC Ahrens, who was assigned to a security detachment  to protect the right flank of the Raiders, took on a group of Japanese soldiers  during the fierce battle. He fought to keep them from infiltrating the rear of the Raiders. The next morning, at sunrise, Major Lew Walt walked his lines to assess the condition of his troops.

He reported he found PFC Ahrens, a small 140-pound man in a foxhole, slumped over in the corner and covered with blood. In the foxhole with Ahrens, he said there were two dead Japanese soldiers – a lieutenant and a sergeant.

There were 11 more dead Japanese soldiers lying in front of Ahren’s position. He was clutching the sword of the dead officer.Dying from multiple stab wounds and gunshot wounds, Walt said Ahrens’ last words were whispered.

He said, “The idiot tried to come over me last night.

The Marine Raiders were elite units established by the United States Marine Corps during World War II to conduct Reconnaissance, raids and other special prjoects

The Marine Raiders were elite units established by the United States Marine Corps during World War II to conduct Reconnaissance, raids and other special prjoects  Photo Credit

I guess they didn’t know I was a Marine.” It was then that 22-year-old Ahrens, a single man from Dayton, Ky., died in the major’s arms. He was posthumously presented with a Navy Cross Citation that read:

“Awarded for actions during the WW2″

The President of the United States of America took pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Private First Class Edward Henry Ahrens. To the United States Marine Corps Reserve, for extraordinary heroism and devotion while serving with Company A, First Marine Raider Battalion, during the landing assault and seizure of the Japanese enemy over the Tulagi Island, part of the British Solomon Islands, on the night of 7th-8th August, 1942.

While a member of a security detachment protected the right flank of his battalion, Private First Class Ahrens was utterly disregarded over his personal safety, being solely engaged in a hand-to-hand combat with a group of the enemy attempting to infiltrate the rear of the battalion.

Although mortally wounded, he succeeded in killing the officer in command of the hostile unit and two other Japanese, therefore breaking up the attack.

His great personal valor and indomitable fighting spirit were regarded as a contribution to the noblest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

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He gallantly gave his life in the defense of his country.

General Orders: Commander South Pacific: Serial 804 (March 13th, 1943)

Action Date: August 7th – 8th, 1942

Service: Marine Corps

Rank: Private First Class

Company: Company A

Battalion: 1st Marine Raider Battalion

Division: 1st Marine Division