Frank Goettge

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Frank Bryan Goettge
Frank Goettge.jpg
MajGen Alexander A. Vandegrift, with his staff on board the transport USS McCawley (APA-4) en route to Guadalcanal. Left to right: MajGen Alexander Vandegrift, command officer; LtCol Gerald C. Thomas, operations officer, LtCol Randolph McC. Pate, logistics officer; LtCol Frank B. Goettge, intelligence officer; and Col William Capers James, chief of staff.
Born (1895-12-30)December 30, 1895
Canton, Ohio
Died August 12, 1942(1942-08-12) (aged 46)
Guadalcanal
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1917-1942
Rank Lieutenant Colonel
Unit 1st Marine Division
Battles/wars World War I
Occupation of Germany
World War II
-Guadalcanal Campaign
Awards Legion of Merit with Combat V

Frank Bryan Goettge (30 December 1895 - 12 August 1942) was a United States Marine Corps intelligence officer in World War II. He led the ill-fated Goettge Patrol in the early days of the Guadalcanal campaign, and was killed during that operation.

Biography[edit]

Frank Goettge was born in Canton, Ohio. on December 30, 1895. He enlisted in the Marine Corps during World War I in May 1917, after spending one year at Ohio University. Goettge was commissioned as First Lieutenant in 1918. During World War I, Goettge served with the 5th Marines in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, and later served in occupation duty at Segendorf, Germany.

After the war, Goettge served in a number of billets, including the 1st Provisional Brigade in Haiti, and at Headquarters of the Pacific Department, in San Francisco and Hawaii. In 1924, Goettge went to Quantico and was later sent to the Marine Detachment in Peking, China. In June 1933, Goettge served aboard the battleship USS Pennsylvania, and then was Commanding Officer of the Marine detachment at Annapolis, Maryland. In June 1941, Goettge was assigned to the 1st Marine Division, and remained in that unit as division intelligence officer, until his death the following year.

Goettge Patrol[edit]

The Marines landed on Guadalcanal on August 7, 1942, and within several days rounded up a number of Japanese Navy laborers, who had been assigned to construct the airfield at Lunga Point. Most were malnourished and sick from tropical illnesses. A Japanese warrant officer was among the prisoners and, after being plied with alcohol, told the Marines that there were a number of Japanese west of the Matanikau River. These soldiers were reportedly sick, demoralized, and willing to surrender. At about the same time, Marines near the Matanikau perimeter reported seeing a white flag flying from a tree. It is possible that this was actually a Japanese flag with the Hinomaru disc insignia obscured.

These reports, as well as several other similar accounts were given to Goettge. He thought that this might be an opportunity to secure much of the island without significant fighting and he decided to act quickly. He organized a 25 man patrol to land just west of the Matanikau estuary. The plan was to follow the Matanikau upstream, bivouac for a night, then head east back to the Lunga perimeter.

The patrol consisted of Goettge; Japanese translator Lt. Ralph Corry; regimental surgeon, Lt. Cmdr. Malcom Pratt; and a handful of scouts and infantry. Just before the patrol departed on the evening of August 12, Goettge was informed by Colonel Whaling, the 5th Marine Regiment's executive officer, that the Japanese were strongly defending the area between Point Cruz and the mouth of the Matanikau. Whaling suggested a landing west of Point Cruz.

The Goettge Patrol left at dusk on a tank lighter. However, a flare was seen to the east and the lighter returned to the perimeter, thinking it was a signal to return. The patrol then left for a second time around 9:00 p.m. Despite Whaling's warning, the boat headed for an area just to the west of the Matanikau river mouth. Before the patrol reached the beach, the lighter ran aground on a sandbar. The coxswain gunned the motor to free the vessel, and the Marines disembarked on the beach around 10:00 p.m.

Unbeknownst to Goettge, the Japanese had heard the sound of the stuck landing craft, and began organizing troops on a coral plateau about 200 yards inland from the Marines. Goettge ordered a defensive perimeter established, then took two men, Captain Ringer and First Sergeant Custer, with him to scout the jungle. Not long after they left the beach, the Japanese opened fire and Goettge was killed with a shot to the head. Ringer and Custer managed to make it back to the perimeter.

Platoon Sergeant Frank Lowell Few and two Marines went back into the jungle to confirm that Goettge was indeed dead. They found his body and took his watch and insignia, so the Japanese would not be able to identify him as an officer. Over the next nine hours, the patrol lay pinned on the beach. The Japanese maintained fire on the American perimeter, but the Marines were unable to locate the Japanese in the dark jungle. About 30 minutes after landing, Sergeant Arndt was tasked to head out into the ocean and try to swim back to the Lunga perimeter, over five miles to the east. Arndt reached American lines around 5:00 a.m., but it was too late to affect the fate of the Goettge Patrol.

During the course of the night, the Japanese picked the Marines off, one by one. The Japanese would occasionally launch a flare to illuminate the beachhead perimeter. However, the Marines were unable to discern the Japanese positions in the moonless night. After some time, Captain Ringer ordered another Marine, Corporal Spaulding, to make a second attempt to get back to American lines. Like Arndt, Spaulding ran off the beach into the ocean, and then started on the grueling swim to safety. He reached American lines around 7:30 a.m. The Japanese use of white flags in order to make a surprise attack on the American Marines violated the Hague Convention of 1907 which banned the treacherous killing of enemy combatants and the improper use of white flags.[1]

By dawn, only four members of the patrol were still alive. Captain Ringer decided they stood a better chance in the jungle. As the Marines made their dash off the beach, the Japanese opened fire, cutting down the remaining survivors [2] except for Platoon Sergeant Frank Few. Few managed to reach the trees. He saw a Japanese soldier firing into the corpses of the Marines and decided it would be certain death to remain. Few drew his pistol, killed the Japanese, then made a dash into the sea. Few looked back and saw Japanese troops swarming the beach, mutilating the bodies of the dead Marines. Few also managed to make it back to friendly lines by swimming approximately four miles through shark-infested waters. Few was the last survivor of the Goettge Patrol. A slightly fictionalized version of the incident is in the movie Guadalcanal Diary. In the film, the patrol is led by a "Captain Cross" and there is only one survivor.

According to a Marine Corps monograph previous to August 21, a patrol found Pratt's dispatch case and a cloth with Goettge's name on it; the monograph also claimed no identifiable remains were found. See Note # 16 at [3] However on August 18, a Marine patrol from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, made a combat patrol in the same area that the Goettge Patrol was annihilated. They reported seeing remains, but Goettge's body was never found. There are at least four eyewitness reports of finding the remains of the patrol- one from Company "I"/3/5;[4] one from Company "K"/3/5;[5][6] and three from Company "L"/3/5[7][8][9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Hadden, Robert Lee. 2007. "The Geology of Guadalcanal: a Selected Bibliography of the Geology, Natural History, and the History of Guadalcanal." Alexandria, VA: Topographic Engineering Center. 360 pages. Abstract: This bibliography on the geographical, water and geological information of Guadalcanal was begun to fill a request for current information needed for the forensics recovery of the bodies of the US Marines of the Lt Col. Frank B. Goettge Reconnaissance patrol that was ambushed in August 1942. Part I of this report is a bibliography of the geology, geography and natural history of the island. Part II is a bibliography on the history of the island, including accounts of the World War II Battle of Guadalcanal. This bibliography brings together selected citations from a variety of different cartographic, geographical, geological and hydrological resources and a number of specialized library collections. Most of the citations have location information on where these items can be located and either used on site, or borrowed through inter-library loan, or where copies of the items can be purchased from the originating source, or through commercial document delivery services.