The World War II Veterans Committee began with the production of the award-winning radio documentary series, World War II Chronicles, commemorating the 50th anniversary of World War II. This program, hosted by the late, great “Voice of World War II,” Edward J. Herlihy, aired on over 500 stations nationwide between 1991 and 1995 on the Radio America network. In the years since, the World War II Veterans Committee has produced dozens of radio documentaries and series, in an effort to bring the history of the Second World War to the American public.

The Committee’s tradition of quality radio programming continues with the new series, Veterans Chronicles, hosted by Gene Pell, former NBC Pentagon Correspondent and head of Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. With Veterans Chronicles, listeners are taken back in history, and told the story of World War II by the men and women who fought, and won, the war. The series is broadcast on the Radio America network. In this issue, we print the partial transcripts of a recent episode.

From the time he was a small boy growing up in the hills of southeastern Pennsylvania, Mitchell Paige knew he wanted to someday be one of the few and the proud—a member of the United States Marine Corps. Paige tried to enlist in 1935, but was not yet old enough. A year later he tried again, walking from his home in Pennsylvania to Baltimore to reach the nearest Marine recruiting station. Nearly rejected again due to his small stature, Paige was this time accepted into what was at that time a Corps of only 17,000 men.

After boot camp Paige was assigned to the battleship Wyoming as a member of a machine gun company in the 5th Marine Corps regiment. The ship made an extended cruise in the Caribbean, then traversed the Panama Canal en route to the Pacific and Asia where the drums of war were already beating.

It was on the Pacific island of Guadalcanal that Mitchell Paige would achieve legendary status in the United States Marine Corps. A platoon sergeant at the time, Paige single-handedly defended his position against a Japanese onslaught after all of his comrades had been killed or wounded. When reinforcements arrived, Paige then led a counterattack, wiping out the enemy and securing the line. For his actions, Mitchell Paige would receive the military’s highest decoration—the Medal of Honor.

Mitchell Paige would rise to the rank of Colonel, retiring from the Corps in 1959. He was the model for a G.I. Joe action figure, and told his story in his memoirs, titled A Marine Named Mitch. He passed away in November of 2003, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from Guadalcanal. Prior to his passing, Mitchell Paige sat down for an interview, recounting his days as a Marine, and the engagement that led to his becoming one of America’s great heroes of World War II. We begin as the drums of war begin to beat throughout the Pacific Theater…

We all knew something big was happening because Marines were coming in from all over the world: World War I veterans, veterans of Haiti, veterans of Vera Cruz, all these battles, Nicaragua and different islands. We were all set and trained and were the first people to leave the United States, our 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines. We traveled down through the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal, and ended up in British Samoa because the Japanese at this point had already taken the Philippines and destroyed the British at Singapore. They were crossing the Pacific. Pearl Harbor had already been attacked, but only after the 1st Marine division was activated. So there was a reason for our being out there and that was to keep the Japanese from taking the entire Pacific Theater.

The powers that be decided to go after a little island called Guadalcanal, part of the British Solomon Islands. They decided the 1st Marine division would be the first to go in, in what would be America’s first ground offensive. The invasion occurred on August 7, 1942. A little 90 mile-long, about 30 mile-wide island. General MacArthur, Admiral Nimitz, and Admiral McCain—all the high-ranking officers of the Armed Forces—all believed that this was the most valuable piece of real estate in the entire Pacific Theater. Whoever controlled Henderson Field (named for Lofton Henderson, a Marine flyer killed at Midway), controlled a vast area. For this little island airport, thousands and thousands of men would be fighting for the next six months.