Do you know the story of GI Joe? Believe it or not, he wasn’t just a doll; he was an American hero. His name was Mitchell Paige.
On Guadalcanal, the Marines struggled to complete an airfield (Henderson Field) that could threaten the Japanese route to Australia. Before long, relentless Japanese counterattacks had driven the supporting U.S. Navy from inshore waters. The Marines were on their own.
As Platoon Sgt. Mitchell Paige and his 33 riflemen set about carefully emplacing their four water-cooled .30-caliber Brownings on that hillside — manning their section of the thin khaki line that was expected to defend Henderson Field against the assault of the night of Oct. 25, 1942 — it’s unlikely anyone thought they were about to provide the definitive answer to that most desperate of questions: How many able-bodied U.S. Marines does it take to hold a hill against 2,000 armed and motivated attackers?
But by the time the night was over, “The 29th (Japanese) Infantry Regiment has lost 553 killed or missing and 479 wounded among its 2,554 men,” historian Lippman reports. “The 16th (Japanese) Regiment’s losses are uncounted, but the 164th’s burial parties handled 975 Japanese bodies. … The American estimate of 2,200 Japanese dead is probably too low.”
Among the 90 American dead and seriously wounded that night were all the men in Mitchell Paige’s platoon. Every one. As the night of endless attacks wore on, Paige moved up and down his line, pulling his dead and wounded comrades back into their foxholes and firing a few bursts from each of the four Brownings in turn, convincing the Japanese forces down the hill that the positions were still manned.
The citation for Paige’s Medal of Honor picks up the tale: “When the enemy broke through the line directly in front of his position, P/Sgt. Paige, commanding a machine gun section with fearless determination, continued to direct the fire of his gunners until all his men were either killed or wounded. Alone, against the deadly hail of Japanese shells, he fought with his gun and when it was destroyed, took over another, moving from gun to gun, never ceasing his withering fire.”
In the end, Sgt. Paige picked up the last of the 40-pound, belt-fed Brownings and did something for which the weapon was never designed. Sgt. Paige walked down the hill toward the place where he could hear the last Japanese survivors rallying to move around his flank, the belt-fed gun cradled under his arm, firing as he went.
Coming up at dawn, battalion executive officer Major Odell M. Conoley was the first to discover how many able-bodied United States Marines it takes to hold a hill against two regiments of motivated, combat-hardened infantrymen who have never known defeat — one, Mitchell Paige (aka GI Joe).
The hill had held, because on the hill remained the minimum number of able-bodied United States Marines necessary to hold the position. And that’s where the unstoppable wave of Japanese conquest finally crested, broke, and began to recede. On an unnamed jungle ridge on an insignificant island no one ever heard of, called Guadalcanal.
The doll GI Joe was created in honor of Mitchell Paige because of his heroics that night. How does this relate to us? How many Christians does it take to change the world? One, if you are willing to stand firm and fight, just like GI Joe.
I pray for blessings today for you on your Journey!