from THE WAR:
NARRATOR: Back on November 4th, 1942, as Sid Phillips and the First Marine Division continued to try to hold Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, a unique force began landing 31 miles to the east. The 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, best known as "Carlson's Raiders," had orders to slip into the jungle behind enemy lines and harrass the 3,000-man Japanese force hidden there. with them was a young
man named Bill Lansford from the Boyle Heights area of east Los Angeles. His absent father was a policeman. His mother, Rosalinda Melindez, had come to California was Juarez, Mexico.
BILL LANSFORD: As a boy, I was not really aware of the Anglo world at all. Principally I lived in Latino neighborhoods and spoke Spanish at home and you heard very little English until I was 14 years of age. I had actually wanted to join the Navy, and so had a lot of friends of ours because it had that mystique of going to foreign lands and all that kind of stuff. But the fact of the matter is that I was considered too skinny and too little to be in the Navy and they rejected me over and over until I got to be, uh, like a fly hangin’ around a gravy bowl there, you know, the Navy station. And one day I came out and there was this enormous Marine in blues and standing there, and he gave me a real pep talk, and he said, "Why don’t you join the Marines? They’re the best outfit there is." And I thought, well the Navy doesn’t want me; I’ll try them, you know. So in a way it, it had been a second best choice, but it was the best choice I ever made in my life.
NARRATOR: At first, like many Latinos, he did not feel entirely welcome in the Marine Corps.
BILL LANSFORD: I think it was little Texas in the Marine Corps. And as you know, Texans and Mexicans didn’t ex-, weren’t exactly bosom buddies in those days. As the war advanced and we went on through, these southern guys began seeing that we weren’t what they thought we were. And we began seeing that they weren’t what we thought they were. And being Marines was kind of a melting pot, and we all got together. It was like the, a mini-United States, you know, where you got Jews, you got Italians, you got Indians. And they all learn to live together. The Latinos have a culture just as the Japanese had, you know, their own form of Bushsido Code, which is not as extreme but is certainly just as firm in their nature. And that's that they want to prove they are up to whatever job is given to them. And they want to show they're just as patriotic as anybody, as some blue-eyed blond guy.
NARRATOR: Lansford soon heard about the 2nd Raider Battalion, an elite commando unit and decided to volunteer. Its commander, Lt. Evans F. Carlson, was a minister's son with a crusader's zeal. Carlson's motto was "Gung ho" -- Chinese for "work together." Officers were called by their first names and lived just as their men did. Decisions were made collectively, bu consensus.
BILL LANSFORD: Colonel Carlson was a visionary. And he understood guerrilla warfare perfectly. He had made his life's long study of it and his her-, I think his hero was Lawrence of Arabia.
NARRATOR: Carlson's second in command was the oldest son of the President of the United States, James Roosevelt.
BILL LANSFORD: I think he may have been nearsighted, and he had to wear special shoes, but he certainly never asked and never got any special treatment.
PETE ARIAS: He used to stand in line with the rest of the troops. When we went to eat, he'd stand in line with his utensils and his stuff like that. And he was just another guy as far as I was concerned.
NARRATOR: Also serving with the Raiders was a farmer's son from Los Angeles county, Pete Arias of "C' Company, who joined up to get away from home. Within hours of landing on Guadalcanal, the Raiders moved into the jungle, already on the hunt. Their objective was to terrify and bewilder the enemy, mounting surprise attacks frokm the rear, then melting away again and living off the land.
I remember when I was a kid, even before I guess right after I went in the Marine Corps, you used to see bumper stickers because Roosevelt had gone in from the reserves and had become a captain. And there were bumper stickers that said, “Daddy, I want to be a captain, too.” Roosevelt won the Navy Cross, and I mean he really earned it. That man never shirked and he was a wonderful person, wonderful person, uh, uh, to, to be with and, and, and, and a great help. ‘Course he could get to his father, you know, whenever we needed something special, he would put the pressure on. But he was a combat soldier in the long run. And he formed the, after he left us he formed the 4th, 4th Raider Battalion. There were all together four Raider Battalions. Wonderful, wonderful guys.