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"All of us had malaria. And there was jungle rot and coral poisoning and just about every kind of disease and vermin. If you could find it in the jungle, Guadalcanal had it." (Audio interview, 29:50)

   William S. Parks
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War: World War, 1939-1945; Korean War, 1950-1953
Branch: Marine Corps; Marine Corps
Unit: 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; 1st Marine Division
Service Location: San Diego, California; Guadalcanal (Solomon Islands); Tarawa Atoll (Gilbert Islands); Pacific Theater; New Zealand; also: Korea; Camp Pendleton, California; Quantico, Virginia; Parris Island, South Carolina
Rank: Sergeant Major
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As a young, brash Marine heading to the Pacific Theater in the summer of 1942, William S. Parks "didn’t think much about surviving--that was a given." Taking part in the Guadalcanal campaign quickly proved him wrong. He lost his best friend, a member of his machine gun squad, in August 1942, and found that life on the island posed threats beyond enemy bullets. He spent the six-month campaign subsisting on minimal provisions--including food he could forage, such as taro roots, and captured Japanese rations--and weathered two bouts of malaria. He was one of the lucky ones: of the 44 men in his platoon, roughly a dozen survived. When he finally made it to New Zealand for rest and relaxation, he and his comrades spent several weeks gorging themselves on the fresh milk and produce at "milk bars," as the local soda fountains were called. He would go on to see combat on Tarawa, a battle he describes as a "barroom brawl."

Interview (Audio)
»Interview Highlights  (5 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: audio (91 min.)
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»Guadalcanal: 75 Years Later
 Audio (Interview Excerpts) (5 items)
Training; departure for Pacific; thoughts while en route. (04:25) Landing at Tananbogo, island adjacent to Guadalcanal; taking fire; losing his best friend; going over to Tulagi and Guadalcanal. (04:57) Unit was decimated; dealing with malaria; everyone was affected. (03:10)
Operations on Guadalcanal; situation with rations; foraging for edible plants and Japanese rations." (05:12) Rest and relaxation in New Zealand; could not get enough fresh food and milk; after a few weeks, moved on to real bars. (01:47) 

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  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
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