War Journalism

Richard Tregaskis, Guadalcanal Diary (1942).


Meaning of the Title

The title of the bestselling book by the war correspondent Richard Tregaskis who accompanied the first wave of Marines to land on Guadalcanal August 1942.


  • Preston Foster - the company chaplain, Father Donnelly
  • Lloyd Nolan - Sgt. Hook Malone
  • William Bendix - the Brooklyn taxi driver "Taxi" Pots
  • Richard Conte - Capt. Davis
  • Anthony Quinn - the Mexican-American Jesus "Soose" Alvarez
  • Richard Jaeckel - Pvt Johnny "Chicken" Anderson
  • Reed Hadley - the "correspondent"

A documentary-like account of the first US counter-attack in the Pacific War, viz. the invasion of the Solomon Islands. A unit which is a cross-section of American life is followed through basic training, waiting for the invasion, landing on the beaches, and the terrible conditions on Guadalcanal fighting the Japanese.

Jeanine Basinger describes the film as the "first really conscious mythologizing of the fighting men, characters who are brave, jaunty, funny, and who sing. Oh, boy do they sing!" (p. 71). And also one of the defining films which created the modern "combat film" - along with Bataan (1943). The story of the "universal WW2 combat film" includes the following items (pp. 73-75):

  • the credits unfold with a military reference (map, song) and the name of a military advisor
  • dedication to a military unit or battle
  • a group of men (a melting-pot of America) led by a hero undertake a mission with an important military objective (last stand, invasion)
  • an observer is present (journalist, novelist)
  • leader/hero is forced by circumstances to assume leadership
  • action shown as series of episodes of contrast (night/day, safety/danger, combat/non-combat, comedy/tragedy)
  • conflict with the enemy
  • the use of military equipment is demonstrated (often to new recruit for benefit of civilian viewers)
  • conflict within the group is resolved or put aside in face of greater danger from enemy
  • celebration of rituals to bind community of soldiers (Christmas, dance, burial)
  • death of members of the group (often outsider or minority)
  • climatic battle takes places which resolves tension, coming of age of inexperienced recruits, the proving of heroic qualities of leader
  • ending by rollcall of soldiers living and dead


Jeanine Basinger, The World War II Combat Film: Anatomy of a Genre (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986).


1. The acknowledgement at the beginning for assistance given by the Marine Corps, Army, Navy and Coast Guard and the exhortation at the end to buy war bonds (readily available in the movie theatre). The Marine Corps provided 5,000 extras (in 1943), 1,500 soldiers, 300 sailors, a squadron of Grumman fighters, dozens of landing craft, a battalion of tanks and assorted weaponry. Filming took place at Camp Pendleton, Calif. at the time the largest Marine base in the USA.

2. The "melting pot" platoon which contains a member of the main ethnic and socio-economic groups in America (with the important exception of Black Americans, only one appears on a landing boat).

3. The image of the enemy - treacherous, did not fight by "the rules".

4. The framing device (to give greater authenticity to the film) of using the turning of the pages of Tregaskis' book and voice-over quotes from the book.

5. The references to the film Sergenat York - wetting the end of a rifle with a thumb, "turkey shoot", Gary Cooper.

6. The ties to the home front and popoular American culture: baseball games on radio, pin ups of Betty Grable (the pin up queen of WW2) with Bendix shaving in front of her picture.