Wednesday, September 12, 2012

TFH 9/12-13: Major Kenneth D. Bailey, USMC

Kenneth Dillon Bailey was born on October 21, 1910 in Pawnee, Oklahoma. He moved as a child to Danville, Illinois and served for three years in the Illinois Army National Guard before earning a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps on July 1, 1935.

Bailey served first with the Marine Detachment aboard the USS Pennsylvania (BB-38), then with the 7th, 1st, and 5th Marine Regiments. In February 1942, his battalion was redesignated as the first battalion of Marine Raiders. As part of the 1st Marine Division, they landed on Tulagi as part of the opening of the Guadalcanal Campaign on August 7, 1942. Now a Major and a company commander, Bailey fought through wounds to personally assault a machine gun position that was blocking his company's advance and received the Silver Star.

It was a mere taste of the heroics to which this Marine would rise.

Citation from Military Times' Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Major Kenneth Dillon Bailey (MCSN: 0-5100), United States Marine Corps, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity while attached to the First Marine Raider Battalion during action against enemy Japanese forces on Tulagi, Solomon Islands, 7 August 1942. After the advance of his company had been stopped by concentrated machine gun and rifle fire, Major Bailey worked his way, with great difficulty, to the side of a Japanese dugout and attempted to remove it from the flank. With heroic and inspiring leadership, although severely wounded, he continued to direct the ensuing action of his company until he was forcibly evacuated, thereby contributing materially to the destruction of the machine gun nest and enabling his men to successfully carry out their mission. His dauntless courage and complete disregard for his own personal safety were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Only about a month had passed when, having recovered from his wounds from Tulagi, Major Bailey was back in action as the commander of Company C, 1st Marine Raider Battalion on Guadalcanal itself. His unit was held in reserve, but quickly found itself the target of a Japanese flanking attack. Once again - 70 years to the day - Bailey placed himself at the front of his Marines, ignored his own wounds and personal safety, and led his men forward. His leadership and valor were instrumental in holding on to the vital Henderson Field airstrip on Guadalcanal, and this time, his Nation recognized his gallantry with its highest honor.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (A-F):


Rank and organization: Major, U.S. Marine Corps. Born: 21 October 1910, Pawnee, Okla. Appointed from: Illinois. Other Navy awards: Silver Star Medal. Citation: For extraordinary courage and heroic conduct above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of Company C, 1st Marine Raider Battalion, during the enemy Japanese attack on Henderson Field, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, on 12-13 September 1942. Completely reorganized following the severe engagement of the night before, Maj. Bailey's company, within an hour after taking its assigned position as reserve battalion between the main line and the coveted airport, was threatened on the right flank by the penetration of the enemy into a gap in the main line. In addition to repulsing this threat, while steadily improving his own desperately held position, he used every weapon at his command to cover the forced withdrawal of the main line before a hammering assault by superior enemy forces. After rendering invaluable service to the battalion commander in stemming the retreat, reorganizing the troops and extending the reverse position to the left, Maj. Bailey, despite a severe head wound, repeatedly led his troops in fierce hand-to-hand combat for a period of 10 hours. His great personal valor while exposed to constant and merciless enemy fire, and his indomitable fighting spirit inspired his troops to heights of heroic endeavor which enabled them to repulse the enemy and hold Henderson Field. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.

Bailey's Medal of Honor was awarded posthumously, but not (as the citation reads) because he was killed during this battle. He continued to lead Company C until he was struck down two weeks later during fighting along the Matanikau River on September 26, 1942. Originally buried on Guadalcanal, his remains were repatriated to the United States in 1948 and reinterred at the Spring Hill Cemetery and Mausoleum in Danville, Illinois.

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