|Birth: ||Nov. 21, 1895|
North Dakota, USA
|Death: ||Jan. 1, 1962|
San Diego County
LTC Robert K Hall was born in Fargo, ND to Leavitt William and Alice Hall. He served in the National Guard on the Mexican Boarder, France during WWI, Guadalcanal during WWII with the 164th Infantry. He was awarded the Navy Cross for actions on Guadalcanal. It was one of the few Navy Crosses awarded to an Army man. Robert is mentioned in several books about the battle for Guadalcanal.
THE TRAIL OF THE HAWK
By: Edward P. Burns
3rd Battalion Communications
This is his story. One which had to be told. It is as I saw it through my own eyes; unvarnished and true. It is the incredible saga of the imperturbable late, great Lt. Colonel Robert Kerr "The Hawk" Hall from Jamestown, North Dakota, a legend in his own right in The 164th Infantry (North Dakota National Guard) of the Americal Division, the only Army officer or Army enlisted man on Guadalcanal to be awarded The Navy Cross for "Extraordinary Heroism and Leadership while leading the third battalion into the hellhole which came to be known to the Japanese as "The Island of Green Death".
The old saying "Tell it to the Marines" was reversed when the Marines told it to "The Hawk" in these words in the citation recommended by Marine Colonel Lewis "Chesty" Puller and approved by Admiral William (Bull) Halsey which reads in part:
"Through rain and over difficult and unfamiliar terrain, Colonel Hall moved his troops by night at forced march, then preceded his men, and made a personal reconnaissance under heavy enemy fire. When his battalion arrived it repulsed continued enemy attacks virtually annihilating a Japanese regiment".
Bob Hall's humble comment upon being awarded the nation's second highest medal for his magnificent conduct on that rainy memorable night of October 24, 1942 was "There was a job to be done and we did it". Those words personify the unselfish loyalty and dedication of this great American. I hope that I can momentarily bring him to life for all of you in the manner in which he will always remain in my memory.
His nickname "The Hawk" fit his demeanor and appearance. He was tall and straight, with high cheekbones and a hawkish nose. He didn't walk, but rather glided like a panther stalking its prey. When he looked at you with those piercing eyes and talked to you through his thin, but firm, lips perennially holding a cigarette in the corner of his mouth, a
fellow was ready to stand at attention with the shells dropping at his feet.
My role in this drama in real life started on a snowy, windswept day in my hometown of Fargo, North Dakota, when my two brothers and I along with the rest of The 164th Infantry boarded a troop train for Camp Clairborne, Louisiana on February 26, 1941 and ended on November 23, 1942 on a lonely coral ridge west of The Matanikau River on
Guadalcanal, when alI three of us were blasted off the ridge by the same Jap mortar shell like fate in triplicate.
We were called green troops by Colonel Bryant E. Moore, a west pointer, who assumed command of the regiment shortly before leaving New Caledonia to reinforce the beleaguered marines in early October of 1942. If men led by battle-wise officers of World War 1 and thoroughly trained both in the states and in the mountainous jungles of New Caledonia for over a year and a half, were green troops, then it was true. However, he should have also informed the Japs that we were green troops, as they didn't agree with his observations. The only thing green about the 164th infantry was the battle dress. It was a case of those rough tough hard hitting boys from North Dakota and elsewhere lunging into a difficult situation, to say the least and proving their mettle.
The place was Guadalcanal! The date was October 13. 1942, the time was high noon, and the majestic palm trees swaying peacefully in the background looked like a scene out of the movie "The Road to Zanzibar". The only difference being that the palm leaves as well as the coconuts had been blasted off by shellfire and the monkeys were either dead or had strategically retreated. Over 50 Jap bombers unceremoniously greeted us as we waded ashore. Corporal Foubert got his head blown off looking up at the planes rather than hitting the dirt. The boys from North Dakota got the message "THIS WAS FOR KEEPS!"
The gallant marines had hung on to a few miles of the island. The Jap lines came right up to Henderson Field. We had only a little stretch of beach and beyond that was enemy territory. The marines had done one hell of a job, but the worst was yet to come.
The 164th Infantry from North Dakota reinforced, not relieved, the marines on Guadalcanal on October 13, 1942. The profound misunderstanding in then minds of the American public that the army walked in and the marines walked off the island that day, obviously created by Richard Tregaskis' book `'Guadalcanal Diary" and the movie by the same name, should be indelibly erased. Our North Dakota regiment was the first army unit to take the offensive against the Japanese in the Stimmel were all killed. Woody Keeble, the big Sioux Indian 22
South Pacific. The Americal Division, which included the 164th infantry, was the only army regiment in support of the marines. Guadalcanal was not the biggest battle of World War II. It was the beginning of the road back where we met and beat the Japs on their own chosen battleground.
Colonel Hall's perception of a tough situation immediately manifested itself after that first bombing raid. He got us off the beach and dug in where we were spread out. His calmness was reassuring. Thank God for those qualities. We were soon to really need them.
The worst naval shelling of American ground forces in the history of warfare is how the barrage we got from the Jap navy early the morning of October 14 was described by old hands at the game of life and death. The third battalion would have been clobbered had not "The Hawk" have gotten the troops in order the night before. The regiment lost Captain "Jug" Newgard and Warrant Officer Bernie Starkenberg that morning. If we actually had been green troops, we sure as hell weren't after the first 24 hours on the islands.
Third battalion was held in division reserve. Bombings were a daily affair. Pistol Pete would bang away at us from up in the hills to keep us on edge. "Washing Machine Charley" would fly around at night to keep us on edge. "Tokyo Rose" always had some nice things to say in comfort about our loved ones, hometowns and names of units, which were allegedly top secret.
My brother Pete was operating the switchboard that early morning of October 24, 1942, when the call came through to move out. Colonel Hall was ordered to move our battalion up to support a marine battalion under attack by numerically superior forces. What a night it was to move out. It was raining cats and dogs. The only light came from an occasional flare or a burst of shellfire. Somehow we made it through that night thanks to "The Hawk's" reconnaissance. We lost only a few men that night. The dirty third battalion was dug in and ready for the maniacal onslaught of the enemy that morning. It came to be known as "Coffin Corner". The three day battle was reminiscent of what the Battle of Gettysburg must have looked like. When the smoke cleared away there were over 2,700 dead Japs out in front of us and our casualties were light. The name of the late John Basilone , the first marine in World War II to win the Congressional Medal of Honor came out of that prolonged battle. Marine Colonel Chesty Puller a great hero himself called us The 164th Marines. Colonel Hall's name became synonymous with victory.
There was no time to linger. Fight while the enemy is running. Seek out and destroy was the battle cry. The second and third battalion of The 164th along with the newly arrived 8th Marine Regiment got the call to knock out a Jap regiment doing a tremendous job in The Matanakau River sector as had the second battalion.
Somehow the majority of the Japs slipped away in the jungles during the seek out and destroy mission. There were light casualties on both sides. The big casualties were from heat, thirst, hunger and just being damned good and tired during those hectic days in late October and early November trying to catch up with a slippery enemy. It was then that Major George Shatz our humorous regimental surgeon won the Silver Star medal for Gallantry in Action doing far more than he had to do to save our boys. Names like Lt. Edgar Agnew one of the fine leaders in the outfit was to be remembered in the Koli Point push. The Jap machine gunners used him for target practice. My old friend Agnew refused to die and is alive today on guts alone.
"The Hawk" performed as usual. I felt ashamed complaining of heat when here was a man of 47 years of age who made it look easy. How could we lose? We grenaded some fish in the driving rain pounding us on the beach. All Bob Hall said, while standing in the line of hungry G.I.'s waiting their turn for a half-done piece of fish was "pass me a fish soldier".
After several days of rest it was move up again to meet some newly landed Japs west of the Matanikua River near Cape Esperance in what was to become one of the decisive battles leading to complete capitulation of the enemy on February 9, 1943. It was just pushing and moving up with our communications section lugging wire, telephones and guns up and down the ravines. Our army and marine units were dug in along an irregular line of coral ridges with our lines far too spread out around the perimeter. Tremendous men like Riley Morgan and Private Charles Stimmel were killed in this push. Both of the should have had The Medal of Honor rather than the Silver Star. The Japs were in front, behind and above in the trees. If it means anything our communication section of 13 or 14 men won seven Silver Stars and eight Purple Hearts during this terrible battle from November 18 to November 23 when mortars and machine guns almost obliterated us at point blank range.
"The Hawk" oftentimes asked me to accompany him on his forays up and down the lines. He never stopped when he walked. My God! This man must be invincible was my thought. His very presence up and down the lines was like a letter from home to every one of his boys as he called them. Whether officers or enlisted men they were always just "my boys" to him.
When wounded had to be moved it became necessary to ask for volunteers to undergo the scorching return to first aid stations. My brother Bill, Ed Goff, John Hagen, Bob Chelgren, "Slim" Royston and I rigged up some raincoats as stretchers to lug fourteen seriously wounded men back to medical aid through blinding rain and murderous enemy fire. It was carry a few a couple of hundred yards and then slog our way back to keep moving other wounded. Seven lived and seven died but we got them back. We made it back to the lines on the morning of November 23 which was to be "The Burns Boys" last day on the lines and the last day of life for a lot of our men.
About "high noon" the Japs really zeroed in on us. A marine artillery spotter got hit over the ridge. My brother Pete crawled out in full view of the enemy to bring him back. A marine next to had me his head blown off. Captain Pannatiere our doctor Lts. Albertson and Whitney and Charlie who won the Distinguished Service Cross in Korea had a place piece of lead in his rear, which only made him more accurate with the B.A.R. The Hawk was still standing when the mortar blast hit Billy, Pete and myself at the same time. My jaw was shattered, Pete had a couple of holes in his arm and shoulder and Billy had a good chunk of his fanny shot away.
They flew us off of the island the next morning. I returned later but Pete and Billy had seen the last of the hellhole. The last time that our paths were to cross with "The Hawk" in this life was in a base hospital in The Fiji Islands. He had been wounded in late December and was going back to what was left of "his boys" to fight again. There were tears in the tired eyes of the old man that day. He gave us firm handshake with a little pat on the shoulder and walked out of our lives the way he walked in, straight and tall.
The war finally ended. Our North Dakota men who are still alive today have a reunion each year. We have tried to get him back from California many times as a guest of honor, but he has never returned. The vigor of the two wars had taken their toll. The gliding walk was slow and those piercing eyes had dimmed.
He passed away in Costa Mesta, California on January 2, 1962. (Actual death date was January1, 1962, Ray Hall)
There were many enlisted men and officers both in the 164th infantry and in the marines that were outstanding. Everyone who was there was a hero in my books. It was just that Lt. Colonel Robert Kerr Hall "The Hawk" stood alone. There was no envy of him by subordinates or superiors. He was just Bob Hall who every one of "the boys" loved as a man. We would have followed him to hell and back and damn near did!
His epitaph could not have been written in simpler or truer words than those expressed in a favorite poem from which I quote:
"We loved him because he was human.
As human a man as you'll find
Real to the core of his being
Loyal and gentle and kind.
A real sort of fellow to turn to
Honest and forthright and true
Making this life of ours better
Just for his passing through"
Bob Hall was truly human. He led us on "The Trail of the Hawk" making not only our lives, but the life of America better just for his passing through.
Inglewood Park Cemetery
Los Angeles County
Created by: Atlee
Record added: Jun 21, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 53946038
We are so proud of you Uncle Bob, we wish we would have known about your heroic deeds before you passed away. I'm so proud also of being your name sake...Love Roberta|
Roberta Kerren Major
Added: Aug. 4, 2012