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On 26 Jul 1942, a transport ship carrying a large group of Marines sails through the South Pacific. The men, unaware of their destination, make the most of their brief rest period by singing, reading and writing letters and shooting the breeze with the war correspondent traveling with them. The men include Col. Grayson, Capt. Jim Cross, Capt. Davis, Sgt. Hook Malone, Corp. Alyosious "Taxi" Potts, Jesus "Soose" Alvarez, Father Donnelly and Pvt. Johnny Anderson, who has been nicknamed "Chicken" because of his youth and inexperience. Grayson soon learns that they are bound for Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, and that other transports are carrying Marines to nearby Tulagi. Cross and Davis plan the landing of the first two companies, while Donnelly goes below to encourage the men. On 7 Aug 1942, the Marines land on Guadalcanal and are surprised by the initial lack of resistance from the Japanese forces. The Marines on Tulagi are immediately attacked, while on Guadalcanal, the wary soldiers secure the airfield, make camp and are on the lookout for the enemy. Snipers make their presence felt as lone soldiers are killed, and tension rapidly mounts as the Marines grow restless to fight an enemy they cannot see. After Davis is stricken with fever, Cross leads a patrol to investigate a local's claim that a small Japanese force is ready to surrender at the nearby village of Matanikau. Lt. Thurmond and Soose are among the men in the patrol, which is attacked in the water by a Japanese submarine and then is fired upon by nests of machine guns once the survivors land on the beach. The men dig into the beach but soon are picked off by the enemy until only Soose is left. He manages to escape and swim back to the main camp, where Grayson vows to return in force. The main force does attack Matanikau, and despite heavy losses, prevails against the enemy. Later, as time passes, the troops become hardened by the battles, the constant fear of snipers and aerial bombardment, limited supplies and extreme conditions. Even Johnny seems to be aging in front of his comrades' eyes when he finds his first whisker. The soldiers' activities are divided between patrolling for snipers and engaging in minor battles, and falling out to bomb shelters during aerial attacks. Weary of the long, nerve-wracking barrages, Taxi tells his comrades: "I don't mind the one with my name on it. It's the one addressed to whom-it-may-concern, I don't like." As the weeks pass, Henderson airfield is shored up and more planes, supplies and reinforcements arrive. On 10 Nov 1942, the 167th anniversary of the Marine Corps, three battalions of Marines, under the supervison of Grayson and Gen. Vandegrift, make a major push to eliminate the Japanese forces. Soose is killed during the battle, but Johnny shoots three of his attackers. The Marines are victorious and on 10 Dec 1942, as they leave camp, the Marines exchange jokes with the Army soldiers who are relieving them.