Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif. --
The lore of Suicide Charley began in 1942 with one of the most well known Marines in the Corps. Lt. Col. Chesty Puller was assigned the task of setting up a defensive perimeter around Henderson Field in Guadalcanal. Charley Co., 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, had dug in and was flanked by Baker Co. on the left and Animal Co. on the right. In the distance, a mass of Japanese soldiers waited to strike.
On October 24, at about 10 p.m., three Japanese regiments and a portion of a brigade breached their perimeter. The Marines of Charley Co. received the brunt of the attack but held their ground despite a terrible loss of their own.
The next day the defensive line was still intact while the Japanese licked their wounds. After the onslaught, a flag made of a white, silk parachute flew over Charley Co.’s area bearing a skull and crossbones with the words “Suicide Charley” written underneath.
“When I checked in all I heard about was the tradition of Suicide Charley,” said Sgt. Cody Waldroup, assaultman, section leader, 1/7. “They take it very seriously and it’s something to be proud of. You don’t see it in a lot of units. In Suicide, there’s not a lot of chest pumping when it comes to being the best, it’s more of a quite professionalism. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. When you’re a part of Suicide Charley, you have the reputation to uphold.”
The guidon was not seen again until the battle for Peleliu in 1944. During one particular phase of the battle, a replica flag of the original skull and crossbones appeared to inspire the Marines. From that day on, the flag was used as a motivational tool for war torn Marines.
“It’s kind of crazy to think about what you’re upholding and the tradition you’re carrying on for the WWII veterans,” said Sgt. Jesse Rodriguez, mortars section leader, 1/7. “It’s exhilarating and humbling at the same time. Not many things can compare to that tradition you uphold for that specific guidon. It makes you feel like you have to earn your place to walk behind that guidon.”
A sense of pride embodies the Marines of Charley Co. because they know the Marines before them never stopped regardless of how bad a situation was.
“I first learned about Suicide Charley when I was at The Basic School,” said 1st Lt. Deven Ravel, weapons platoon commander, 1/7. “My staff platoon commander was a platoon commander when he was with Suicide Charley. I looked up to his professionalism. It made me want to know more about Suicide Charley and be a part of it.”
The guidon exists because of the men who shed blood on the battlefields of Guadalcanal and Peleliu. Their memory lives on in the minds of the Marines today that carry the name Suicide Charley into battle.
“Just like Sgt. Waldroup, I came from another unit,” said Staff Sgt. Carl Therrien, platoon sergeant, 1/7. “Everybody has their own traditions but coming to Suicide Charley, it’s something extra. It’s something special that I hold dear and I have to make sure that (the traditions) continue on.”