It was in August 1942 that Private 1st Class Edward Ahrens would cement his place in the halls of Marine badasses when he singlehandedly took on an entire group of Japanese soldiers who were trying to flank his unit.
Ahrens, a Marine assigned to Alpha Co. of the 1st Raider Battalion, was in the second assault wave hitting the beaches of Tulagi on Aug. 7, 1942. After pushing off the beach along with Charlie Co., Alpha set up a defensive line that night, according to War History Online.
Then the Japanese fiercely counter-attacked. Fortunately, Alpha Co. had Ahrens protecting its right flank.
“I came across a foxhole occupied by Private First Class Ahrens, a small man of about 140 pounds,” said Maj. Lew Walt, of what he saw the next morning. “He was slumped in one corner of the foxhole covered with blood from head to foot. In the foxhole with him were two dead Japs, a lieutenant and a sergeant. There were eleven more dead Japs on the ground in front of his position. In his hands he clutched the dead officer’s sword.”
Ahrens had successfully thwarted an enemy attack that would have opened a huge gap in the defensive line. As he lay dying, according to Walt, Ahrens whispered to him: “The idiot tried to come over me last night-I guess they didn’t know I was a Marine.”
He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, which reads:
“Private First Class Ahrens, with utter disregard for his own personal safety, single-handed engaged in hand-to-hand combat a group of the enemy attempting to infiltrate the rear of the battalion.
Although mortally wounded, he succeeded in killing the officer in command of the hostile unit and two other Japanese, thereby breaking up the attack. His great personal valor and indomitable fighting spirit were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the defense of his country.”