Starvation Island

Via the National Museum of the U.S. Marine Corps:

The decision by the Navy to remove all transports and cargo vessels around Guadalcanal on 9 August 1942 [following the slaughter of TG 62.6 in the Battle of Savo Island on D+3] left the Marines perilously short supplied. Marines subsisted on two meals a day to stretch out their meager stock. Guadalcanal would become known as “Starvation Island.”

In the months after the battle, Marine veterans created an unofficial medal, which poked fun at their Navy comrades. Known as the “George Medal”, it depicts an extended arm with admiral rank on its sleeve, dropping a literal “hot potato” to a scurrying cartoon Marine. The rear includes “remembrance of happy days” and the Two examples of these “awards” can be seen in the Museum’s current WWII Gallery.

The men purposefully chose the heraldry of the medal to reflect their dark humor. The outstretched hand, displaying the rank of a U.S. Navy admiral is depicted dropping a literal “hot potato” into the scrambling hands of a small Marine. The island itself is represented with a small cactus and sliver of land denoting the codename for the island of Guadalcanal. Under the scene, inscribed in Latin is the term Faciat Georgius, an approximate translation of “Let George Do It”.

The reverse of the medal was even more direct. Recalling the well-used expression “Sh-t had really hit the fan!”, the officers designed a cartoon showing the posterior of a cow pointed directly at an electric fan. Beneath it is the sarcastic script, “In fond remembrance of the happy days spent from Aug. 7th 1942 to Jan. 5th 1943. U.S.M.C.”

Certificate #2 awarded to MGEN William H. Rupertus

An initial purchase of 100 crude medals was from a small engraving shop off Little Collins Street, in Melbourne, Australia. A deliberately pretentious and humorous certificate was also printed by the Division’s lithographic branch to accompany each award. According to 1st Marine Division veteran Vernon Stimpel, the popularity of the medal soared and a second order was soon made for an additional 400 medals. These were to be presented with a large laundry bag pin, furthering the absurdity of the division’s award. Lore also has it that the manufacturing mold broke during this period. This made the determination of exactly how many original medals were produced in Australia forever unknown. In later years another mold was created and new versions were made and distributed more widely among all veterans of the 1st Marine Division. 

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