Private Orlin Harold Gisvold


Orlin Harold Gisvold
Erie, ND
Marjorie Morrow (relation unknown)
February 20, 1919
January 13, 1942
October 8, 1942
Guadalcanal L/3/2 Private KIA
Mortar shell
Purple Heart
Buried in the field. “Overlay sent to HQ USMC”
Elm River Cemetery, Galesburg, ND
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.

Birth and Early Life:
Orlin Gisvold was born in Galesburg, Traill, North Dakota on February 20, 1919. His parents, Erik and Karoline Julia Gisvold, were Norwegian immigrants who raised their eight children to appreciate hard work; nearly all were engaged in some form of labor. Orlin himself worked on a dray line; for a break, he could visit his brother Palmer’s cafe in town.

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
When the United States entered World War II, the Gisvold boys saw their chance to serve their country and see the world. Leland and Donald Gisvold went to the Army, while Orlin joined the Marine Corps on January 13, 1942. After completing boot camp at MCRD San Diego, he was assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines.

Wartime Service:
Private Gisvold spent the next several months training at Camp Elliott, California, before shipping out to the South Pacific. He experienced his first taste of combat on August 8, 1942, when his battalion landed on the island of Gavutu; the island’s small size belied the difficulty the Marines would face in taking it. Company K, the second wave, witnessed groups of dead Paramarines who had landed the day before; facing fire from Japanese to their front and from the connected island of Tanambogo to their flank, they soon learned to keep their heads down. The first night on Gavutu was described by one of Company K’s platoon leaders.

That afternoon and evening, a heavy rain fell, soaking us, and we were near incapacitation from the cold. In the dark we were able to locate and move into a big water-filled depression wherein we sat, somewhat warm and relaxed. We watched the fireworks and heard the gunfire of a tremendous naval battle off Savo and waited for the rain to stop…. When dawn arrived, by the faint light, we discovered that we were sitting in a shell hole warm and red with the blood and body parts of our comrades; the victims of the previous day’s bombing. (1)

The following day, Company K charged across an open causeway to attack Tanambogo, and after another furious day of fighting Gisvold and his comrades were unquestionably combat veterans.

The next several weeks found K/3/2 pulling defensive duty on the small islands, catching the occasional Japanese straggler, watching American and Japanese ships duke it out in Sealark Channel, and wondered what was happening over on Guadalcanal, just across the water. In mid-September, Companies I and L of the 3rd Battalion were transferred over to the Canal as reinforcements, leaving King Company alone on Gavutu.

Within days, the entire battalion was reunited on Guadalcanal, and placed in division reserve. They were to be used in an upcoming attack against troublesome Japanese positions along the Matanikau River; operating in support of the 7th Marines and the “Whaling Group” of highly trained scouts and snipers, 3/2 would cross the river and attempt to sweep down on the Matanikau village, flanking the Japanese defenders who would be occupied with defending their front from a simultaneous attack by the 5th Marines. The operation began as planned on October 7, and the Whaling Group made decent progress, even as the 5th Marines attack bogged down.

Date Of Loss:
Torrential downpours on October 8 forced the American commanders to slow the pace of their attack; Whaling’s cadre managed to cross the river, but could not press home its advance on the village itself.

At some time during this wet, miserable slog through the jungle, Private Orlin Gisvold was hit by a mortar shell and killed. His body lay where it fell for three days before being discovered and buried on October 11; an overlay showing the location was forwarded to Marine headquarters, but Gisvold’s remains were never located after the war.


Next Of Kin:
Notified: Marjorie Morrow, Erie, ND
Ms. Morrow’s relation to Orlin Gisvold is unknown; it is unusual that he did not list a family member as his next of kin.

Status Of Remains:

Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines
Elm River Cemetery, Galesburg, North Dakota.
(1) 1st Lt. Frederick W. Riggs, quoted in Stanley Coleman Jersey’s Hell’s Islands: The Untold Story of Guadalcanal. page 173. “The previous day’s bombing” may be a reference to a friendly fire incident where a Navy bomber mistakenly hit a machine gun from M/3/2; among the dead were Privates Merlyn L. Thompson, William A. James, and William H. Pollock.

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