Weather Updates

Garry McCarthy gets remnant of father’s WW II Guadalcanal heroism from couple

Bill Beth CoulsGlenview Il World War II buffs  presented Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy  (left) piece barbed wire

Bill and Beth Coulson of Glenview, Il, World War II buffs, presented Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy (left) a piece of barbed wire they brought back from a trip to Guadalcanal where McCarthy's father, James, fought as a Marine, Friday, May 25, 2012 . | John H. White~Sun-Times.

storyidforme: 31102502
tmspicid: 11317850
fileheaderid: 5166735
Article Extras
Story Image

Updated: May 28, 2012 2:12AM

A Memorial Day memo...

It all began with a letter; an email, to be exact.

It was a response to Sneed’s column last week detailing the World War II exploits of Police Supt. Garry McCarthy’s hero father, James McCarthy, who was tethered to the Pacific campaign during the entire war — and how McCarthy’s heroic performance during the NATO protests were inspired by his father’s leadership.

The missive to Sneed, written by Bill and Beth Coulson (a former state representative), resulted in an incredible exchange on Friday between the Coulsons and Supt. McCarthy — and the presentation of a gift which meant a lot to McCarthy.

Let’s begin with the initial letter the Coulsons wrote Sneed.

“Your column resonated with every boomer whose Dad served in WWII.

“My wife and I spent two days earlier this month poring over the battlefields on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.

“We found Japanese bullets, shell casings, grenade fragments, and U.S. barbed wire entanglements, especially on Bloody Ridge — where Supt. McCarthy’s Dad fought in the second battle of the Ridge in October 1942 (with Chesty Puller and John Basilone).

I found, and have, pieces of the rusted barbed wire from Supt. McCarthy’s Dad’s defensive position on the Ridge.

“Would he like some?

“I certainly don’t want to send the Police Commissioner, cold, a piece of barbed wire!!!

“Can you let me know if the Supt. would like me to send him a piece? If so, could you broker the transfer? I think his family might truly treasure this piece of history.”

Bill and Beth Coulson

At 1 p.m. Friday, the Coulsons — who are military history buffs with deep connections to World War II — were invited to McCarthy’s office.

They were carrying several plastic containers brought back from their trip two weeks ago to Guadalcanal and surrounding islands.

Bill’s father specialized in intelligence in the group that was the precursor to the CIA. And Beth’s father, a Polish citizen, became a slave laborer in a Nazi work camp. Bill is an attorney and Beth is a physical therapist. They live in Glenview.

“You wonder, would I have been so brave and selfless as these guys were?” asked Bill Coulson. “We all like to think we would be if our country needed us. But, boy, they went through a lot.

“It’s fascinating. It’s part of our lives.

“The Japanese charged the ridge — it was part of their macho code — but they got hung up on the barbed wire, and Supt. McCarthy’s dad was right there.

“[The barbed wire] definitely played a role in saving his life, and I’m sure his family will treasure this link to the past. He should be very proud of his dad. And everyone in my generation should be proud of their dads for prevailing.

“The kudzu grass on the island has edges like razor blades that will slice right through your skin — it’s terrible stuff. It grows head high all over the battlefield and will cut your arms and legs.

“And here are these Marines, they’re tired and hungry and half of them had malaria and the grass might cut you if you take off your shirt in the sun.”

It was then the Coulsons presented Supt. McCarthy with the rusted barbed wire of Bloody Ridge in the area where McCarthy’s dad was wounded — and the next machine gun over from Congressional Medal of Honor winner John Basilone.

McCarthy, who was incredibly touched, brought out his personnel Shroud of Turin — a stained military grid map of Guadacanal carried in his father’s stomach pouch, inked with his dad’s blood as a bullet ripped through his back and exited his body.

“He was quite a guy,” said McCarthy.

The Coulsons’ gift to McCarthy was not the last item on their wish list: They had a soldier’s U.S. “dog tags” to return.

“A native kid came up to us in a canoe and said he found U.S. dog tags on the Alligator Creek battlefield,” said Coulson.

“A professor we were with on the Guadacanal trip authenticated the tags. I don’t know if this poor guy lived or died or what. But I have his name and his serial number, and his next of kin is listed on the dog tag.

“They’re from North Carolina, and I’m determined to find his family and return the dog tags to them.”

Let us know, Bill.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.