Charlie Company of the 1st Battalion 7th Marines is the only Marine unit authorized to carry and display two guidons in all official formations.
On the night of Oct 24-25, 1942, they were deployed south of Henderson Field close in to the Lunga River. The 7th Marines were under the command of Lt Col Chesty Puller. In the ensuing battle, which came to be known as the Battle for Henderson Field, Charlie Company received the brunt of the Japanese attack on the Marine positions east of the river. Wave after wave of Banzai charges were met and repelled with rifle fire, hand grenades, bayonets, and the machine gun section led by Staff Sergeant John Basilone. As the sun rose on the morning of October 25th the battered veterans of Charlie Company were triumphant, defiant, and had held their position against overwhelming odds. Early that morning a crude flag was raised from a fighting hole on the perimeter which led to rousing cheers from the tired men. It had been made from a scrap of parachute cloth with the skull and crossbones and the inscription “Suicide Charley, 1st battalion 7th Marines”. Although someone had misspelled Charlie the nickname stuck. It was informally adopted by Charlie Company and appeared for the rest of the Guadalcanal campaign. The flag also appeared briefly on Peleliu before the end of WWII.
During the Korean conflict a couple of Marines on R&R in Japan had a proper guidon embroidered with the misspelled company name “Suicide Charley” and from then on it became a permanent fixture, proudly displayed by Charlie Company along with its regulation guidon.
Even though it was non-regulation, the company continued to carry it in defiance of direct orders. Tradition dies hard in the Corps and Charlie Company was determined to display their proud history and honor their comrades-in arms.
In 1961 the commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, MG James Masters, finally gave in and authorized Charlie Company to carry and display the “Suicide Charley” guidon alongside its regulation unit guidon at all official ceremonies and functions.
Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Medina Ayala-Lo. The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.
Brett Dingerson has been a docent at the MCRD Command Museum for 11 years and a volunteer on the USS Midway Museum for 4 years. He is a Kansas native and attended the United States Military Academy at West Point. He served as an active duty Marine from 1971-1975 as an 0311. After graduating from Sea School, he served with the Marine Detachment at Commander in Chief Pacific, Camp Smith Hawaii, under Admiral John S. McCain, Jr.