Haunted by the ghosts of Guadalcanal - FOX 13 News

Haunted by the ghosts of Guadalcanal

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Bill Hessian picks up an old leather wallet and pulls a small scrap of cloth from one of its pockets.

"I never showed this to anybody. Not even my own family," he says.

In the middle of the cloth is a hole, and around its frayed edges is a stain.

"That's my blood on there," says Hessian.

The hole is from a bullet that pierced his jacket 70 years ago while he fought on the Pacific island of Guadalcanal. He remembers the instant he was hit.

"It went in right here, and came out my back," he says, as he motions to his right cheek, then points behind his head and down to a spot on his back.

STRUGGLE TO SURVIVE

Now 91 years old, Hessian is one of several thousand U.S. Marines who invaded Guadalcanal on August 7, 1942. He says he can still feel his wound sometimes when he swallows. But, he's lucky to be alive to talk about it.

Hessian was on Guadalcanal for four months. The Marines were cut off from supplies and were running low on food. Bill says he boiled grass and drank the water as he struggled to survive.

DISAPPEARING HEROES

For decades he didn't talk much about Guadalcanal, except with buddies from his outfit. They stayed in touch and attended reunions. But one by one, Hessian's cards and letters went unanswered.

He looks at a photo from 1965. "I don't know if any of them are still alive," he says.

Hessian says the Marines likely saved Australia from invasion by the Japanese.

"And they told us, you guys more or less saved our country," he said.

THE SURVIVOR

Hessian says even though they had a difficult time surviving, the days he spent with fellow Marines were some of the best of his life. He says he's thankful for good health, and plays golf three times a week.

But he says he'll never forget the long ordeal of 70 years ago at Guadalcanal.

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