Richard Greer’s voice is one of the first things you hear when you arrive on Guadalcanal. “Fear sets in,” Greer says. “Your mouth is dry and your heart is racing, and you wonder how you’re going to perform.”
Greer, who died on March 12, 2018, at age 100, survived combat on Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester, and New Guinea. At the Museum, he welcomes visitors near the entrance of the Guadalcanal: Green Hell gallery of the Richard C. Adkerson & Freeport-McMoRan Foundation Road to Tokyo: Pacific Theater Galleries in a video presentation that sets the stage for the story to follow, a story of brutal jungle combat against a relentless enemy in ghastly conditions.
Among the many honors Greer received for his service during World War II were the Asiatic Pacific Theater Ribbon with three battle stars and a Purple Heart. The combat tales he recounts in his Museum oral history—from which the Guadalcanal clip is excerpted—are an unforgettable record of one young American’s journey to Green Hell and back.
Greer volunteered for the Marine Corps on December 8, 1941. He became a heavy machine-gunner then runner in Company D, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, training with Marine Corps legend Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller and serving with Medal of Honor recipient John Basilone. Postwar, Greer worked as a manager in the furniture-manufacturing business in the Marion, Virginia, area. He retired in 1980 and then traveled the world as a volunteer for the International Executive Service Corps, a nonprofit dedicated to nurturing economic growth in developing countries. He also founded a forestry consulting company he managed until his second retirement in 1992. To his family and friends, we extend our deepest sympathies for his passing and gratitude for his century of life.
In addition to his oral history, Greer participated in several key Museum moments—attending the 2015 grand opening of Road to Tokyo, speaking at the 2011 International Conference on World War II, and accompanying a 2011 Museum travel tour of WWII landmarks in the Pacific. While on that tour, as it visited Guadalcanal, Greer received the Museum’s Silver Service Medallion, honoring individuals who personify the courage, sacrifice, and optimism of the WWII generation.
Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, PhD, the Museum’s founding President & CEO, accompanied the tour and had the unique honor of revisiting with Greer the Guadalcanal battlegrounds where he’d fought.
“I spent two days with Mr. Greer where he served almost the entire six-month Guadalcanal campaign,” Dr. Mueller said. “We walked together at Tenaru, Bloody Ridge, and the hills of Matanikau. His memory was sharp in his early 90s. He recalled names of all his comrades, the placement of machine guns, their lines of defense—providing an hour-by-hour description of the battle, sometimes even minute-by-minute. He had the quiet confidence of a leader, a man of courage and modesty, always recognizing those who he said did more than he, especially those who didn't make it.
"He was a good friend and a great man."