World War II hero story in Saturday Evening Post


It was an honor to interview Roy Roush about World War II and the Battle of Guadalcanal.

Roush enlisted in the US Roy Roush and Lisa NiverMarine Corps on July 4, 1942 at 17 years old the day after the end of his junior year of high school. He had dreamed of being a fighter pilot since he was three years old when Charles Lindberg flew over his house in Alva, Oklahoma on his way to Paris.

Roush told me: “In 1927, when I was 3 and a half years old in a little town in Northern Oklahoma called Alva, there were just 3 or 4 people on one block that had radios. Radios worked off of 6-volt car batteries. Lindberg was going to fly over one night in June after dark. All the houses had turned out their lights and we were outdoors to look for Lindberg. I was with my mother and my grandparents and around 10pm, we could hear the airplane and he flew right over our house from west to east. That impressed me. After that I did not want to be a cowboy, or an actor, or the President of USA, I wanted to be a military fighter pilot. If I had not done it, I would have considered myself a failure.”

Now 92 years old and one of only two alive from his company, Roush remembers how he survived: “The reason we were so successful is because we were all teenagers. Out of 175 men in our company, 90% of us were teenagers. Teenagers think they can do anything and they can.”

A World War II Hero Remembers Guadalcanal

Published: August 7, 2017

Roush enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on July 4, 1942, the day after the end of his junior year of high school.

Now 92 years old and one of only two people still alive from his company, Roush remembers how he survived: The reason we were so successful is because we were all teenagers. Out of 175 men in our company, 90 percent of us were teenagers. Teenagers think they can do anything, and they always did.”

Roy Rousch

Roy Roush, 1942. (Photo courtesy of Roy Roush)

After the surprise attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, they set out to take over the South Pacific islands to prevent a retaliatory attack by the United States. When the Japanese military began to build an airfield in 1942 in the Solomon Islands, U.S. forces saw a target, and one of the most important battles of World War II was fought here.

The United States forces landed in the Solomon Islands on August 7, 1942 — eight months to the day after Pearl Harbor — and the six-month battle that followed ended Japan’s eastward advance. The fighting conditions were gruesome on both sides, with lack of clean water, insufficient supplies, and mosquitoes causing many soldiers to suffer dysentery and malaria.

Rousch recalls his experience in Guadalcanal: “[I] walked up to the front line from the beach, and it was about five miles carrying a browning automatic rifle (BAR) and nearly one hundred pounds of ammunition and gear. It was a jungle hell where nothing was accommodating. We were thirsty, tired, covered in scratches from the jungle. There was never enough food or water. You could not sleep at night because of the mosquitoes and infiltrating Japanese.”

Roy Rousch

Roy Roush, 2017. (Photo by Lisa Niver, We Said Go Travel,

Rousch’s 2nd Marine Division landed in the Solomon Islands at Kukum Beach near Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. Roush says that he would rather return to all three of the other campaigns he served in later in the war — on Tarawa, Saipan, and Tinian — than go back to the conditions at the Battle of Guadalcanal.

The Guadalcanal operation holds the record as the longest and largest of all beachheads ever secured by Marines, but victory came at a price, and the territory was as unwelcoming as the opposition. The water they drank was so dirty, Roush “strained it through his teeth to keep from choking on it.” His company had to hack its way through the jungle with machetes and bayonets. The soldiers all lost weight; Roush went from 175 pounds to 130 pounds from lack of supplies, illness, fatigue, and the jungle heat.

When Roush’s battalion left the Solomon Islands for Wellington, New Zealand, on February 19, 1943, nearly all the members were hospitalized for severe malaria; two died, and some had to be medically discharged. Roush was in the hospital in July 1943 when Eleanor Roosevelt visited the ward and said, “My husband, the President of the United States, has asked me to say hello to you all and to say how much we appreciate what you have done.”

The Solomon Islands Campaign cost the Allies approximately 7,100 men, 29 ships, and 615 aircraft, according to the National WWII Museum. The Japanese lost 31,000 men, 38 ships, and 683 aircraft. Despite the odds, Roush made it home from World War II and chose to serve again during the Korean War as a fighter pilot.

After an honorable discharge from the Air Force in 1954, Roush moved to Los Angeles, where he now lives with his wife in a house with floor-to-ceiling windows and glass doors overlooking the San Fernando Valley. He earned both a Masters and Ph.D. in archeology and wrote the book Open Fire! about his personal story of frontline combat.

Roy Rousch

Roy Roush’s many medals from his distinguished military career. (Photo by Lisa Niver, We Said Go Travel,

Roush was knighted by the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem and has a purple heart. He was a hero to our country during battle, and he continues to serve as an inspiration. Roush proves that if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything. As he says in the first line of his book, “We were just a bunch of American kids, led by some good officers who thought that we could do anything, and somehow, we always did.”

See the article on Saturday Evening Post


Lisa Ellen Niver

Lisa Ellen Niver, M.A. Education, is a science teacher and is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 101 countries and six continents. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she worked on cruise ships for seven years and backpacked for three years in Asia. You can find her talking travel at KTLA TV and in her We Said Go Travel videos with over 1.3 million views on her YouTube channel. As a journalist, Niver has interviewed an Olympic swimmer and numerous bestselling authors and has been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. She is the founder of We Said Go Travel which is read in 235 countries and was named #3 on Rise Global’s top 1,000 Travel Blogs. She was named both a Top 10 Travel Influencer and a Top 50 Female Influencer for 2021 by Afluencer and is the Social Media Manager for the Los Angeles Press Club. She has been nominated for the inaugural Forbes 50 over 50/Know Your Value list due out in Summer 2021. She has hosted Facebook Live for USA Today 10best and has more than 150,000 followers across social media. Niver is a judge for the Gracies Awards for the Alliance of Women in Media and has also run 15 travel competitions publishing over 2,500 writers and photographers from 75 countries on We Said Go Travel. For her print and digital stories as well as her television segments, she has been awarded two Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards. From 2017 to 2021 in the Southern California Journalism Awards and National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards, she has won four times for her broadcast television segments, print and digital articles. Niver won in 2021 as Book Critic and in 2019 for one of her KTLA TV segments NAEJ (National Arts and Entertainment Journalism) award. Niver won an award for her print magazine article for Hemispheres Magazine for United Airlines in the 2020 Southern California Journalism Awards and a 2017 Southern California Journalism Award for her print story for the Jewish Journal. Niver has written for National Geographic, USA Today 10best, TODAY, Teen Vogue, POPSUGAR, Ms. Magazine, Luxury Magazine, Smithsonian, Sierra Club, Saturday Evening Post, AARP, American Airways, Delta Sky, En Route (Air Canada), Hemispheres, Jewish Journal, Myanmar Times, Robb Report, Scuba Diver Life, Ski Utah, Trivago, Undomesticated, Wharton Magazine and Yahoo. She is writing a book, “Brave(ish): It's All About Perspective 50 Adventures Before 50,” about her most recent travels and insights. When she's not SCUBA diving or in her art studio making ceramics, she's helping people find their next dream trip.

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