Eye Witness Account

1stmardiv_marine_carbine.jpgM1, Guad.

“Operation Shoestring”

For more than a week, 82 ships of Task Force-61 steamed toward Guadalcanal.  Radio transmitters were silent.  Planes from 3 aircraft carriers scouted the seas for Japanese submarines.  Admirals and generals expressed satisfaction over the lucky weather: low-scudding clouds and tropical downpours to shield their movements.

blog_eagle_globe_anchor2

Aboard the transports, 19,000 members of the 1st Marine Division, reinforced, played poker and got together for songfests featuring back-home favorites like: Blues in the Night and Chattanooga Choo-Choo.  They listened to the ‘know-your-enemy lectures [from officers who by and large had seen as much combat as their men – meaning, none at all.].

The Marines sharpened their bayonets, blackened the sights on their rifles and worked their machine-gun belts to prevent jamming.  And – they griped about the food, the heat, their mission…  On the eve of their D-Day, the loud speakers on board the USS George F. Eliot sounded: “ALL TROOPS BELOW DECK!”

Robert Leckie

Robert Leckie

Pvt. Robert Leckie, USMC, a machine-gunner and scout wrote:

“The men filed below deck with little of the accustomed horseplay, without the usual ineffectual insults hurled at the bullhorn that had ordered them down. Packs were checked for the last time, filled with mess gear, clean socks and underwear, shaving gear, rations – here a bible, there a crumpled photo of a pin-up girl… Now the men were banging the chained bunks down from the bulkheads, crawling into them fully dressed – no one removed their clothing that night.

Famous_WWII_Vintage_PinUp_Girl_Artist_MacPherson_Earl-1_jpg

“‘LAND THE LANDING FORCE!’ and the Marines started clambering down rope nets to the landing craft below. Ant-like they went over the side. They stepped on the fingers of the men below them and felt their own hands squashed by the men above. Rifles clanged against helmet. Men carrying heavy machine-guns or mortar parts ground their teeth in the agony of descending to the waiting boats with 30 or 40 pounds of steel boring into their shoulders.

“…the boats rose and fell in the swells, now close into the ship’s side, now 3 or 4 feet away. The men jumped, landing in clanking heaps, then crouched beneath the gunwales while the loaded boats churned to the assembly areas forming rings and circling, finally fanning out in a broad line and speeding with hulls down and frothing wake straight for the shores of the enemy.”
leckie1

The date was 7 August 1942 and the planners of the assault could not foresee that Guadalcanal would prove to be the first of the island stepping stones on the road to Tokyo.

Pvt. Leckie would later write the book, “Helmet for my Pillow” and be portrayed by actor James Badge Dale in the HBO serie, “Pacific.”

James Badge Dale, as Robert Leckie

James Badge Dale, as Robert Leckie

Click on images to enlarge.

#################################################################################

Navy Humor ~

7c08b894d5f581fa5127e8bbc7c3b2b2 SSMB

 

#################################################################################

Farewell Salutes – 

James Anderson – Coroneagh Park, AUS, RAAF # 5873, WWII

Ralph Clark – Everett, MA; US Navy, WWII, coxswainBIABoNLCEAEPa7G (599x769)

Robert Gewinner – Jupiter, FL; US Navy, WWII, PTO, gunner, Purple Heart, USS Porterfield

Noel Havelock-Green – New Zealand; RNZ Army # 461463

Carroll Horn – Nashville, AR; US Army, Lt., Korea

James McMillen – Locust Valley, NY; US Navy, Korea

Carson Shafer – Powder Springs, GA; USMC, WWII

Richard Souza – Hanoverm MA; USMC, Captain, Vietnam, Bronze Star

George Wilshire – Indianapolis, IN; US Navy, WWII

John Yuille – Flint, MI; US Navy, Vietnam

##################################################################################

Advertisements

About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on April 6, 2015, in First-hand Accounts, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 63 Comments.

    • Thank you very much, Penny, for helping us to keep the memory of these amazing people in our minds. I hope we’ll be seeing more of you.

      Like

  1. If you hold the vertical bits of the nets you don’t get your fingers too badly squelched (holding the horizontal bits is more natural, yes, but counter-productive).

    Like

  2. This operation was launched from Wellington NZ – the US Marines were stationed here prior, not to defend New Zealand (as the legend always insisted) but because NZ was being used as a base to launch Halsey’s campaign into the islands. There is a plaque, still, on the Wellington waterfront noting the place where the marines first came ashore. My late mother-in-law recalled how the harbour was filled with ships. And then, one day, they vanished, destination unknown for the moment. Later, 3 NZ Division was deployed to Guadalcanal; my grandfather served there and on through the Solomons campaign.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m getting a whole new geography lesson on WWII from all of you. I’m thinking how difficult that would have been to have been a very young man, many not more than boys, and most probably at that time had never been more than a few miles away from home. Now they are being sent to New Zealand to fight battles in the islands. From a mother’s perspective, I’m thinking of the psychological as well as the physical horrors of the war.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Most certainly, Bev. When my own father received his draft card, he had not been outside the NE area of the US and he was 27 years old. The decades before the war were so rough, no one but the very rich traveled outside the US. I’m very glad to see you, a dear friend, are getting something out of these posts – Thank You.

        Like

      • This is exactly it – many of the US soldiers who came to NZ in 1942 had gone from home to the army – often it was their first job, not least because the US was still recovering from the Depression. It was psychologically hard on their families – and hard on these young men. Even in NZ they were strangers in a strange land (though there is an awful lot of similarity between NZ and California, particularly). Then they had to go on to even stranger places and face combat. Something to challenge anybody; and the fact that these young men went ahead and did that is a testament, I think, to their strength of character.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s the seemingly minute details that bring this dramatic story to vivid almost nail-biting suspenseful life – still today. We tend to forget or not notice how lives of soldiers were difficult, how disciplined they were to wear orders not knowing whether they’ll come out alive at the other end. Well done gp for keeping the remembering fires going with these personal, eye-witness accounts

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I appreciate the humorous nod to the Navy !!!! 😉

    Like

  5. 19,000 troops being deployed on board 82 ships, quite a logistical achievement,Robert Leckie gives a great first hand narrative of the scene.
    Thanks for the link to another great book,to expand my war history knowledge.

    Like

  6. Gpcox, no way in _ell could I have been a Marine. Those boys had GUTS.

    Like

  7. To go through all this and die sufffering Alzheimer’s Disease.is a bitter tragedy, he deserved a better end.

    Like

  8. So well written! You could feel the anguish of the troops as they climbed overboard.

    Like

  9. Another wonderful read, bittersweet and sad for our lost heroes, yet a shiny tribute to their service to all.

    Like

  10. The pin-up art work on the plane always good ones. I have been wondering how that comes about and what the meanings for them really.

    Like

  11. Each death is a national tragedy and the outcome to our benefit.

    Like

  12. Chilling. Eye witness accounts really strike home.

    Like

  13. Another look at how it really was by one who was there. Yes, I like it.

    Like

  14. Simple, yet so powerful writing. Is there a sequel to this story? If so, I can hardly wait to read to rest of it. Thanks for sharing!

    Like

    • Mr. Leckie tells the rest in his own book – I recommend it. “A Helmet for my Pillow” is readily available at used books stores online, such as Thriftbooks.com; if not; go to Bookfinder.com I’m very happy you so enjoyed the post, Peter.

      Like

  15. Did some quick research on Leckie, wife claimed he was inspired to write about the war after listening to the musical, South Pacific: “I have to tell the story of how it really was. I have to let people know the war wasn’t a musical.” –Curt

    Like

  16. What a great writer he was and kept me on the edge of my seat. Love first hand accounts and they way that he wrote it you felt like you were there. Great find, Everett!

    Like

  17. Wonderful recollection of heroes faded but not forgotten. Thanks for sharing this with me. I appreciate them all.

    Like

  18. What was that movie where the ships captain was dying and the engine gone and all the landing craft towed the ship to safety? I think it had Jeff Chandler as the captain.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. The writing of the eye witness was superb. Thanks so much for sharing it.

    Like

  20. Very nice. I enjoy the first person accounts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A “bird’s-eye view” from one that was actually there, rather than a historian comparing paperwork – it sure is better for me too!! Thanks for reading and commenting, Dan – always a pleasure!

      Liked by 1 person

  21. My wife had a cousin who was on a landing craft. He looked up and saw a landing craft get hit. It was blown out of the water. All the men on it were lost. One day you are alive and the next minute gone.

    Like

  22. As I read this one, I thought ‘this man should be a writer’ – and so he was!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: