Intermission (9) James Gleason, Marine Raider

Marine Raiders

Marine Raiders

Lyman and Minnie Gleason were in their 40s when the baby arrived at their doorstep in a shoebox, and James Gleason would grow up near Youngstown, Ohio.  On his 17th birthday, he enlisted in the Navy.

“Everybody was real patriotic at that particular time,” Gleason said in an interview with the Tribune two years ago at his home in Tampa.

On Aug. 3, 1942, he was called up, and after boot camp, transferred to the Marines, who didn’t have their own medics or chaplains. He volunteered for a newly formed group called the Marine Raiders.

James Gleason, 1943

James Gleason, 1943

There were four Marine Raider battalions and two Raider regiments that saw action in the Pacific between 1942 and 1944 and were formed to conduct amphibious raids and guerrilla operations behind enemy lines.

The Raiders went on to participate in campaigns across the Pacific Ocean and earned more than 700 decorations, including seven Medals of Honor, before being disbanded.

Gleason had no idea what he was getting into when he volunteered to join the Raiders.  “I didn’t even know what the heck the Raiders were,” he said. “I volunteered because I wanted a change.”

The battles of the Solomon Island chain were hell on Earth. In addition to a determined enemy, the Raiders had to contend with swarms of flies and mosquitoes, constant dampness, swamps, jungles and sharp coral that cut skin and caused infections.

By the time of the attack on Bairoko Harbor, on New Georgia Islands, the Raiders were so decimated they were able to muster up less than one full battalion of 900 to 950 men from the two full battalions they started with, Gleason said.

The battle to take the harbor began at 10 a.m., July 20, 1943, according to Gleason and continued all day.

"Real Blood, Real Guts" by: James Gleason

“Real Blood, Real Guts” by: James Gleason

“With nothing but guts and small infantry weapons, about 800 Raiders attacked the enemy force, who were well emplaced in a series of four parallel ridges with interlocking bunkers and cleverly concealed cross fire machine gun fire lanes,” Gleason wrote.

It also marked the first time the Navajo Code Talkers were used.

The enemy was driven back, but at a heavy cost, with more than 250 men killed or wounded and half the remaining men needed to take care of the survivors. Gleason was in the thick of it all, working with doctors and chaplains to save the wounded.

“We were pinned down under heavy fire at nightfall,” Gleason wrote. “At midnight, the Japanese staged one of their celebrated suicide bayonet charges, screaming like madmen.”

On July 23, the day Gleason turned 18, the Marines were ordered to retreat down a ridge even though he and others thought they were about to defeat the enemy.

“Now at age 18, the order to withdraw when we were 300 yards of victory at Bairoko was a bitter pill for everyone to swallow!” he wrote. “We Raiders contend that we would have taken Bairoko Harbor had we received the air and naval support we asked for.”

Gleason would be evacuated to Guadalcanal, but said he had few memories of what happened on his birthday.

Out of about 900 men, “I was one of about 120 or 130 to come down off the hill, with all the wounded and sick,” Gleason said in the interview.

 After getting out of the hospital, Gleason returned to duty, serving aboard several ships, and left the service, only to return during the Korean War, where he “continued to help his Marines,” according to Mark Van Trees, who runs Support the Troops, an organization providing toiletries, snacks and other items to deployed troops.

When he got out of uniform for good, Gleason had an eclectic life.

Marine Raiders on Bougainville, Jan. 1944

Marine Raiders on Bougainville, Jan. 1944

The family moved to Clearwater and later to Tampa, FL in the mid 1980s, and Gleason spent his last days in a Tampa assisted living facility.

“I met Doc Gleason and he is made of the right stuff — a true Fleet Marine,” said James Mattis, a retired Marine general and former commander of U.S. Central Command. “‘Doc,’ who represented all the character and Gung-Ho that have made our Navy Corpsmen brothers so highly respected in the macho Marine Corps. Doc was a great sailor, fine friend and a true role model for us all. We will miss him terribly.”

One of Gleason’s happiest moments seemed to be the announcement that Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, or MARSOC would be adapting the Marine Raider name.

“He broke down at the announcement with his dream coming true.”

A funeral service for Gleason was. May 5, at Oakwood Community Church, in Tampa. He will be buried later at Arlington National Cemetery.

 Condensed from an article written by: Howard Altman

©2016 the Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Fla.)

Click on images to enlarge.

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USMC  Humor – 

 

8187862_orig

They still make house calls.

marine_corps_bumper_stickers

USMC Bumper stickers

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

James Akers – Chicago, IL; USMC, WWII, PTO

Douglas Barnes – Asheboro, NC; US Army, Korea, 187th RCT Rakkasans

Standing Guard

Standing Guard

Arnold Christie – Toronto, CAN; RC Navy, WWII, HMS Sheffield, Engine Room Artificer P. Officer

Herbert Daley – E.Hartford, CT; USMC, WWII, Korea, SSgt. (Ret. 20 years)

C. Harry Domm – North Hills, PA; USMC, WWII, PTO

Henry Dunn – NZ; Regimental # N801680, WWII

Robert Judell – NYC, NY; US Navy, WWII, ETO, destroyer escort

John Lagoulis – Newburyport, MA; US Navy, WWII, PTO, 58th SeaBee Battalion, Bronze Star

Robert Ross – IN; US Navy, WWII, PTO, gunner’s mate

Willie Ward Sr. – Mobile, AL; USMC, WWII, PTO, aircraft mechanic

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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 May 9, 2016, in First-hand Accounts, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 51 Comments.

  1. YOU HAVE 4000 FOLLOWERS??????? You’re a beast!!! lol

    Like

  2. 🇺🇸🇺🇸✌🏾️✌🏾️ 2/8 Wpns!

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  3. What a fascinating account of a true hero. You are truly an outstanding historian and writer. Write on my friend, write on.

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  4. A good story. In appreciation to all the brave men and women to fought for our today 🙂

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  5. Just an amazing story. So glad you shared it with all of us.

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  6. So he was abandoned as an infant? The homeschool magazine I write for once had a most interesting article on code talkers in WW2.

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    • If you can locate the article, it would make an outstanding post! Mr. Gleason may have been abandoned as an infant of the Great Depression, but he never abandoned his country. Thank you for visiting!

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  7. Great story on the abandoned young James Gleason gp, he certainly went on to experience a colourful military life, well done that Man.
    You mentioned the Navajo Code Talkers, I vaguely recall reading about them somewhere, I am not sure if it was one of your posts, their story is worth repeating gp.
    Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Danke lieber Freund geht wieder besser,wieder ein schöner ´Beitrag immer spannend zu lesen Wünsche noch einen schönen Tag liebe Grüße von mir Gislinde

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What a man. What a life

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Sounds as if no-one did his homework properly before the landing (1), and no-one was listening to the guys at the sharp end afterwards (2).

    (1) + (2) = SNAFU

    (Perhaps I’m being uncharitable and maybe the chess-masters deep behind the scenes had more info than they were letting on?)

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    • Amphibious landings were new, uncharted operations in the Pacific. The info learned here helped the success of D-Day. But the trial and error on these islands accounts for places such as Tarawa being a FUBAR situation, (which was only won because of the number of troops thrown at the enemy).

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Everett, you find the most amazing stories! This one filled with youth & bravery! Volunteering for change put him in the middle of battle! Good that he survived! 💛 Elizabeth

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Very interesting, love that they used a native language for their communications that wasn’t cracked. It must have been hell, hard to comprehend.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Yes, a life given 100% for the service of his nation.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. What a lot to have to go through and at such a young age as well. I can’t begin to imagine the conditions, and then getting so close only to be told to leave. Maybe it was a blessing.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Very interesting article and haven’t heard of the Marine Raiders . Glad that you found his story, Everett!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. He certainly was lucky. When I read “I volunteered because I wanted a change.” I thought for a minute about the “don’t volunteer for anything” rule, I guess some people had to. I am also glad that you found his story.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I didn’t know this was Military Appreciation Week! Have been “RA all the way” since I was an Army brat way back in the 40’s. My step-father was in the engineers during WWII, then Korean War. Husband was in Viet Nam. Son was in Persian Gulf War and grandson was in the Iraqi War.
    I salute all those who served our country. Thank you for this tribute to your father!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dad started all this – my interest in history; my wish to tell everyone what a great guy he was, etc. I thank you for being an Army brat and “Ra” – a special Thank You for each member of your family. I felt as though I was reading my own bio there for a second! I appreciate your visit, Jeanne.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. That is heart-warming–that strangers took an abandoned baby in and that he went on to save so many lives. I like the line that ‘half the men left took care of the injured’.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I suppose that’s how he came up with the title of his book. I am really going to try and locate a copy soon. I have so many already waiting to be read.

      Like

  19. Great story about a brave man. I don’t remember reading about the Marine Raiders before, so thanks for the history lesson.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. “Lyman and Minnie Gleason were in their 40s when the baby arrived at their doorstep in a shoebox…” An abandoned newborn; his parents must have had to fight to adopt him.
    What a story!

    Like

    • Being as the country was in the Great Depression, the government was probably only too happy that the Gleason’s were willing to accept another mouth to feed. That is why I am always stressing how strong that generation was!

      Like

  21. It made me think how very different my own 18th birthday was, compared to the one spent by James. Because of the courage and sacrifice of people like him, I was able to live my own teenage years in comfort and safety.
    Great post, GP.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Yet another amazing story. What a slaughter and he was only 18 years old … A lot of his fellow soldiers were also young I guess. He was lucky to go on and live a full life since so many didn’t get that chance.

    Liked by 2 people

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