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First Hand Account – after Peleliu

Bruce Watkins, Monty Montgomery & Steve Stasiak

Bruce Watkins (Commander), Monty Montgomery (platoon Sgt.) & Steve Stasiak (guide)

INTRODUCTION: The following is a chapter taken from “Brothers in Battle” by R. Bruce Watkins. This book was written for the benefit of his children, grandchildren, and friends who have an interest in the events of World War II as he saw them. It reflects his personal experience as a platoon leader in E CO/ 2ND Battalion/1st Marines at Peleliu. He also served as company commander of E Co on Okinawa. Bruce dedicated his book to “My Brothers, those undaunted Marines, who followed me without hesitation into the very jaws of death.” [Pictures below are some of these men.]

We don’t often hear what happens after the men fight, the following is what Bruce Watkins remembered after the battle:

Bruce Watkins

Bruce Watkins

Chapter V
PAVUVU

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Marc Jaffe

As we filed off the Tryon to our old bivouac at Pavuvu, we saw few familiar faces. There were a handful of lightly wounded casualties, but all the other living were still hospitalized. Settling into the tents that had been our home a short month ago, we were immediately struck by the empty cots with personal gear stowed below. We had returned with about 15% of our original number. That made for a lot of empty cots. Most of these cots would never see their original occupants again.

     Shortly after, I received a summons from Division headquarters. “We think we may have one of your men down here.” It was PFC Brennan and he told me he did not have a name, that the Japs had taken it from him on the second day. He was sent home to the States and I received a letter from him some time later. He had been suffering from cerebral malaria but back in a cool climate he had recovered.

    

John Kincaid

John Kincaid

In the heat of the Peleliu battle I had not accounted for two of our 17-year-old privates, but these returned to us now, unscathed. Monty told me they had bugged out in the middle of the battle. I had assumed they were wounded or killed. Although this was technically desertion under fire, the NCO’s had a great deal of understanding, taking into account their youthfulness. I saw no reason to take issue with their judgement, and these two more than proved themselves in the next battle.

     There were many signs of strain after Peleliu. Our colonel told us how coming out of the shower he met a major, a member of Battalion Staff, with a towel draped over his arm. The major asked the colonel if he really liked him. The colonel replied, “Of course.” He then removed the towel displaying a loaded 45 pistol in his hands. “I’m glad you do,” he said, “because if you didn’t, I would have to shoot you.” Our colonel made quiet arrangements and the major was shipped back to the states under guard.

Sgt. Hap Farrell

Sgt. Hap Farrell

     We took a boat over to Bonika, the main island of the Russells, where our hospital was. There we saw many of our comrades. John Kincaid was having trouble with both eyes and Joe Gayle was just getting the use of his arms back. Sam Alick was recovering well from the leg wound, but his thumb would never work the same. Another platoon sergeant, a handsome man, had half his face and jaw gone. A gunny sergeant with a shattered pelvis lay there with rods like an erector set holding his hips in place, and so it went. The good news was that Lee Height could return with us.

Lt. Lee Height

Lt. Lee Height

     Back on Pavuvu in the days that followed, we were allowed to rest and routine was at a minimum. We drifted from tent to tent checking on who had returned and always there were the empty cots. This was a most necessary rehabilitation period during wich we dealt with our shock and the loss of many friends. We were to need that rest both physically and mentally for there was much ahead of us.

In 1992 Bruce wrote “Brothers in Battle” about his experiences. The period covered stretches from December 1941 until November 1945.

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Military Humor –

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Farewell Salutes –

Edward Borschel Jr. – Panama City, FL; US Army, 187th RCT

Jack Griffiths – San Diego, CA; US Army, Korea, HQ/38/2nd Infantry Div., Major, POW, KIA

Dixie Heron – UK; RAF, WWII, ETO, 249th Squadron

Hugo Koski – Mt. Vernon, NY; US Coast Guard, WWII, Quartermaster

Ira Miss Jr. – Frederick, MD; Korea, HQ/38/2nd Infantry Div., MSgt., POW, KIA

Clifford Nelson – Spanish Fort, AL; US Navy, WWII, PTO & Korea, Captain (Ret. 29 years)

Charles Owen – Greendale, WI; US Navy, WWII

Lee Ragatz Jr. – Dania, FL; US Navy, USS Midway

Jack Slaughter (103) – Muskogee, OK; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Welles, Silver Star

Martin Waddington – So.Hurtsville, AUS; RA Air Force # NX098714, 10th Squadron

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October 1944 (1)

Causeway with 2 damaged Sherman tanks, Peleliu

Causeway with 2 damaged Sherman tanks, Peleliu

3  October – the Marines on Peleliu attacked the “Five Sister,” a coral hill with 5 sheer peaks and the Japanese defensive fire was deadly accurate.  Four days later, in an Army tank/Marine infantry operation, they made their assault in a horseshoe shaped valley after 2 ½ hours of big gun artillery fire.

The odor on the island of decaying bodies and feces, (latrines could not be dug in the coral), became extreme.  The flies were uncontrollable.  The [now-banned] pesticide of DDT was first used on Peleliu, but with very little success.

Napalm strike on Five Sister, Peleliu

Napalm strike on the Five Sisters, Peleliu

On 12 October, Captain Andy “Ack-Ack” Haldane, well-respected leader and veteran of Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester and Peleliu, was killed on Hill 140 in the Umurbrogol Pocket.  This was also the date that organized resistance on the island was declared over.

10 October – The 3rd Fleet of aircraft carriers made a major attack on the enemy naval and shore installations on the Ryukyu Islands.  Their arrival took the Japanese by surprise and destroyed 75 planes on the ground and 14 in the air; 38 ships were either sunk or damaged.  Other US Navy surface vessels conducted a 15-hour bombardment of Marcus Island.  This would give the US a forward base less than 1000 miles from the Japanese mainland.

Formosa and the Ryukyu Islands

Formosa and the Ryukyu Islands

12→15 October – after refueling, the 3rd Fleet’s 1000 carrier fighters and bombers conducted a campaign over Formosa along with 100 Superfortresses of the US Army’s 20th Air Force coming out of the Chingtu bases.  The 500 enemy aircraft of Adm. Fukudome’s Imperial Navy 6th Air Force were manned by inexperienced pilots.  On the 13th along, 124 enemy fighters were shot down during a massive dogfight and 95 more were destroyed on the ground.  As Fukudome himself described it, “Like so many eggs thrown against the stone wall of indomitable enemy formations.

More than 70 enemy cargo, oil and escort ships were sunk in the area.  The US lost 22 aircraft.  The carrier, Franklin, and the cruiser, Canberra, were hit, but the latter was towed to safety.  Due to the inexperienced Japanese pilots misinformation, Tokyo Rose announced, “All of Admiral Mitscher’s carriers have been sunk tonight – INSTANTLY!”  Japan claimed a second Pearl Harbor and a public victory holiday was proclaimed.

Arisan Maru

Arisan Maru

In October, the Japanese ‘hell ship’, Arisan Maru, departed Manila, P.I. with 1800 American prisoners on board held in her unventilated hold.  It was sunk by the USS Snook, killing 1795 POW’s.

The Japanese attempted to break the build-up of Allied forces in Manila Bay, Luzon, P.I., but the result was losing approximately 30 more aircraft to US fighters and antiaircraft fire.

October 1944 was an extremely active month and it will take at least 5 posts to just put the basics down.

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Military Humor – military-humor-funny-surrounded-attack-soldiers-meme

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Farewell Salutes – 

Paul Alamar – Scranton, PA; US Navy, WWII, PTO, minesweeper

Robert Brooks – Ontario, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII, 143rd Air Wing, radio operations

Peleliu cemetery

Peleliu cemetery

Harold Girald – Mah-wah, NJ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Ken Hartle (103) – San Francisco, CA; US Navy, WWII, SeaBee

Melvin Hill – Pomona, CA; Korea, 31st RCT, KIA

Harold “Hal” Moore, Jr. – Auburn, AL; US Army, Korea & Vietnam, 1/7th Cavalry Reg., Lt.General, West Point Grad, DSC

Allen “Bud” Moler – Dayton, OH; USMC, PTO, KIA (Roi-Namur)

Brent Morel – Martin, TN; USMC, Iraq, 1st Marine Recon Battalion, Navy Cross, KIA

Richard Lyon – Oceanside, CA; USMC, WWII, PTO / Korea, Admiral (Ret. 41 years)

Elizabeth Zarelli Turner – Austin, TX; US Army WAC, WWII, pilot

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Peleliu – Eye Witness Account

" Thousand Yard Stare" by Thomas C. Lea III

” Thousand Yard Stare” by Thomas C. Lea III

“The main cause of the 1st Marines going through the ordeal of Peleliu was the rugged and well-defended terrain of the Umurbrogol Hills.  They were honeycombed with caves and enemy strongholds.  Spearheading the grueling assault was Colonel “Chesty” Puller’s 1st Regiment.  The following are excerpts from Pvt. Russell Davis:

We went quickly into line, backing and plunging a bit in the surf like race horses in the starting gate. The control oflicers in the picket boats sighted along the line and then waved us ahead. We took off into the wake of the second Wave, but it was hard to see them when they were in the troughs of the swells.

Everyone was up and yelling but Buck and the squad leader. They crouched low; both of them were young but their faces looked old with determination and fear. When we hit the beach they would have the job to do, and we would do whatever they told us to do.

It was almost a glorious feeling, roaring in toward he beach with fear gone for the moment. We were in motion with thousands of tons of armed might at our backs; and it seemed that nothing could stop us. We were an old and tried outfit, led by men like Buck and the squad leader, who would know what to do when the time came to do it. As we rolled in on Peleliu, and before we were hit, the excitement took us and we were not afraid of anything. Some men began to chant: “Drive! Drivel!Drive!”

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I saw the amphibious tractor in front of us go up in a shellburst. For a moment I didn’t realize what I had seen. Somebody said: “Hey, I think they hit him,” in a complaining tone, as though it were against the rules to do that.

The amtrac flamed, spread gas on the water, and wallowed in a puddle of fire. Men spilled from it. The driver of our tractor screamed so loud we heard him above everything. He had seen the hit and he was very frightened.”

After Pvt. Davis landed and joined in the fight:

“Clawing and crawling up the cliff went platoons that were no more than squads and companies that were no more than large platoon.  From the base of the cliffs we could pick out each man and follow him until he got hit, went to the ground or climbed to the top.  Not many made it to the top.

As they toiled, caves, gulley’s and holes opened up the Japanese dashed out to roll grenades down on them and sometimes to lock body to body in desperate wrestling matches.  Knives and bayonets flashed on the hillside.  I saw one man straighten and lunge to kick something that attacked his legs like a mad dog.  He reached and heaved, and a Japanese soldier came end over end down the hill.  The machine-gunner yelled encouragement.”

The Attacks on the hills during the first week of battle cost Puller’s regiment 1/3 its strength.

Russell Davis wrote the book, “Marine At War”.

Thomas C. Lea III, war correspondent for “Life” magazine, author and artist of the “2000 Yard Stare” and “The Price” said about the actual Marine on Peleliu: “He left the States 31 months ago. He was wounded in his first campaign. He has had tropical diseases.  He half-sleeps at night and gouges Japs out of holes all day. Two-thirds of his company has been killed or wounded. He will return to attack this morning. How much can a human being endure?”usmc-c-peleliu-p3b

As seen from the air on D-Day, 15 September 1944, Beaches WHITE 1 and 2, on which the 1st and 3d Battalions, 1st Marines, landed. Capt George P. Hunt’s Company K, 3/1, was on the extreme left flank of the 1st Marine Division.
Department of Defense Photo (USN) 283745

References: US Army Center of Military Information; World War II Today and ibiblio.org.

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Farewell Salutes – 

Leo Adams – Brighton Bch., NY; US Army, WWII, Lt., US 5th Army

Alice Attchison – Saskatchewan, CAN; RC Woman’s Air Force, WWII

Frank Bartos – McHenry, IL; USMC, WWII, PTOth-jpg1

John Caddell – Belmont, NH; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Haggard

Clarence Day – Wanganui, NZ; RNZ Army # 446267, WWII, Engineers

Gilbert Meehan – Broad Channel, NY; US Army, WWII

William ‘Ryan’ Owens – Peoria, IL; US Navy SEAL, Yemen, KIA

Charles Rupprecht – Collierville, TN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Div., Communications

Carl Stearns – Oshkosh, WI; US Army Air Corps, WWII & Korea, SSgt.

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September 1944 (2)

Moro tai, 15 September 1944

Morotai, 15 September 1944

Adm. Mitscher’s TF-38 bombings of Clark and Nichols airfields on Luzon, P.I., mowed down enemy bases.  More than 200 planes were destroyed and the shipping in Manila Bay was ravaged.  No Japanese aircraft reached the fleet, but 15 US aircraft were lost during the operation.

15 September – US troops landed at Morotai in the Netherlands East Indies.  They were met by only light resistance despite its location at the entrance of the Celebes Sea off the southern coast of the Philippine Islands.

16 September – the Japanese escort carrier Unyo [“A Hawk in the Clouds”] was sunk in the South China Sea by the US submarine Barb.  Although no US surface ships were in the area, the submarine service were causing havoc with the Japanese supply convoys between the N.E. I. and the southeastern Asian enemy forces.

Peleiu, 1944

Peleiu, 1944

On Peleliu. most of the 6 x 2 mile island was composed of coral ridges and heavily wooded scrub which made taking aerial photographs useless.  Although on paper, the 1st Marines were reinforced to an adequate size, the figures convinced MGen. Rupertus that Operation Stalemate would only last 3-4 days.  Col. Chesty Puller differed and pointed out the number of actual combat troops, but the general felt Chesty’s argument was groundless.

As the men crossed the airfield, E.B. Sledge, [author of “With the Old Breed’], said, “To be shelled by massed artillery and mortars is absolutely terrifying, but to be shelled in the open is terror compounded beyond belief of anyone who hasn’t experienced it.  The temperature that day was 105°F in the shade.”

Peleiu landing

Peleiu landing

19 September – on the eastern coast of Peleliu, the Marines took Ngardololok and flushed out a large Japanese defense, but the enemy remained deeply embedded in fortified positions.

22-23 September – naval bombardment sank some of the enemy barges which headed out to Peleliu, but about 600 of the Japanese troops from the 2nd Batt/15th Regiment made it to shore.  The Marines became even more weary of the continuing battle upon hearing this news.  The situation was becoming a replay of Guadalcanal.

25 September – The US Army 321st Infantry Regiment/81st Division was brought to Peleliu to support the Marines.  The joint effort created the III Amphibious Corps.

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28 September – Marine pilots pounded the beach of Ngesebus, Peleiu for another amphibious landing.  They found no resistance until the reached the second airstrip.

In mid-September, FDR and Churchill met for their 8th was summit known as the Octagon Conference.  Most of the discussions revolved around the European Theater, but the British suddenly demanded more of a visible presence in the Pacific.  This after 3 years of insisting the PTO was America’s responsibility.  Adm. King vetoes the idea, but FDR accepted and this both embarrassed and infuriated the Chief of Naval Operations.  Ground work was also started for post-war atomic bomb production and an agreement for the weapons use against Japan if necessary.

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An eye witness account of Peleliu will be in the following post.

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Military Humor – 

Sad Sack

Sad Sack

Private Beetle

Private Beetle

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Farewell Salutes –

Anthol Bensley – Manawatu, NZ; RNZ Navy # 6389, WWII, Able Seaman

Joseph Frigenti – FL; US Army, Korean Warmediumpic634249020853470000

William Holden – Burlington, VT; US Navy, WWII, ETO, submarine service

Kenneth Irvin Sr. – Altoona, PA; US Army, WWII, 433rd Medical, Pfc

Philip Karp – Northdale, NJ; US Navy, WWII

Bob Leidenheimer Sr. – New Orleans, LA; US Army, 11th Airborne Division

Richard Manning – Norwell, MA; US Navy, WWII / US Army, Korea

Frank Puckett – Dickson, TN; US Army, WWII, ATO, Purple Heart

John Strudwick – London, ENG; RAF, 604 Squadron

William Tice – Ann Arbor, MI; US Army, 1st Infantry “The Big Red One”

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US Marine Corps Birthday ~ 10 November 1775

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What does the celebration mean to Marines across the globe?  To General John Lejeune it meant a great deal.  On 1 November 1921, he issued Marine Corps Order No. 47, Series 1921, which provided a summary of the history, mission and traditions of the Corps and directed that the order be read to every command each subsequent year on 10 November.

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To see 29 facts you may not know about Marines – check out the USO blog HERE!!!

Illustration of the first successful amphibious operation by the Continental Marines. WWII USMC combat artist, Col. Don Dickson

At the Marine Corps Ball, one key piece of the ceremony is to present the first piece of cake to the oldest Marine in the room, who in turn gives the next to the junior Marine.  This symbolic gesture is the passing of experience and knowledge from the veteran to the recruit.  We should all emulate their example and take part in history.

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To all those who are able – Enjoy the fruits of your labor and revel in the spectacle and unabashed camaraderie that is the U.S. Marine Corps!!

Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. (R) w/ Capt. Greg Youngberg, of Boynton Bch, FL; Aviator of the Year for USMC

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US Marine Corps [USMC] [Emblem][1_5]

Recruitment poster from early 1900's

Thank You

No words necessary.

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Leatherneck Humor – 01b89b817f7687eadf45c7e60e0252f8

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Farewell Salutes –

Marvin Jackson – Speedway, IN; USMC, WWII, PTO, Cpl.

Robert Juergens – Cleveland, OH; USMC, Korea120507-m-0000c-005

Harry Lord – Jacksonville, NC; USMC, GySgt. (Ret.)

Austin Maloney – Jersey City, NJ; USMC, Korea

Eugene May – Scranton, PA; USMC, WWII, PTO

John O’Leary – Flushing, NY; USMC, Korea, Purple Heart

Leon “Red” Rickman – Wichita, KS; USMC, WWII, PTO

James Sheehan – Framingham, MA; USMC, Lt.Col. (Ret.)

Sandra Shepard – Cincinnati, OH; USMC, Vietnam

Donald Shockey – Savannah, GA; USMC, Lt.Col. (Ret.)

Jerry Vovcsko – Springfield Center, NY; USMC

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June 1944 (4)

Tanapag, Saipan, June 1944. Image by Life photographer W. Eugene Smith

Tanapag, Saipan, June 1944. Image by Life photographer W. Eugene Smith

19-20 June – the second stage of the naval battle in the Philippine Sea, the Japanese fleet finally had come within range of Adm. Spruance and his carrier aircraft went airborne. [between the Spruance fleet and Mitscher’s, there were 956 aircraft]  Even as the enemy retreated, the aircraft, running low on fuel, engaged in an even larger “turkey shoot”. [differences claim conflicting numbers, but to estimate: Japan had 450 carrier planes and 300 land based – with a loss of 550-645.  The US lost 123].  The Japanese carrier IJN Hiyo sank after 2 torpedo hits and bombs damaged the Zuikaku and the Chiyoda.  Night rescues for US aircraft crews went out for the survivors.

Battle of Saipan, June 1944

Battle of Saipan, June 1944

A third wave of attacks caused more losses for the enemy and on the fourth wave Adm. Ozawa barely had over a hundred aircraft remaining.  Many of were diverted due to a false sighting over Guam and were caught on the ground as they were ordered to refuel.  The Japanese admiral dictated a letter of resignation to Adm. Toyoda, who refused to read it, instead, he took complete responsibility for the defeat.

20-30 June – a bitter dispute arose between the US Army and Marine brass when the Army’s 27th became stalled at “Death Valley” on Saipan, but the Marines were at a standstill as well.   Marine General Holland Smith, unsatisfied with the performance of the 27th Division, relieved its commander, Army Major General Ralph C. Smith. However, General Holland Smith had not inspected the terrain over which the 27th was to advance. Essentially, it was a valley surrounded by hills and cliffs under Japanese control.

Tanapag, Saipan, June '44. by W.Eugene Smith

Medic seeing to wounded while GI in background foxhole continues to fight. Tanapag, Saipan, June ’44. by W.Eugene Smith

The 27th took heavy casualties and eventually, under a plan developed by General Ralph Smith and implemented after his relief, had one battalion hold the area while two other battalions successfully flanked the Japanese.  With what remained of the Imperial Combined Fleet heading back to Okinawa, Gen. Saito issued orders for a suicidal defense.  This caused the US troops more and more resistance as they pushed north on the island.

The Marines eventually broke through and took Mount Tapotchau and the 27th entered Death Valley.  General Saito, with only about 1,200 men and 3 tanks remaining of their ground force, radioed out that Saipan could not be held.

An investigation ensued after the Saipan defeat by the Japanese General Staff’s Conduct of War Section.  Col. Sei Matsutani concluded: “…now there is no hope for Japan to reverse the unfavorable war situation.  The state of Germany today is about the same as Japan’s and grows gradually worse.  It is time for us to end the war.”  The General Staff agreed with the findings, but forbade the colonel from presenting the case to the Prime Minister Tojo.  The outspoken officer did so despite the warning and found himself transferred to China.

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Military Humor – 

Try to say something funny, Joe.

Try to say something funny, Joe.

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Farewell Salutes – 

George Anfang – Maplewood, MN; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Gettysburg Cemetery

Gettysburg Cemetery

Joseph Cooley Jr. – Waynesboro, GA; USMC, WWII, PTO

Louis Gust – Chicago, IL; US Coast Guard, WWII

Raymond Haerry – W.Warwick, RI; US Navy, WWII, USS Ranger & Arizona, Pearl Harbor survivor

Donn Fendler – Rye, NY; US Navy, WWII / US Army Special Forces, Vietnam

Steven Loy Jr. – Houston, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division, 1st Lt.

Kenneth McCurdy – Lloydminster, CAN; RC Navy, WWII

Eric Roediger (106) – W. AUS; RA Army, WWII, 2/3 Machine-Gun Batt., POW, Death Railroad survivor

Robert Ricci – Bristol, CT; US Navy, WWII, USS Baker, Franklin Bell Tolovana

Richard Sheerer – Kansas City, KS; US Army, WWII, ETO, 83rd Infantry Division

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Baker Company Portrait

So that we will remember!

First Battalion, 24th Marines

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Photo Source: Martindale Family Tree, uploaded by user “plaxamate1”

A neat souvenir photo of four Baker Company Marines, probably taken late in 1943, and a good representation of the casualties suffered by 1/24 during the war. None of these four men was in combat for more than five cumulative days, yet two were killed and the other two received crippling wounds.

Standing at left is Edward Duclos of West Springfield, Massachusetts. PFC Duclos was killed on Saipan, June 16 1944.

Beside him is Homer L. “Drummer” Hager. Hager, a bazooka man, was wounded in action on Namur, February 1 1944. He returned to the company as a bazooka team leader in a demolitions squad, but was hit a second time, also on June 16, and was permanently removed from combat.

Squatting at left is Ellis Thomas. “Wiley” Thomas, a rifleman, was promoted to corporal following the…

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June 1944 (3)

Saipan landing

Saipan landing

15-20 June – H-hour for the landing on Saipan was 0840 hours.  A protective reef, some distance offshore made it necessary to use amphibian tractors (amtracs), for the landing.  The US Army 534th and 773rd Amphibian Tractor battalions, along with the Marine amtracs (making it 350 vehicles), put 4,000 4th Marines ashore in the first 20 minutes.  The US Army 708th Armored Amphibian Battalion spearheaded the landing and blasted a path to a ridge-line running parallel to the shoreline.  Gen. Saito’s 43rd Division was not prepared for all this.

LVT's attacking Saipan, 1944

LVT’s attacking Saipan, 1944

When opposition did come it was artillery fire from Hill 500 on the slopes of Mount Tapotchau and heavy casualties resulted.  At 0300, the evening of 15-16 June, about 1,000 of the enemy came charging down the hill with 36 tanks.  Gen. Saito sent a signal to Tokyo announcing his counterattack to “annihilate the enemy in one swoop.”  But the US destroyers delivered such accurate shell fire, the assault was halted and 15 Japanese aircraft were shot down as they attempted to hit the ships.  Saito decided to await assistance from the Imperial Navy before taking on another offensive.  On the 16th, the US Army 27th Infantry Division landed.

Red Beach 2, Saipan

Red Beach 2, Saipan

Aslito airfield when it was still in Japanese hands, 1944

Aslito airfield when it was still in Japanese hands, 1944

Despite serious opposition, the US troops captured the Aslito airfield in the southern area (later called Iseley).  Adm. Spruance sailed to join up with Lee’s battleships and the returning TF-58.  As the 5th Fleet Commander, he radioed out: “OUR AIR WILL FIRST KNOCK OUT ENEMY CARRIERS… THEN WILL ATTACK ENEMY BATTLESHIPS AND CRUISERS… LEE’S BATTLE LINE WILL DESTROY ENEMY FLEET… ACTION AGAINST A RETREATING ENEMY MUST BE PUSHED BY ALL HANDS…”

Radio direction findings spotted the Japanese force 600 miles west of Guam heading straight for the patrol line of 6 US submarines.  Their orders came directing from CINCPAC: “SHOOT FIRST AND REPORT LATER.”  During the battle, the USS Albacore torpedoed the largest carrier of the Imperial Navy, the IJN Taiko.  One hit caused gas fumes to build up like a bomb.  The Taiko would continue to sail for 3½ hours, then she blew apart.  The second torpedo was spotted by Warrant Officer, Akio Komatsu, who dove his plane into it.

The submarine USS Cavalla, under Commander Herman Kessler, moved in on the IJN Shokaku and released six torpedoes – 3 of which hit.

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Adm. Ozawa believed his battle plan would be supported by 500 land-based aircraft, when in fact, Adm. Kurita had sent his planes out to dispense any diversionary attacks.  US Adm. Mitscher’s TF-58 Hellcats and Avengers hit Guam in what would be labeled by the pilots as “The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot.”

Fighter plane contrails, Great Marianas Turkey Shoot

Fighter plane contrails, Great Marianas Turkey Shoot

US aircraft had shot down 25 of the enemy force of 68 before they reached the fleet.  Those 43 that did get through were met by hellish anti-aircraft fire and only 27 escaped.

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Farewell Salutes – 

Russell ‘Buck’ Adkins – Sweetland, WV; US Army, WWII, PTO, Engineers

Anthony Baldino – Dania, FL; US Navy, WWIImm105-3

William Bolin Crow – Abilene, TX; US Army, Korea, 1st Sgt., 187th RCT

John Eresman – Fox Valley, CAN; RC Army, WWII, Prince of Wales Rangers

Nona Gabriel – St. John, KY; US Army WAC, WWII, ETO,  11th Field Hosp., nurse

James Hankins – Memphis, TN; US Navy, WWII, USS Bradford

Donnie Hendrickson – Janesville, WI; US Army, Korea, Cpl., KIA

Richard Pittman – Stockton, CA; USMC, Vietnam, MSgt. (Ret. 21 years), Medal of Honor

Victor VanFleet – Kalamazoo, MI; US Navy, WWII

Burton Wallace – Plymouth, IN; US Army, WWII, medic

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May 1944 (3)

Burma 1944, treating the wounded.

Burma 1944, treating the wounded.

16 May – Merrill’s Marauders attacked the airfield near Myitkyina in Burma.  Stilwell became angry with the British, who had moved in antiaircraft guns before the glider-borne reinforcements.  This error allowed the Japanese to move in more troops before the Americans and monsoons hindered the sir supply.

Other Japanese commands in Burma were receiving pressure from Allied forces: the enemy U-Go operation ran short on supplies; by the end of May, Japanese Gen. Sato’s 31st Division had to withdraw from Kohima due to incurring 7,000 casualties and Gen. Slim’s XXXIII Corps broke the Japanese line of reinforcements at Imphal and the U-Go force finally went into retreat.

Garrison Hill, Kohima

Garrison Hill, Kohima

The Chinese Nationalist Army, that Chiang had sent to assist in Burma, failed to make an effective ground defense.  Stilwell sent a long critique to Gen. Marshall stating that they were in danger of losing the B-29 airfields and Washington should decide to either pull-out or put in the US Army.  As he saw the situation, “… ultimately the Japs must be fought on the mainland of Asia.”

This was completely counter to Washington’s policy and Marshall replied by telling the general, in no uncertain terms, “Japan had to defeated without undertaking a major campaign against her on the mainland of Asia.”  Stilwell’s job was only to protect the bases.  The Joint Chiefs of Staff, by the end of May, had finally and realistically written off the Chinese theater.  From here on out, the CBI would only play a peripheral role in the war against Japan.

Biak Island, Japanese base, site of first tank battle.

Biak Island, Japanese base, site of first tank battle.

Further south, after a week-long bombing of Biak Island, [Indonesia, nw of New Guinea], and the successful landing of the 41st Division, a dispute arose between Japanese Commanders Nakajima and Kusaka.  Nakajima felt the next target planned by the Americans would be Saipan, but Kasaka’s argument was to defend Biak and the Americans would not be so close to the Philippines.  Other factions in Japan felt the Caroline Islands were the next target.  The hastily devised plan of Operation Kon-1 was devised.  The 2nd Amphibious Brigade troops under RAdm Naomasa Sakonju would attempt to reach Biak  The IJN cover group were spotted by submarines, Cabrilla and Bluefish and then the 2nd Brigade troops were spotted by subs, Gurnard and Ray. [On into June there would also be Operations Kon-2 and Kon-3].

The enemy’s 43rd sailed from Japan to Saipan, but after submarine hits, only 5,500 arrived and many were wounded.  Only some of the troops had any weapons or equipment being as thousands of tons of building materials, (cement, barbed wire, lumber, etc.) had been sunk.  To add to the Japanese problems, an American armada of 535 ships were on the way with the US 2nd Marine Division, the 4th Marine Division and the US Army 27th Infantry Division.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

murphys-military-law-6-1

If at first you don’t succeed – call in an air strike!

Someone had WAY too much time on their hands!

Someone had WAY too much time on their hands!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes

Perry Boden – Huntsville, AL; US Army, Vietnam, Sgt.11986973_1183822258300441_3544440820007753006_n-jpgfrom-falling-with-hale

Nathan Bruckenthal – Stonybrook, NY; US Coast Guard, Iraq, Damage Controlman, KIA

George Craft – Vienna, VA; US Navy, WWII, PTO/US Army, Korea & Vietnam, Lt.Col. (Ret.)

Mary Chapman Foster – Cuero, TX; US Army (WASP), pilot

Evelyn Gotthart – Montvale, NJ; USMC, WWII

William Jacobs – Sydney, AUS; RA Air Force, WWII, Lancaster bombers

Paul Meli – Pompano, FL; US Army, WWII, Major (Ret.), antiaircraft

Frederick Pitts – Highlands Ranch, CO; US Army, 11th Airborne Division Medical Corps, neurosurgeon

Michael Scully – Douglas, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII, Lancaster bomber tail gunner

Mayford Williams – Lenoir, TN; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Biloxi

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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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