The War Years
by Carl Matthews


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THE WAR YEARS - 23RD REGIMENT - FOURTH MARINE DIVISION
A  Brief History by Carl W. Matthews Jr.

The history of the 23rd Regiment, FOURTH Marine Division, may be traced to February 1942 when the 9th Marines, 2nd MARINE Division was formed at Camp Elliott, fourteen miles east of San Diego.  The 9th Marines developed into one of the finest regiments ever trained and twice its personal was divided to form additional regiments, the 22nd in June 1942 and the 23rd in July 1942.

Col. William B Onley gathered Marines from the 9th, the 10th Marine Artillery, and some other Marines from the 2nd Division, and left California July 12, 1942 for New River, NC.   Many of the enlisted men had served with the Marines in France during World War One, in Nicaragua, China, and aboard battleships throughout the world.

Walter Shipley from New Jersey, who had served for two years in the Merchant Marines and had joined the "Real Marines" in 1939, was one of the Corporals in the group making the move to New River.

The 23rd was "Officially" activated July 20, 1942 at New River and counted 1,183 Marines in its ranks.  Its organizational structure, developed in the following weeks, began with skeleton forces that would become the nucleus of full compliments of forces and, by August 1942, each company could boast of having fifty Marines.   Special forces soon "came aboard" and included a Tank Battalion, Amphibious Tractor Battalion, Medical and Transport groups.

Col. Louis R Jones was named the new Commanding Officer on September 3, 1942.  Col. Jones was forty-four years old and had served The Corps twenty eight years with duty in France, China, aboard battleships, as staff and training officer.  His blouse supported two Silver Star medals, a Purple Heart, and the French Croix de Guerre.  He was tough, outspoken, and filled with tactical know how.  He loved cigars and baseball.

Col. Jones selected Col.  Edward J Dillon to command the 2nd Battalion.    Col. Dillon had served twelve years as a Marine with some time spent in China.  He had visited Japan on three occasions and faced Japanese guns at Shanghi and on the Yangtze River.   Col. Dillon was a hard driving, hard fighting, pipe smoking leader who expected every man under his command to think and live and act by his example.

Junior officers, with little or no field experience, were forced into leadership roles and quickly gained experience that would serve them and The Corps well.  Non-commissioned officers with two stripes soon found themselves with three or four stripes.    Cpl. Frank Routh from Greenville, Texas and Cpl. Jack Campbell of Wisconsin,   each wore a hash mark and, though young in years, were "Old Salts" to the young recruits that soon joined their companies.

The 23rd was assigned to the THIRD Marine Division in September 1942 and began some of the most intensive combat training ever experienced in the Marine Corps.    Courthouse Bay and Onslow Beach were as familiar as the "red bugs and mosquitoes."  "Liberty Call" was sounded infrequently and permitted access to New Bern, Willmington, and Moorhead City.

January 1943 was when the 23rd moved from the "Cold" of North Carolina to the "Ice Water" of Chesapeake Bay for amphibious maneuvers.  Ten days were crammed with landings and field exercises and no liberty.  It might be noted that amphibious exercises were moved to Chesapeake Bay due to the fact that much of the East Coast was continually threatened by submarines.

The 23rd was detached from the THIRD Marine Division in February and on February 20, 1943 became the nucleus for a new group..The FOURTH Marine Division.    The 24th Regiment was activated on the West Coast in March at Camp Pendleton and assigned to the FOURTH Division.  And..in May 1943...the 23rd was divided to form another new regiment....the 25th.

Recruits from Paris Island began to arrive by the busload and by April 1943 the 23rd was back to full strength with a compliment of 260 officers, 3177 enlisted men, and 152 Navy personnel.  They were prepared for deployment to the Pacific.

Camp Pendleton, already occupied by the 24th Marines, would become the staging area for the entire FOURTH Division.  Accordingly, the 23rd began boarding trains the first week of July 1943 and moved from Camp Lejeune, NC to Camp Pendleton, California.  All units had arrived at Camp Pendleton by July 12, 1943.

Maj. General Harry Schmidt assumed command of the FOURTH Marine Division on August 18, 1943 and brought with him an array of experience and training.   A Marine for thirty years, Gen. Schmidt had served on battleships in the Pacific, in China, had graduated from the Army Command College, and had come from the position of Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps to the FOURTH.   The Division was assigned to the 5th Amphibious Corps in September.

The 23rd moved into the luxurious quarters of Area 15....wooden two story barracks....sited on the 132,000 acre Santa Margarita Ranch near Chappo Flats.    There was a Mess Hall, a theater, and a PX with a  soda fountain staffed with "pretty" girls.  The weather was.. usually..mild.  Lovely beaches were nearby.  And..San Diego and Los Angeles were not far away.  Other communities such as Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Long Beach, Riverside, Del Mar, etc. were soon "discovered."  Problem was...liberty did not come as frequently as desired.  The 23rd was to spend most of its time at places like...Las Pulgas Canyon, Windmill Canyon, Aliso Beach, and Chappo Flats.

Additional personnel came to the Fourth from the Combat Training School at Camp Elliott, located in the San Diego area.  Any Marine who could be spared from West Coast guard companies, bands, offices, storerooms, etc. were given orders for the Combat Training School and, after graduation, shipped directly to units being readied for Pacific combat duty.

Combat training intensified.  Rifle companies learned to work with artillery battalions and with tank groups.  Special teams learned to work with plastic explosives that could shatter concrete pill boxes.  Funny looking pipes...called "Bazookas"... were issued and teams were trained in their use.  Flame Throwers became another new weapon introduced and teams were trained to use them.   Day after day the Division participated in landing exercises.

The SECOND Marine Division engaged the Japanese at Tarawa on November 21, 1943 in a costly four day battle. Several officers from the FOURTH participated as observers to learn first hand the problems and difficulties to be encountered by the FOURTH in similar operations.   Lt. Col. David K Claude, one of those observers, was killed.  Another observer   was Lt. Col. Evans F Carlson who had led the "Gung Ho" Marine Raiders in the daring Makin Island Raid.

(Early Christmas Day, 1943, I was walking over to the 24th Regiment to visit with my First Grade classmate, PhM Bill Lawrence from Dawson, Texas.  The road was deserted until a 1938 Chevy coupe pulled beside me.  The voice inside asked if I wanted a lift.. and I did.  I recognized the driver as Col. Carlson.  He wished me Merry Christmas, wanted to know where I was from, etc. I was speechless!)

The observers returned to the FOURTH with some important.. and what would be... life saving... information.

Capt. Frank Snepp became commanding officer of "G" Company during the Fall of 1943 and remained with us until some point while we were training on Maui between the Marshalls & Saipan Campaigns.  He was in the hospital after having a hemorrhoid operation when we left for Saipan.  After he was released from the hospital he was assigned duty in the Palu Islands as an Air defense Commander.  Capt. Snepp, eventually, was made Colonel. He returned to civilian life, settled at Charlotte, North Carolina; became an attorney; and retired as a judge.

Capt. Snepp was replaced by Capt. Shaw.   Capt. Shaw was, according to Carl Pitstick, wounded at Saipan on D+4 and evacuated.  I assume, though I do not remember, that Lt. Coakley was responsible for leading the company through most of the Saipan Campaign.  Pitstick says that Capt. Gus Grussendorf assumed command of "G" Company at some point on Saipan and remained Company Commander through Iwo.    Capt. Grussendorf had been Company Commander of "E" or "F" Company and had been wounded and evacuated on D-day....patched up...and returned to the island.  He was reported as "Missing in Action" at one point. His company had been severely depleted and was combined with "G" Company.

Pitstick remembers that Col. Dillon was, also, wounded on D+4 on Saipan.   I remember that he was wounded in the neck and  that he had a bandage over the wound.    I seem to remember that he was serving later than D+4.

Carl W Matthews
2nd Platoon 2-G-23
POB 454
Roswell GA  30077

770 587 4350


"A KISS FOR YOUR MOTHER"

A Tribute to Claudette Colbert
1902-1996

1942 has not been a good year for America's war against the Japanese.   I had been part of the Second Marine Brigade which left San Diego, California on January 6, 1942 and arrived at Pago Pago, Samoa twenty-one days later. Pago Pago, pronounced Pango Pango, had been shelled just prior to our arrival and we were to reinforce the 14th Marine Artillery Battalion.

Living in the jungle, working from daylight until dark, spending four hours in a "listening post" at some point during the night, existing on limited rations...began to take its toll.  I was among those who came down with some unknown malady that refused to respond to all the usual treatments.   My weight was down to ninety-eight pounds when I was returned to the states on a U S Navy tanker that had stopped at Pago Pago on a voyage from Australia to California.

A new Navy Hospital had opened at the former Lake Norconian Country Club located at Corona, California and I became one of the first patients.   The Country Club staff had been retained and the hospital was everything that an enlisted man could never expect.   Breakfast eggs were prepared on order and served under gleaming silver covers.   There were white cloth napkins embossed with the County Club logo.  There was a lake for fishing...a billiards room...a golf course..and two Olympic size swimming pools.   I was surrounded by luxury, but restricted to my hospital bed which was located in
a former ball room.

Kay Francis, an aging movie star, was responsible for "patient morale" and came faithfully every Thursday afternoon with whatever movie stars she could round up.  I could hear the noise rising down the hall on my first Thursday afternoon.    I was excited with the prospects of seeing a "real live Movie Star."

And...there she was!    I would have recognized her anywhere.   She....was Claudette Colbert, one of my favorite stars.   She was soon talking to the sailor in the first bed, a Filipino boy who had lost a leg at Pearl Harbor.  My heart raced and I prayed that she would stop at my bed for just a moment.

Presently, Claudette Colbert...was...standing at my bed and reached down to hold my hand.  She was more beautiful in person than she had been in  her movies I had seen back home in Hubbard, Texas.   And yet....her voice was like that of an old friend.   She wanted to know where I had been, where I was from, about my family, and how old I was.   She commented that she knew my Mother would want to be with me and with that...Claudette Colbert reached over and kissed my forehead, saying,  "That's a kiss for your Mother."

And with that, she moved to the next bed.  She visited every bed in the ballroom and my eyes followed her every move until she stood in the doorway and blew a farewell kiss to all the Marines and Sailors.

Claudette Colbert was always "Special" after that day.   Her movies had a special meaning and I followed her career faithfully.   Reviews of her Broadway plays were read with excitement and I was saddened when she retired to her beloved Barbados home.  She died there July 30, 1996.   She was ninety-two, born two years after my Mother.    I miss her.


SKEEBOW:  A  PACIFIC JOURNEY

Dedicated to the Memory of LT. JAMES STANLEY LEARY JR.
Ahoskie, North Carolina


PRELUDE

My son was in his thirties and commented one day...."Dad, you named me after your friend, Leary, but you never told me much about him." He was right.  I had named my son Mark Leary Matthews, but I had not talked in depth to anyone about much of the time I had spent with his namesake while in service with the U.S. Marines in World War II.   The following day I sat at my typewriter intending to compose two or three pages about Mark's namesake. The following story emerged over a period of several years.

****************************************

Morning Roll Call had sounded at Camp Pendleton, California that Fall morning in l943 and the men from Company "G", 23rd Regiment, 4th Marine Division, emerged from the large green barracks that was called home.  Hard training had been the "order of the day" for too many long days, but the time would come when we would be thankful for every hour spent learning how to stay alive.  The 2nd Platoon had been without a leader for several weeks, but we had been informed that a new Platoon Commander was to be presented at Roll Call.

First Sergeant Curtis "Bull" Durham, Ashburn, Georgia, broke the silence of   the morning with a growling "COMPANY....TEN..SHON!" One by one the platoons were called for morning reports....one by one each Platoon Leader responded...."Platoon...all present or accounted for!"

Announcements and orders for the day quickly followed.  Linens were to be exchanged immediately following breakfast.  Runners were to engage in signal flag drill beginning at 0800.  Prisoners at Large were informed that a "Temporary Brig" was being prepared in the Battalion storeroom and those waiting to begin brig time could soon be accommodated.  Acquisitions for clothing and "782" gear were to be available at the company office before l600..on and on.

The Company Commander, Capt. Frank W. Snepp, Charlotte, NC,  then came forward to introduce several new officers who would be serving in various capacities in the company. Three young men moved briskly and formally from the rear and took their places beside the Company Commander.  It was very obvious that they had all but very recently completed Officers Candidates School...all 2nd Lieutenants..all with new uniforms...all with closely cropped hair...all ramrod straight.

(Note:  Capt. Frank Snepp served "G" Company from the Fall of 1943 until just before we embarked to Saipan.  He was in the hospital recuperating from a hemorrhoids operation.  Capt. Snepp was assigned to an Air Defense Group in the Palu Islands and remained there until the end of the war.  He returned to civilian life and became an attorney in Charlotte NC, later became a judge there.)

Capt. Snepp first introduced,  "Lt. James Stanley Leary, Jr..."  and one of the new officers stepped forward in the finest military manner...saluted briskly..and was "Welcomed Aboard."  The announcement was made that Lt Leary was to be assigned to the 2nd Platoon as a permanent Platoon Leader.  We had been orphans for several weeks and were glad to have someone on a permanent basis, but our minds were filled with apprehension as we observed this new officer in the morning mist. Would he really know anything..coming to us without any experience?  Wonder where he's from?  Will he be tough to serve under?  The answers would come soon enough in the weeks that were to follow.

And...we began to live "by the book."  Lt. Leary was determined to impose on the 2nd Platoon every rule and regulation that the Officers Candidate School at Quantico, Virginia had ever mentioned. He was not quite twenty-three, but he tried to give the impression that he was much older....and wiser. He gave commands in the deepest voice he could produce...words clipped and crisp...a very military presence.  He was determined to do everything absolutely right...so much so that there were times when what he did was amusing..but we dared not laugh...at least not out loud. We recognized that he was really ill at ease with his new command and we were going to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Initially, he kept his distance from members of the Platoon.  After all, officers were not to fraternize with enlisted men...or so they taught at Quantico.  So...he did his thing...and we did ours.....until we began overnight field maneuvers.  We had Lt. Leary all to ourselves...away from the Company Commander...away from the other officers.  It was then that his generous and gregarious nature....bottled up for days...exploded.  He was OUR Platoon Leader...and after a few days...WE..were all his.

I had served as a "runner" for Lt Baker before he had left the company to serve at Regiment and Mr. Leary retained me in that position.  My role was not that of an orderly, but one responsible for "running" messages between the Platoon Leader and whoever...Company Commander, Battalion Commander, squad leaders, etc.  I carried semaphore flags and a small radio, pencil and paper...and was always close at hand should the Platoon Leader need me. We began to live in the field for what seemed like weeks at the time. but after a few days we knew that we had been given one of the better Platoon Leaders.   We learned that he did know many things about his work and what he didn't know he soon learned to ask...to Jack Campbell, Prairie du Chien, Wis., our Platoon Sergeant...to squad leader Bill Mihalic, Port View, PA...sometimes, he would even ask me.    He loosened quickly as we remained in position on a California hillside or bedded down in the warm sand on the beach.. .as we ate "K" rations.  Soon, he was just one of the guys in the Platoon, but he would quickly regain his military bearing when it was required...and we understood.

And he was funny.  We had the happiest Platoon in the regiment.  Life was hard, but Lt Leary made us see the funny side of even the more difficult moments.  He made sure that his men were not unfairly treated.  He solved our problems.  He listened to our complaints. Again and again..he went to bat on our behalf and we began to give him just a little a more than we would have given the average Platoon Leader.

The level of training intensified.  We slept on the ground for weeks and without benefit of a tent.  Night maneuvers sometimes came after an exhausting day. There were days and days of amphibious landings...bobbing around in the landing crafts hours on end...then rushing for the beach....letting the front of the craft down..racing through the water to the shore.

We laughed, as well, at some of the "tall tales" that Mr. Leary was constantly relating about experiences in and around Ahoskie, North Carolina, a place I had never heard of until then.  One of the stories involved a black man whose name was "Skeebow." I cannot remember the story, but I remember that from that time on, we referred to Mr. Leary as "Skeebow" when he was out of hearing distance.   Soon, the officers picked up on that name and began calling him that to his face on informal occasions.

(NOTE 1999 - Just learned that Skeeball was a famous Irish race horse, but with that Southern Piedmont Drawl Mr. Leary made it sound like "Skeebow."  The nickname was similar to "Lightning" and was, probably, given to someone who was not right swift.)

Liberty during the Fall of l943 came infrequently, but a trip to L.A. (Los Angeles) was always a welcome respite from the drudging days in the field. And "Skebow Leary" always returned with glowing reports of starlets in Hollywood...and he brought pictures to prove it.  My liberty point was Redondo Beach with my "Buddy," Richard Vernon Freeby from Quannah, Texas.  Freeby had married Charlotte, a beautiful girl who had lived at Quannah, but whose family had moved to California. Charlotte had a girlfriend who worked at a fishmarket and had the coldest hands. Weekends were great..and sometimes..we would hitch-hike up for a night and catch the "Two A M" train back to Oceanside, arriving just in time for Company "Roll Call" still wearing in our "Dress Greens."  We would sleep two or three hours on the train and "Cat Nap" during the day when we could.

My favorite place to sleep on the train was on the floor where two seats had been folded back-to-back.  I would spread newspaper on the floor, crawl into my "bed" and go right to sleep.  One morning Freeby failed to rouse me and I rode right through Oceanside.  I was in San Clemente before I was awakened by the conductor who happened to notice my presence.

Once, on maneuvers, we were debarking from the troopship on rope cargo nets and into bobbing landing crafts.  The sea was very rough and our Platoon had just been issued a bazooka, a long and unwieldy weapon that fired a type of rocket.  Somehow, no one had given thought as to just how we would lower that bazooka down the side of the ship and into the landing craft.  Timing was critical and we were faced with a problem that was to slow us down. Unfortunately, Col. Dillon was viewing the entire operation from the deck above and yelled to Mr. Leary that he was to be "in hack"..(restricted to barracks) for a week for not having had a rope to lower the bazooka.  We were upset at what Col. Dillon had done to our Platoon Leader and felt that the action was unfair.   Mr. Leary left the ship, returned to camp, and we did not see him for a week.  I was not fond of Col. Dillon after that.  Several weeks later Col.  Dillon decided to join the 2nd Platoon in a landing craft exercise.  Our Platoon was to land in a Higgins boat, a pontoon like craft with a flat bow that could be lowered when the craft hit the beach.  Higgins Boats never, ever reached the dry beach and Marines were required to jump into the water that would be twelve inches to three and four feet deep.  The Higgins Boats bobbed around until they were all in position and the signal given to head for the beach in unison.  Our boat hit a sandbar some distance from the dry sand on the beach and the ramp was lowered.   Col Dillon had positioned himself at the front to be the first out.  We had been trained to rush out of the landing craft the moment the front ramp was lowered...to stop for nothing.   Unfortunately, Col. Dillon stumbled and fell face forward in the water just as he stepped out and every time he attempted to get up a Marine would step in the middle of his back and under the water he would go again. Col. Dillon was the last one from our boat to reach the beach, his gear and clothes soaked through, his disposition thoroughly disturbed, and he couldn't say a word to criticize.  We had done what we were trained to do and he knew it.   Revenge can be a sweet experience!

One of the training exercises involved learning the technique of jumping overboard from a sinking ship.   Groups assembled at the area swimming pool and given instructions on how to jump feet first into the water with one hand protecting the crotch area, the other protecting the chin and face.  We were instructed, once in the water, to remove our trousers, tie knots in the bottom of each leg, fill the pants with air to make a flotation device.

The initial briefing complete, the troops were ordered to "Fall In"...which being interpreted mean "everybody lined up" and small groups climbed to a platform above the pool that appeared to me as high as a three story building.  I had never jumped from such heights and voiced my concerns to Freeby, my "Gold Dust" Twin.  His group went ahead of my group and, Freeby, who loved to dive from lofty heights made his plunge without incident. When he exited the pool he came over to tell me how much he enjoyed it and  I told him that since he enjoyed it so much he could have my place.  I joined his group exiting the pool area and Freeby joined mine...and plunged a second time and gave the officer my name instead of his.

One tall, red haired, fair skinned , and raw boned Corporal from North Carolina begged not to make the plunge.  His officer succeeded in getting him to climb the ladder to the platform but the corporal refused to jump.  The officer made him remain on that platform all day and his lily white skin turned to a deep red by nightfall.

Richard Freeby and I had been named the "Gold Dust Twins" by Sgt. Jack Campbell from Wisconsin.  Freeby and I were both from Texas, about the same size, had similar complexion, were always together, and..most always..in trouble.  Freeby and I had "Gone over the Hill" a couple of months before we left the states. We had requested leave from Col. Dillon and when our requests were denied, we just went on our own.  We "hitch-hiked" to San Diego and to the Marine Base where I had worked in the office at Base Headquarters.  I borrowed a key to the office and typed up furlough papers for both of us..and signed Col. Dillon's name with a flourish that would have fooled the Col. himself.  Service men attempting to cross state lines without furlough papers were usually apprehended and returned to their base.    Freeby and I had twenty-three glorious days at home in Texas.

When I arrived at Hubbard, Texas I went to the City Marshall, L. O. Bates, and, in confidence, confided that I was Absent Without Leave  (AWOL), that we were soon to go overseas, and that after staying home a few days planned to return to my post.  I had written AWOL notification letters to civilian law enforcement departments when I worked in the office at Base Headquarters at San Diego and knew that Marshall Bates would be receiving notification concerning my absence.  Marshall Bates responded that when he received such a letter he would send word to me, for me to leave town, and that he would respond that I was not in his town.    That letter was typed in the "G" Company office, but was never mailed.   Gunny Sgt. Frank Routh "accidentally" dropped it into the waste basket.

Freeby and I had a glorious time!   The weekend we went to Texas, five hundred men at Camp Pendleton went "Over the Hill."  Most were without furlough papers and were arrested by military or civil authorities and returned to camp.  The brig was full when Freeby and I returned and we were placed on a waiting list.    I never served brig time, but we were court marshaled, reduced to privates...again.. fined $l36.00, and given  sixty days EPD (Extra police duty....ie. undesirable chores)....and ....sixty days confinement.

When those "undesirable chores" arose Freeby and I wanted not be found and soon discovered that we could crawl far under the barracks to a point directly beneath the boilers...slide under the concrete...and stay warm.  We secured large pieces of cardboard to lie on, created a large stack of books and magazines to read by the faint light, and had canteens filled with water and enough "pogie bait" (candy, etc) to last for the duration.  We could hear "Mess Call" and any important announcements, but stay well away from whoever might place us on some detail...especially Sgt. Campbell.

It appeared that those waiting to serve Brig Time would never be accommodated and some idiot suggested that the Battalion Store Room be used at night to house those who needed to serve sentences.    I was not impressed with the arrangement.  More, I was nursing a bad cold that would not clear up.  One  day I reported to "Sick Bay" at  the Hospital and was seated in the waiting area when one of the Naval Physicians came over and asked, "Didn't you do duty in Samoa?"  I  responded that, indeed I had served there and that I remembered him.   He was Dr. Truett, a nephew of the Dr. Truett who served for many years at First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas  He said that he could not believe that I had not received a medical discharge.  He remembered that  I had some terrible skin eruptions that became infected and refused every treatment.  I weighed ninety-eight pounds when I was admitted to the hospital in California.

He wanted to know where I had been, what I was doing, etc.   When I told him that I was going to spend my first night in the "Battalion Brig" he decided that my condition was such that I should be admitted to the hospital.  My bad cold clear up immediately and I became the only PAL (Prisoner at large) with an open gate pass from the Hospital.  I had been at the hospital for ten days or so when Sgt. Frank Routh came over to see how sick I was and if I was in any condition to ship out with the company.    I had already heard the news about shipping out and the doctor had told me that he could keep me in the hospital until after everyone left if I so desired.   I told him I wanted to go, but didn't want to have to spend brig time.   I returned with Frank to the Company with doctors orders that I should not be exposed to the drafty "Storeroom Brig."

I did hear tales that the "Storeroom Brig" was not all bad.   One of the "prisoners" was a large red headed cook who was a gambler.     I understood that mess hall connections kept the Brig well supplied with steaks, etc. and that visitors from throughout the base came to be part of the games that, as reported, sometimes lasted all night.

It was December l943 when we climbed into trucks and headed for San Diego where the troopship, Sheridian, was waiting. We were to complete one more Division training exercise on December 14-15 at Aliso Canyon. As our Platoon climbed down cargo nets into Higgins Boats one more time, other groups were completing final training in the use of plastic explosives to be used against concrete pill boxes guarding some island in the Pacific whose name we had never heard.

Christmas 1943 at Camp Pendleton arrived with clouds and  a constant drizzle.    Most everyone was given a day or two of Christmas leave...except Freeby and me.  We were still "Prisoners at Large" and could not leave the base under any circumstance. But it was Christmas Eve...and as the day faded so did our spirits.  The barracks were dark and dismal....the day dank and drizzle.   There wasn't even a Christmas tree in the barracks.   It was almost dark when we decided that we would...again...brake the rules. We dressed in our "Greens" and headed for the highway to hitch a ride to Redonda Beach where Freeby's wife waited for him...and there was the girl from the fish market who had cold hands.

The highway looked like the "Burma Road."      Darkness had come, but the lights of cars and trucks penetrating the cold mist revealed what looked like hundreds of Marines and Sailors hoping for a ride north to Long Beach, Los Angeles, etc. When cars stopped they were filled to capacity.   Empty "Bob Tailed" trucks were loaded quickly with eager young men who would be soaked after a few miles.

One car veered to the right and I heard the scream just before I saw the young sailor flying through the air after he was struck by the car.   I had had enough.    I would never know if the girl at Redondo Beach would have warm hands at Christmas.   Freeby went on, but I returned to the barracks.   I tried to call home, but my parents were not home.    "Central" (the telephone operator in my small town who knew where everybody was at all times) could not locate them, but she wished me a Merry Christmas.

Christmas morning came with bright sunlight. There was little moving at Camp Pendleton, but I was walking the deserted paved road that led to the 24th Marine area I would find Hospital Corpsman Bill Lawrence, my friend since Mrs. Agee's First Grade class at Dawson, Texas in 1930.   A  1938 Chevrolet Coupe approached and came to a stop beside me.    The passenger door opened and the voice inside said,   "Merry Christmas....climb in Marine."   I could not believe my eyes!   He drove me to the barracks of my friend.  I was speechless all the way.   The driver was Col. Emanuel Carlson who had headed the famous Carlson's Raider Battalion on Guadalcanal.  Our George Botner of the 2nd Platoon had served under his command.   Col. Carlson had served as observer during the Battle of Tarawa to gain knowledge that would save lives when The Fourth Division went into action.   He would be slightly wounded by ground fire on Saipan while flying in one of the little "Flying Grasshopper" planes used by artillery spotters.

A few days later we were told to turn in our pillows and sheets;  roll and secure our mattress pads with shelter halves; and be prepared to load into trucks which would arrive shortly. I had already been overseas once...without a pillow..and I rolled sheets and pillow, and two bottles of CocaCola, inside my bedroll.

We were returned to the San Diego Destroyer Base, loaded our gear once again on the USS Sheridan, and, on January 13, 1944,  sailed from San Diego.  We were beginning the longest shore to shore amphibious operation in history, moving from a training base in the Unites States to a hostile beach 4,500 miles distant.

The guard roster for our first night at sea was posted and, sure enough...there were the names of Matthews and Freeby, both of who were continuing to serve EPD sentences associated with our "over the hill" escapade. I despised guard duty and informed the sergeant...new to the company..that according to the Marine Corps Blue Book, men on EPD could not serve guard duty.  He didn't believe me and took the matter up with the lst Sergeant who informed him that I was correct.

HE WAS ANGRY!!!!!!     He retaliated by making Freeby and me permanently responsible for cleaning the officers quarters on the Sheridan.  So..each morning...Freeby and I had to leave the dreary... foul smelling enlisted quarters and the enlisted man's Head that offered cold salt water showers...and make our way to the Officers Wardroom. There we would make up  beds, sweep the floors, and clean the head (Officers bathroom).   And..during the time when the "head" was locked, Freeby and I took the personal liberty of enjoying hot fresh water showers, shaving with hot water, and using the large, soft white towels reserved for officers.   We included our laundry when we took the officer's laundry to be washed, starched, and pressed.   Freeby and I had the cleanest enlisted dungarees aboard ship.   The officers complemented us on the good job we had done and took up a generous collection for us at the end of the voyage.

G-Company enlisted bunks were located deep in the bowels of the Sheridan..bunks were four high and so close that when one Marine raised his knees the man in the bunk above felt them...and the place was filled with foul smelling air.   Wendell Nightengale (Skowegan, Maine) and I decided to look for a cooler place to sleep at night and located a quiet little spot on top of the bridge.  We carted our bedrolls and shelter halves up there and were soon sound asleep.  When daylight came I looked at Nightengale and began to laugh.  His face was as black as could be.  When he was awake, he began to laugh.  My face was black...covered with some sooty substance that had been blown from the boilers during the night.  And...our clothes, shelter halves, and bedrolls were covered with the soot and they never came clean.

Someone discovered that a hatch under one of the bunks in our quarters was open and we decided to investigate. When we opened the hatch we observed a large area illuminated with a single bulb and filled with boxes and boxes of something.  That "something" proved to be gallon cans of peaches and pears...five pound tins of corned beef...and cans of evaporated milk.  It was a "Gold Mine!"  And we made use of that throughout the voyage.

I am ashamed to admit it, but I did one very terrible thing while on the Sheridan.  I had placed two bottles of Coca Cola in my bedroll.  There was no "PX" (Post Exchange, store) on the Sheridan and one day I positioned myself in the most prominent place on the ship..and proceeded to "sip" the contents of one of the bottles.   Marines were running all over the Sheridan trying to find the "PX."

We reached Hawaii on the night of January 20, 1944 and anchored near Lahaini Roads off the coast of Maui.  We could see the beautiful island in the distance, but were not permitted to go ashore.  Senior officers met for a final briefing and the following day we were on our way again,  still unaware of where we were going. We were part of a huge armada of  three hundred ships including battleships, cruisers, aircraft carriers, destroyers, oil tankers, cargo ships, troop transports, and  tank landing ships (LST).  More than fifty-three thousand assault troops were being transported.

Almost two weeks had passed since we had sailed from San Diego and our company was assembled by the Company Commander for a briefing as to our destination.  Capt. Snepp informed us that we were going to the Marshall Islands, an operation that would be the first American assault on pre-war Japanese territory.

The Marshall Islands, 2,000 miles from Pearl Harbor and near the equator, covered an area the size of Texas with tiny islands covering only sixty-nine square miles. Despite the fact that the land did not rise more than twenty feet above sea level, the area was valuable as a safe anchor for ships and for long landing strips for planes. The 23rd and 24th Marines would assault Roi-Namur, two islands that. together, covered less than two square miles.

Capt. Snepp's briefing stated that G-Company was to be in the second wave and would land on the island called Roi, all of which was covered with landing strips and aircraft hangers.  Roi was five or six feet above sea level, completely flat, with large hangers on the east side of the island.  Landing strips criss-crossed the island, using almost every square foot.  Drainage tunnels had been placed all over the island to remove water from the landing strips as quickly as possible.  Roi was connected to a neighbor island called Namur by means of a short causeway and a thin strip of beach.   Namur was covered with palm and other trees and was the site of the Japanese command post, living quarters, etc.


The 2nd Marine Division, with whom I had served on my first tour to the Pacific in 1942, had landed at the island of Tarawa in November 1943 and had captured the island at the expense of 3,000 casualties in 76 hours of fighting. The Marines of the 4th Marine Division were well aware of what had happened at Tarawa and were assured that the expensive lessons learned at Tarawa would not be repeated in the Marshall operation at Roi-Namur.  Several Fourth Division officers had, in fact, served as observers at Tarawa and one, Col. Claude, was killed.  Aerial bombardments would be alternated with the huge sixteen inch guns of U.S. battleships for several days prior to landing.   We would be taken ashore in  amphibious tractors rather than landing craft. We would be deposited on the beach rather than having to exit in water and wade as the case at Tarawa. That was...povided our amphibious tractor did not receive a direct hit while in route.

On January 29, 1994...D-minus 2...the carriers and battleships moved in close to Roi-Namur and other islands with military objectives.  Their targets were runways, hangars, gun emplacements, blockhouses, and other defenses and facilities.

Three assaults would be executed on D-Day...January 31, 1994.   A reconnaissance company was to secure the lightly defended Majuro Atoll.  The 7th Army Infantry would land at Kwajalein Island and take the small airbase there.  The 25th Marines would take several small islands near Roi-Namur which would be used for artillery emplacements to support the assault on Roi-Namur which was scheduled for D-Plus One...February 1, 1994.

The Sheridian had anchored several miles offshore the night prior to the landing and we could hear the noise of the bombs dropping and shells exploding.  We watched quietly and wondered just what it would be like the next day.  The night was short and the sound of reveille came just about the time I had fallen asleep.  We dressed in fresh new underwear and dungarees, a precaution that  would reduce possible infection should we become wounded.   Seabags were packed and locked, bedrolls secured..our packs and other gear checked and rechecked.  It was still dark when we made our way to the ship galley for broiled steaks.  I wasn't very hungry.

Presently, amphibious tractors began to come alongside the Sheridian. We secured our gear, climbed over the ships rail and down the cargo nets, and took our places in the tractor.   the Tractors moved to our rendezvous point to wait for the signal to head for the beach.  We were much closer to the island now as dawn was beginning to peer over the horizon and we watched as Navy planes continued to bomb and strafe the islands.    The roar of the big guns on the battleships could be heard far behind us and, sometimes, we could see the shells explode on  shore.

One of the amphibious battalions experienced difficulty off loading amphibious tractors originally  stored on LST decks in San Diego by large cranes.  Elevators had been installed to moved the tractors to the hole where the other tractors had been stored, but the elevators became temperamental and worked spasmodically. More, some spash guards had to be cut away with welding torches to permit the tractors to enter the elevators. The result was that members of E-Company had to make do with half the tractors required and each tractor operating had twice the intended load of Marines.

The bombing and shelling ceased and at 1110 hours the first wave, Capt. Grussendorf's E-Company on the left, Capt. Padley's F-Company on the right, headed for their assigned destinations.  The second wave, Capt. Snepp's G-Company was close behind.  Our tractor was soon in shallow waters and we could hear and feel the tracks grabbing into the wet sandbars.  Suddenly, the tractor stopped and we were on the beach.  The excitement..probably fear..had numbed my mind and I had forgotten to remove the inflatable life vest from around my waist.  The co2 cartridges were accidentally activated as I began to climb over the side...the vest inflated both rings and all but immobilized me.   Corp. Mike Mihalek (Portview, Penn) pulled his knife, punctured the vest, and we crawled over the side.  Mike and I landed on the sand and rushed from the open beach toward some shelter provided by the edge of a runway.

A Young Marine lay on the dry sand, rifle pointed in the direction of the enemy, steel helmet held fast by the strap under his chin.  His dungarees were spotless and without a wrinkle.  I looked at Mike and asked, "Is he dead?"  Mike responded, "Hell, yes, and you will be too if you don't get your ass off that open beach." That young Marine was dead and I wanted to be sick, but there was no time.

Our three squads had been landed incorrectly and my initial command,  after finding Mr. Leary, was to locate the two missing squads and bring them to our correct position.   Navy Corpsmen were treating the wounded and tagging the dead. The flyboys and navy ships had done all they could do, but there was more to be done. Somebody Japanese were still  on that island and they were shooting at us.

We grouped and began to make our way to what was left of a large aircraft hanger. The stench of the island grew worse as the sun heated the sand and concrete and bloated bodies of Japanese who still lay where they had been hit.  Maurice Maness, Salem, MO, son of a Baptist minister in Missouri, and I had worked our way to the base of one burned out hanger.  Suddenly there was an explosion nearby...mortar or grenade... whatever... Maness was wounded in the fleshy part of his lower leg, just below the knee.  I cut his dungarees open and Maness could see the thumb sized shrapnel.  It was not deeply imbedded and Maness pried it out with the point of my knife. I opened my first aid packet, poured some sulfa powder on the wound, bandaged it.  We moved on.  Maness never saw a corpsman.  He didn't receive a Purple Heart until he was wounded again on Saipan.

I had placed a Gideon New Testament wrapped in plastic in my upper breast pocket before leaving the Sheridan and carried it ashore on Roi.  A few days after the incident with Maness, I opened the Testament and the pages appeared to be stuck together.  I thought that water had gone through the plastic and ruined it.  I looked closer and observed a tiny piece of shrapnel binding the pages.  Strange...but stranger still...the last penetration through the pages was at the scripture that included "from whence cometh wars." I still have that Testament.  When I wrote home about the experience I was fearful that some would read my letter with "raised
eyebrows" so I had Phil Hamil, one of my tentmates add a note confirming what I had written.

Col. Dillon had ordered E-Company and F-Company to by-pass any heavy resistance and have G-Company to mop up those areas.  Capt. Snepp divided G-Company into assault teams and assigned Sgt. Routh to coordinate them.  We proceeded to comb every revetment, every shed, every shell hole, and every culvert.  Our most difficult task was routing the remaining Japanese from the drainage culverts that crisscrossed the island.  The Japanese had crawled into the culverts and could move quickly from one area to another, pop out at a moments notice and fire several shots, and return to the safety of the culvert.   Culverts were cleared inch by inch with regular grenades, concussion grenades, shotgun and rifle fire.

Capt. Padley had by-passed an active blockhouse with a machine gun and G-Company was ordered to silence it.  A half-track was brought up and fired several rounds of 75mm into the steel door.  A demolition squad placed "satchel" charges a each of the ports and the blockhouse was silenced.  The final G-Company task was to eliminate several Japanese soldiers who had positioned themselves behind the seawall on the North side of the island closest to Namur.

Roi was secured in eight hours, but days passed before all the Japanese snipers were purged from the concrete drainage system under the runways.  "G" Company had sustained one death and a few wounded, including Maness.  The young man killed was John J Howley, Mt. Airy, near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania..  Someone said he was married and had a baby he had not seen.

Night came and we set up our Platoon command post in a shell crater.  Japanese voices could be heard...probably swearing obscenities toward the invading Marines.  We sustained no casualties during the night but other units were not so fortunate. Mr. Leary had me take a message to the Company Command Post at some point during the early part of the night.  I have no idea what the message was, but I do remember that I was more concerned and frightened of being shot by some "trigger happy Marine" than by the Japanese.  We had a password routine the Japanese soon picked up on and many Marines were in a "Shoot first...secure password later" mentality.

The following day was spent in mop-up operations and fortunately, our sector experienced no real problems.  Fighting continued on Namur for another day or two.. .sometimes fierce.  I crossed the causeway to a secured area on Namur.  Roi had no souvenirs, but the barracks on Namur were a prime area for scavengers.  I returned with, among other things, a case of canned mandarin orange slices. I opened a can and found them to be quite tasty and buried several cans below the waterline in the bomb crater to cool them a bit.

Warren Morgan, Baileysville, West Virginia, a fine young man (later became Col. Dillon's orderly and was killed on Saipan) had traded a Japanese rifle to some sailors on an LST for some fresh bread and canned butter.  The following morning the 2nd Platoon command post had a delicious breakfast...
Hot soluble coffee
Hot "K" Ration eggs al a ham
Chilled Mandarin Orange Wedges
Fresh Bread
Drawn Butter

WHAT A FEAST!

When it appeared that the final sniper had been cleared Col. Jones had the Regimental Band come ashore and play for the Flag Raising Ceremony and chaplains held a memorial service for those who had died.  Capt. Phillips announced that eighteen Marines had been killed and sixty-eight wounded.

Roi-Namur had been the fastest and least costly major combat operation of the Pacific Campaign.   Control of The Marshall Island ended all threats to the Japanese attaching the mainland of the United States and moved the time table for an invasion of The Marianas forward by six months.

It  was difficult to believe that we had been at San Diego little more than a month before.

It was February 4, 1944, with the island completely secured, when we returned to the Sheridan.  I "pulled" guard duty almost immediately and was assigned to "sick bay" to guard one of the Japanese prisoners we had captured.  He had been wounded and was being treated by the Navy corpsmen.  He was much smaller than I, his hair was clipped short, and he smiled when I looked at him.  I thought that he was just a poor little fellow far away from home.  We learned, later, that when he was placed in the prisoner compound at Pearl Harbor that all the other prisoners began bowing to him.  He was identified as one of the high ranking officers in The Marshall Islands Japanese Command.

We were on our way to the Island of Maui in the Hawaiian group. Maui would be our home for the next several months and Maui was a beautiful sight as we made our approach to the dock at Kahului. The prospect of having some open space after experiencing the confines of the Sheridan was exciting and a welcomed relief.

We arrived at the Kahului docks on February 16, 1944.  Trucks were lined in order on the dock and we lost little climbing aboard. Soon we were breezing though the beautiful countryside toward our camp. The flowers were beautiful, coconut palms waved in the breeze, lawns were manicured to perfection, and the white homes with green roofs looked inviting.  Locals waved to us like we were conquering heroes.  It was a good feeling.

We crested a hill and below we could see our new home..Camp Maui. What a disappointment.   Tent Area "C" would be our new home!  Tents were still being erected on wooden platforms lined in military order on streets paved with red clay.   Electricity had not been installed, but "Bull" Durham informed us that "they were going to turn on the 'electrician' in a few days." ("Bull" Durham had served the Marine Corps many years,  was a six striper, but I always wondered how he ever achieved that rank.)

"Bull" Durham, also, informed us that our camp was adjacent to a large private farm that grew pineapple and that the pineapple field was "Off Limits" to all Marines.  He informed us that anyone caught on the other side of the fence would be in "Big Trouble!"  He, then, pointed to where the field was located and every head turned to see just where the "Off Limits".....and the pineable..were located.

I had never eaten fresh pineapple in all my life...until that night.  Fresh pineapple is good!  Pineapple could be obtained that first night simply by reaching through the fence and cutting the pineapple from the root with a machete.  A week later pineapple was to be found fifty or sixty yards beyond the fence.

It was barely daylight the following morning when, instead of reveille, Col. Louis R Jones, the Regimental Commander, had the Regimental Band to march through our tent area playing their loudest.  I was fast asleep, probably dreaming of the girl in Redondo Beach who worked at the fish market and had such cold hands, when the jarring sounds of "Dixie" entered our tent. 

Yes, Col. Jones, we were awake....then!  Camp Maui had a field mess, a Post Exchange that had little for sale other than Aqua Velva, and an "open to the sky" head (bathroom) built for privacy and little else.  A ten or twelve foot urinal had been fashioned from sheet metal and hung on one wall.  Another cubicle had lavatories on one wall..."Thunder Mugs" on the other..and.. beyond that...the shower, with ten or twelve spigots that emitted the coldest water this side of the North Pole.  There was no roof and the pipes were attached to the tops of the walls..exposed to the sun.  I soon discovered that on a sunny afternoon...when the showers had not been in use for a time..there was just enough sun warmed water in the exposed pipes to take a pretty good shower.  I would soap in a hurry and then luxuriate until the cold water arrived.  The warm soapy water was pure luxury.   The cold water was a shock!

There was a long line to everything.  The field mess...was a "mess" with a line often forty-five minutes long and the reward at the end of the line hardly worth the wait.  BUT...it was all we had.  We used our own mess gear...aluminum top and bottom plate, canteen cup, knife, fork, and spoon.  When we were finished with a meal there was another long line to the "Dishwasher"...several fifty-five gallon oil drums cut in half, filled with water, and heated with gasoline burners that sounded like blow torches.  After several hundred Marines had dunked their kits in the first drum the liquid began to look a lot like chicken soup, but the barrels became progressively clearer and the final wash was..usually.. clear liquid with a rolling boil.

The line to the "Dishwasher" was always long and I despised the wait.    It appeared to me that one Marine could wash two sets of Mess Gear simultaneously  and one young Marine from the 2nd Platoon agreed to"flip a coin" with me at each meal to determine who would stand in line and wash the Mess Gear.   "Heads I win, Tails you lose."   And, to keep the arrangement "fair," sometimes, "Heads you win, Tails I lose."

There was little to buy in the PX....no candy, no soda, no milkshakes...just soap, razor blades, cigarettes, and for some reason...tons of Aqua Velva.  Once I was visiting in another regiment.  One of our men..McNamara..was in a tent drinking Aqua Velva with a Marine by the name of Lee Marvin who, later, became a movie star.  They were having a real party...laughing, telling dirty stories, and drinking Aqua Velva.  They had a special technique of wiggling the bottle to extract the liquid that appeared to make them happy.  I had a bottle back in my tent that my Aunt Kitty had sent me for Christmas and I tried it when I returned to our area.  It wasn't very good.

We had parties in our tent on a regular basis.  My tentmates were Freeby, Hickman, Jacoby, Nightengale, Mihalek, Hamil, and Morgan.  We were always hungry and Morgan was our official "scrounger,"  He would leave the tent and return in a short time with all sorts of "goodies"...5# tins of dried beef, a gallon of peaches, etc.  Mr. Leary would join us from time to time, but he never questioned the source of our "refreshments."

My pillowcase had worn out and the pillow tick had become so seriously soiled I decided to wash it.  The feathers were emptied into a laundry bag or something and I decided that I should turn the ticking wrong side out and shake the remaining feathers out.   It had rained the night before and I stood outside the tent and shook the ticking vigorously.  Do you have any idea of how many little feather can remain on the fabric of ticking?  The red mud on the company street looked as if it had been sprinkled with snow.

Mr. Leary arrived shortly afterwards and inquired about what was all over the street.   I stepped outside the tent...looked the situation over and replied that it looked like feathers to me.  Mr. Leary knew that I was the only enlisted man in the Platoon...probably in the Regiment..who had a pillow, but he never mentioned anything else about it.

Bill Lawrence and I had been classmates in the First Grade in Dawson, Texas in 1930 and had been close friends all our lives. Bill was a Navy Corpsman with the 24th and we got together as often as we could.  I found him soon after we arrived at Maui and we compared notes, over several little bottles of medicinal brandy,on what had happened on Roi-Namur.  I confessed to Bill that I had been afraid.  I questioned Bill, "Were you scared?" Bill, whose unit had hit Namur and was involved in some very heavy fighting, replied, "Hell yes!  Never been so scared in my life?"   I was comforted.

Liberty came every eight days...provided we were not on maneuvers..and we usually were. I had washed my best cotton uniform to have something clean to wear..but I had no iron.   I learned that if I let the wet uniform get almost dry, laid it on the fabric of my folding cot, smoothed out the wrinkles, and laid my bedroll on top very carefully, let it stay several days..presto..a slick ironing job.  My shirt and trousers were always under my bedroll and ready at a moments notice.

First stop on a liberty day was a little restaurant in Pukahani, where for one dollar, we were served a large steak, three or four eggs, toast, jam, and coffee.  Fortified with a good breakfast we were off to Wailuku or Kahului.

There was little to do, but it was something to break the routine of camp.  Once I walked through a grocery store and purchased some root beer extract.  There were directions for making root beer, but I did not have all the ingredients required.  We did mix the extract with cool water and sugar and served it at some of our tent parties.

And..I purchased some embroidery threads and needles.  I must have been the only Marine in the 4th Division who did embroidery.   I had the most decorated khaki cap in the FourthDivision.   I placed a large Marine emblem on the left side and TEXAS was spelled in huge letters on the right side..orange trimmed in black.  Names of places I had been were stitched into the cap and on the left rear was a native girl wearing a grass skirt that moved when I shook the cap.  There were palm trees and an outline of the Pago Pago, Samoa harbor.  (I lost the cap the first night on Saipan).   Mr. Leary came to our tent one day while I was doing "my embroidery", complimented me on my handiwork, and added that he could endure that, but that I could expect to be expelled from his Platoon the first time he caught me squatting to tinkle.   The guys in the tent roared with laughter.

Training intensified and more time was spent in the field than in camp.  Once we had been away from camp for several days of hard and exhausting maneuvers when the announcement came that we were finished..except for a forced march back to camp...twenty miles. Moose Marley from La Mesa, Texas...a huge man...was just about on his last leg trying to carry his fourteen pound BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) and other gear.   Mlanded.  There was only one plane and it dropped very few bombs.  He was to return several times in the ensuing nights and we named him "Midnight
Charlie."

We were ordered to move out early the following morning and learned that our objective had been changed.  We were told that other units had caught up with us and that we were to secure the middle of the island..cutting the Japanese off from Asleto Air Base.   Other groups would secure the Air Base to permit Seabees to begin their work readying the landing strips to accommodate our planes.

Sgt Bob Cooke, a war correspondent from Chicago, had spent the night with the 2nd Platoon and Mr. Leary and I had talked with him at length.  We had moved out of our positions and were beginning to make a left turn with our line.  I was crouched near a bush on the side of the hill, looking in the direction of our new objective.  Charon Kanoa and the beach could be seen in the background on my left.  A small house was just down the hill.  Bob Cook called to me and told me he had just taken my picture.   He came over, wrote down the name of my hometown, the name of my parents, etc.   I never saw him again.   The picture appeared on the front page of the Waco (Texas) Tribune, the newspaper that served our little town of Hubbard.  My Mother told me, later that she began to receive phone calls by daylight..before she received her paper.  I still have a copy of that original print and a copy of a large slick which my Mother obtained from the Marine Corps Public Relations Department headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia.

Our new objective was to push over the hills in the center of the island in an attempt to isolate the Japanese in the area of the airfield from those in the mountains to the North.    One of our first objectives was to take some heavy gun emplacements that intelligence had detected from aerial photographs taken prior to the invasion. We expected heavy resistance as we made our way in the direction of the gun emplacements, but, much to our surprise, the resistance weakened.  The undergrowth in some places was so dense that a man could walk on top of it..never touching the ground. We were able to see the ocean as we made our way and it appeared that the guns we were to take were on high cliffs overlooking the water.  We moved cautiously, but no shots were fired at us.   Presently, we came upon the first "gun."  It was no gun at all, but an elaborate wooden imitation of a large sixteen inch gun, complete with gray paint and camouflage nets.  The Japs had pulled one on our "Intelligence," but we didn't mind at all...the joke had given us a few hours without resistance or casualties.

Other units were securing the air field to permit the Seabees to continue their work without interruption.  The information we received was that most Japanese troops had fled the area of the airstrip and the largest concentrations of Japanese troops were in the mountains ahead of us.

New orders came to regroup and form a line across the middle of the island and begin a concentrated push to the North most tip of the island.  "G" Company was positioned almost in the center and it appeared that the rugged terrain in front of us would not be simple to take from the Japanese. We dug in and rested a day  while other units were getting into position.  Small arms fire had subsided somewhat, but "Midnight Charlie" would arrive on schedule and drop bombs on his way home from the airstrip.  Fortunately, they always fell some distance from our positions.

When the other troops were in place we began the push to the North end of the island, a move which would force the Japanese toward the high cliffs located there.  The Chammoros (natives) began to appear in ones and twos or threes.  Once, a family with small children cautiously approached our position..hesitated..I thought they would run back, but they were hungry and thirsty.  We motioned for them to come to us...and they did.  We moved them out of the line of fire..into a depression..and began sharing our rations with them. They inhaled the food as if they had not eaten in days..and probably hadn't. One of the Marines, a blond haired young man from Cumberland, Mississippi, Milton Simmons, had found a bottle of Saki Wine, and a little boy..perhaps five..very tiny...picked up the bottle and was preparing to drink when his father grabbed the bottle and gave the child his backhand. The father then proceeded to help himself to the bottle.

One company on our right flank discovered some Chammoros in a cave, and counted more than one hundred individuals as they came out.  All Chammoros were quickly taken far back of the lines and interrogated.  We were told that the Japanese soldiers were often found in these groups and that the natives were, usually, quick to expose them.

It was near noon  on June 19,  1944  and we had pushed across relatively easy terrain and taken position in a large gully that looked across what must have been a large cleared expanse of farmland. On the far side of the field there was a large grove of tall palm trees with heavy vegetation underneath.  The move into position had been very quiet and few shots were heard during the time we held that position.  We were there for some time waiting for other groups to get into position and we must have rested in the gully for more than an hour.  The distance from the gully to the palm trees was, perhaps...one hundred fifty to two hundred yards.  We received orders to move out and began making our way across the open field.

We were, probably, two-thirds across the field...everything peaceful...no opposition whatsoever....when we began to receive the heaviest fire we had ever experienced. Rifle and machine gun fire raked the area.  Men fell right and left.  Those of us who could raced for the shelter and safety of the gully.  Wendell Nightengale (Skowhegan, Maine) a BAR man and tentmate was one of those hit and was trying to get up and make it to the gulley.  We had become as close as family during the months we had been together and we were all alarmed to see Nightengale exposed to the murderous fire that continued.

Before I could think of what to do, Richard Freeby (my Gold Dust Twin from Quannah, Texas) had dropped his rifle...and was racing against the hail of bullets and had reached Nightgengale's side.  He began pulling him toward the gully when additional shots hit Nightengale.  Nightengale was dead and we watched in horror as Freeby dropped Nightengale and began to race back to the gulley.  Freeby was not hit, but his pack was riddled with holes. He cried. That was the greatest act of bravery I had ever seen or ever hope to see. He had risked his own life in an attempt to save the life of his friend.   And he cried when he realized he had failed.  Mr. Leary told me that he would write up a recommendation that Freeby be given the Silver Star for such heroism. Mr. Leary never wrote that recommendation... there wasn't time. Battalion learned of what Freeby had done, interviewed him, and Freeby, later, received the Silver Star for Valor.  Freeby was seriously wounded on Iwo Jima, but survived and returned home to Childress, Texas and raised a family.

William J (Smitty) Smith, Uncasville, Connecticut was there.   He had served with the First Platoon for three years with Ghodonius, Martin, Seth, Losek, Clark, Cardoza , Kilkelly, and Gleason.   Brugger the Squad Leader and Burnowski the Platoon Guide were both killed soon after landing at Saipan.   Smitty wrote:

Jap machine guns opened on us at at Hill 500.  Lt. Hall was wounded.  Robert Hall and Minnebach were killed there.  It was there that Smitty killed his first Jap in a one on one experience.

Tommy Gleason was hit in the legs by grenade fragments.  Medics patched up the bad leg, but didn't notice wounds in the other.  Gangrene set up in the less wounded leg and had to be amputated.

Death had come that day to every Platoon in "G" Company and feelings were high. Mortar squads lobbed one mortar shell after another into the palm groves....tears mixing with sweat as men of the mortar squad cursed and dropped the mortar rounds into the tubes.   Artillery was summoned and soon their shells were screaming overhead and landing in the palm trees. We learned, later, that we had encountered one of the main Japanese command posts.

Gunny Sgt. Frank Routh would recall and write  in 1993.....

Capt. Shaw, our Company Commander, issued an attack order for the Platoons to jump off at three o'clock and go the remaining distance into the palm grove.  The platoon leaders crawled back to their platoons.   Bullets were flying everywhere when one of the mortar men hollered, "Capt. Shaw, what do we do now?"  Capt. Shaw responded, "Don't call me Captain or I'll call you Colonel!"

Lt. Hall had been wounded and Capt. Shaw told me to take over his platoon.  I had just informed the platoon that I  had been ordered to replace Lt. Hall when I noticed a half-trac coming up on my left flank. The half-trac turned toward the palm grove and began firing its 75mm cannon into the palm grove.    One of the half-trac crew pointed toward the top of a palm tree and another member of the crew began firing an air cooled machine gun to where he had pointed.    Two Japanese soldiers fell out of the tree.  When they fell their camouflage  was dislodged and their machine gun could be clearly seen.    Fire was then directed at all suspected palm trees.

While we were advancing someone on my right hollered....I think that it was Freeby, "Lookout, Gunny, the tree!"   I turned to my left and saw a Japanese in a crouched position.   He was almost on top of me and I used my  long thrust bayonet training.     As he relaxed two little black grenades rolled from his hands without being activated.   He was probably a member of a mortar crew.   We didn't realize it, but we were in the midst of the main defense line of the Japanese.

(Frank Routh was wounded in the leg and shoulder a few minutes later.   He was "walking wounded" on his way to Battalion Aid Station, but he and others escorted a group of Chomora natives to a compound located to the rear.     The Chamora naives had emerged from an underground  bunker located in the palm tree grove.   He was patched up by medics and returned to "G" Company within a few days.   He would be more seriously wounded at Tinian and evacuated to the mainland.)

The artillery firing stopped and we were given the signal to attack the palm grove. The remaining men of "G" Company raced over the bodies of their dead comrades who lay on the open field...swearing vengeance with every step...determined to make the Japanese pay dearly for what had happened.  Every bush that moved became the recipient of hundreds of rounds of small arms fire.  Any warm body exposed was met with a hail of bullets fired by angry Marines.  One older man...emerging from a hole in the ground...was shoved back into the hole by the force of bullets hitting his body.   Concussion grenades were tossed into the hole. It was over in a few minutes, but we had all aged a lifetime.

Casualties were frequent and the push through the rugged terrain of the mountains became more difficult.  The valleys of the mountains were dotted with little farms and farmhouses and we often came across animals that had been left behind.  One old rawboned boy from Jenners, Pennsylvania..Michael Pelesky..decided he wanted one of the chickens for supper.  There was a spirited footrace between Pelesky and the chicken, but Pelesky, finally, won. He persuaded Freeby to clean and skin the poor starved bird, made a small fire, and began to roast his supper, now spiked on the end of a green stick.   He didn't offer me any...and I was glad.

Some of the men in the mortar Platoon rounded up a black steer and yoked the animal to a two wheeled cart.  The beast moved their heavy shells, etc. for several days.

One evening we dug in near a small farmhouse.  It was dark when we arrived and I began digging a large foxhole for Mr. Leary and me while he was at the company command post.  I dug a few inches into the ground and was immediately overpowered by what my Father referred to as a "Danderfunk" odor.  The more I dug the worse the smell became.  When Mr. Leary returned he questioned me.."Count, what in the world is that smell?"  I told him I didn't know, but that I could sleep with the stink and that I surely didn't want to dig another hole in that ground.  Mr.Leary curled up and was sound asleep in a few seconds.  And..when it was my turn to sleep, I had no problem, either.

The next morning we determined that our line of foxholes included the garden area of the little farmhouse and remembered that intelligence had warned us that it was common practice on Saipan to use human fecal matter to fertilize gardens.  We were careful to stay out of gardens from then on.

One by one, men in our Platoon were killed or wounded, but some deaths affected us worse than others. Robert C. Howard, a young boy of eighteen or nineteen...from Norwich, New York,...nice looking, personable, great guy...was hit.  The sniper who shot him was quickly discovered and dispatched to join his ancestors.  We ran to where Howard lay on the ground beside another little farmhouse.  He was conscious..but everyone, including Howard, was aware of the severity of his wound.  Mr. Leary told Howie that he was going to be alright, but Howie looked up and told Mr. Leary that his wound was bad and added..."Mr. Leary, I don't want to die..I'm too young to die."  He was dead two or three minutes later.  Paige, the Navy corpsman, came up and confirmed what we already knew.  I had never seen Mr. Leary so shaken and he walked behind the farmhouse for a few moments.  I was crying, too.

It was daybreak the following morning and we had not received orders to move out when Mr. Leary said, "Count..why don't you read us something from that New Testament you carry..."  I didn't know much about scripture or where to look for special words of comfort and encouragement, but the little Testament included the book of Psalms and I had memorized the 23rd Psalm in Vacation Bible School in Dawson, Texas many years earlier.   I knew where to find that..I began to read.  The fellows nearby stopped talking and it was as we were having a service for Howie.  When I had finished nobody prayed an audible prayer, but the Lord was listening that morning from some hardened Marines engaging in silent petition.

Mr. Leary began calling me "Count" while we were on Maui.  He had picked it up from J.P. North, Old Hickory, Tennessee, a corporal in our Platoon and I don't know why North began it.  North was one of the most outstanding men in our company.  He had played football at Vanderbilt and some said he had been All American.  If that had been true, North would never have mentioned it.  I was told years later that once, when most of the officers had been killed or wounded, North was told to take command of the Battalion.  He was wounded in the foot on Iwo Jima, but returned to football after he left the Marines, coached at Kentucky, and served as head coach for the New Orleans Saints. I once saw him briefly at his home in Atlanta, Georgia when he was backfield coach for the Falcons.

The mountains were filled with small caves, crevices, little ravines, and all sorts of places for the enemy to hide. We began using flame throwers in places where we knew the Japanese might be, but couldn't see then.  I always felt bad when the Japanese would run out of their holes..almost naked, but with fuel and fire from the flame throwers covering their bodies,  screaming and dying.  But..if we gave them half a chance..we would have been the ones dying.

That was near the time when the "G" Company Clown, Tony Ciangi from Chicago, had his humorous "wounding" that could have been fatal.  Ciangi, for some reason, had been carrying a grenade in his back pants pocket.  When he attempted to extract the grenade he, somehow, pulled the pin and activated the grenade and it exploded. Fortunately, Ciangi was not seriously hurt and Benard "Nod" Day, also from Chicago, another of the company comedians, made a big joke about "Ciangi, blowing his ass off!"

It was, as well, near the time when my tentmates, Milford Jacoby, Hartford, Illinois, a BAR man, and his assistant, Raymond Hickman, Phoenix, Arizona, were both wounded.    Jacoby was hit first and just as the Japanese soldier fired at Jacoby, Hickman saw the Jap and shot him.  When Hickman ran to Jacoby, Hickman was hit by still another Japanese.  They would recover and would, later, fight again on Iwo..

We had used mortars very effectively, and at times, were assisted by  artillery located far behind us.  Now, we had a new weapon, ...rockets mounted on the rear of a jeep like vehicle.  We were experiencing some severe resistance one day when one of the rocket units pulled up. I had never been close when one was fired and I watched with interest as they checked the grids on the map to pin point the exact spot where the enemy was concentrated. Once the rockets were positioned...WHOOOOSH...twenty or thirty rockets shot out of the tubes and into the air.  We could hear the explosions moments later.   Another group captured a Japanese officer who spoke some English.  He said that he would have killed himself rather than be captured except for the fact that he wanted to see that "Automatic Artillery."

Once, in the mountains, we had secured an area that formed a large cup ringed by the tops of the mountains.  It was a beautiful valley...large enough to serve a single farm family.  There was very little activity and Mr. Leary had sent me to the opposite side of the valley for some purpose.  There was a small house built close to the base of the far hill.   I had met two other Marines there and we peaked carefully into the house.  We had heard moans and faint cries coming from within and entered cautiously.  Inside, a small woman lay on the floor..badly wounded with several large shrapnel cuts.  We checked out the house and determined that she was alone.  I gave her some water from my canteen and she seemed to express her appreciation with a faint smile.  I told the other Marines that I would have a corpsman look at her as quickly as I returned to the command post.

I was, perhaps, three to four hundred yards from our position.. across open fields..and across a small bridge over a little brook.  I made my way from the house and walked toward the brook, ever conscious to be alert to my surroundings.  Just as I reached the bridge I looked into the brook below...we had learned to check out every possible place where the Japanese could hide.  There was a bare foot sticking out from under a pile of heavy brush and leaves.  I looked around...no other Marines were nearby.   I had no idea if the body attached to the exposed foot was alive or dead, but I called in a loud voice.."O AH EE DAY TAY...." or what ever was written on the little card. The foot didn't move.   I thought, perhaps, that the person was dead, but decided to fire several close shots at him from my rifle..and if he weren't dead...I might get his attention. Bang..bang...bang.  The foot still did not move.   Determined...I picked up a large rock...perhaps twenty-five pounds and dropped it where I though the body's stomach would be located. PAYDIRT!  The man yelled and I fired twice more and repeated my command.

The little man...perhaps not five feet..rose from the leaves and brush with his hands held high...talking as fast as he could, ..bowing with every step.   He...may..have been more frightened than I, but I doubt it.   I motioned for him to come up the bank..which he did..and I walked him over to our position.  Someone took him to Battalion.  He was, probably, Chommora, and in all probably..the husband of the woman I had found in the farmhouse.

Mr. Leary sent two corpsmen to the farmhouse to attend to the woman who was wounded.   I never heard anything further regarding the matter.

Nights were always frightening...especially frightening....because of several Bonsai attacks, but they were becoming less frequent as we moved through the mountains.   However, there was always the possibility of such an attack at any moment.   Consequently, we rarely if ever, moved at night.  We always attempted to be in position by nightfall..foxholes dug..and a knowledge of where everyone else in the Platoon was located.  It was amazing just how fast a foxhole could be dug with our little shovels.  I developed the proficiency of a salamander...taking care, of course, not to dig in farmhouse garden plots.

One of the defenses employed at night when attacks were most probable was light flares fired by artillery and by mortar.  Many times we were so close to the enemy we would hear their conversations.  At times, the enemy would attempt to infiltrate our positions and if they were in an exposed position when the phosphorus flare ignited..the enemy could be seen as if he were in broad daylight.  The flares floated slowly to earth..suspended by silk parachutes.  We could see the enemy scrambling for cover and most times had them in our sights for a shot or two before they would disappear.   "Midnight Charlie" stopped his nightly raids..probably encountered one of our Navy or Marine flyboys one night while in route home.

Nights sometimes brought rain in from off the ocean and we would be drenched to the skin despite attempts to remain dry under our ponchos. After the drenching rains the winds would begin to blow and there were times I thought I would freeze to death before the sun would come up. One night I was on  watch...wet, ..cold, ..shivering, when the Mississippi Marine..Simmons..brought over a bottle of Japanese bourbon he had confiscated and told me to take a drink to warm me up.  I did...it didn't.

Almost fifteen days had passed since we landed on the beach at Charan Kanoa. The clean dungarees we had put on prior to leaving the LST bore the filth of two weeks of living in mud and absorbing the sweat of our bodies..not to mention sleeping in holes dug in farmhouse gardens.  We changed socks regularly...washing them wherever possible and drying them on the run.  We had no changes of dungarees.  Most of us had already begun to lose weight and we were all bone tired..sleepy...exhausted..but there was no place to stop.  Good news came one day.  The U.S. Army was coming to relieve us. HALLELUJAH!

We held our positions and here they came.  Uniforms clean and stiff.  They had blankets, an extra pair of shoes, extra dungarees, packs and packs of "K" Rations.  So different from the Marines.  Most Marines had nothing but a poncho and some extra socks. I always carried my pack for that extra canteen of water, extra rations, ammo...and there were times when those extras came in handy.

When the army men were in place Mr. Leary shouted, "Let's go, boys!"

Tired as we were...we were more than ready to walk the several miles back to the beach.   Our route took us by a large Army food dump guarded by a lone sentry.  We had existed on K-Rations and C-Rations for two weeks and here were stacks and stacks of "Ten in One" Rations...something we had heard about, but never seen before. We inquired of the sentry concerning the possibility of our having some of those much sought after rations and were informed that these were Army rations and not available to Marines.

We continued our march to the beach, but as we left the Army Food Dump, Mr. Leary said, "Boys, that sentry doesn't know it, but the 2nd Platoon is going
to...EAT..TONIGHT!"

Soon we were in the salt water at the beach..like a bunch of naked boys at the "swimmin hole." Oh, that water felt good.  We beat our dungarees against the waves to dislodge some of the dirt and grime that had accumulated in two weeks.   We rested on the warm sand for a time...dressed in our wet dungarees...picked up our gear..and began our way into the foothills to bed down for the night.

We retraced our steps in the direction of the Army Food Dump and, along the way, Mr. Leary instructed each of us to pick up a box of the "forbidden fruit" called "Ten-in-One Rations" as we walked passed.  Mr. Leary was the first to pick up a box and immediately the young sentry challenged him...telling him that we could not take the rations.  Mr. Leary was walking away as the final man picked up another box.   Mr. Leary yelled back at the unbelieving sentry....."And just who the hell do you think is going to stop us?"  The young sentry stood dumfounded...rifle at the ready..and watched as we went on our way. We were far enough behind the lines that we could build a small fire and..oh...what a meal we had that night.  There were tins of cheese..good cheese.  There were biscuit like crackers that were delicious.   There were canned beef patties in gravy, candy, cigarettes and grape jelly..bacon...scrambled eggs in small cans, ....really good soluble coffee...and toilet paper. WOW!

Most of all...we were in a guarded perimeter and we could sleep all night without interruption...and on the smooth ground...not in a cramped fox hole...in a stinky garden.   We were told that we could remain there for three days rest.  I slept that night like a baby.  We were cooking bacon for breakfast the next morning when the word came that we were to prepare to move out...immediately.  Why?  The Japanese had broken through the positions we had left with the Army and we were needed to plug the gap that had been created in the line.

We were ready to move out in a few minutes and pushed hard to return to the positions we had left the day before, but when we arrived everything appeared to be relatively quiet.   The Army had not taken any new ground, but appeared to be in the exact positions we had left.  One Army machine gun team had set up on a high point where I had been the morning before and they were firing their weapons like crazy.  I stood there for several minutes watching.  I wondered what their target was.  I could not see anything in the direction of their firing.  I asked one of the Army men what they were firing at....he replied, "I don't know."  I questioned him as to why they were firing if they didn't know what they were firing at..he replied that an officer had told them to set up at that point and begin firing.  Stupid waste of ammo.   Marines would never have wasted ammo like that.  We had experienced times when our ammo had run critically low and it was a frightening experience.  That was the reason I carried two or three extra clips for my carbine.

The Army packed up their shoes, blankets, ponchos, extra dungarees and all the other gear they carried...and left.  We never saw them again.  We never left the line again, either.

We had never really been faced with Japanese tanks.  We had seen several along the way that had been incapacitated for whatever reason.  Late one afternoon we were receiving some extra heavy fire from a farmhouse area and someone thought they had discovered a tank covered with trash and litter.  We called up one of the bazooka squads to fire on the vehicle.  One man held the bazooka in position and another inserted the rocket like projectile in the rear of the weapon.  While the two men were getting into position the little blond haired boy holding the unit was hit with a sniper bullet..a "dum-dum."  He was hit in the stomach and there was a small hole where the bullet had entered, but there was a grapefruit sized hole in his back where the projectile had exited. I knew that  he would surely die.  (I saw him in February l945 at the PX in Quantico, VA and I thought he was a ghost.  He laughed and said he was glad to disappoint me, but that he was very much alive.)  The vehicle we thought was a tank turned out to be an old truck that some farmer had attempted to hide.

Patrols beyond the front lines were always times of apprehension and concern and we learned quickly to rely on each other completely. Once, several men from our platoon...led by Mr. Leary, ...were moving along a dry creek bed.  The banks of the small creek bed were sometimes eight to nine feet high and we made our way cautiously...ever on the lookout for the enemy.  Mr. Leary and I were on the point (in the lead) and the balance of the members of the patrol followed single file.    All had been quiet since we had left our position, but the quietness was suddenly interrupted by the sound of automatic weapons firing at the rear of our group. We had, unknowingly, passed a small cave in the side of the creek bed...completely unseen, but it harbored several Japanese.  When we had passed they came out and prepared to open fire on us.   Fortunately for us, a young man from Garrisonville, Missouri whose name was Lawrence D VanZant had lagged behind...saw the Japanese as they emerged from the cave and opened fire with the BAR (Browing Automatic Rifle) which he carried.  He fired one clip into the Japanese who had emerged from the cave...a second one into the cave itself.

VanZant had saved the lives of several, perhaps all,  men on that patrol by his quick action.  Mr. Leary praised him and told me that he was going to recommend VanZant for a commendation.  Mr. Leary never lived to write up that recommendation.  VanZant was killed on Iwo Jima.

It was near that same time period when we came upon a Chamoro who indicated that some others of his group were hiding in a nearby cave but were afraid to come out.  The cave was located down a very steep slope in the mountains and, as always, we suspected a trap of some type.  We surrounded the cave from above and on each side and watched as the man who had come to us went to the mouth of the cave and called to his friends inside.   One by one they came out, tired...hungry..frightened.

One lady was carrying two small children up therest or grab a bite to eat.  I was sitting with my back against a tree when the first rounds of anti-personnel shells began to explode.  I heard a..."whoosh" and a thump and there at my side was a large piece of shell about six inches in length.  I reached over to pick it up and quickly dropped it..it was still hot from the explosion.

The Quartermaster group had three men killed by a single artillery shell the day we hit the beach, but Carl Pitstick (Xenia, Ohio) was constantly racing his jeep from the supply dumps on the beach to our positions.  Ammo and water were always priority, but there were times when our positions were not to be reached by jeep and getting any supplies to us was almost an impossible task.  Once, we had no food rations for a day or two and I remembered a can of what appeared to be Japanese food I had picked up somewhere along the way.  It was a plain "tin" can with Japanese printing...and I couldn't read Japanese.  I cut the can open with the hunting knife Mother had sent just before we left the States and the contents appeared to be roast beef and gravy.  I was as hungry as could be and the fellows in the Platoon admonished me not to eat the contents.."It might be a booby trap." I looked at that roast beef and gravy and told the fellows that as hungry as I was...I could not think of a better way to die.   I heated the contents of the can in my canteen cup.  It was delicious.

We continued to move through the rugged terrain of the mountains and now we were near the ridge that ran from one end of the island to the other.  Our Platoon was on the right flank of the 23rd Regiment and the 25th was supposed to maintain contact with us to prevent enemy infiltration through the lines.  One day, in extremely difficult terrain, the points between the two regiments widened until we were, perhaps, two to three hundred yards apart.  Word came to close the existing gap, but we did not have sufficient manpower.  We were stretched as thinly as we could have been.  Our company strength was probably half of what it had been when we hit the beach.

Mr. Leary told me to send a message to the 25th.  The radio which I had brought ashore...and which had performed so well on maneuvers, refused to
work when overpowered by the giant transmitters on battleships, etc.  I had thrown it on the supply jeep days before. I did have my semaphore flags and Mr. Leary suggested that I use them.  I responded that signal flags would probably draw fire, but he said that we had no alternative.  I unrolled the flags and placed my binoculars where I could reach them....stood up from my cover and began to "wig-wag." (The signal that we wanted to send a message.)    There was about one wig and one wag before the Japanese began firing...showering us with rifle and machine gun fire.  I was on the ground before the first bullet arrived...pausing on my way down to throw those flags as far away as I could.  Mr. Leary didn't say a word about the flags.

We still needed to make contact with the 25th and that was a problem.  Mr. Leary decided that I would have to go.. personally, and convey the message to the 25th...inform them of our position and lack of strength.  Mr. Leary had me repeat the message to make sure I knew what to say.  He assigned several men to go with me including Herman "Spider" Vaglia (Pennsylvania) and three men from a Pioneer group who had been assigned to us to replace men who had been killed or wounded.

Spider, the three Pioneer men, and I chose a route down a ravine that offered some protection and led in the direction of the 25th.  I was really frightened.  The ravine ended much too quickly and we were faced with having to cover several yards of exposed area that offered no protection at any point.  Spider raced across the area...then one of the Pioneers. Neither drew fire.  It was my turn.  Spider and the Pioneer must have alerted the Japanese and they began firing when I reached the exposed area.  Bullets were kicking up dust at my feet, but my feet were moving too fast to be hit.   Suddenly, I became aware that I had run into some Japanese communication wire.  It had, somehow, looped around the hunting knife handle protruding from the leather sheath which I had secured to the top of my leggings.  I dared not stop and felt the knife as it was pulled from the sheath and saw it fly through the air. The two other men came through without being wounded.

When we reached the Colonel of the 25th my adrenaline was squirting by the gallon....I was breathless...and probably shaking like a leaf.  I will never forget the gentleness of that Colonel.  He said, "Son, just sit down here for a minute before you tell me why you are here."  He handed me his canteen and I took a sip of water...then gave him the message.  We led a reserve company back to our positions by another route.  Spider Vaglia was killed in action at Iwo Jima.

Most Marines were constantly on the alert for souvenirs...swords, bayonets, watches, etc. One of the Corporals, Walter Shipley, from New Jersey, had found a heavy microscope that he lugged around. Some of the Marines had found beautiful Japanese swords, hard to find items.  Japanese flags, bayonets, helmets, etc were easier to secure.     I had found several items in a leather pouch carried by a Japanese officer.  One item was a small object that fit into the palm of my hand and had a handle similar to those found on our grenades.  I had never seen anything like it and when I examined it...carefully...I noticed that it appeared to have had a small magnifying glass on one end..and there appeared to be a bulb beyond that.  I determined that my find was a flashlight.  I unlocked the lever and it raised itself with a spring.   When I pushed the lever down...carefully...I heard something inside spin.   There was a generator inside.  When the lever was activated the bulb behind the magnifying glass began to glow and produced sufficient light to read a map at night.

Late that evening, Carl Pitstick brought some mail and I made use of my new found flashlight.  I was in my foxhole...covered with my poncho to shield the light from the enemy and read letters from home and the Hubbard City News and the Dawson Herald.

A few days later Mr. Leary and I were at Battalion.  I wanted to show Col. Dillon my new flashlight.  When I unlocked the handle and it flipped up...just like a hand grenade...Col. Dillon must have jumped ten feet.  That must have been my finest hour...."Sweet  Revenge" for Col. Dillon placing Mr. Leary "in hack."

(Note:  Col. Dillon had been wounded in the neck by a piece of shrapnel and the bloodied bandage was held tight against his neck. He had refused to be evacuated and was continuing to give orders right and left.  Someone reported that one of the company   officers was fond of using the radio...which, by the way, never worked very well. The officer was, also, fond of saying, "Do you read me loud and clear?"     Col. Dillon lived with a "short fuse" and one day   responded to the officer,  "Yes, I hear you too damn loud, too damn clear, and too dammed often!"

We continued to push the Japanese farther and farther to the Northeastern end of the island...the farther they were pushed, the more resistance they gave.  It was almost dark when we took our positions on the back side of a long ridge.  We had experienced a series of bad days...more men had been killed or wounded and the few replacements sent could not produce like the men who had trained together...who were hardened by experience..who had been part of a team that had developed close personal ties.  We had been on the island for three weeks and were becoming drained physically and emotionally.

Small willow trees grew along the top of the ridge and the Japanese kept raking the trees with machine gun fire throughout the night.  When morning began to appear the leaves covered the ground like snowfall.  Throughout the night we could hear the Japanese talking on the opposite side of the ridge...we could hear the racing motors of vehicles.   We were well aware of the fact that a concentration of Japanese forces were only a few yards in front of us.  That night was one of our darkest hours.

Mr.Leary had me contact all squad leaders for a meeting.  I found all squad leaders with the exception of a tall rawboned Corporal from North Carolina whose name was Billings.  I reported to Mr. Leary and he instructed me to find Billings and get him there.  I returned to his squad area and someone reported they had seen had seen him going down the ridge...a steep slope that led to a small brook.  I made my way in the direction indicated and caught a glimpse of a faint glow of a cigarette a short distance away.  Billings was squatting under a small bush and I informed him that he had been summoned for a meeting with Mr. Leary.  Billings responded, "Matthews...I can't go back up there.  I'm scared that we are all going to die...I just can't go back up there."  I attempted to reason with him...telling him that I was just as frightened as he was.  I stressed that he was a leader and that he had a duty.   Nothing would move him.

I climbed back up the slope and reported what had happened to Mr. Leary.  He had met with and given instructions to the other squad leaders and they had returned to their positions.  Mr. Leary told me to lead him to where I had found Billings.  When we found Billings he was still smoking and shaking.  He repeated to Mr. Leary what he had told me...got on his knees and begged Mr. Leary not make him go back up on the line.   Finally, Mr. Leary pointed his carbine at Billings and said, "Billings, you are either going to go back on the ridge where you..may..die, but if you don't..you sure as hell are going to die right here and now."  I don't know if Mr. Leary would have carried through with that threat, but it was enough for Billings.  He returned with us and to his squad.

Later that night, when Mr. Leary and I were alone, I told him that I didn't know if we would come through the next few hours alive, but that I wanted him to know that I had come to appreciate him more than any man I had ever known. He expressed similar words of appreciation for me and we shook hands.   A few days later he was laughing as we remembered that night.  "The Count sure thought the jig was up back there on that ridge...and to tell you the truth...I wasn't too optimistic myself."

It seemed that daylight took an eternity to arrive that night.  There was something about the sun coming up that provided hope, ...and the sun was always welcomed.   Artillery had sent Lt. Buck Finney to direct fire when daylight came and he had crawled up the ridge to our area.  He had arrived a few minutes before the barrage was to begin and we took advantage of the break to build a small fire and prepare some soluble coffee in our canteen cups.  Lt Finney was on my right..on his stomach..talking on a field telephone.  Mr. Leary was sitting on my left and we had a five gallon can of water sitting between us.  We were barely under the protection of the ridge...just out of range from Japanese small arms fire.  We dared not get our heads above the line of fire for the Japanese were continuing to rake the area with rifle and machine gun fire.

Lt.Finney, the spotter, crawled up a few feet where he could peek over the ridge to direct the artillery fire and spot the initial rounds. The first shots were always well in front of our lines and subsequent rounds were brought closer as the spotter directed.

The initial rounds "whooshed" overhead and we heard the explosion. The spotter brought the next round back a few yards, but still not close enough to the concentration of Japanese a few scant yards in front of us.  The spotter called for another round and brought it back still closer.   We did not hear the "whoosh" of that round.  We felt the explosion...just a few yards away...ourselves.     The round that almost cleared the crest of the ridge, but, instead, had landed in the middle of our position.   My ears rang, I was dazed. My entire body felt as if a giant firecracker had exploded and slammed against me. I noticed a large tear on the left side of Mr. Leary's dungaree jacket.  He was unaware that the shrapnel had not only ripped his jacket, but grazed his side, leaving a small wound. The five gallon water can that had sat between us had a shrapnel hole the size of a golf ball.

The artillery spotter had not moved, his dungaree jacket in shreds, the flesh of his back slashed open and bleeding, but he continued to direct artillery fire.  Soon artillery shells were, again, screaming overhead and the Japanese felt the full impact of the barrage.  The area on the far side of the ridge was covered with exploding shells and the Japanese forces were routed or killed within minutes.

Several Marines had been wounded by the shell that fell short.  One young Marine, lay near the crest of the ridge on the left flank.  He didn't move and never would.   A small shrapnel had gone through his helmet and into his head.  He had died instantly.

Events of the following days are hazy and I must have blacked out from time to time despite the fact that I continued to function.  Later that day, possible the following day, we were high on the mountain road that was bordered by a stone wall.   Beyond the stone wall was an open field, quite level, and beyond that a steep cliff with, possibly, a sixty or seventy degree slope.  The slope was covered with heavy vegetation and looked over a large plain that went to the ocean shore.

We rested at the stone wall for several minutes and began moving across the open field to the edge of the cliff.  There was no resistance.   We began to make our way down the steep slope.   We were almost a third of the way down when the order came to hold up to permit other units with more difficult terrain to reach their place on the line.   Mr. Leary and I sat on a small mound of earth that was level, looked at the ocean, and at the open plain north and south.

Six or seven  hundred yards to the north I spotted several Japanese soldiers walking into the open from a stand of heavy trees..  I watched them through my binoculars and realized that they were officers in full dress uniforms, complete with swords.  They were, apparently, discussing the situation and looking in our direction. I pointed them out to Mr. Leary.  Our small arms could not reach the distance involved and Mr. Leary was considering calling for artillery to shell the area.

No shots had been fired for, perhaps, thirty or forty minutes and Mr. Leary and I had commented that it appeared that the Japanese were near the end of their fight.  Word was passed that we were to move out and as Mr. Leary and I stood up a burst of machine gun fire erupted and I instinctively fell to the ground.  Somehow, I knew that Mr. Leary had been hit...and bad.   J P North was just above us and I heard him call for a corpsman.   I remember telling North that it was too late for a corpsman.    Mr. Leary was dead.

MUSTER ROLL OF OFFICERS AND ENLISTED MEN OF THE U.S. MARINE CORPS
2nd Bn, 23rd Mar,m 4th MarDiv, FMF, c/o FPO, San Francisco, Calif.
From   1 July.....to.....31 July......1944   INCLUSIVE

SECOND LIEUTENANT
Leary, James S. Jr 020110 1542. Co"G", 1-5CoO and See Footnote "A":
6. KIA (exact time and details of death unknown)
GO20 does not apply;
(disposition of remains unknown

My light went out and did not come on until eight days later when I was aboard the USS Samaritan, a Navy hospital ship.

The battle for Saipan ended the followng day.  We had forced the surviving Japanese and some natives to the high cliffs at the northernmost point of the island.   Newspapers and newsreels recorded the tragedy that unfolded there when hundreds of Japanese soldiers and many civilians jumped to their death.  They preferred death to surrender.

The days on the Samaritan are not clear in my memory.  I recall waking up in a comfortable bunk with crisp white sheets and a pillow under my head.  A nurse was smiling, gave me some medication, some water...and I went back to sleep.  Later, I recall sitting on deck with another wounded Marine and he was talking about how I locked myself in the shower when I first came aboard and that the nurses and corpsmen were attempting to persuade me to come out.   The dungarees and other clothes I had worn for twenty-five days had been placed in a paper bag when I came aboard the Samaritan without having been washed.  When I opened the bag several days later I could understand why I remained in the shower so long.

I recall that some of the sailors were lifting weights on the steel deck above the ward room.  One of the heavy weights was dropped on the steel deck and the explosive like sound so unnerved me that I began to tremble and to vomit.

Hospitals at Pearl Harbor and Guadalcanal had been filled to capacity and the Samaritan was directed to Noumea, New Caledonia, a French possession located east of Queensland, Australia. The US Navy had established a Mobile Hospital there and some of the earlier casualties from Saipan were already there.

We were transported from the dock to the hospital along a beach road bordered with palm trees.  A nurse at the hospital was registering my name, rank, serial number, etc. for my admission when a voice from a bed across the aisle spoke, "Matthews, is that you?"  The voice came from someone whose head and eyes were covered with bandages and I did not recognize the voice.  It was Winfred Moore, a Medical Corpsman from Dandridge, Tennessee, who served in the 24th with my friend Bill Lawrence.  A bullet had penetrated his helmet and entered his head between and above his eyes.  He was permanently blind..but he was alive.  Moore was laughing and joking and was the spark of the ward, telling everyone that he, not yet twenty-one, had just retired.

Moore returned home, married his high school sweetheart, had a daughter, raised miniature horses and prize winning chickens, and was active in politics until his death in 1990.

Corp.Wilber Almas, a member of  "G" Company had been wounded on Saipan and was at the New Caledonia hospital.   He had been there for several days and was returned to duty shortly after I arrived.

The following day I was examined by one of the physicians who determined that my left ear remained infected and the treatment was continued.  I remained an emotional wreck and I was disturbed by the fact that I could not remember all of the events of several days.    The physician explained that the concussion blast from the exploding shell had not only ruptured the left eardrum, but had, probably, ruptured blood vessels in my head.  The condition was similar to having had a small stroke.  The small ruptures in the blood vessels  had slowly seeped blood around the brain cells and blocked memory from time to time until it became completely blocked for several days.   He explained that nature had a way of healing small ruptures to the blood vessels and that such healing had, in all likelihood, already happened.   The memory blocks did not reoccur, but my deteriorated emotional state continued for months and months.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, in the little town of Ahoskie, North Carolina, one of the two most feared letters from the U S Government had arrived at the Leary home and stated that the U S Marine Corps "regretted to inform that 2nd Lt. James Stanley Leary, Jr., 2-G-23 Fourth Marine Division..had been declared Missing in Action while engaged against the enemy on the Island of Saipan, Marianas, in the Pacific."

The new spread quickly through the little town and concern for one of Ahoskie's finest young men was uppermost in the minds of all citizens, white and black.   The Leary Family was devastated and Daddy Leary suggested that the family go to the cottage at Holden Beach which was owned by Mother Leary's sister, Mabel Davis and her family.   Several days were to pass before Sam Vaughn, an Ahoskie neighbor boy who was with the Army on Saipan, called his parents and informed them that he had learned from reliable sources that Stanley Leary Jr. had been killed.   The Vaughns drove to Windsor, North Carolina and to the home of Bettie Sue Sewell, another sister of Momma Leary, and relayed the information from their son.  It was Aunt Betty Sue who drove to Holden Beach with the sad news.

It was an experience that was to be repeated again and again throughout America as the country's finest young people..men and some women...gave their lives for the cause of Freedom.

Billy Winnekins was nine the day his Wisconsin family learned that Pfc. John Winnekins, his older and admired brother, had been killed June 15, 1944, the first day of the invasion of Saipan.  Bill Winnekins recalled, "I was outside playing when I heard 'all Hell' break loose from my house.  My Mother was screaming, my Dad was throwing things all over the house, my sister was screaming and crying."    John Winnekins and Mr. Leary had ridden in the same amphibious tractor during the assault  on The Marshall Islands.

My recall of the few weeks spent at the Navy Mobile Hospital at New Caledonia is not clear.  I remember walking around the hospital grounds with Moore who was blind and that he wanted me to describe to him everything that I saw.  I remember that Bob Hope and his troupe came one day.   Purple Hearts were given out one day like bars of candy from hundreds of boxes.   I was an emotional wreck and, probably, on heavy medication.

My trip back to the states was aboard a Dutch ship, The Clipfontain, Captained by a Norwegian.  The ship had begun its voyage in Austrailia and its passengers included Australian War Brides and their children, German prisoners of war, merchant seaman, sailors, army, and Marines.   Some of the workers on board were East Indians who could not speak English, who lived in a small space on the fantail of the ship, and cooked meals with so much spice that the fumes almost brought tears to American eyes.    Male passengers were crowded into every available space.   Meal tickets permitted two meals daily at a dining hall that served twenty-four hours a day.

Gambling games began almost immediately and were non stop throughout the voyage.    One black man dressed in a beautiful white Merchant Marine uniform and carrying several trunks was one of the gamblers.   When we reached San Francisco he had lost everything.

It was night time when we sailed under the Golden Gate bridge, but I was on deck to view the experience.   I remember that it appeared that the superstructure of the ship would strike the bridge, but, to my relief,  the ship passed under the bridge without incident.  The following day members of my group from New Caledonia boarded Navy busses parked on the dock.   Cases of cold milk and boxes of cookies were placed in the aisles and we lost no time enjoying the refreshments.   We were transported to the Oakland Naval Hospital for processing, and, after a day or two, placed on a train bound for San Diego and Balboa Naval Hospital.

I was given a thirty day Hospital Leave almost immediately and with little prior notice.

My discharge from Balboa Hospital was near Thanksgiving 1944, followed by a thirty day leave and an assignment to Quantico Marine Air Base, Virginia to begin January 1, 1945.    It was wonderful to be home once again with family and friends and to experience the Christmas Season with loved ones.    I boarded the bus at Hubbard, Texas on Christmas Eve and arrived at Quantico two days late.  The snow storms that began in Arkansas followed us all the way to Virginia, but I was careful to have bus drivers  sign a statement each time I missed a connection and I was not disciplined for the two day delay.

Quantico was one of the best duty stations that I experienced in the Marine Corps.    The brick barracks were steam heated and had clothes washers and clothes drying rooms in the basement.   I was assigned to the Guard Company but given office duty.   I was glad that I had office duty when I saw some of the Marines come off four hours of walking a post covered with ice and snow.

Washington, DC proved to be one of the best liberty areas in the nation.   Ralph Akers, an old friend from Dawson, Texas was at the Army War College and we enjoyed touring the sights in and around the Capital City.  Later, I was invited often to have Sunday Dinner with the Pisciotta Family who lived on Varnum Street in DC.  Papa and Mamma Pisciatta had come there from Sicily and raised a fine family.  Papa was a skilled boot maker and General Douglas McArthur would permit no one else to repair his boots.

I was enjoying myself with my work and with weekend leave to DC, but I could not gain control of my emotions.  I began to walk in my sleep and some mornings I would find myself in someone else's bed in another squad room.   Some of the men mentioned my sleepwalking to the Company First Sergeant who called me to his office for a conference.   The following day I was told to report to Sick Bay.    The duty physician examined me, questioned me about the sleepwalking, and informed me that he was admitting me to the hospital for a few days.

I was assigned a top bunk in the hospital and the first night I stood up in the bed and walked off, hitting another bunk and a chair on the way down.   Fortunately, I was only slightly bruised and was assigned a lower bunk.  One Marine, who had been awake, saw the whole thing, but it happened so fast there was nothing he could do.

The following morning I met with a psychiatrist who questioned me about my childhood, my relationship with my parents, my educational years, etc.    He had me recount my association with the Marine Corps, beginning with Boot Camp and continuing to Quantico.   I had skimmed over Saipan and he returned time and time again to the experiences there, asking pointed questions about what had happened and how I felt.   He was, especially, interested in my physical and emotional reaction to the artillery shell that fell short, my relationship to Mr. Leary,  the grief experienced in the death of other Marines.

He questioned me if I had ever shared those details with others and I had to confess that much of what I had told him was the first time I had shared that information with anyone.    He asked me if I had ever experienced stomach upset from eating bad food and I responded that I had.    Then, he explained that the mind was similar to the stomach in that when the thoughts of bad erest or grab a bite to eat.  I was sitting with my back against a tree when the first rounds of anti-personnel shells began to explode.  I heard a..."whoosh" and a thump and there at my side was a large piece of shell about six inches in length.  I reached over to pick it up and quickly dropped it..it was still hot from the explosion.

The Quartermaster group had three men killed by a single artillery shell the day we hit the beach, but Carl Pitstick (Xenia, Ohio) was constantly racing his jeep from the supply dumps on the beach to our positions.  Ammo and water were always priority, but there were times when our positions were not to be reached by jeep and getting any supplies to us was almost an impossible task.  Once, we had no food rations for a day or two and I remembered a can of what appeared to be Japanese food I had picked up somewhere along the way.  It was a plain "tin" can with Japanese printing...and I couldn't read Japanese.  I cut the can open with the hunting knife Mother had sent just before we left the States and the contents appeared to be roast beef and gravy.  I was as hungry as could be and the fellows in the Platoon admonished me not to eat the contents.."It might be a booby trap." I looked at that roast beef and gravy and told the fellows that as hungry as I was...I could not think of a better way to die.   I heated the contents of the can in my canteen cup.  It was delicious.

We continued to move through the rugged terrain of the mountains and now we were near the ridge that ran from one end of the island to the other.  Our Platoon was on the right flank of the 23rd Regiment and the 25th was supposed to maintain contact with us to prevent enemy infiltration through the lines.  One day, in extremely difficult terrain, the points between the two regiments widened until we were, perhaps, two to three hundred yards apart.  Word came to close the existing gap, but we did not have sufficient manpower.  We were stretched as thinly as we could have been.  Our company strength was probably half of what it had been when we hit the beach.

Mr. Leary told me to send a message to the 25th.  The radio which I had brought ashore...and which had performed so well on maneuvers, refused to work when overpowered by the giant transmitters on battleships, etc.  I had thrown it on the supply jeep days before. I did have my semaphore flags and Mr. Leary suggested that I use them.  I responded that signal flags would probably draw fire, but he said that we had no alternative.  I unrolled the flags and placed my binoculars where I could reach them....stood up from my cover and began to "wig-wag." (The signal that we wanted to send a message.)  There was about one wig and one wag before the Japanese began firing...showering us with rifle and machine gun fire.  I was on the ground before the first bullet arrived...pausing on my way down to throw those flags as far away as I could.  Mr. Leary didn't say a word about the flags.

We still needed to make contact with the 25th and that was a problem.  Mr. Leary decided that I would have to go.. personally, and convey the message to the 25th...inform them of our position and lack of strength.  Mr. Leary had me repeat the message to make sure I knew what to say.  He assigned several men to go with me including Herman "Spider" Vaglia (Pennsylvania) and three men from a Pioneer group who had been assigned to us to replace men who had been killed or wounded.

Spider, the three Pioneer men, and I chose a route down a ravine that offered some protection and led in the direction of the 25th.  I was really frightened.  The ravine ended much too quickly and we were faced with having to cover several yards of exposed area that offered no protection at any point.  Spider raced across the area...then one of the Pioneers. Neither drew fire.  It was my turn.  Spider and the Pioneer must have alerted the Japanese and they began firing when I reached the exposed area.  Bullets were kicking up dust at my feet, but my feet were moving too fast to be hit.   Suddenly, I became aware that I had run into some Japanese communication wire.  It had, somehow, looped around the hunting knife handle protruding from the leather sheath which I had secured to the top of my leggings.  I dared not stop and felt the knife as it was pulled from the sheath and saw it fly through the air. The two other men came through without being wounded.

When we reached the Colonel of the 25th my adrenaline was squirting by the gallon....I was breathless...and probably shaking like a leaf.  I will never forget the gentleness of that Colonel.  He said, "Son, just sit down here for a minute before you tell me why you are here."  He handed me his canteen and I took a sip of water...then gave him the message.  We led a reserve company back to our positions by another route.  Spider Vaglia was killed in action at Iwo Jima.

Most Marines were constantly on the alert for souvenirs...swords, bayonets, watches, etc. One of the Corporals, Walter Shipley, from New Jersey, had found a heavy microscope that he lugged around. Some of the Marines had found beautiful Japanese swords, hard to find items.  Japanese flags, bayonets, helmets, etc were easier to secure.     I had found several items in a leather pouch carried by a Japanese officer.  One item was a small object that fit into the palm of my hand and had a handle similar to those found on our grenades.  I had never seen anything like it and when I examined it...carefully...I noticed that it appeared to have had a small magnifying glass on one end..and there appeared to be a bulb beyond that.  I determined that my find was a flashlight.  I unlocked the lever and it raised itself with a spring.   When I pushed the lever down...carefully...I heard something inside spin.   There was a generator inside.  When the lever was activated the bulb behind the magnifying glass began to glow and produced sufficient light to read a map at night.

Late that evening, Carl Pitstick brought some mail and I made use of my new found flashlight.  I was in my foxhole...covered with my poncho to shield the light from the enemy and read letters from home and the Hubbard City News and the Dawson Herald.

A few days later Mr. Leary and I were at Battalion.  I wanted to show Col. Dillon my new flashlight.  When I unlocked the handle and it flipped up...just like a hand grenade...Col. Dillon must have jumped ten feet.  That must have been my finest hour...."Sweet  Revenge" for Col. Dillon placing Mr. Leary "in hack."

(Note:  Col. Dillon had been wounded in the neck by a piece of shrapnel and the bloodied bandage was held tight against his neck. He had refused to be evacuated and was continuing to give orders right and left.  Someone reported that one of the company   officers was fond of using the radio...which, by the way, never worked very well. The officer was, also, fond of saying, "Do you read me loud and clear?"     Col. Dillon lived with a "short fuse" and one day   responded to the officer,  "Yes, I hear you too damn loud, too damn clear, and too dammed often!"

We continued to push the Japanese farther and farther to the Northeastern end of the island...the farther they were pushed, the more resistance they gave.  It was almost dark when we took our positions on the back side of a long ridge.  We had experienced a series of bad days...more men had been killed or wounded and the few replacements sent could not produce like the men who had trained together...who were hardened by experience..who had been part of a team that had developed close personal ties.  We had been on the island for three weeks and were becoming drained physically and emotionally.

Small willow trees grew along the top of the ridge and the Japanese kept raking the trees with machine gun fire throughout the night.  When morning began to appear the leaves covered the ground like snowfall.  Throughout the night we could hear the Japanese talking on the opposite side of the ridge...we could hear the racing motors of vehicles.   We were well aware of the fact that a concentration of Japanese forces were only a few yards in front of us.  That night was one of our darkest hours.

Mr.Leary had me contact all squad leaders for a meeting.  I found all squad leaders with the exception of a tall rawboned Corporal from North Carolina whose name was Billings.  I reported to Mr. Leary and he instructed me to find Billings and get him there.  I returned to his squad area and someone reported they had seen had seen him going down the ridge...a steep slope that led to a small brook.  I made my way in the direction indicated and caught a glimpse of a faint glow of a cigarette a short distance away.  Billings was squatting under a small bush and I informed him that he had been summoned for a meeting with Mr. Leary.  Billings responded, "Matthews...I can't go back up there.  I'm scared that we are all going to die...I just can't go back up there."  I attempted to reason with him...telling him that I was just as frightened as he was.  I stressed that he was a leader and that he had a duty.   Nothing would move him.

I climbed back up the slope and reported what had happened to Mr. Leary.  He had met with and given instructions to the other squad leaders and they had returned to their positions.  Mr. Leary told me to lead him to where I had found Billings.  When we found Billings he was still smoking and shaking.  He repeated to Mr. Leary what he had told me...got on his knees and begged Mr. Leary not make him go back up on the line.   Finally, Mr. Leary pointed his carbine at Billings and said, "Billings, you are either going to go back on the ridge where you..may..die, but if you don't..you sure as hell are going to die right here and now."  I don't know if Mr. Leary would have carried through with that threat, but it was enough for Billings.  He returned with us and to his squad.

Later that night, when Mr. Leary and I were alone, I told him that I didn't know if we would come through the next few hours alive, but that I wanted him to know that I had come to appreciate him more than any man I had ever known. He expressed similar words of appreciation for me and we shook hands.   A few days later he was laughing as we remembered that night.  "The Count sure thought the jig was up back there on that ridge...and to tell you the truth...I wasn't too optimistic myself."

It seemed that daylight took an eternity to arrive that night.  There was something about the sun coming up that provided hope, ...and the sun was always welcomed.   Artillery had sent Lt. Buck Finney to direct fire when daylight came and he had crawled up the ridge to our area.  He had arrived a few minutes before the barrage was to begin and we took advantage of the break to build a small fire and prepare some soluble coffee in our canteen cups.  Lt Finney was on my right..on his stomach..talking on a field telephone.  Mr. Leary was sitting on my left and we had a five gallon can of water sitting between us.  We were barely under the protection of the ridge...just out of range from Japanese small arms fire.  We dared not get our heads above the line of fire for the Japanese were continuing to rake the area with rifle and machine gun fire.

Lt.Finney, the spotter, crawled up a few feet where he could peek over the ridge to direct the artillery fire and spot the initial rounds. The first shots were always well in front of our lines and subsequent rounds were brought closer as the spotter directed.

The initial rounds "whooshed" overhead and we heard the explosion. The spotter brought the next round back a few yards, but still not close enough to the concentration of Japanese a few scant yards in front of us.  The spotter called for another round and brought it back still closer.   We did not hear the "whoosh" of that round.  We felt the explosion...just a few yards away...ourselves.     The round that almost cleared the crest of the ridge, but, instead, had landed in the middle of our position.   My ears rang, I was dazed. My entire body felt as if a giant firecracker had exploded and slammed against me. I noticed a large tear on the left side of Mr. Leary's dungaree jacket.  He was unaware that the shrapnel had not only ripped his jacket, but grazed his side, leaving a small wound. The five gallon water can that had sat between us had a shrapnel hole the size of a golf ball.

The artillery spotter had not moved, his dungaree jacket in shreds, the flesh of his back slashed open and bleeding, but he continued to direct artillery fire.  Soon artillery shells were, again, screaming overhead and the Japanese felt the full impact of the barrage.  The area on the far side of the ridge was covered with exploding shells and the Japanese forces were routed or killed within minutes.

Several Marines had been wounded by the shell that fell short.  One young Marine, lay near the crest of the ridge on the left flank.  He didn't move and never would.   A small shrapnel had gone through his helmet and into his head.  He had died instantly.

Events of the following days are hazy and I must have blacked out from time to time despite the fact that I continued to function.  Later that day, possible the following day, we were high on the mountain road that was bordered by a stone wall.   Beyond the stone wall was an open field, quite level, and beyond that a steep cliff with, possibly, a sixty or seventy degree slope.  The slope was covered with heavy vegetation and looked over a large plain that went to the ocean shore.

We rested at the stone wall for several minutes and began moving across the open field to the edge of the cliff.  There was no resistance.   We began to make our way down the steep slope.   We were almost a third of the way down when the order came to hold up to permit other units with more difficult terrain to reach their place on the line.   Mr. Leary and I sat on a small mound of earth that was level, looked at the ocean, and at the open plain north and south.

Six or seven  hundred yards to the north I spotted several Japanese soldiers walking into the open from a stand of heavy trees..  I watched them through my binoculars and realized that they were officers in full dress uniforms, complete with swords.  They were, apparently, discussing the situation and looking in our direction. I pointed them out to Mr. Leary.  Our small arms could not reach the distance involved and Mr. Leary was considering calling for artillery to shell the area.

No shots had been fired for, perhaps, thirty or forty minutes and Mr. Leary and I had commented that it appeared that the Japanese were near the end of their fight.  Word was passed that we were to move out and as Mr. Leary and I stood up a burst of machine gun fire erupted and I instinctively fell to the ground.  Somehow, I knew that Mr. Leary had been hit...and bad.   J P North was just above us and I heard him call for a corpsman.   I remember telling North that it was too late for a corpsman.    Mr. Leary was dead.

MUSTER ROLL OF OFFICERS AND ENLISTED MEN OF THE U.S. MARINE CORPS
2nd Bn, 23rd Mar,m 4th MarDiv, FMF, c/o FPO, San Francisco, Calif.
From   1 July.....to.....31 July......1944   INCLUSIVE

SECOND LIEUTENANT
Leary, James S. Jr 020110 1542. Co"G", 1-5CoO and See Footnote "A":
6. KIA (exact time and details of death unknown)
GO20 does not apply;
(disposition of remains unknown

My light went out and did not come on until eight days later when I was aboard the USS Samaritan, a Navy hospital ship

The battle for Saipan ended the followng day.  We had forced the surviving Japanese and some natives to the high cliffs at the northernmost point of the island.   Newspapers and newsreels recorded the tragedy that unfolded there when hundreds of Japanese soldiers and many civilians jumped to their death.  They preferred death to surrender.

The days on the Samaritan are not clear in my memory.  I recall waking up in a comfortable bunk with crisp white sheets and a pillow under my head.  A nurse was smiling, gave me some medication, some water...and I went back to sleep.  Later, I recall sitting on deck with another wounded Marine and he was talking about how I locked myself in the shower when I first came aboard and that the nurses and corpsmen were attempting to persuade me to come out.   The dungarees and other clothes I had worn for twenty-five days had been placed in a paper bag when I came aboard the Samaritan without having been washed.  When I opened the bag several days later I could understand why I remained in the shower so long.

I recall that some of the sailors were lifting weights on the steel deck above the ward room.  One of the heavy weights was dropped on the steel deck and the explosive like sound so unnerved me that I began to tremble and to vomit.

Hospitals at Pearl Harbor and Guadalcanal had been filled to capacity and the Samaritan was directed to Noumea, New Caledonia, a French possession located east of Queensland, Australia. The US Navy had established a Mobile Hospital there and some of the earlier casualties from Saipan were already there.

We were transported from the dock to the hospital along a beach road bordered with palm trees.  A nurse at the hospital was registering my name, rank, serial number, etc. for my admission when a voice from a bed across the aisle spoke, "Matthews, is that you?"  The voice came from someone whose head and eyes were covered with bandages and I did not recognize the voice.  It was Winfred Moore, a Medical Corpsman from Dandridge, Tennessee, who served in the 24th with my friend Bill Lawrence.  A bullet had penetrated his helmet and entered his head between and above his eyes.  He was permanently blind..but he was alive.  Moore was laughing and joking and was the spark of the ward, telling everyone that he, not yet twenty-one, had just retired.

Moore returned home, married his high school sweetheart, had a daughter, raised miniature horses and prize winning chickens, and was active in politics until his death in 1990.

Corp.Wilber Almas, a member of  "G" Company had been wounded on Saipan and was at the New Caledonia hospital.   He had been there for several days and was returned to duty shortly after I arrived.

The following day I was examined by one of the physicians who determined that my left ear remained infected and the treatment was continued.  I remained an emotional wreck and I was disturbed by the fact that I could not remember all of the events of several days.    The physician explained that the concussion blast from the exploding shell had not only ruptured the left eardrum, but had, probably, ruptured blood vessels in my head.  The condition was similar to having had a small stroke.  The small ruptures in the blood vessels  had slowly seeped blood around the brain cells and blocked memory from time to time until it became completely blocked for several days.   He explained that nature had a way of healing small ruptures to the blood vessels and that such healing had, in all likelihood, already happened.   The memory blocks did not reoccur, but my deteriorated emotional state continued for months and months.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, in the little town of Ahoskie, North Carolina, one of the two most feared letters from the U S Government had arrived at the Leary home and stated that the U S Marine Corps "regretted to inform that 2nd Lt. James Stanley Leary, Jr., 2-G-23 Fourth Marine Division..had been declared Missing in Action while engaged against the enemy on the Island of Saipan, Marianas, in the Pacific."

The new spread quickly through the little town and concern for one of Ahoskie's finest young men was uppermost in the minds of all citizens, white and black.   The Leary Family was devastated and Daddy Leary suggested that the family go to the cottage at Holden Beach which was owned by Mother Leary's sister, Mabel Davis and her family.   Several days were to pass before Sam Vaughn, an Ahoskie neighbor boy who was with the Army on Saipan, called his parents and informed them that he had learned from reliable sources that Stanley Leary Jr. had been killed.   The Vaughns drove to Windsor, North Carolina and to the home of Bettie Sue Sewell, another sister of Momma Leary, and relayed the information from their son.  It was Aunt Betty Sue who drove to Holden Beach with the sad news.

It was an experience that was to be repeated again and again throughout America as the country's finest young people.. men and some women...gave their lives for the cause of Freedom.

Billy Winnekins was nine the day his Wisconsin family learned that Pfc. John Winnekins, his older and admired brother, had been killed June 15, 1944, the first day of the invasion of Saipan.  Bill Winnekins recalled, "I was outside playing when I heard 'all Hell' break loose from my house.  My Mother was screaming, my Dad was throwing things all over the house, my sister was screaming and crying."    John Winnekins and Mr. Leary had ridden in the same amphibious tractor during the assault  on The Marshall Islands.

My recall of the few weeks spent at the Navy Mobile Hospital at New Caledonia is not clear.  I remember walking around the hospital grounds with Moore who was blind and that he wanted me to describe to him everything that I saw.  I remember that Bob Hope and his troupe came one day.   Purple Hearts were given out one day like bars of candy from hundreds of boxes.   I was an emotional wreck and, probably, on heavy medication.

My trip back to the states was aboard a Dutch ship, The Clipfontain, Captained by a Norwegian.  The ship had begun its voyage in Austrailia and its passengers included Austrailian War Brides and their children, German prisoners of war, merchant seaman, sailors, army, and Marines.   Some of the workers on board were East Indians who could not speak English, who lived in a small space on the fantail of the ship, and cooked meals with so much spice that the fumes almost brought tears to American eyes.    Male passengers were crowded into every available space.   Meal tickets permitted two meals daily at a dining hall that served twenty-four hours a day.

Gambling games began almost immediately and were non stop throughout the voyage.    One black man dressed in a beautiful white Merchant Marine uniform and carrying several trunks was one of the gamblers.   When we reached San Francisco he had lost everything.

It was night time when we sailed under the Golden Gate bridge, but I was on deck to view the experience.   I remember that it appeared that the superstructure of the ship would strike the bridge, but, to my relief,  the ship passed under the bridge without incident.  The following day members of my group from New Caledonia boarded Navy busses parked on the dock.   Cases of cold milk and boxes of cookies were placed in the aisles and we lost no time enjoying the refreshments.   We were transported to the Oakland Naval Hospital for processing, and, after a day or two, placed on a train bound for San Diego and Balboa Naval Hospital.

I was given a thirty day Hospital Leave almost immediately and with little prior notice.

My discharge from Balboa Hospital was near Thanksgiving 1944, followed by a thirty day leave and an assignment to Quantico Marine Air Base, Virginia to begin January 1, 1945.    It was wonderful to be home once again with family and friends and to experience the Christmas Season with loved ones.    I boarded the bus at Hubbard, Texas on Christmas Eve and arrived at Quantico two days late.  The snow storms that began in Arkansas followed us all the way to Virginia, but I was careful to have bus drivers  sign a statement each time I missed a connection and I was not disciplined for the two day delay.

Quantico was one of the best duty stations that I experienced in the Marine Corps.    The brick barracks were steam heated and had clothes washers and clothes drying rooms in the basement.   I was assigned to the Guard Company but given office duty.   I was glad that I had office duty when I saw some of the Marines come off four hours of walking a post covered with ice and snow.

Washington, DC proved to be one of the best liberty areas in the nation.   Ralph Akers, an old friend from Dawson, Texas was at the Army War College and we enjoyed touring the sights in and around the Capital City.  Later, I was invited often to have Sunday Dinner with the Pisciotta Family who lived on Varnum Street in DC.  Papa and Mamma Pisciatta had come there from Scicily and raised a fine family.  Papa was a skilled boot maker and General Douglas McArthur would permit no one else to repair his boots.

I was enjoying myself with my work and with weekend leave to DC, but I could not gain control of my emotions.  I began to walk in my sleep and some mornings I would find myself in someone else's bed in another squad room.   Some of the men mentioned my sleepwalking to the Company First Sergeant who called me to his office for a conference.   The following day I was told to report to Sick Bay.    The duty physician examined me, questioned me about the sleepwalking, and informed me that he was admitting me to the hospital for a few days.

I was assigned a top bunk in the hospital and the first night I stood up in the bed and walked off, hitting another bunk and a chair on the way down.   Fortunately, I was only slightly bruised and was assigned a lower bunk.  One Marine, who had been awake, saw the whole thing, but it happened so fast there was nothing he could do.

The following morning I met with a psychiatrist who questioned me about my childhood, my relationship with my parents, my educational years, etc.    He had me recount my association with the Marine Corps, beginning with Boot Camp and continuing to Quantico.   I had skimmed over Saipan and he returned time and time again to the experiences there, asking pointed questions about what had happened and how I felt.   He was, especially, interested in my physical and emotional reaction to the artillery shell that fell short, my relationship to Mr. Leary,  the grief experienced in the death of other Marines.

He questioned me if I had ever shared those details with others and I had to confess that much of what I had told him was the first time I had shared that information with anyone.    He asked me if I had ever experienced stomach upset from eating bad food and I responded that I had.    Then, he explained that the mind was similar to the stomach in that when the thoughts of bad experiences began to fill the mind that it sometimes rebelled in strange and unusual ways such as tenseness, sleeplessness, sleepwalking, uneasiness, loss of appetite, isolation, and other ways.   He wanted me to begin to tell others about the tragic experience on Saipan as a means of "mental catharis." He said that it was important for me to talk those things out with others until they were comfortable in my mind.

The psychiatrist wanted me to relax and one of the daily treatments was for me to completely disrobe, lie on a padded table, and have Corpsmen wrap my body from neck to toe with water soaked sheets that had been frozen.  I had never heard of such a treatment, but the psychiatrist assured that the experience would not be as bad as I imagined.   That afternoon I lay completely naked and waited for the Corpsmen to place those icy sheets against my body.  They wrapped one leg and then the other, then they wrapped both legs.   No way was I relaxing!   When they wrapped my torso I wanted to scream.  Then they wrapped my arms to my body and I could not move.

I lay there, immobile, covered with icy sheets and wondering if I could stand the experience when I began to relax and the cold began to disappear.    I was sleeping soundly when the Corpsmen began to unwrap the sheets from my body.  The icy sheet treatment continued for two or three weeks in addition to medication I was receiving.     My free time was my own and  it was then that I decided to begin correspondence High School Courses from the Marine Corps Institute.    My first course was The History of Our Country  by Muzzy.       I would read the book, answer the workbook questions,   take a final exam before an officer....it was easy and I enjoyed it.

A group of physicians, including the psychiatrist, reviewed my case in March.    I sat before them, and after a question and answer session,  was informed that they would recommend that I receive a Medical Discharge from the Marine Corps.     I did not resist.  The war was nearing its conclusion.      I knew that my future with the Marine Corps would be difficult.   I wanted to go home.   I was ready to get on with my life.   I walked away from the Marine Corps on March 29, 1945.

The following week I met with the Superintendent of  the School in Hubbard, Texas and requested that I be permitted to complete High School there.    I still needed one and one-half credits to graduate and enrolled for classes in Typing, Plane Geometry, and English.    I  graduated  from Hubbard High School on Friday Evening the final week in May and enrolled at Baylor University the following Monday.

My new life was beginning.


***********************

Ten years would pass before I was to learn some of what happened during those seven or eight days from July 8, to July 16-17, 1944.

Several months after I arrived at New Caledonia I was at home in Hubbard, Texas on medical leave from the Balboa Naval Hospital, San Diego.   A package arrived by mail one day from another corpsmen friend of Bill Lawrence.  I had, apparently, met him at some point while being processed from G-Company to the hospital ship and had given him a Japanese flag and a "belt with a thousand stitches."  He had recognized me, obtained my address from Bill Lawrence, and had returned the items which I still have.

Eleven years later, 1955, seventeen G-Company Marines met for a weekend in Louisville, Kentucky.   Frank D. Routh, Greenville, Texas, first our "Gunny" and, later, First Sergeant, and Nelvin Prater, a BAR man, from Dallas, invited me to drive to Louisville with them.   We had not seen each other since 1944 and every mile driven was filled with "Do You Remembers." Routh and Prater would recall some happening and I would draw a complete blank most of the time.   Routh would say, "Matthews, you must remember.  You were there and said so-in-so."   Something, the explosion or the trauma, had torn those memories from my mind and I could not remember them.

Frank Routh began to fill in the gaps of what had happened after Mr. Leary's death.   The enemy resistance on the slope became so severe that the company was forced to withdraw to the top of the cliff and across the open field to the stone wall where we had paused earlier in the day.  Routh recalled that several attempts were made to recover the body of Mr. Leary from the slope and that each time an attempt was made others were killed.  The route we had attempted down the cliff was, eventually, abandoned and the area by-passed.

Chaplain Charles Goe, Stone Mountain, Georgia, did not keep a diary, but wrote detailed letters each day to his wife as a means of recording the history unfolding around him on Saipan.   He used the letters as the basis of a book he wrote in 1947 entitled "Is War Hell?"  A letter, dated July 15, 1944, a week after Mr. Leary was killed, was recorded on page 198 of that book,


"Captain Phillips*, our recreation officer, had asssumed the job of burial officer.   As he went after Lt . James S. Leary, Jr.'s  body down in a gully, a sniper caught him in the back of the head with a machine gun.  Leary, by the way, is from   Ahoskie, North Carolina.  Lt. William S. Walker, Clearwater, Florida , led his platoon against a machine gun nest and his face was partially shot away.  He lived and talked with  the doctors for a while but died on the ship to which he was evacuated."

* Capt. Frank E. Phillips, Jr. Regimental Adjutant, served as Burial and Casualty Officer at both Roi-Namur and Saipan.

William J. Smith, Uncasville, Connecticut,  2G23, wrote:

"The day Leary was killed was the day before the last big Jap Bonzai.  We were trying to work our way down this steep cliff. When we came up, John Criner (Tauge, West Virginia) had been shot in the head and died later.  It was, probably there, that Billy Garrett (Dallas, Texas) was shot.  The Jap bullet went through his helmet and creased his head.  He spent several days in the hospital ship and returned.   Billy still has that helmet."

Frank Routh recalled that I began collecting hand grenades after the company retreated to the stone wall.  Later, someone noticed that I was walking alone across the open field in the direction of the cliff and where we had gone down the slope.  Several Marines called to me to come back, but I continued to walk toward the cliff.  Routh recalled that he raced across the field and reached my side before I had reached the edge of the cliff and inquired as to where I was going.  I informed him that I knew where the machine gun was located and that I was on my way to knock it out.

Routh attempted to reason with me, telling me that we would all go down there in a little while and that I could show everyone where the machine gun was located.  I was undeterred.  Routh took hold of my arm to force me to return with him to the safety of our lines and I  began to struggle with him.   I, probably, weighted one hundred thirty-five pounds compared to Routh's one hundred eighty.   Routh recalled that I fought him like a tiger, but Routh subdued me and drug me back to the company area.   He removed the hand grenades I had collected and turned me over to the Medical Corpsmen.    Frank Routh had "saved my ass" when he "accidentially" dropped the AWOL letter in the trash.   This time, Frank Routh had saved my life.

Physicians aboard the Samaritan and at the Navy Hospital in New Caledonia found that my left eardrum had been ruptured and was infected and draining, and that I was probably suffering from a concussion and internal bleeding. The physicians indicated that my difficulty began the day when the shell fell short and that I had bordered on emotional and physical collapse for several days . The final fade out was delayed by the fact that I had placed my complete and total confidence in Mr. Leary.  When he was alive and leading I could function to a point.  When he was gone my mind moved into neutral.   When my leader died, I gave up.

************************************

EPILOGUE

Mr. Leary was constantly on my mind. My thoughts of him began on the Hospital Ship and continued at New Caledonia. I thought about how sad his parents would be to learn of his death and I wanted to write some word of condolence, but I could not bring myself to write down on paper what I wanted to say.

I was home on hospital leave that Fall and I revealed to my Mother some of my feelings.   She encouraged me to write that letter, saying that it would, probably, help me as much as it would help them.  Mother placed paper and pen on the dining room table and, with her help, I wrote a brief letter to Mr. & Mrs. James Stanley Leary Sr., Ahoskie, North Carolina.  I had, in that letter, completed my final effort on behalf of my fallen Platoon Leader.

A letter came by return mail from Mrs. Leary, wanting more details, especially in view of the fact that her son was still officially listed as "Missing in Action."    I just did not have the emotional strength to respond.   I had written the letter of condolence.  That was sufficient.

I reported to my new assignment, Quantico (VA) Marine Air Base on January 1, 1945.   Mrs. Leary did not wait long for my response to her letter that had not been written and was not going to be written.  Undaunted, she wrote my mother who informed Mrs. Leary that I had been assigned to Quantico, Virginia.   Mrs. Leary lost no time in sending a Special Delivery Letter to me, stating that it was imperative that she and her husband talk with me and that if I could not come to Ahoskie,  North Carolina that they were coming to Quantico, Virginia.

Civilian travel on the East Coast was difficult at that time and gasoline was in short supply.  I responded that I would plan a trip to Ahoskie at the first opportunity.   Several weeks passed and I informed my First Sergeant of my need for a long weekend pass and was given time off from my duties.   The following weekend I boarded a bus for Ahoskie, North Carolina and arrived there near ten in the evening.  Main Street was deserted except for a restaurant operated by a Greek family.  I had a cup of coffee and when I had finished I went to the telephone and called the Leary residence.   The call was answered by seven year old David Leary. I told him who I was and that I would call at the Leary home around ten the following morning.

The Greek restaurant owner directed me to a hotel around the corner and I went there to register for the night.  Meanwhile, David Leary had relayed my message to his family.   A call to "Central" at the telephone office indicated that my call had come from the Greek Restaurant...the Greek Restaurant owner reported giving direction to the hotel.

I had completed registration at the hotel and was preparing to go to my room when the doors of the hotel opened.  Mama Leary hugged me and told the desk clerk to tear up the registration. She took one arm, her oldest daughter took the other arm, her now oldest son grabbed my bag, and out the door we went.

It was after two o'clock the following before bedtime came to the Leary household.  I was tired from the trip, emotionally drained, but I was buoyed by the manner in which Mrs. Leary sat straight in her chair, posing one soft question after another and always with a sweet and loving smile that seemed to express, "No matter what has happened, I have peace within."   There were times that Mr. Leary would leave the room, always to return.  The children, ages seven to early twenties, sat in silence.

That night, as difficult as it had been, was the beginning of a wonderful relationship that was to last with Mr. & Mrs. Leary for almost forty years and with the family to this very day.  The first Mother's Day following the death of her son Mrs. Leary received some special flowers.  And there were remembrances each Mother's Day and Christmas thereafter until she died.

Mr. Leary was not one to say much, but he invited me to go with him on Saturday to visit his farms and the fertilizer warehouse.  We were alone in the huge warehouse and he told me that he knew how difficult the previous night had been for me, but that he wanted me to know that he was grateful that I had come, that I had no idea of just how much my coming had meant to him and his family.  He told of the dreams that were his for Stanley Jr., dreams that would never be fulfilled.  His eyes were misty as he said that he wanted me to know that his home from that day forward was my home...and it was.

I sat with the family at the church service when Mother Leary died, several years after Daddy Leary.  The church was filled with family and friends and the good pastor paid genuine tribute to a grand woman whose life had been closely involved with the church for more than sixty years.   I listened with pride, but my thought returned to that first night that I met her and how impressed I had been with her strength, her faith, and the expressions of peace that were revealed in her smile and in the glow of her eyes.    I thought of her visits to me in Texas and Colorado and the time when eighteen Learys arrived at our home in Connecticut and visited for several days.  I remembered fun days at Holden Beach, of trips together to Baptist Conventions, of days spent in the big house located in the center of Ahoskie.  She had spoken often of Stanley Jr., knowing that he had been killed on Saipan, but he was never dead...not to her.  He had begun a journey earlier than most, now she was joining him.

The body of Lt. James Stanley Leary, Jr. of Ahoskie, North Carolina, as far as is known, was never removed from that cliff where he died and where several other Marines had died.   The route down the slope was abandoned and the area by-passed.   The Japanese who had manned the machine gun on the slope may have left their position and joined in that final Bonzai.  Saipan was declared secure a day or two later, but mop up operations continued for months.  Company records were blank.  Few original members of the 2nd Platoon remained.  Most company officers had been killed or wounded.

A search of United States Military Cemetery records in 1998 failed to produce the name of Lt. James Stanley Leary, Jr. who died July 8, 1944, Saipan, The Marianas.  Mama Leary had visited Hawaii several years prior to her death and some thought that she had found her son's grave there, but that was an error.  July 8, 1994 will mark fifty years since the untimely death of one of North Carolina's finest young men.  Someone has said that time dims the memory, but Lt. James Stanley Leary, Jr. has not been forgotten.  A stone marker in the Leary Family Plot bears his name, his birth date, his death date, and his Marine relationship.  A flag flies over the plot each Memorial Day.

And....every day....in Ahoskie, North Carolina, the Leary Memorial Chimes atop the First Baptist Church peal forth "Good Tidings" over the small community, reminding all who hear to be grateful to God and to....Remember a Fallen Hero...

LT. JAMES STANLEY (SKEEBOW) LEARY, JR.


A STOP IN PHOENIX

My Pacific Journey had ended abruptly on July 8, 1944 and I was on my way home to Hubbard, Texas with stops aboard the USS Samaritan; at Neumea, New Caledonia; San Francisco and the Naval Hospital in Oakland; and The Naval Hospital, San Diego, California.   My thirty day hospital leave was unexpected, presented one afternoon, and I left the hospital the following morning.   My weight which was one hundred ten in New Caledonia was up to one twenty-five and I had not experienced the outside world since we boarded the LST at Maui, Hawaii the previous May.   I took the city bus to the outskirts of San Diego and began hitch hiking toward Texas.   Busses were limited to thirty-five miles per hour during the war, but cars often ran twice that speed...and...they were less expensive.

The time between July 8, 1944 and the Fall of that year is, even today, not clearly remembered.  I remember regaining consciousness for a brief time on the hospital ship, the USS Samaritan, and of having my mind clear a few days later.   Much of what happened in New Caledonia is still a blank. I remember some of the trip to San Francisco aboard the Norwegian ship, SS Clipfontain, that had sailed from Australia with war brides, German prisoners of war, a crew that included Indians from India, merchant seamen, and what appeared to be anyone else from the South Pacific who was permitted to be aboard.

We had sailed under the Golden Gate bridge in the early hours of a Fall morning and met at the dock with busses loaded with cookies and cold sweet milk.  It was a great homecoming.

I was being processed at the Oakland Navy Hospital when I spotted Tony Marriro from New York.  I had last seen Tony on the beach at Saipan after he had been run over by an amphibious tractor and assumed that he would be dead.  His legs were still with him and he had a great attitude.   Tony lived until 1998.

After the train trip to San Diego I was visited by my friend, A E Scott, an executive with the telephone company.  The Scotts had been my parents away from home when I had duty at Base Headquarters Company office, San Diego, in 1943.

It was late afternoon when I arrived in Phoenix, Arizona and my mind was on my tent mate and friend, Richard Hickman.   I had watched as corpsmen carried him and his buddy, Milford Jacoby, away on stretchers after they had both been seriously wounded.   Hickman's parents lived in Phoenix on Roosevelt Street.   I called them soon after checking into a hotel and they wanted to come pick me up and have me stay the night with them.   I told them that I would come to their house for a brief visit that evening.

After the meeting I met another Marine whose emotional well being was not much better than my own.  He, however, informed me that he had some medication to relieve his discomfort.  It was...a large bottle...and as the two of us, complete strangers, discussed our recent experiences in the Pacific, I became increasingly aware that the medication that he was sharing with me was good.  In fact, it was...real good!

My new friend was "taking a nap" when I recalled that I had promised Hickman's parents that I would visit them that evening.   The dinner hour had long since passed, but I had not noticed.  However, I was not to be deterred by the lateness of the hour.   I had made a promise and a promise I would keep.   My buddy Hickman would have done the same for my parents.   I was, obviously, not thinking with the mind of Carl Matthews, the lowly Marine, but with the mind of that Great and Noble American...The Honorable Mr. Jack Daniels.

The porch light was still burning when the cabby helped me to the door of the Hickman home and I was welcomed by two of the most gracious individuals I ever met or ever hope to meet.  We talked for some time and I mentioned that I needed to get a cab back to the hotel.   I know that I stayed the night at the Hickman home because I woke up there the following morning.. and.. I didn't feel very well.    I dressed and made my embarrassed appearance.   Mr. Hickman had remained home from his barber shop that morning and Mrs. Hickman had prepared sufficient breakfast to feed a platoon.   I wasn't even hungry.

I apologized before I left and Mrs. Hickman gave me a hug and said everything was alright.. that she understood....that she was just glad to have someone from her son's tent to visit.   Mr. Hickman took me to the hotel to pick up my belongings and informed me that he and his wife had decided that I had no business hitch hiking and that we were going to the bus station where he would purchase a ticket to Hubbard, Texas.   I told him that I was hitch hiking by choice and when I showed him that I had sufficient funds to purchase a ticket he took me to the edge of town and waited until a car stopped and picked me up.   We waved our "goodbyes."   Two wonderful and caring individuals had graciously helped me learn one of life's lessons.   I never saw them again, but I never forgot them...or the lesson learned.

The War Years begin - The Recruiter
by Carl W. Matthews Jr.


The cool of the 1941 August morning was quickly giving way to the intense heat that was always present in Hubbard, Texas that time of the year.   Someone had said that America was coming out of The Great Depression, but there would be very few individuals living in Hubbard, Texas who would agree.   Men with families  continued to work for eighteen and twenty dollars for a sixty hour week.  Some older boys worked part time for twenty-five cents an hour.   I had worked  as a butcher one weekend the previous fall when Mr. Hunt at the Red & WHite Food store opened a second store in Dawson.   His promised butcher did not show and, desperate, Mr. Hunt came to Hubbard High School to offer me the job. He was to pay ten cents an hour, but when he totaled up the hours he said that was too much.  Mr. Hunt had been drinking that weekend.  I never worked for him again.

The summer had been a dud.  My string band buddy Royce Reeves was busy working on his father's farm My other buddy, Gene Suddeth, had been old enough to join the CCC at Waxahachie, Texas for the summer, but I was too young to go with him.  When he came home for a weekend he reported that he was having a great time.   He was receiving $30.00 each month, had a nice bed, three great meals each day, and was playing in a string band composed other members of the CCC.  Life could not get better than that!

A few days later I hitched a ride to Waxahachie, Texas to see for myself.   I entered the gate as a visitor, found Gene, and soon was playing fiddle with the string band.   When it was "Chow Time" the guys dressed me in CCC duds and I enjoyed a great meal.  Fearing that my impersonation could not last, I remained for only two nights.

My friend, Bud Grice, who operated the Hubbard store for Fort Worth Poultry and Egg Co. had married Billieruth Priddy of Grosebeck and I spent a lot of time with them that summer.   Bud could not afford to hire anyone full time, but I worked anyway...and on Saturdays Bud would pay me a little something.   There were sacks of feed to be loaded on wagons that had brought cream and eggs and chickens.   Chickens went into the pen, eggs had to be candled to see if they were rotten, and the cream had to be tested for butter-fat.  Uncle Ed Grice taught me how to test the cream for its butter-fat by placing a measured amount of cream in test tube, adding some acid, running the test in a centrufuge, which separated butter fat from the milk solids and whey.  The butter-fat was measured, the cream weighed, and the farmer was paid.

The real payoff was near midnight on a hot August night when Shilling would arrive from Kosse in the company truck that hauled cream in large cans, eggs in large boxes, and chickens in wood crates.   After catching the chickens in the hot pen and loading them on the truck, Shilling would reach into one of the cream cans and pull out the coldest beer I ever tasted.

But on that particular August morning I had dressed and walked to main street.  Some merchants were sweeping the sidewalks, people were bringing in their cars to be serviced at Harold Weatherby's FORD Station,  farmers were coming to town to pick up plow points at the blacksmith shop...but Tubby Matthews did not have a thing to do that day.

He did not have a job, but he always had dreams.   Since the depression began he had traveled little.   Twice he had visited with Uncle Tony and his family in San Antonio and those visits were exciting.   Once he left home for a week without telling anyone and went to Dallas to see "Gone With the Wind."   The afternoon matinee cost thirty-five cents and a room at the YMCA was a quarter.    Each day he read The Dallas Morning news and was aware of the threat of war in Europe.  There was a world out there he had never seen.   He was almost seventeen and he wanted more than Hubbard, Texas was willing to offer at that time.

A  Blue 1940 Chevrolet Convertible  was coming into town from Hiway 31 just south of the Railroad Depot.    Convertibles were a rare sight in Hubbard in those days.   In fact, anything that had not been seen everyday for the last year was a rare sight.    This convertible even had its white top down.   Who ever owned that car had real class.

The Blue 1940 Chevrolet Convertible parked in front of Creamland, a sandwich and ice cream establishment, and the driver placed an immaculate white cap on his head.  When he opened the door it appeared that his entire presence was immaculate.....a starched khaki shirt with matching tie held in place with a shiny gold clip.   His well creased blue trousers had red stripes on each side and his shoes were mirror shined.   He was ram rod straight as he walked into Creamland and had a friendly nod for everyone.

Several Hubbard boys had entered service in 1939 and 1940 and I had visited Charles Adair at Randolph Field once.  A friend and I had ridden our bikes from South San Antonio  to Randolph Field to watch Brian Donlevy and others who were filming a movie called "I Wanted Wings."    Charles came home on weekend and was driving a 1935 Ford.  He seemed to be doing well, but his uniform looked nothing like what I was seeing that hot August day.

I lost little time in making myself acquainted with this stranger to Hubbard and learned that his name was Corporal Earl S Wade and he was with the United States Marine Corps. I knew about the Army and the Navy and I had read about the Coast Guard, but the U S Marines had been kept secret from me.   I learned that he was there to "hire" men to be part of the Marines.

Soon we were seated in a booth at Creamland.    He ordered a round of drinks.   Two cokes!    And with that, Corporal Earl S Wade began to extol the virtues of the United States Marine Corps.    His briefcase, like Mary Poppins carpet bag, was filled to the brim with exciting things......emblems, brochures, and  exciting pictures.   Marines marched in those blue uniforms to exciting band music, they stood at attention and saluted the American Flag, there was a rifle range in the mountains, dentists would take of teeth, doctors would take care of health, Marines were off most Saturdays and Sundays,  Marines were off for all national holidays and Marines were given thirty days vacation each year.  Marine detachment guarded the White House in Washington.   Marines served at all diplomatic posts.  Marines were very selective about who they hired and not just everybody could be a Marine.   Good health, good morals, intelligent, and at least seventeen years of age.  Only the very best of American youth could enter the United States Marine Corps.    Best of all, there was a payday each month.  How much?   Well, money is "No Problem" in the Marines....free movies, free meals, free medical, free dental, free clothes, and the post exchange practically gives its merchandise away.    $21.00 a day once a month to start....$30.00 after four months......$36.00 when the first stripe is earned.  And, retirement would come after twenty years.

Corporal Earl S Wade had a single answer for everything..NO PROBLEM!
Could I be a Marine? No problem!
I am not seventeen. No problem!
Can I have a uniform like yours? No problem!
Can I have a Blue Chevy Convertible? No problem!
Can I finish High School? No problem!
Can I be home for Christmas? No Problem!
Can I be a Corporal? No problem!
Can I serve at the White House? No problem!
Can I serve at some diplomatic post? No Problem!

Soon I was riding in the Blue 1940 Chevrolet Convertible with the top down from Main Street to our house on Pecan Street, careful to wave to all acquaintances as we passed.   Corporal Earl S Wade met my parents and told them that their son had impressed him and that the United States Marine Corps would be proud to have him in their ranks.   Their son was an exceptional young man and that the United States Marine Corps did not "hire" just every "Tom, Dick, and Harry" that came down the pike.   All their questions were answered with, "No Problem!"

Corporal Earl S Wade informed my parents that he had an appointment at eleven and had to leave, but he was careful to fill out all the forms required and they needed only the signatures of my parents.  Corp. Wade said that he would meet me at Creamland at Twelve thirty....and he was gone.

My Dad sat on the sofa with a grave look on his face.   My Mother cried.   But time was short.   Dad and Mother were leaving on vacation that very day.    My Aunt Kitty was driving from Corsicana that very minute to pick them up.     It was with great reluctance that they signed the waiting papers.   I gathered a few belongings, kissed and hugged the family goodbye, stopped by to bid farewell to Bud and Billieruth Grice at the Fort Worth Poultry and Egg Co. and to Ray Sanders who was working for Safeway Grocery for twenty-five cents an hour...and was waiting at Creamland at twelve-thirty.

Three other boys were waiting at the Waco Marine office when Corporal Wade and I arrived.   One was an older boy fresh off the farm whose name was Brunson, another whose name I cannot remember, and a boy  from Waco who had been in reform school, but released upon condition that he join the service.     They didn't look like the "cream of American Manhood" to me.

Within an hour we were on "The Interurban," an electric train, headed for Dallas.  Brunson was given command of the detachment and carried the papers in a manila envelope.   When we reached Dallas, we walked to the Jefferson Hotel where arrangements have been made for our lodging.   Brunson had been given money for our meals.

The following morning Brunson led us to the Marine Corps office in Dallas where we were joined by several other prospective Marines and "Processed."  We were told to strip and presently a doctor arrived to peer and/or feel into everything that he could, writing constantly on a clip board.  The doctor disappeared and we were told to dress.  One or two of the boys were dismissed and the others led into another room where a Marine officer stood against a walls with the U S Flag on one side and a huge Marine Flag on the other.  We were lined up in front of the officer and he told us how fortunate we were to have the opportunity to part of the United States Marine Corps, that we had all passed the physical, which being interpreted means " we could hear thunder and see lightening," and that the only thing remaining was the "Swearing in Ceremony."   He mentioned that if anyone had any doubts about becoming a Marine it was time to leave the room.  None did.    He gave a rousing picture of the U S Marines and had us raise our right hands and...swear.

Within the hour we had boarded a Pullman Car on a train headed for San Diego, California.   This was another new experience.    We had dinner in the Dining Car that evening and at bedtime the Pullman Porter transformed the seat area into top and bottom bunks with fresh sheets and pillow cases and hung privacy curtains on the aisle.   The Marine Corps surely went first class.

We arrived at El Paso, Texas  late in the afternoon the following day and the train had a several hour layover.  The new Marines took advantage to get off the train for a while and explore.  Here was one of those "worlds out there" that I had envisioned.    I took time to post several cards to people back home to let them know I was on my way to more of those "worlds out there.!"   I happened on  a little shop that produced hand made cowboy boots and I marveled at how deftly the Mexicans completed the various steps.    Enterprising taxi drivers at the station hawked to us about the excitement of Juarez, Mexico across the Rio Grand River and the Red Light District, but we  had neither time or money for those sinful activities.  However, the thoughts did enter some minds and it was agreed that we would all make a point of stopping in El Paso at some future time.

The train had become boring as we rode through New Mexico....arid and treeless, void of towns, just more of the same each time we looked out the window. The monotony was partially relieved playing "Match Box Matches" Poker with a deck of cards one of the boys purchased in El Paso.   Someone suggested that we play "Penny Ante" Poker, but none of us had sufficient pennies.  Several of the boys had never played the game, but the boy who had been in the reformatory knew all about it.   I was glad that I had learned to play poker on the Adair porch in Hubbard with Monterey and Abner Adair, Edgar Wells and several other boys two years earlier.    I didn't feel like such a dummy!

The afternoon of the following day we had arrived at Tucson, Arizona where the train stopped for several minutes and we were permitted to stretch our legs on the station platform.   I stared with unbelief as I viewed several older Indian women sitting in the open sun heavily wrapped in blankets.   I never knew the purpose of their being there.  They were selling nothing...just sitting in the blazing sun.

We returned to the train.   Tomorrow we would be in San Diego, California.  Tomorrow we would be at the San Diego Marine Base.  Tomorrow we would be issued uniforms.  Tomorrow we would become
             ...Real Marines!


"ELK'S CLUB BOND DRIVE"
Compton, California
Fall 1942
A Marine's 15 Seconds of Fame

The Naval Hospital at Corona California, just a few months earlier, the Lake Norconian Country Club, had opened it doors to patients.  There were two swimming pools, a beautiful lake, a building for billiards, a gorgeous dining room.  The huge kitchen, manned by the former staff of the club, served elegant meals on fine china. Breakfast eggs were cooked to order and there was an array of meats..and..bowls of beautiful fresh fruit. And..the was an unlimited supply of fresh, cold milk.  Our ward was three rows of hospital beds placed in the former main lounge of the club.   Meals were brought to our beds on trays with warm foods covered with gleaming metal covers.

Most patients had returned from Pacific duty including some who were severely wounded at Pearl Harbor.  James Roosevelt, son of President Roosevelt, was a patient in the officers area  upstairs.  I had been in a group returned to the states from Pago Pago, Samoa in late August 1942 aboard an aging U S Navy Tanker, The Brazos.

Kay Francis, the actress, brought an entourage of movie stars each Thursday.   Most were unknown, but there were real life stars like Mary Beth Hughes and Randolph Scott.  I was still in bed the day Claudette Colbert arrived. She was so pretty and so tiny.  She came to my bed, wanted to know where I was from, where I had been, how long I had been sick. etc.  She put her hand on my cheek and kissed my forehead, saying, "That's for your Mother."  I didn't wash my face for a week!

Red Skelton and his wife came one evening and presented two hours of grand entertainment.  He shook our hands afterwards, cracking more jokes all the while.

An artist lady came one afternoon each week and did chalk portraits of the patients.  The day she did mine I was still in bed, dressed in Navy Hospital pajamas.  She had to leave before the drawing was completed, but she assured me that she would complete it at her home and mail it to my Mother.  When the drawing arrived at my home at Hubbard, Texas I was resplendent  in Marine Dress Blues.  My Mother was thrilled...and I was surprised.

I was up and about, but still couldn't wear shoes when several of us went to some nearby town for a Sunday outing.  "Pop" Ware entertained a group from the hospital once each month at his home and he did everything possible to make everyone comfortable.  Ties and blouses came off, we listened to the radio, called home, and enjoyed charcoal broiled steaks in the back yard.

The City of Compton,California was planning a War Bond Drive and invited some of the patients to come as guests.  Lt. Susan J. English, head Navy Nurse at Corona, had been my nurse in Samoa and saw that I was on the list to go.  We were picked up on the day of the Bond Drive and transported to Compton.  A huge parade was forming as we arrived and we were placed on a new fire engine positioned near the front of the parade.

Hop-a-long Cassidy (William Boyd, the actor) rode up to the side of the fire engine and began talking with us.  I could not believe my eyes.  Here was eighteen year old Tubby Matthews from Hubbard, Texas....talking to "Hoppy" himself!

The Coast Guard Band was assembling in front of the fire engine and was led by Rudy Valle, one of the greats of "The Big Band" era.

The "Sons of the Pioneers," a Western musical group, were aboard a beautiful float just behind us.  One of the members was Spade Cooley who, later, had his own band.

The parade began to move.  Hop-a-long Cassidy leading...Rudy Valley and his Coast Guard Band following him...and...a fire engine full of excited Marines and Sailors following them.  The crowd waved and cheered as we wound our way through the streets of Compton and we waved back like "Conquering Heros" recently returned from a great victory.  It wasn't so, but it was nice to imagine.

The parade ended at the Compton stadium and the Bond Sale began.  "Hoppy" and Rudy Valle spoke to the crowd and encouraged them to "Buy more Bonds.!"     Hoppy rode his white horse around the stadium and shook hands with people seated in the front rows.  Rudy Valle sang his famous Whiffenpoof Song from Yale and his  infamous, " Lydia, The Tatooed Lady."

Lydia, O, Lydia...O have you seen Lydia, Lydia the Tatooed Ldy
Ooooo...Ooooo.......Oooooo Ooooo!
Lydia, O Lydia, that encyclopedia, Lydia the Tatooed Lady
When her muscles start contraction...Up the hill moves Andrew Jackson
And on a clear day...........You can see,,,,,,,,,,, Alcatraz!!!!!!!!
You can learn a lot from Lydia....Oooooooo   Oooooo...Oooooo...Oooooo!

The crowd was told that the returned veterans...."The Heroes for the Day"....would sign all bonds purchased.  As the bonds were being purchased
we were moved to the platform and people who had bought bonds brought them to "The Heroes" to sign.  Many requested that we include our home towns as well as our names. Later, we were seated on a row of chairs for a newspaper picture.  "Hoppy" came over and began to shake hands with everyone. I was on the end and was first in the line.  I began to rise to my feet and "Hoppy" told me to "sit down....what the Hell!  This is your day and we are honoring you.!"

After the Bond Drive each serviceman was assigned to an individual Elk's Club family.  My host families were Richard (Dick & Miriam) Scull and the Stanley Dyes.  Dick and Stanley were officers at the Bank of America at Compton.  We went immediately to the Compton Elks Club for a cocktail party in our honor.

I had never been to a cocktail party, had little or no experience drinking alcoholic beverages, and had no idea of what to ask for in the way of a cocktail.   One fellow had a drink with an olive and, since I had always liked olives, I stated, "I'll just have one of those."

I suppose that I had expected the drink to taste similar to a Nehi Soda and I was shocked...with that initial sip. That Elk's Cub cocktail tasted worse than some medicines that Dr. Hill had me drink when I was a child at Dawson, Texas.  I was careful, however, to conceal my disappointment and echoed remarks made by other Marines as to how good the drinks were.  After all, I was a Marine...one of the "Heroes" recently returned from the South Pacific...and I attempted to play the part...as far as my one-hundred pounds of "Fighting Marine" could produce.

Sip by nasty sip...smiling...laughing....pretending to enjoy what everyone else was, apparently, enjoying to the fullest...and my glass was, finally, empty.  I savored every morsel of my olive and its flavor helped to dissipate the awful taste of the drink.

Some "helpful" member of the Elk's Club noticed that I had finished my drink and...promptly, took the empty glass from my hand and inserted another...filled with that clear "medicine" and that beautiful green olive.

That second glass...both were large ones...appeared to taste better than the first and I began to experience a sense of warmth and well-being.  People were laughing as I related stories of my few months in Samoa and every laughing listener wanted to get me another drink.

The Cocktail Party ended in the middle of one of my "stories" and we were off to the activities of the evening.  First stop was the Scull's home where the ladies redressed for the "Hero's Banquet" at Knott's Berry Farm.  Dick clapped his hands and inquired if we should have another drink.  I responded that I wouldn't mind if we did.  I was in a very, very good mood at that point.

We arrived at Knotts' Berry Farm a few minutes early and spent the time at the gift shop.  It was there I spied a beautiful little glass horse.  I made the purchase and presented it to Miriam Scull with the comment that when she looked at the horse she would be reminded of that "Little Jackass from Texas."  She laughed and gave me a big hug!

There were speeches before, during, and after the dinner.  I was among the "Heroes" who had been seated on the dais and savoring every morsel of the bragging about what great service men we were.  I was important.   I was somebody special!

The Compton Elk's Club had created for each of the "Heroes" a most memorable day and I turned to the sailor sitting at my side and commented that someone of our group should express some word of thanks to these lovely people.  He made the suggestion to the "Big Mouthed" Marine on his right and "Big Mouth" almost crawled under the table.  The sailor, E. W. Lindsey from Stockton, Calif., then turned to the Master of Ceremonies and mentioned that "Matthews wanted to say something."

The next moment I was standing behind the huge podium being introduced. Someone shouted that they couldn't see me and the MC promptly had me stand in a chair.  Fine with me!  I was still in a good...very good...mood!  I have no idea what I uttered, but there was a standing ovation afterwards and the Marines and sailors were patting me on the back for several days.

I returned to visit the Sculls several times before I returned to the South Pacific, and once after I came home after Saipan.  Dick and I would meet someone on the Compton street, introduce me as his Marine friend, engage in some conversation and the individual would light up with "I remember you.  You made the speech at Knott's Berry Farm."   I was ...indeed...a celebrity!

I returned to California in 1957 and visited with Dick and Miriam Scull. Miriam proudly showed me the glass horse I had given her fifteen years earlier, laughed, and gave me another of her famous hugs.  Christmas Cards were exchanged until the year mine came back.  Compton telephone information informed that there was no listing for the Sculls.  I often think of my introduction to Compton, to The Elk's Club, and of the Sculls. Dick and Miriam...I love you...wherever you are!


THE HASHMARK PFC
Samoa  1942

You have read of the boy who didn't pass,
And went to his room and cried.
I just failed to make PFC
And I had tried and tried.

I have gone on hikes and made patrols
And read all through the book,
I have braved the dangers of a South Sea Isle,
And still  I'm just a rook.

I guess I'll be a Buck Ass Boot
When I get back to the states,
But I know I'll be as good as the rest,
Even though not in the rates.

So I'll hit the line and go over the top
And then...back across the sea.
And I'll go marching home at last,
As a "Hashmark PFC"

This poem was written in a jungle tent near Pavaii, a few miles South of Pago Pago, Samoa. I was seventeen and a half and had joined the U.S. Marines just seven months earlier. "B" Co. First Battalion, 8th Regiment, 2nd Marine Brigade, had sailed January 6, 1942 from San Diego and arrived at Pago twenty days later  Our Platoon was commanded by 2nd Lt H M Levitt and our squad leader was Walter Ernest George Godinius.  Tentmates were Godinius; Fred Fenner from Indianapolis; Schlesinger, a serious minded Jewish boy who wrote poetry; a blond haired boy from Montana who slept naked and sang dirty songs, and others whose names are forgotten

Promotions were to be announced and I was confident that I would be on the list for Private First Class...PFC.  Unfortunately, my name was not included and I was crushed.  I  concealed my disappointment, returned to the tent, and collapsed on my bunk.  Our "resident poet" was reciting his lines. Listening, I began to compose my own poem..in my head...and later, when I wrote home, I put it in writing.

Cpl. Godinius, upon hearing the poem read, took it to the Company Office, had it typed, and placed a copy on the Bulletin Board.  The Bulletin Board was the Company "Newspaper" and well read.  I was an "Instant Celebrity" and gained the nickname, "Hashmark!"      (A "hashmark"  was placed on the left slieve of the dress blouse each time a four year enlistment was completed.)

Lt. Levitt, while censoring my letter, penned his comments to my Mother.  Later, he obtained a copy from the Company Office and when the next
promotions were issued...Guess "WHO" was made PFC?"

************
LETTER FROM LT. LEVITT

Dear Mrs. Matthews,

The censor is also your son's platoon leader, and I desire to congratulate you on having such a fine son.  I thought his poem so entertaining (if
somewhat heart-breaking) that I have sent it to the Cleveland papers.  Incidentally, the only reason that "Tubby" did not make the P.F.C. was that
several others had more time in the service than he.  His intelligence, industry, and spirit are admirable.
H M LEVITT


VETERANS REMEMBER VETERANS

"G" Company   2-23
4th MARINE DIV. WWII"
Met in Atlanta GA   -   Nov 3-5, 1995

REFLECTIONS


The afterglow of a wonderful weekend continued with each telephone call, with each card that arrived in the mail, with each view of pictures now implanted in a special scrapbook, and as the mind returned to the sights and sounds and intense feelings generated by almost fifty Marines who were like family a half century ago...and who became family again..on "The Weekend Pass" to The Marque Hotel of Atlanta.

The Atlanta morning paper had carried a long article and pictures announcing the planned meeting at The Marquee Hotel near Perimeter Mall that would bring a special group of World War II Marines together, some of whom had not seen each other in more than a half century. Reporter Ron Martz had written the story and understood what was about to happen.  He had served as a Marine.

Excitement mounted with the arrival of each member of 2-G-23, FOURTH Marine Division in WWII, with brothers and sisters of those who fell overseas, with children, and with strangers who had learned of the gathering and arrived seeking information about a brother or an uncle who had fallen on some spit of Pacific real estate.

Cautious greetings in the lobby erupted into loud and boisterous expressions and "Bear Hugs" and, sometimes, a few tears.  There were introductions to wives who had heard stories again and again about long ago happenings...and now...they were meeting those Marines involved.

And..what stories....memories stored in the minds of each man could fill books.  Life and liberties at New River, North Carolina were remembered...the long train ride to Camp Pendleton, California and the rugged, intense training there...the barracks, the theater, the PX, the "Mess Hall," and for some...the brig!  And liberties to Redondo Beach and Los Angeles.

"Remember that night we boarded The Sheridian at San Diego and sailed to Maui and then to the Marshall Islands?"  Yes, they remembered...and of hitting the beach February 1, 1944 at Roi...of crawling from amphibious tractors...of fear and fighting...seeing first hand how cruel war really was.  They were the first to attack and retake pre-war Japanese territory.

There were stories about the few months on Maui...training, limited liberty, mud and rain and exhaustion. They remembered loading on LSTs and sailing for Pearl Harbor..of LSTs berthed adjacent to sugarcane fields at Weslock...of six LSTs exploding with the loss of more than one hundred fifty lives.  The story was kept secret for years.

They remembered the giant armada that gathered in The Marshalls and moved toward a secret destination...Saipan.   They remembered the night prior to assaulting the Saipan beach...of singing hymns aboard the LST...breakfast of steak and eggs...thoughts of home.  "G" Company went ashore in the "First
Wave" at 8:13....June 15, 1944.

Twenty five days of horror followed on Saipan....snipers, Japanese artillery and tanks, Bonsai attacks in the night, a Japanese bomber named "midnight Charlie,"...and death and near death that began before reaching the beach and never ceased.

"Do you remember when Freeby tried to save Nightengale?"  Yes, they remembered.  Heroics were common.  Some were recognized.  Many were not.  Officers died before they could write the citation.  Forty.."G" Company Marines..died there.

And then....there was that "little Mop Up" operation three miles away on the island of Tinian that offered surprising and grim reminders.  Thirteen..."G" Company Marines died there.  Few who were there at that time realized how important that seemingly insignificant piece of land would become to history. The Enola Gay flew from an airbase on Tinian in August 1945 carrying the tragic cargo that ended the war...savings thousands of lives on both sides.

The survivors returned to Maui.   Those whose wounds had healed returned to the Company from hospitals at Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, New Caledonia.   Depleted ranks were filled with replacements...young and eager
Marines...just out of Boot Camps at Paris Island and San Diego...and a year out of High Schools from all over America.  The "Old Privates" were now corporals and sergeants.

The "Original" "G" Company  Marines and the "New" Marines trained hard at Maui.  They were aware that the war was not over and there were more islands strongly defended by the enemy.  Those were the ones who remembered..and would never forget...Iwo Jima.  Stories of being wounded and being helped...abounded.  There were heroic remembrances of men who had been wounded and evacuated to first-aid ships....recovering sufficiently to volunteer to return to the beach and to their buddies who needed them.  Forty-one..."G" Company Marines died there.  G-company returned to Maui, Hawaii where the company was disbanded.   
G-Company had completed four major Pacific Campaigns....The Marshalls, Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima.     They had suffered 81% casualties.   There was never a victory parade for G-Company.  Each man returned to the states individually.    Some without an arm or a leg, some with ugly visible scars, some with terrible scaring of the mind.   Some returned in a box.   Some...Nightengale, Leary, Anderson, McDonald, Baxter, and others... whose bodies were never found...remained where they had died.

And...those who lived....came home.  They became salesmen, plumbers, attorneys, teachers, truck drivers, successful businessmen, clergymen.  They raised families and attended churches and voted...they Proudly Pledged Allegiance to the Flag of the United States, they stood at attention when the National Anthem was sung.

And...last Sunday morning...as a Color Guard of young Marines stood at attention  and as the name of every fallen comrade was read aloud,  the men of Company "G"....now in their seventies and eighties..

...Remembered...and Reflected...and Cried.

 

Submitted by:
Carl W "Tubby" Matthews    USMC  319143

 


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Edward L. Williams & Barbara Knox