13 december 2020


AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 1944. Illness in Guadalcanal. Special recon group. Prepping for Guam.

Photo of USS President Monroe

I recall being at sick call one morning, when one of these people was asked by the doctor to explain his problem. The exchange went something like this:

Doc: “What's your problem today?”

Marine: “I gotta go home.”

Doc: “Why do you say that?”

Marine: “I'm going nuts. I need a piece of ass.”

Doc: “So do I.”

Marine: “I jack off everyday.”

Doc: “So do I.”

Marine: “I think of nothing but girls and getting laid.”

Doc: “Good thinking.”

Marine: “You've got to do something to help me.”

Doc: “Get your ass out of here, I got real sick people to see.”

And real sick people were there, malaria was common, and no one was immune. Tropical ulcers were another of the maladies. These parasite caused infections would open wounds to the bone, and again, no one was immune. To this day I bear scars from these ulcers, having had 26 of them at one time. My legs were a mess. I had begun to have mild attacks of malaria. They would soon get worse. But nothing short of losing a limb, or Congressional action could get a person that ticket to stateside. (When the war finally ended some members of the Battalion had been overseas 5 years.) We were sustained by the occasional touring show, and by the every night movies. Norma was good for me, in that she wrote faithfully, and sent me little care packages, I faithfully sent about 80% of my pay home each month for her to bank. I was also getting mail from Wanda Buchanan, plus Mom and Grandma were faithful writers, as was my sister Florence. I tried writing Teddy, but receiving no answers I gave up. I made few close friends, but got along with everyone. Joe Yonan, an Armenian lad from Philadelphia became my best buddy, and I was soon engaged in a pen pal relationship with his sister. Her name was Angel. One day I received a letter from her thanking me for being his friend and asking me to watch over him. I replied, and a correspondence began.

The weeks went by and it was April 1944 Without any announcement the activity started to pick up, spare parts started rolling in and training was intensified. In May we received orders to mount out. We packed bag and baggage, everything we couldn't pack in our haversacks and packs was packed in our sea bags, and sea bags and bedding were put into storage. We embarked the Battalion on the Navy transport President Monroe, and without knowing shit as to destination or mission, we sailed. The scuttlebutt was thick, and each day brought a new rumor. One day it was Truk, another it was the Philippines, others had us going to Japan itself. By early June it was pretty clear we were going to the Marianas. Word was finally passed, we were to make a landing in support of the 3rd Marine Division on the island of Guam. We were slated to go in on 18 June. The irony of that date struck me. It was 18 June 1941, when I had enlisted in the Corps. Was I to die on that date too? Could the date be an omen? By this time I had been detached from my unit to Headquarters Battery per the request of a Captain Pickett, to be part of his recognizance party.

We were to land prior to the landing of the Battalion, and select gun sites which would give us cover and good fields of fire, etc. A recon party of four. Our landing area was Red Beach, between Aganis and Camel Rock. I felt honored that I had been requested by name, and at the same time I was scared shitless to be hitting the beach early in the operation. Our scheduled time was D-Day. H-hour plus 120 minutes, or in other words just a scant two hours after the initial landing. We trained, and we planned, we poured over the maps, we tried to cover all possible situations, and then came reprieve. The landings at Saipan and Tinian were not going as planned and we were ordered into reserve in case additional troops were required. Guam was put on hold. By early July the situation was in hand, and we were released from floating reserve, and Guam was rescheduled for 21 July. Our convoy of vessels turned East to Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands, where for the first time in over six weeks we were allowed to set foot on land. Beer parties and picnics were the order of the day, and each ship in the group was allowed so many personnel to go ashore daily. We were there for a week and my group enjoyed an afternoon of about 5 hour duration for R&R. It was enjoyable after all those days at sea. I didn't have it as bad as some, as I had met an electrician's mate from the Northampton who was ship's crew on the Monroe, and I was privileged to be allowed to share his cabin. There were six bunks and only five of them were occupied by crew so I was, as I said, privileged to use the vacant bunk rather than sleeping 6 men deep in a smelly hold. I had to be in my hold for morning muster, but outside of our training time I was on my own. Mid-july, we upped anchor and headed for Guam. The same Guam, where my first drill instructor “Sergeant Otto” had been taken prisoner by the Japanese.