Dad invited his friend, Ray, to our Memorial Day gathering last night. Then, he sent his Boomer kids another email this morning… more memoirs from the WWII War in the Pacific. Together, they’ve been harvesting freshwater pearls embedded in their minds each time they talk. Dad joined the Merchant Marines at eighteen—while Ray stationed for island combat in the Pacific. At 91 and 93 years young their favorite topic? Here’s the newest catch for those of you who do not have the privilege to hear these stories rolling fresh off active thinkers, God bless them!
I’ve told of my meeting a 93 yr. old Wartime Marine, Ray, who left that duty he’d volunteered for in 1942 after coming to California from the Midwest. A Missouri farm boy he was trained in Camp Pendleton and went on from there in a hurriedly leased Dutch flag tramp steamer quartered in the cargo hold with 300 other Marines. They were new replacements to the 2nd Division in camp 30 miles outside of Wellington, New Zealand.
The 2nd DIVISION along with the 1st had retired there after their bruising hard won victory in the vicious battle over the last stop in the Solomon Islands – GUADALCANAL. That named legendary jungle Island is still remembered as the 1st American assault on the seasoned Japanese forces. The enemy protected by a superior battle fleet, had been readying in that steaming equatorial island for their coming invasion of Australia.
Our friend among the fresh Marines arrived in New Zealand in August of ’43 aboard the escorted merchant ship to beef up the battle worn 2nd division after R&R stationed in tent camps near the Coast.
After 3 months of training and practicing landings they took off in November for the yet unknown South Pacific island of TARAWA. Theirs was an initiating trial by fire since it didn’t go easy. In the annals of Corp history it went down as a damaged reminder of the fickle tides of war. The tides and a reef were against them besides a waiting well-fortified enemy’s machine guns and 1,500 of those that slipped down from cargo nets onto waiting landing craft were casualties overnight.
But last night on the phone while inviting him to a BBQ he was remembering how much he loved his M1 rifle with him constantly for over 2 years. He slept and ate with it. He kept it clean and shiny. He felt sadness recalling giving it up at wars end. He went on to stay and marry in California, worked for the State starting with Board of Equalization and then transferred for his remaining working career to the state Dept of Real estate.
Yet, he returns to thoughts now of his fellow Marines of 70 years past – the half American Indian guy on Saipan who carried 25 pounds of dynamite on his backpack for blowing up caves. He got a Navy Cross for personally attacking a group of small Japanese tanks and his use of the dynamite without any thought of personal destruction. And, he thought of the BAR GUYS WHO WENT OVER THE SIDE heading for the beach WITH THAT 17 1/2 lbs. of firepower strapped to their backs plus ammo. He exclaimed we couldn’t have beaten the enemy and taken those mean places without the mobile BROWNING Automatic Rifle.
Anyway Ray has some physical challenges this week and won’t probably make the Memorial Day BBQ – but said “Have a good one.”
A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor Proverbs 29:23
A good name is more desirable than great riches, to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. Proverbs 22:1