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Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Should Veterans (Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines....) "Hand Salute," or simply use the gesture of placing the right hand over the heart?
Major General Vern Lewis, USA (Ret.) believes he has the answer!
The following is from a widely circulated e-mail regarding a suggestion by MajGen Vern Lewis, USA (Ret.) who, with others, is sponsoring a movement regarding hand saluting vice hand over heart for Veterans/Retired Military who choose to do so....
Since there is apparently no formal organization behind General Lewis' movement, it is hoped that other military-oriented websites will make every effort to get the word out to all hands and miitary organizations, etc., as requested by the general.
I gathered some 16 of my old military friends who agreed to sponsor
a movement for Veterans to salute rather than place their hands over
their heart when honoring the flag, fallen comrades, and/or the
country. I have some from each of the four principal services. Three
of them were former Vice Chiefs or Assistant Commandants of their
services, and several were former CINC's.
We refer to saluting when we do the pledge to the flag, when the
National Colors pass or are presented, when the National Anthem or
honors are played, or when taps are played and firing squads or guns
render honors. We got MOAA magazine to ask veterans what they
preferred, hand over the heart or saluting. When last I looked, some
583 veteran respondents had voted 81% in favor of the salute. In
addition, my email address was in the questionnaire and I've had
about 150 responses, with all but a dozen or so in favor of the
salute. Obviously an overwhelming majority of the veterans want to
There are no regulations telling us veterans what we can and can't
do in this matter. If we decide we want to salute, who will dare to
tell us "no"?
It is a matter of personal choice. We've earned the right to render
a salute. Now the challenge is to get the word out. I believe the
unit and branch associations are the best way. The commanders of the
American Legion and VFW never answered my emails, presuming they
even got them. If we can get this started it will take on a life of
its own. Those who object can continue the hand over the heart
thing. Gradually the custom will change, as well it should.
Just imagine thousands of fans saluting at NFL, MBA, and Major
League Baseball games when the National Anthem is played. It will
telegraph a message to all others of how many have served this
country in the Armed Forces---it will be a positive and patriotic
You can help by putting the word out in your organizations, which
are made up of patriots like you and me. Thanks, my friend.
I, personally, think this suggestion by MajGen Vern Lewis, USA (Ret.) is a good one. As he points out, there are no regulations regarding veterans and military retirees on this specific issue. It is a matter, therefore, of personal choice, and those still preferring the hand over the heart are not affected.
Those who bring up such things as various forms of civilain attire, naval personnel not saluting indoors/outdoors, covered/uncovered, etc., are just confusing the issue--a very simple issue to begin with. Whether or not a salute would be appropriate in certain/all situations would obviously to be within the judgment of each individual.
General Lewis states, in part....
"There are no regulations telling us veterans what we can and can't do in this matter. If we decide we want to salute, who will dare to tell us "no"? It is a matter of personal choice. We've earned the right to render a salute. Now the challenge is to get the word out. I believe the unit and branch associations are the best way. The commanders of the American Legion and VFW never answered my emails, presuming they even got them. If we can get this started it will take on a life of its own. Those who object can continue the hand over the heart thing. Gradually the custom will change, as well it should."
I recall that in boot camp in 1952, we were instructed by one of our DIs, a corporal, on saluting. Among many other things, he pointed out that a salute was basically a form of military greeting, and that it was not uncommon for enlisted Marines to salute other Marines both well beyond the prescribed saluting distance, and in civilian clothes. I have since done so myself on many occasions.
By coincidence this comes up now as it has for a long time been my own opinion that veterans, including retired military, should render the hand salute rather than placing their right hand over the heart, at least those desiring to do so. To the military man what could be more natural than saluting?! This, then, being so for most, why do we just stand at attention, hand on heart, etc. while we really feel that we should be rendering the hand salute?
The answer is that we ASSUME that that is NOT the correct thing to do, not acceptable, against regulations, etc. NOT SO!, and General
Lewis makes that point clear in his email, above. Too often we assume things that are just not not so, and this is one of those times.
Gen Lewis' piece has been widely circulated on the Internet these last few days. His own poll on MOAA has shown responses overwhelmingly in favor of the hand salute over the hand over heart. Other messageboards, e-mails that I have viewed indicate the same.
Some do not seem to understand that by many of us (or a few of us) changing to the hand salute would NOT then preclude those who wish to continue their preference of placing their right hand over the heart. It is just NOT an "either/or" situation; each can read this information and decide for themselves what he/she wishes to do. Again, still others tend to make this simple and clear issue complicated by bringing up, for instance, naval personnel not saluting indoors, covered/uncovered, etc. None of these things affect the issue as stated by Gen Lewis; individuals will continue to use their best personal judgment in each case.
The main drawback in what Gen Lewis is attempting to do, I think, is in getting the word out to all veterans/retired miltary personnel. There is no organization behind this. But it has to be made clear that this suggestion of his does not constitute a change to any regulation at all. As he states, there is no regulation to begin with to preclude veterans.retirees from rendering the hand salute if we so choose! Those choosing the hand over heart are also free to do so.
So then, those of us who agree with the general, should make every effort to spread the word on this not just to individual veterans, but to military/veteran-related organizations.
For more information, responses from others, etc., please click on link/title at the top of this page and proceed to that link which has several responses at the bottom of that page.
GLOBE and ANCHOR
Marines Sites & Forums
By R.W. "Dick" Gaines
Gny Sgt USMC (Ret.)
GyG's G&A Sites & Forums is an informational site and not for profit. Copyrighted material provided soley for education, study, research, and discussion, etc. Full credit to source shown when available.
Friday, March 03, 2006
Marine Vignettes #77
I DIDN'T RAISE MY BOY TO BE A SOLDIER:
Excerpts from Grandpa’s Memoirs
By Bill Monks
August 1, 1999
Each Morning on the way to James Madison, H.S., Brooklyn N.Y., Pep and
I would pass the Draft Board on Madison Pl. & Quentin Rd. We would see
either a friend or a relative hanging out in front, waiting to be
processed. It was like a giant drain sucking all the young men out of
the neighborhood. When we graduated in Jan of 44, we were still
seventeen, and too young for the draft. We worked in A & S Dept. store
for about 3 months as stock boys. When I got my draft notice, we both
quit without giving notice. We knew nothing about notice. We got one
heck of a lecture by a somber old gentleman, wearing a black suit, in
the personnel office. He spoke to us about the ethics of the business
world and our responsibility to our employer. That the proper thing to
be done would be to provide the firm with the normal two weeks notice.
What we were doing was not just done. It certainly made a lot of sense.
We hung our heads while we listened and felt very guilty, then we
quit. Pep got his "Greetings" (draft notice) shortly thereafter. We
had our 18th birthdays two weeks apart. Two months later the Government
gave us the choice of service, Pep chose the Navy and I went to Parris
Parris Island, S.C. was Boot Camp for all Marines east of the
Mississippi. I was to find out about forty years later that I had spent
the hottest summer in the history of South Carolina learning how to
obey an order, and stay in back of the guy in front of me.
Crossing over the bridge to Parris Island (P.I.) was a one-way trip.
When we arrived we were greeted by a very large muscular gentleman
called Corp. Stone; he was to be our Drill Instructor (D.I.). He
had us form into four ranks of 15. We were a group of 60, made up of a
majority of 18 yr. olds; the rest of us were from 25 to 32. The Gov.
was scraping the barrel, as far as ages available for the draft. I
could tell immediately D.I. Stone was not impressed with the clay that
he was to mold into Marines. He stood there glaring at us with a face
that would make a lemon blanch. He did not snuggle up to us, he hated
us. He vilified us, using all sorts of profanity, displaying a very
limited vocabulary. He randomly picks an individual from the ranks and
destroys him with demeaning comments about his mother, father and the
girl back home. This guy was really sick. He seemed to be barely
containing an urge to do us bodily harm. His harangue boiled down to,
that despite this pile of garbage that was unloaded on him, he was
going to turn it into a platoon of Marines. He told us to forget about
Mom, he was going to be our Mother and we were to be in his care from
June 2 till Aug 15th. I later realized that he had either lied to us,
or he had one hell of a tough Mother. I also noticed the poor man had a
hearing problem. He would stand with his nose almost touching mine and
inform me that he couldn't hear me, forcing me to shout into his face.
I had no problem hearing him. His memory was shot too, couldn't
remember names, called everybody "Boy"! It was my first encounter with
a real live son of a bitch.
From my first moment on P.I. I was totally immersed in a training
program that used my every breath for the good of the Corps. What ever
they were doing to us, they had it down to a science. The main idea in
the training was to destroy all self esteem, kill the individual. All
the Corps wanted was raw meat. Life was to be found only in the group.
We were to exist only as a cell in the body. A lobotomy was thrown in
with the hair cut, all free will was removed. A mental gang rape in
reverse, was part of the training program. The group would think as
one, and of only one thing, OBEY, QUESTION. The only saving grace
was that we were in it together. We bonded like a herd of musk oxen.
The experience was so irrational. It was like punishing a man before he
committed the crime. It was the stick without the carrot. It was hard
for us to fathom why they were so cruel.
Each morning after they would pair the Boots (us) off in order to box
each other. The match would not be over until there was a display of
blood. The D.I. would always attempt to match two buddies. Those
matches were unholy. I thought the system definitely called for some
constructive criticism, but on second thought I realized I might be
putting the Drill Instructor's foot in my mouth. I felt sorry for the
old guys, men between the ages of 25 & 32, that was a tough age to be
made over. My age at least left me more pliable, not yet set in the
ways of human behavior. The Drill Instructor assumed no responsibility
for the end product, he really didn't give a damn how you could ever
fit back into civilian life. His job was to get you back home in one
piece. All I knew, was that each day I was losing something, part of
me was dying each day. It was as if I was bleeding "me.”
I wondered how anybody could live in South Carolina while enduring
that horrible heat. Everyday in the sun it was well over a hundred
degrees, I kid you not. I did not realize until years later, when by a
strange quirk of faith, I saw South Carolina's weather statistics. I
cracked up when I saw that June, July and August of l944 was the
hottest summer S.C. ever had. I remember how I would watch the uniform
of Bill Farrell, the guy in front of me, turn from a light green to
black as we marched, and the beads of sweat drop off his ears.. We
popped salt tablets like peanuts. The D.I. had a thing about keeping
in step and rank while we threw our rifles from one shoulder to the
other. We would practice this close order drill for hours, on a field
of deep loose sand. God it was hot. He would march beside us constantly
repeating "Reep, Reep, Reep". I could never figure out what he was
trying to tell us. Joel Kershoff was the first man to collapse, down
he went into white hot sand. . He was a big fat soft guy from Brooklyn.
I don't think Joel ever exercised in his life. As we marched over
him, naturally we went out of step to avoid stepping on him. After we
passed over him, the D.I. gave the order to the rear march. Back we
went, every man in step. As we approached our fallen comrade, lying
where he fell, we were told that there was a possibility of stepping on
him, or over him depending where your foot fell, but you kept in STEP
and in RANK. The D.I.,said, "The man who missed a step or broke rank to
avoid the prostate form, will take his place, and we will walk over
you.”. The D.I. always had a thing about keeping in step, I guess it
looked pretty. As we marched over him , we managed not to step on him.
He joined us back in the barracks, the sand had clung to the sweat on
his face. He looked as if had been stepped on.
Joel was definitely a D.I.'s nightmare. Joel was an overweight, misfit,
a real blob. Even though he was in sad shape and made a lousy
appearance, Joel had guts. Life on Parris Island was a chore for all of
us, but for Joel the physical training was hell. His special cross was
made of fat. Most of Joel made it through P.I., but he did leave about
forty pounds down there. No doubt his mind was busted when we
graduated, but he looked great. His family must have been shocked when
he came home on Boot leave and saw the end product of P.I. They
probably never believed his tale of woe, he could hardly believe it.
So many guys were collapsing that an order came down, if the temp.
went over 95 we were not to go on the drill field. The D.I.'s scoffed
and we continued drilling in the sand between the barracks. I'm
talking about 130 in the sun, look it up, July,Aug., l944, Parris
Island. Before dawn we would fall in at attention at the foot of our
sacks. Guys would collapse like trees falling, never bending their
knees, you would hear this sickening slap, as if a board fell. You
would always hesitate falling out for sick call. There was always the
chance they would put you in the hospital and you would lose your
platoon, which meant additional time on the Island.
I remember one night helping a buddy, John Cook, over to the head
(bathroom) to soak huge blisters he had on his feet. While we were
there we made the mistake of asking a Marine, who was stepping out of
the shower, for the time. I called him Joe, for lack of a name, big
mistake, he turned out to be a nude D.I. He made us stand at attention
and said he would be back. My buddy and I spent most of the rest of the
night standing at attention. We finally worked up enough courage to
take off back to our barracks. I never did get the gentleman's name.
Constant fatigue was always a problem, not near enough sleep time. I
remember standing exhausted in front of our D.I. while I attended one
of his many lectures. God I was tired. He was built like Arnold
Swartzeneger, with the head of a gorilla. I was deathly afraid of
him. I guess you would describe him as a poor mixer and antisocial. He
must have came from a broken family. While he talked I was having
serious trouble keeping my upper lid from touching my bottom lid. The
behemoth's gaze froze on me and I knew there was something horrible
about to happen. My eye lids were lead. He was kind enough to notice
my unintentional faux pas, as I went off to sleep on my feet. He had a
remedy for my unpardonable behavior--he grabbed me by the collar, with
these huge hands and shook my eyeballs. I was suddenly wide awake, my
eyelids felt like feathers. I was now able to give him my complete
attention. It was obvious that he had a medical background. A Johns
Hopkins man no doubt, had specialized in narcolepsy. It was a lasting
cure; to this day, I sleep with one eye open.
Whenever we screwed up we would have the bucket drill. We really
didn't have to screw up. Our two D.I.s would come back to the barracks
in the middle of the night, after being well bombed and yell "BUCKET
DRILL,” "HIT THE DECK." Upon hearing that dreaded order you would
leave a coma like sleep and leap from your sack, and place yourself at
rigid attention in your skivvies (underwear), at the foot of your
metal, double decker sack. Before taking this position, you would place
your heavy cast-iron wash bucket over your head. Immediately next to
you is the man you share the double decker with. Our heads, in the
buckets, are about six inches from the metal bar along the foot of
your top sack. The D.I.s walking with the silence of cats, would
proceed down the long aisle between the two rows of bucketed
Marines, at attention, at the foot of their sacks. A D.I would slam
each bucket into the metal bar that was at the foot of the top sack.
You would try to anticipate your bell being rung, by trying to spot
the toes of his shoes as he stood in front of you, giving you time to
brace and cringe. Now the bucket drill begins, picture l5 double
deck sacks on each side of the aisle with two bucket heads standing
at the foot of each sack. On the word "GO" the first man crawls on
the floor under the first double decker, he then proceeds to climb
over the top of the second double decker and then under the bottom of
the third, etc. At his heels there are 59 other guys following the
same course. Naturally the buckets remain on our heads during the
whole drill. It always was hilarious, the buckets were filled with
cries of pain and laughter. It wasn't all that bad, it was the only
privacy we ever had.
One Sunday afternoon one of our D.I.'s was attempting to walk on his
hands during a break in the training. To show up the D.I., like a real
smart ass, I walk down the few steps that led out of the barracks on
my hands. He pretends not to notice. That night he showed how much
he appreciated my agility. That night, about 1 o'clock, The night
guard woke me from my coma and informed me that I had just been
ordered to the D.I.'s quarters, which was a separate room at the end
of the barracks. I knocked on the door and reported my presence to
the Drill Instructors. They readily granted me access and then
proceeded to bounce me from one wall to another. It was like a game
of catch, only they were too drunk to catch. They eventually opened
the door and threw me out. They never said a word. They didn't have
A great deal of time at P.I. was spent developing a bond with your
new found friend the M1 rifle. It was a great weapon and a loyal
friend. If you treated your friend right he would never let you down
.A grueling exercise called snapping in was used to train you in all
the varied firing positions, which were never to be used in combat,
outside of the prone position. I pulled every muscle in my body
before I pulled a trigger. I did enjoy firing my weapon. At the
Rifle Range you would not only learn to fire your weapon with
expertise., but you also had to spend time on butt detail.. This
entailed standing in a trench as the firing line placed shots in the
target several feet above your head. After the firing ceased you
lowered the target, which you would slide down on a frame.
Down in the butts the activity is fast moving. Targets must be
disked, marked and pasted up carefully and quickly. You would
immediately place markers in the bullet holes, to indicate the hits.
You would also hold up marker poles to give the score. All this was
not to difficult under normal circumstance, but my friend Corp,
Stone, while sitting on a bench in back of me, amused himself, by
prodding me in the back with a marker pole, as I work the target.
Maybe I should have offered to teach him to walk on his hands. I
think we were still at the Range, it was on a Sunday about the last
week of training, a Boot sneaked off to the PX to buy a 1/2 gallon of
Ice Cream. The D.I. caught him and tied the container on top of his
head, up side down. It was high noon an another blazing hot day. The
platoon was called out, to form up at attention in front of the
barracks. We were forced to watch as the poor soul stood suffering
the melt down. He stood in front of the platoon until the ice cream
had melted all over him and he was covered with sand flies. In the
beginning we thought it was amusing. I wonder, if he ever got home, if
anybody ever asked him what the low point of his life was. It's
strange how whenever Marines meet it's never the campaigns, but P.I.,
that always becomes the center of the conversation. Laughter always
manages to drown out the wild tales of horror. It always turns into a
game of "Can you top this". Everybody believed they had the
toughest D.I.'s. And for some strange reason we were proud of them.
(Stockholm Syndrome). I hold the D.I.s in high esteem. A fine body
of men who did a damn good job. They deserve as much credit for
Marine victories as any front line outfit.
On our last day, my personal nemesis, Corp Stone, gave us a story
about there was nothing personal in his tortuous behavior, that it was
all done to save our lives. I am sure his statement had a ring of
truth to it, but it did make you pause and think, just how much you
valued your life. I see the truth to Machiavelli's crack about power
tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. There is
always that small element that does not warrant power over other
men. When I look back at P.I., I get this strange feeling of
pleasure. I guess that Frenchman felt the same way, after he had
walked over Niagara Falls on a cable, pushing his wife in a wheel
barrel. If you want to live a hundred years, spend l0 weeks on
Parris Island. There are two things you cannot adequately convey to
another,.. P.I. and pain, thank God.
After combat training in New River, NC we boarded a troop train for
San Diego (A tragic comedy on wheels). We didn't have enough food on
board for the troops. One time the train paused and little black
children gathered at the side of the track. We threw money out the
window and asked them to buy us some chow. I can't remember if we
ever got the food before the train moved on.. We stopped in a
small town in the middle of Texas for l5 minutes of calisthenics,
followed by a ten minute break. We were so hungry, during the break
we stripped the only grocery store in town. We bought everything that
was eatable. In minutes the shelves were bare, and the locust were
gone. Imagine the memory we must have left with that grocer. The
train pulled out and left about twenty Marines running down the
track. When they caught up with us in San Diego they were thrown
into the brig for 5 days on piss & punk (bread & water). Once,
while we were rolling, a bum stepped into our car He must have been
traveling between cars or on the roof, Gad was he filthy. I couldn't
believe he was human. We withdrew from him as if he was a beast. We
fed him and he disappeared out of the car.
I shipped out of San Diego on the Dutch East Indian freighter,
Bloemfontein, on the Marine Corps birthday 10 November l944.The ship
was never equipped to carry troops. Crew made up of little black
guys, from the Island of Java. As we proceeded further and further
south, the heat and overcrowded conditions became unbearable. We
tried to escape the heat below, by sleeping on the hatch covers. In
the moonlight you could watch the rats jump from one body to another.
There were only four things you could do on board to pass the
time, read, play cards, shoot dice, or get on the chow line. After
we were out a couple of weeks, the guy in the next sack, a card
shark, we called Mr. Lucky, asked me to keep an eye on him, while he
slept. He not only had everybody's money, but also had their
watches. What ever he was doing, he was good at it. He must have
noticed that I slept with one eye open. Mr Lucky had narrowed down the
entertainment to reading and the chow line. I remember sitting on the
floor in the head cutting cards for ten dollars a cut with Frank
Morganstern. Neither one of us had any money. We had extended each
other an endless line of credit. Neither one of us won any money,
but we did lose a lot of time, which was the name of the game.
The smell of fuel oil was memorable. Your uniform took on all the
attributes of a greasy, grimy canvas hatch cover. The only water
available to wash with was sea water. Our soap and the sea water
didn't mix. The suds in your hair would turn to gum. Sometimes we
would attach our dirty clothes to a line and throw it over the side,
hoping the motion of the wake would remove the dirt.. I remember how
we would crack up when a Marine would forget he had his clothes over
the side and leave it overnight. When he would heave the line in,
there would just be a bundle of rags.
Taken off ship in Hawaii for a three hour beer party. Three thousand
Marines, charge cases of beer stacked on picnic tables in an open
field. Those who were fleet of foot grabbed as many cases they could
lift and kept on running, disappearing into the boondocks . It was a
case of the quick and the sober. It was hilarious, the mother of all
hide and seek games. It was the first time I drank that much beer, I
got sick as that old dog, part of me is still in Hawaii.
On to Eniwetok, land of palm trees, without palms. The shell fire
from the Navy prior to a previous invasion had denuded all the trees
The island looked like a hair brush. Convoy bombed off Saipan.
Confined below deck during bombing, all hatches battened, felt
trapped. It was the last bombing of Saipan. Land on Guam, thirty
days out of San Diego, (now the bum looked well dressed). If there
was ever a ship that deserved a toast it was the Bloemfontein, "
BOTTOM UP". I join Charlie Co.. Live in a tent that has been
pitched over fox holes. Five old salts in tent, nice guys, when they
look at me I feel 5 years old. They think I have my Boot hair cut. I
let a buddy cut my hair aboard ship with a little scissors from a
sewing kit. I look like I have the mange.
First night on guard at perimeter, I hear wild pigs eating garbage.
I think we are about to be overrun. P.I. pays off, I managed to
subdue the urge to spray the area. First week in Charlie I report
to sickbay, Doc. informs me I have Mu Mu ( elephantiasis , a disease
that caused a severe swelling of the legs and scrotum) and that I
can expect big things, tells me I'm going home. This is deduced from
infection in the groin. Old salts in my tent get hysterical when I
tell them. It seems the Div. picked up the disease during the
Bougainville campaign. A lot of guys were showing up with it, but
there was no way I could have it. Doctor seems disappointed when I
tell him, I just arrived from the States. Infection disappears, no
need for wheel barrel to carry scrotum. Beragata Showered in
the rain, (the only fresh water) the trick was to get the soap off
before it stopped. Led to a lot of humorous scenes. What do you do
when your standing in the middle of the Co. street, stark naked,
covered with soap and God shuts off the shower. Later we put out empty
fuel drums at edge of tent to catch rain water to wash in. Helmet
great wash basin. Drinking water in Lister bags, (Large canvas bag,
holds about 30 gallons, water mixed with heavy dose of Iodine), it
had four spigots, usually set up at center of camp. Each day before
we would go out on patrol we would stop at the bag and fill our
canteens. Put bullion cubes in my canteen to kill taste of iodine. It
was a strange mix, iodine tasted better. At our meals we drank coffee
or concentrated lemon juice mixed with water. We called the
concentrated lemon juice, battery acid. Naturally without
refrigeration, it was always warm. It was so caustic that what ever
was left after the meal the cooks would use to scour the pots. Back
in the states I think they call it Vivid.
My squad gives me a unique initiation ceremony. While out on patrol
we take a break at a particular spot on the trail, and I'm sent out as
outpost. I'm placed in a small clearing, down trail and told to stay
alert and warn them if I hear anything. I immediately sit on a
fallen log and relax. After being there a short time I realize I am
not alone. Flush up against the back of the log I am sitting on, is
what we would call in those days, a " Nip" (Jap). I first notice
his feet out of the corner of my eye, he is lying on his back. I jump
up and whirl around to look at his face, only to realize he had been
decapitated. It's obvious by the condition of the body, that he
has been dead for some time. After the initial shock I find it more
interesting than frightening. When I return to the squad I mention
the corpse to them, nobody seems interested. Later I realize they
must have been watching me make the discovery, and I kind of let
them down. To me he is the enemy, I feel nothing for him. The system
Heat & rain, most of the time it didn't bother me. One of the main
reasons I joined the Corps, was to make sure I escaped the hated cold,
not realizing I was heading for the Parris Island oven.
Charlie Co, great bunch, still paling out with old buddy from New
River, Sam Morgal. Sam was a good friend, he came from D.C.,a real
character, great sense of humor. He was much older than I, about
thirty two. All Sam ever wanted was a beer and a deck of cards and
my money to lose. He was a great beer drinker and a great card
player, but he had trouble doing both at the same time. The guys in
the tent are Howard Clifton ,Bill Rosnick, Walter Clausen, Jimmy
Gaskins, John Aiello, and Sam Morgal. We all came from different
States, but we had one thing in common, that bound us together. We
were all suffering and we hated being there. Thank God we all went
a little crazy.
I remember one night we got into our sacks neglecting to turn off
the light, (Taps had sounded but our light was still burning
brightly.) Each guy refused to get up. Each time the guard would
pass our tent he would yell lights out. No body would move. About
eleven o'clock, out of no where the Officer of The Day lands in the
middle of our tent floor, screaming attention. Nobody is awake, we
all lie there with our eyes bolted closed. We know the first guy who
shows life is going to get nailed. Finally he shakes Sam. Sam
pretends that he is Lazarus coming forth from the sleep of death.
Sam has us all killing our selves holding back the laughter. Finally
we all get up like we are following Sam out of the tomb. The
Lieutenant is mad as hell but we swear to him that the whole thing
was just an oversight. I remember the day we chipped in and bought
a two tube radio for $ 125 bucks, big money in those days. The next
day we went off to chow and our prize radio went elsewhere. I
remember Jimmy Gaskins would wake up some mornings saying he heard
the whistle of the train that passed on the other side of the corn
field back home. Where I live now, 50 years later, I too hear a train
whistle at night, and my thoughts go back to Jimmy.
Patrols (eyes & ears used to the maximum), mosquitos had a field day,
afraid to take your hands off weapon to brush them off your face.
Thirteen men moving in complete silence, ghostlike. Walking the
point (lead man on patrol, first man to draw fire) was like having
cancer, "why me?" While at point, the silence always tempting you to
turn around to make sure you weren't alone. A sustained feeling of
terror and yet the eager tenseness of a football kickoff. Point man
upsets beehive, discipline disintegrates, everybody takes off, very
embarrassingly funny. We would try to guess about how long it would
take us to actually sweep Guam of Japs, not taking prisoners didn't
help. They were still coming out 25 years later. For years after the
war I would occasionally spot an article in the N.Y. Times, how 3 or
4 of our little brown brothers emerged from the boondocks on Guam.
They played war for keeps. They were as tough as they come, a worthy
opponent, they could not accept defeat. Jungle ( Adapted to
tropical habitat, couldn't believe I ever walked on a sidewalk.)
Time takes a holiday, clock stops moving. I can't get used to the
necklaces that two machine gunners are wearing. (Marines wearing
necklaces made up of the gold teeth, that are being taken out of the
mouths of the dead "Nips"). I realized now that the boy next door
had the potential to be a hell of a nut. Some of us were
(anthropologically speaking) were climbing back up into the trees.
I find that the top soil of civilization is very thin. We needed Mom
watching us, more than her apple pie. We actually developed a sort of
new language to express our inner turmoil. Sex was rampart, every
noun was having intercourse. I mean every word used was preceded by
the verb. It was the only way to vent our deep frustration. We all
used it, so it must have worked.
Living in a tent with other men taught me an awful lot about love and
forgiveness. What I remember most was that who ever moved into our
tent, no matter what kind of personality, we would eventually
understand his faults and love him. We had no problem empathizing
with a tentmate, we all had the same pain inside of us. We were
closer than brothers. A costly bonding, a unique sharing never to
be matched in my life time. (Not ever being in prison.) It has been
many years but I still have a picture of my squad over my desk. We
each have a beer in our hand, and a great smile on our face. I think
we were all pretty shot. I never saw another picture that displayed
more joy. Sometimes you wonder if it ever happened. It has taken me
fifty years to say "It was worth it." When I came back after
the war I listened to my friends tell these wild stories about the
English, French and German and Italian girls. We were sitting at a
round table at our local Pub, each guy would top the previous
seduction. When it came my turn I couldn't think of how to top them,
so I decided to tell the truth. "The only woman I ever met or
spoke too, was behind a counter in the Marvin House, a PX on Guam.
She was about fifty. I'll never forget what I said to her. I turned
on the old charm."Can I please have a Coke?" You know you can tell
when a woman is about to lose control, it was obvious she was
smitten. I took the coke from her milk white hand. I looked deep into
her eyes, as I said "Thank you,” and walked back into the night.
There was no doubt in my mind that she would have been my slave, but
I had a war to win. I hope she has forgotten me."
It gets to the point, at night when a mosquito came under the net I
won't interrupt his dinner. There was no malaria on the Island and
it's hot as hell, so we sleep naked, we couldn't care less about
mosquitos. Our feet were covered with the creeping crawling crud.
Our toes look like they are rotting off. Every week the corpsman
tries a new dip. My toes have been painted every color of the
rainbow. Soon as I hit the States an immediate cure takes place.
Huge toads all over Guam. No matter where you were in the boondocks,
there would be a toad. The constant spraying of DDT killed the food
chain that the toad depended on, hastening his demise. A good
spraying would turn our green dungarees black, I still can remember
the evil smell of it. Spray planes came over often, while we were
out on patrol, we should have been issued umbrellas. " We have met
the enemy and they are us." I heard years later that the toads
were replaced by giant snails. The latest news is that tree snakes
have killed the snails and decimated all the bird life by destroying
It's my nineteenth birthday, I'm out on patrol. Tonight I'll
celebrate by sleeping in a swamp, in the rain. I'll sleep on my back
to prevent drowning. Now it's morning, I'm wet, cold, hungry. We
look at each other, and crack up laughing. We are all soaked to the
skin, our uniforms are black with water, our hands are wrinkled from
resting in water all night. Why am I laughing? Tom Morgan, a past
member of a Florida chain gang, has broke down and is crying. Tom
was much older than the rest of us and we thought of him as our rock.
There is a time to cry, and that was the time. Of course nobody
noticed or mentioned that Tom had had it.
It is strange how
nobody ever seems to catch a cold, despite the hours spend in the
rain, soaking wet. I had painful asthma attacks from the time I was
nine till I joined the Corps. From the day I left home till the
present day I never have another attack. My Mother thought that the
service was going to be the death of me. Outside of a few minor
scratches I enjoyed marvelous health. I do remember one time when I
was in the hospital, there was a Marine in a sack opposite mine who
was suspended in mid air by ropes. He told me that shortly after he
came back from the Iwo campaign, he was on the top of his tank
scrubbing it down with gasoline, when a passing Marine flipped a
cigarette butt at the tank. He joked with me, saying he was facing
a court marshall when he got out for using gasoline to clean the
tank. I don't think he made it out. Most of his skin was gone, which
left the poor guy looking like a lobster. The pain had to be
unbearable. He was what the word cool was all about. Even though he
was flat out he looked real tall to me, man at his best.
actually had a bullet land in my lap while sitting in a hole on a
combat firing range. It had ricocheted off a tree, hit my helmet then
the side of the hole then into my lap. I nonchalantly placed it in my
breast pocket and brought it home. I always think of it as my
greatest catch. Served as runner, poor sense of direction. I was
never lost, always knew where I was, but where the hell was Baker
Co. Luck was my North Star. I missed the talent that Phil used, to
guide us out of the cattails, down at the old Mill, back home.
We all take a physical prior to Iwo campaign. Doctor tells me I have
a heart murmur. I thought I had a ticket home, and it wasn't going to
be on my toe. The Doc. just told me not to run around too much when
I got to Iwo. We both cracked up laughing. The whole 3rd
Reg.is moving out. My outfit is to board the APA Frederick Funston.
We are strung out for miles in full combat gear, preparing to embark.
As I reach the top of a rise, I can see the five thousand long snake
winding its way along the coral road the Seabees (Navy Construction
Battalion) built, were heading for the beach. I wonder how many guys
are walking their last mile. Thank God eighteen year olds don't die.
It's a long haul to the ship, and I remember how a case of stolen
pears relieved the squads thirst on the march. It was extremely hot
and everything we owned was on our back or in our seabag. We would
stick our Kaybars (jungle knife) into a can and suck the juice and
throw the can away with the pears. I realized my James Madison H.S.
ring was missing, and it was going to remain somewhere up in the
hills, where we had broken camp. That ring belonged to a 17 year old
who was as missing as the ring.
After several days at sea, we enter the area called the Volcano
Chain. In the morning mist, we notice strange land masses called
stacks, jutting out of the water. It was as if we were approaching
the castle of Dr. Frankenstein. Arrive at Iwo Jima early morning,
rest of Div. has already disembarked. The panoramic view of Iwo
Jima was awesome. It was a piece of nothing, covered with volcanic
ash. It lacked any growth and was spotted with sulphur wells. The
initial landing had been made and the black beaches were covered with
wreckage. It appeared as if a huge ammo dump had exploded destroying
all theÔ equipment that we had placed ashore. The beach looked like
absolute chaos. It was immediately obvious that the Japs had the
catbird seat on Mt. Suribachi, on the southern tip. Our little brown
brothers could drop mortars on anything, on anybody, anywhere. It
was the Queen of positions. The beachhead was continually being
pounded. One year later I stood on top of Surabachi, and the sight
made me sick. It made shooting fish in a barrel look hard. We
intended to put 60 thousand men ashore on an Island that was 2 X 4
miles, 1/3 the size of Manhattan. It was being defended by 25 thousand
Japs ( Longstreet odds).This does not leave too much standing room
when you realize how much equipment had to be brought ashore. In
spite of our Gung Ho, 3rd Div. Commander, the overall Campaign
Commander (Now sitting at the right hand of) would not authorize the
landing of our 3rd Mar. Regiment. The other three Regiments. in our
Div., the 9th Mar., 21st Mar. & 12th Mar. were in action ashore. Our
Div. was taking tremendous losses but the need was more for equipment
than troops. There was just so much beach room. We were to be
designated Floating Reserve. We continuously circled the Island. It
was ringside, watching men die by the thousands. The only thing that
occasionally obstructed our view was the smoke of battle. There was
a mantle of smoke that hung a couple hundred feet over the island.
We were surprisingly very close in. I guess if they needed us in a
hurry we could be on the beach in no time. We could see the tanks
get bogged down and knocked out. The tanks were having a tough time
operating in the volcanic ash, but they were doing a great job
rescuing guys who were pinned down. Field glasses were being
continually passed. It didn't get much darker during the night.
Flares and shell fire were constant. The noise of the exploding
shells was continuous, no let up. The big wagons were further out to
sea firing their huge shells over us. They do sound like freight
trains. The carrier planes were dive bombing. We immediately took
wounded aboard. They cleared all cabins for them. The story has it
that the ship's Captain's son came aboard for dinner. He was a
Marine Capt serving with the 4th Marine Div on the island. They say he
was a stand up guy, who gave us a brief talk on what was going on. It
was an odd happening, his Dad sailing around Iwo while his son
fought. He went back on shore after dinner. The next evening his
father had his son's body brought back on board. He wanted to bury
him at sea. The wounded wanted to know why we were not relieving
them. They said the JapÔ mortars were killing them, there was no
cover. If you stood in one place long enough you were bound to get
hit. They said the Japs were firing huge mortar shells that the
Marines had dubbed "flying seabags". Every move was being watched
from Suribachi. We had a tremendous feeling of guilt and
helplessness. To this day I still have a sense of guilt. Some wanted
to go ashore, I prayed to God we wouldn't, I had suddenly found
religion. The best Marine is l8 or l9 and a hell of an optimist. Of
course there is always the thinking man, who didn't win too many
marble games. The wounded told us the garbage men were taking the
worse losses. Those are the fellows who carry the flame throwers.
They were priority targets for the Japs because of what they
carried. It did not pay to stay close to them. Prior to the campaign
I had the unlucky experience of having my lungs seared by a flame
thrower from a tank. It was during a practice run at a pillbox, we
were out of sight of each other, in high grass. I could hear it
moving but I couldn't place it. I just didn't want to be mashed. I
never thought it was carrying a " Zippo", (Cigarette lighter, slang
for flame thrower). For one brief moment the air was burning hot and
my lungs were on fire. What a miserable way to go. Luckily there was
no lasting damage. If you want the same sensation, put your head over
the gas flame in your kitchen and take a deep breath. I might have
stumbled across the cure for asthma. Ask your Doctor first. One
day they call my platoon to fall in on the deck. They are asking for
garbage men. No one budged. We are being asked to make an
independent decision, to use our free will, not used since our
lobotomy. There is no order involved, direct or indirect, if we are
ordered over the side, we would go as one man. This was crazy, I was
no longer part of the group. For one brief moment I'm Bill Monks
again. I stand alone on the deck. It's catch 22, it going to be
either physical or spiritual death. This wasn't what P.I. was about.
I know if any of the guys from the tent put their hand up, the
whole tent was going to be in big trouble. We took our musk©ox's
stance and closed ranks, no one volunteered. Deep in my heart I knew
there wasn't a coward among us, yet we were cursed to sail on that
Flying Dutchman for the rest of our lives, forever circling that damn
island, questioning our courage. Talk about a guilt trip. "Yes Son, I
saw the flag go up on Suribachi. I watched".
Everyone knew the campaign was going to be settled on Suribachi. He
who holds the high ground wins the battle. It was Marye's Heights at
Fredericksburg, Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg and it was going to Mt.
Suribachi at Iwo Jima. We had a huge plaster mock up of the Island
on deck, and that Mountain looked ominous. We hit that Mt. with
everything that we had. All the heavy stuff off shore, are carrier
based planes, constantly bombed and strafed. All the Marine
artillery on the Island was concentrating on it, determined to give
cover to the Marines who were going to attempt the ascent. I think it
was the 28th Mar Reg. who initially sent the first platoon of 40 men
up. The Fifth Div. had the misfortune to have it in its zone. Some
of the guys watched through glasses as the patrol wound there way
up. The climb itself was mysteriously easy, I don't think they took
any losses going up. Finally a cheer went up all over the ship when
we saw our flag flying in the breeze. Every horn, whistle and bell
rang out aboard the ships surrounding the Island. The man in the very
center of the arena, is the man who carries the colors. A country's
flag represents more than a cause in battle. It's the ultimate
wager, life itself, with the odds against you. No man walks taller
than when he is carrying his flag into a roaring hell. I could never
stomach a flag sewed on a shoulder or pinned to a lapel. God how I
admire and pray for those thousands of Civil War color bearers S & N
who served as point,(most exposed position to fire), and died leading
their outfits. Of the 40 men who went up only 4 were not killed
or wounded by the end of the campaign. The blood poured out on Iwo
Jima was to rank with the baths of Antietam and Gettysburg. On Iwo
Jima, every man was at point. The overall campaign cost was one in
three killed or wounded. Who can comprehend the magnificence of man?
I'll always regret not being ordered over the side. I had no idea
that moment would live in history, and a year from that moment I
would be standing on that very spot. I was one of six Marines they
brought back (randomly picked) for a memorial ceremony. There were a
couple thousand service men stationed on Iwo, a year later, but no
Marines. We stood at the 3rd Div. cemetery and gazed at the sea of
crosses. Unforgettable, a good part of our outfit was lying there,
no doubt the best. The Chaplain had asked for two altar boys, but we
embarrassingly declined. We had no idea what to do. We fired the
volley and walked among the crosses. To the victor had gone the
marker. They read 18,18,20,19,21,18,19,19,20, each man a color
bearer, forever young. I spotted old friends from the 21st Mar.
whom IÔ knew from, P.I., New River and Guam, Jack Rhett, Bill Egan and
Ed Stanton. The 21st was camped across the road from us at Guam.
There's a saying in the Corps, "If you want to meet a real Marine
you will have to dig for him." I don't think the families really
understood what they did, when they brought all the bodies back, 10
years later. Most of my friends had crossed the line, and would have
preferred staying with their brothers, strange but I believe it's
true. They had bonded forever. Our worthy opponents, lay in a
barren field nearby, covered over by a bulldozer, marked Enemy
Cemetery #1. Both forces shared a common epitaph. "Iwo Jima, where
uncommon valor was a common virtue." There was nothing to do that
night, so we got smashed. It was the worst drunk of my life, I knew
I had no right to be there. My buddy and I were crawling on our
hands and knees down the black slanted beach, into the water. We had
no idea where we were going. The Marine with me was a blond crew cut
guy, named Fritz from the 9th. He was one of two survivors of his
platoon, after they had crossed one of the Jap Air Strips. I
remember when I got him back to his sack late that night, instead of
passing out, he laughed for an hour. It was like an insulin
overdose. All the sailors in the barracks were objecting to the
noise. I don't think he heard them, he was in another world. Up
on Chichi Jima,( 150 miles N. of Iwo) in the Bonins, Fritz always had
a imaginary dog chasing him. He did it so well that you could hear
the dog bark. They had a term for his condition "Asiatic"(no longer
sane). It was a great try for a Section 8. (Psychologically unfit to
serve). A sad case of the walking wounded, I hope eventually he got
help. Back on Guam, Apr. of 45 we immediately went on another
sweep of the island, letting our little brown brothers know we were
back, and that the game of hide and seek could once more commence.
By August we were ready for the big one. Word was out, we were going
to hit Kyushu, the southern island of the mainland of Japan, in Sept.
They had the 3rd Reg. set up to pay its dues. We were going to be
the point Reg., there were no optimists. We were going into a meat
grinder. I return from a problem (Dry run drill) and ready to
collapse on my sack in my tent only to find my brother Dick sitting
on it. I didn't know that he was in the Pacific, he had just
arrived. It turns out his Seabee outfit is stationed up on Saipan
(Island north of us) and he has hitched a ride down to Guam for a
short visit. I tried for a 72 hour pass, to stay with him in aÔ
Seabee outfit, but I was frozen, too close to Kyushu time, we were
ready to go... Dick and I still had a good time, the words had to
take a vow of celibacy, (Remove that nasty verb). Back home, we
wouldn't even say "damn" in the house.
My school chum, Pep,
was my next visitor. He just walked into my tent one day. I thought
he was in the Atlantic. We celebrated the dropping of the Bomb
together. We thought at the time it was the thing to do. We had no
idea of its horror, to us it meant life. He was a radio operator in
the Navy. Pep had just missed a berth on the Indianapolis, the
Cruiser that went down I think between the Tinian and the Phil. The
Indianapolis had brought the bomb over. Pep and I had gone through
grammar, and high school together. We were later to attend college
together and keep our relationship going for close to sixty years.
Pep still is a ball of fire and I see him regularly to this day . The
odd thing was that Pep and I were sitting on the grass on a football
field lacing on our cleats, preparing to play, when we heard of Pearl
Harbor. !!!!Some guy suddenly burst into the tent " Hey did you hear
the radio" " They just dropped one hell of a bomb, and a Jap city
disappeared." IN A COUPLE OF DAYS IT WAS OVER!!!!! We were numb! We
couldn't believe it! Going HOME !!! Pep and I are sharing the
close of the war. I could not believe Pep was in my tent. Naturally
I looked like hell when we met I had just came in out of the field.
He looked clean as a whistle and couldn't stop laughing at the sight
of me. He had managed, while attending radio school, to stay in the
states for quite a while. Upon the war ending the Corps was
faced with a hell of a strange problem. There are not enough ships to
take the men home. Their moral is starting to slip. What do we do to
keep them busy? They will not stand for any nonsensical drill time.
Somebody got a great idea. We will send them all to school. First we
will pick teachers out of the Div.,anybody who can teach any subject
at all, French, Chinese, Basket Weaving, Trigonometry, Algebra, Law,
Cooking, Philosophy, History. The next thing we do is make it
mandatory that each man attend a class of his choice, or face a work
detail. Thank God this program barely got underway, a few classes
were held, when they called a halt to it. No more teachers, no more
books, no more teachers dirtyÔ looks, we were off to occupation
duty. There was still a lot of islands in the Pacific, held by Japs,
at the close of the war, that still had to be demilitarized and
occupied, before we could go home. On Dec.13, l945 The American Flag
returned to the Bonin Islands after 117 years.
The First Battalion,
Third Marines, moved ashore on Chichi Jima and began the official
occupation of this former Japanese Island fortress. (The Gibraltar
of the Pacific) According to historical records. in l828 a small
group of settlers composed of several Americans and British
subjects, a Portuguese, and about 20 Hawaiian Islanders watched as
Nathaniel Savory of Massachusetts raised the Stars and Stripes to
the top of a makeshift flagpole. At the request of Savory, the flag
had been loaned to the group by Captain Joel Abbot of the United
States Navy, to be flown as protection against marauding pirates who
had been terrorizing the island. The impressive ceremony which
marked the return of the American Flag to Chichi Jima climaxed a
bloodless invasion of the Bonins and started the peaceful occupation
of the islands by the United States. Our Battalion had embarked
from Guam five days earlier, and had landed from LSTs. The air was
soon filled with the martial strains of our battalion's drum and
bugle section. After a ten minute march, the group formed at the base
of the flag pole in front of the Japanese Headquarters, just across
from and facing, the Japanese garrison. By 10 AM the Japanese
garrison, led by Lieutenant General Tachibana and his military
staffs composed of high ranking Army and Navy officers, had
gathered.The officers were garbed in their best military array and
each carried for the last time his "Samurai" sword. The Nipponese
Flag "The Setting Sun" flapped gently in the breeze. It was a
strange eerie sensation; there just a few yards from us were those
Goddamn son of bitches, out in the open at last. No more boondocks,
eyeball to eyeball. After 14 years of war in China and the Pacific
they had arrived at a mortifying surrender. They appeared so small
and harmless, yet we knew what a horrible faith we would have faced,
if the situation had been reversed. Pearl Harbor, Bataan, Wake,
Singapore, would always be fresh in our minds, these bastards had
never shown any mercy to their captives. At exactly 10:15, the
Japanese Flag was lowered from the staff. The Japanese color guard,
composed of two soldiers, carried the folded flag to the American
side of the field and presented it to Colonel P.M. Rixey the
commanding officer of our Battalion. Colonel Rixey, in turn marched
over to the Japanese staff and presented the flag to General
Tachibana. At exactly 1025, the Marine drum and bugle section
sounded colors, and everyone present, both American and Japanese
alike, rendered a salute as Old Glory was raised to her lofty
summit. Following the official flag raising, Captain John
Kuziak, of the occupation force staff, stepped forward and read the
occupation proclamation. The proclamation directed that all powers of
the government of the Japanese Empire be suspended and promised that
all existing customs, religious beliefs and property rights would be
respected. Major Horie (See defense of Iwo Jima) of the Japanese
staff stepped forward and read the same address. Emotions you might
say were mixed. General Tachibana stared at the ground throughout
the reading of the message. Frowns were deep set on most faces. The
military careers and ambitions of these men were now at an end. This
realization was emphasized a moment later when all Japanese officers
present, led by General Tachibana, and Vice©Admiral Mori, stepped
forward in single file to surrender their "Samurai" swords. The
next day each Marine to commemorate the surrender was presented with
one of these handsome swords.
The "Samurai" was highly valued in the
Corps as a souvenir. Up until that moment the sword could only be
obtained, by removing it from the body of a dead Jap officer. Each
man was also issued two Jap Nambu pistols and a pair of binoculars as
trophies of war. After receiving the swords, Colonel Rixey
marched to the center between the Americans and Japanese garrisons
and began his occupation address. "I accept these swords in the
name of the United States of America. The raising of the American
Flag and surrender of all officer's swords signifies the actual
termination of Japanese rule over all islands of the Ogasawara group."
The establishment of United States occupation of Muko Jima Retto,
Chichi Jima Retto, and HaHa Jima Retto, is hereby proclaimed
effective at ten minutes to eleven on 13 December l945. We
shall demilitarize these islands for all time. We shall destroy all
evidence of war. I hope these islands will be rebuilt into a peaceful
land."Ô (These islands were later to be come a Japanese National Park)
Cadet Oyama reported Colonel Rixey's address. Lieutenant James
T. Sanders, a Navy Chaplain, then read a prayer in memory of those
who gave their lives on the battlefield and on the sea. Everyone
was uncovered with heads bowed. Following the prayer, the Marine
bugler sounded taps. Survivors of the Japanese garrison on Chichi
and Haha, the neighboring island, comprised 20,656 Army and Navy
personnel. It was strange finally meeting the enemy face to face.
This was our first introduction to the oriental facade. They were
continuously smiling and bowing to us, polite and cooperative. We
thought their attitude was unbelievably hypocritical. All our
knowledge of the Japanese added up to a fearless enemy who showed no
mercy. We could in no way except this veneer of fellowship. We
rejected them as if they were not human. We wanted pay back for the
utter misery they had caused us. The atom bomb was not personal
enough. I would not have been surprised when we landed on Chichi if
some guy had yelled out "GET A ROPE". As we learned later we had
reason to get a rope. One morning a Japanese Coast Guard cutter
showed up in the bay. It was bearing Fred Savory, and his three
uncles, all descendants of Nathaniel Savory, a Massachusetts whaler
who had settled in the Bonins in l830, they were being returned to
Chichi. Fred Savory had a strange tale to tell, he had heard rumors
in Japan, spread by soldiers repatriated from Chichi. "These stories
are not nice ones," he told the Col. He accused the Japs of
cannibalizing five American airmen. Three were beheaded, one was
bayoneted, and another beaten to death. Prior to the medical officer
removing their livers, these five men were murdered with out any
semblance of a trial. These livers were later served as a meal at a
"sake" party. This story was corroborated by the Korean slave
laborers, being used by the Japanese on the Island. All told 21 Japs
were eventually tried for those five murders, and other beheading of
U.S. Navy airmen on the Island. The instigator of the sordid
goings©on at Chichi Jima was a Major Matoba. He had served in China
where, he said, it had been determined that the eating of prisoners
was a stimulant to morale and human liver was a cure for stomach
ulcers. He had also ordered the first victim's body dug up it had been
in the ground only one day and the liver removed for eating. Another
pilot, beheaded on 26 May l945, had his liver and a 6©pound chunk
from his thigh removed andÔ delivered to the galley of Matoba, who
gave a party at which the "delicacy" (as he designated it) was
served. We found the remains of the deceased and through their
dental records identified the bodies. I remember the Corpsmen sorting
out their remains on large tables, by the side of the mess hall. We
sent their remains home in small green boxes. We then arrested and
held the culprits prisoners, until we returned to Guam for their
trial. One of the anomalies of the trial was this: there is nothing
in International Law providing punishment for cannibalism and the
cannibals could only be charged with "preventing honorable burial,"
with murder , and with failure to control persons under their
command. Of the 21 men held responsible, one Japanese lieutenant
was acquitted, who had been a cannibal inadvertently, with no
knowledge of what was taking place. General Tachibana, Navy, Captain
Yoshii, Colonel Ito, Major Matoba (Tiger of Chichi) and Captain
Nakajima were sentenced to death by hanging. The remainder of the
guilty were given various sentences ranging from life imprisonment to
I had the pleasure of being a member of a patrol
that went deep into the Jap camp to arrest Matoba. During his trial
on Guam, the Guam paper referred to him as "The Tiger of Chichi".
It's afternoon there are six of us lying in our sacks in the tent,
when the Lieut. enters. "How about six volunteers"? (normally that
is a no,no, but we are bored stiff.) Most of the time on the
Island we are bored stiff. The only thing to do to break up the
monotony, outside of ball playing and swimming is whale watching. We
discover them frolicking outside the bay while on a garbage detail.
To past the time we take Jap landing crafts off shore, and just sit
out there and watch their antics, gad they were big. One of our
bazooka men says he is tempted to get his weapon and try for some
fresh blubber. He thinks it would be an easy shot. He really wants
to nail a whale. I have no doubt he could do it. He manages to
restrain himself This patrol, is a straw to grasp at, we are
desperate. We conceal our weapons by putting them in two seabags
along with our ammo and helmets. We are going to bring in Matoba.
The Japs are not aware that we know that Matoba is responsible for
initiating the cannibalism. The Lieut., Sam, Clausen, Clif, John
Lucas, Sam Hughes and myself, make up the patrol.Ô Because we are
always under Jap observation it is to be a clandestine operation. We
place our seabags in the bottom of our landing craft, which had a
load of garbage on board. We cross the bay to the Jap encampment
disguised as a unarmed working party. Our dress to be only our helmit
liners, dungaree pants and boondockers. Once we were out in
the bay, we duck low and put our weapons together. We want to get in
and out fast. Our orders were to rush his house, drag him back to
the boat as quickly as possible, before any action could be taken to
defend him, or before he could commit HariªKari, (they were unarmed,
we hoped). That just what we do, but there was one hell of hill we
have to run up. The Japs stand on the side of the road wondering what
we are up to. We hit the house and the Lieut. enters it. I remember
absolutely nothing of what happened at that house, or of our return to
Recently I read in the "History of Marine Corps Aviation in
World War II" by Robert Sherrod a quote from our Col. Rixey ," A
special squad fetched Matoba still in his pink bathrobe, from beside
his phonograph. I can faintly remember a Browning Automatic Rifle in
my hands as I came down the hill. I know we were not fired upon.
On occasion I would pull the guard duty on our war criminals. You
would sit with them in a small shack for a four hour tour. I regretted
not knowing Japanese, it would have been a wonderful opportunity to
get their insight on the war, instead it was a very dull guard.
Chichi Jima, is located about 150 miles north of Iwo. We were awe
struck by its defenses. Nothing previously seen in the Pacific could
compare with the coast and artillery defenses surrounding the main
Chichi harbor, Futami Bay ,the only potential landing area for an
invasion. Concrete emplacements, high in the mountains with steel
door openings. The emplacements dug into the sides of the mountains
were so plentiful that it gave the Island the appearance of a block
of swiss cheese. They must have worked on the fortifications for at
least 30 years. It was no doubt the Gibraltar of the Pacific.
The area were we landed once served as the Japanese sea plane base on
Chichi Jima. Bonb craters in the ramps, used to haul the planes out of
the water, testified to the accuracy of our carrier based planes,
prior to the surrender. The surface damage on the island was quite
extensive, but it was obvious that we hadn't scratched their
defenses, which were expertly concealed underground and in the sides
of the mountains. Once we got on the Island we found stairs hidden
in the base of the mountains, leading to the emplacements. The guns
in these emplacements were humongous, how they placed them there must
have been one tough job. The location of many of the emplacements
indicated that the Jap plan was to permit an entrance into the harbor
or onto the airfield, then to give us the "works". We found tunnels
that led to huge ammo and fuel dumps in side of mountains. These
tunnels were large enough to drive a large truck in about 100 yards.
Large generators the size of trailers were concealed under the
ground, surrounded by thick concrete. We all agreed that the
whole Corps would have bought it on Chichi. Iwo was hell, Chichi
impossible. Sailing into that bay, we should have been kneeling on
the deck thanking God that we passed this one up. I do not
exaggerate. There was one huge cave,(100 yards deep, 10 yards
wide) lined with copper sheathing. This cave was meant to store the
Japanese archives, when and if the main Japanese Islands were
occupied. I heard very recently from a native of the Island that,
that particular cave was used to store atomic bombs during the
Korean action. Japan would not allow the bombs on the mainland.
We attempted to salvage the copper. While we were useing small
jackhammers to remove the rivets, holding the copper plating together,
several of us collapsed and fell off the scaffolding. We didn't know
what the hell was going on, till it dawned on us, the generator
driving our jackhammers, at the mouth of the cave, were pumping
carbon monoxide in. We carried the guys out and shut down the
operation. To give you an example of what boredom will drive you
to, I'll tell you about an incident that happened during a 5 man
patrol of Haha Jima, a near by island. We were taken to Haha by a
Destroyer Escort that waited off shore while we went on
reconnaissance. We were put a shore just to check out what the Jap
garrison had left on the Island. We had removed those who had been
stationed there, to Chichi. It was a beautiful island and being
the only ones on it, it gave us a feeling of ownership. As we were
passing through a valley on the far side of the Island we noticed a
huge cave in the side of the mountain bordering the valley. It was
subway tunnel size, big, those boys liked to dig. Inside we found a
several thousand drums of kerosene. We had no orders to destroy
anything of this magnitude. We didn't hesitate for a second, "Let's
blow it." We punched holes in one of the drums and rolled it out to
the mouth. We lit the fuel, no good, the ground was to damp. We
found a shack nearby, dismantled it, and used the wood to construct a
wick, that we strung deep into cave. We soaked it down with another
open drum , lit it and took off. We waited and waited and nothing,
ten minutes. It was time to separate the optimist from the
pessimist. We were all nuts, we went back in hoping it wasn't going
to blow in our face. Same operation, we lit it, and away we went.
WHOOSH!! The daddy of all Zippos, came shooting out of the mouth of
the cave, with a hugh thunderous roar it crossed the valley, and hit
the opposite side. We were jumping, and yelling, and laughing. No
Corps, no parents, we were kids again. We kept moving and
after a couple of hours we were climbing back aboard ship.
As we hit
the deck, Capt. Moriority asked "What the hell did you guys do over
there." as he pointed back to the Island. The whole of Haha Jima had
a thick black cloud hovering over it. Sam quickly rose to the
occasion. "We burned a Jap landing craft loaded with tires." " Boy
look at that smoke" The Capt. kept looking at the cloud, as we beat
it below deck. We were on Chichi about two months when we
received orders to detach half our number for China duty. It seemed
that the Chinese communist were attacking the trains around the
Tientsin area in north eastern China and some Marines were needed.
One billion Chinese and they needed 250 homesick Marines. They asked
for volunteers. None of us had liberty for almost two years or more,
here was the opportunity at last. It would be the closest we had ever
came to civilization (read that women), for a hell of a long time.
The only hitch was that we might stay overseas a little longer. That
night the outfit stayed up to the wee hours, each man pondering if
he had one more great adventure in him. I still had wanderlust, and
boredom was always a thorn in our side. I knew this would be my only
opportunity to see China. In those days China was a long way from the
My father had previously sent home a beautiful rug while
he was doing his China tour in l930,(38 yrs, Navy). My mother placed
the rug in the living room and immediately declared the room off
limits. From then on the only way you could get into my house was
the back door. What a joke it would be to send the family home a new
oriental rug, which I knew would put the dining room off limits.
It was extremely painful, friends trying to convince each other to
stay or to go. The debate centered on two choices 1© (big city, and
women, go home a little later.) 2© ( Never volunteer and odds were
early return to the States, when you finished the tour on Chichi.) I
gave it a lot of thought, and then I cast my vote to stay on
The guys in the tent argued with Sam all night, trying
to convince him to stay. Sam was a little elf, who could make you
laugh and always had a story to tell. He was about 33 years old and
very homely. He was honest with us, he told us that his social life
back home in D.C. was nil and it wasn't going to get any better. He
had never had any luck with the ladies. This was the opportunity of
his life time: woman, wine, and song. I remember how Sam would
gamble his salary away on pay day, and then wake me up in the middle
of the night so I could give him mine to lose. There was nothing to
do with the money anyway. He looked like a little old man lost in a
Marine uniform. There was nothing to him. What he lacked in size, he
made up with a fantastic personality. Everybody felt like they had to
look after him. His real name was Bill. He had made such a production
of going over the obstacle course down in New River, N. C., we
labelled him " Sam, Sam, the Obstacle Man." Sam left. We missed
him, I still do.
One day we woke up to find a large supply ship
from the States in the bay. Word went out that it was loaded with
refrigerated stores. We hadn't had fresh food since we came to the
Pacific.. Our diet had been made up of powdered eggs, dehydrated
potatoes, Spam. cheese and tins of Australian mutton, plus all the C
& K rations you could stomach, (assortment of canned food). The
drink was usually coffee, powdered milk, or battery acid. One
morning, on Guam we went into shock at breakfast, when they served
each man 1/2 of a fried egg. We had traded a Samurai sword to a
Seabee cook for the eggs. The Seabee camps always had refrigeration.
All day long we were hustling from ship to shore, unloading tons
of fresh food. Plus a mountain of beer, Coke and Chocolate Cow. The
fresh food was made up of cases of steaks, turkeys, grapefruit and
oranges. I can't remember the rest of the ships manifest, but
outside of the beverages, it was all fresh. We had cases and cases
of turkey and steaks piled on the beach. Mountains of oranges &
grape fruit. I don't know what the opposite of scurvy is, but it
looked like we were about to die from it. The ship left the next day,
leaving us with one hellÔ of a problem. They had left us enough
fresh food to last a Reg. (5,000 men) 2 or 3 months. We had
approximately 200 men. I don't remember if this episode happened
before of after the Tientsin detachment had left, it wouldn't have
made a difference. The problem being we didn't have an ice cube on
Chichi. One big SNAFU, (Situation Normal All Fouled Up). We tried
storing the food in caves, but it didn't look too good. There was
only one thing we could do, and that was to set a new high for
gluttony. Never had so few eaten so much. Just use your imagination
what the next two weeks were like on that Island. We gorged
ourselves day and night. We would build fires on the beach at night
and have beer and steak parties. We were having turkey for breakfast,
lunch and supper. We were having steak for breakfast lunch and
supper. We were having steak for breakfast, turkey for lunch and
steak for supper. We were having turkey for breakfast, steak for
lunch, and turkey for supper. Finally thank God, we noticed
the steak and turkey were turning blue, and the oranges and
grapefruit were putting on fur coats. We just couldn't eat anymore.
We hadn't made a dent in that mountain. All the meat and fruit in the
caves, were now rotten. Ever smell rotten turkey? "WHEW". We ended
the eating orgy by taking the remaining, nine tenths of the shipment
out into the bay and dumping it. It wasn't that easy. the next day
it was all over the beaches. We finally ended up burying it. The
whole episode lasted about two weeks, then it was back to basics,
powdered eggs, dehydrated potatoes etc. The beer, coke and
Chocolate Cow we put to good use: there was only a small supply of
fresh water on the Island. We had brought a small distillation plant
with us to provide us with a limited amount of fresh water.
At home they call that tale,"Dad's Thanksgiving Day
story". If I'm lucky, and there is a guest at the table, the family
once more is forced to hear why Dad doesn't like turkey.
episode of cannibalism did not help slacken the hate we already had
mustered toward the guys who now own Rockefeller Center. The lobotomy
was still in place, we could not understand why we should stop hating
them. You can't just hold up a sign.. If it was that simple there
would be no bigotry. This war crime was not am isolated case, many
even more horrible crimes committed against Jap prisoners are still
coming to light. The N.Y. Times 1994. published a list of crimes
admitted to by the Japanese, which actually topped the Nazi
atrocities in its viciousness. All sorts of barbaric vivisection
operations wereÔ performed on their prisoners, for the purpose of
scientific research. Our government in exchange for this research
knowledge did not prosecute the doctors who executed these acts.
These unpunished war criminals are still practicing medicine in
When we first arrived on Chichi, the Marine enlisted
men would be assigned small working party's of Japs. We would take
them into the hills to destroy gun installations, ammo and fuel
dumps. We would also use them to do all the menial task about the
camp. Some of us were too tough on them, but not any harder then the
D.I.'s were on us. Hatred for the foe was deeply embedded in us.
Some of us, rather enjoyed breaking their humps. I think it gave a
lot of guys a good night sleep when they got home. Not nice but true.
There was never a hint of any sort of atrocity committed. This
only lasted a short time, the Jap General complained to our
Commanding Officer, Col. Rixey. We were no longer permitted Nip
working parties, this really boiled us. What's the fun of winning a
GLOBE and ANCHOR
Marines Sites & Forums
By R.W. "Dick" Gaines
Gny Sgt USMC (Ret.)
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