Born one year after the end of World War I, I was a teenager during what they now call the Great Depression. I was 20 years old when I joined the Marine Corps back in 1939, and my unit at Tarawa was the 2nd Marine Regiment in the 2nd Marine Division.All those guys were my buddies. I was already 24 when the assault on Betio began on 20 November 1943, and I was there for about three days, leaving only when the island was declared secure.
From New Zealand to Betio, I was on the USS Ormsby (APA-49) and was in the 3rd wave on D-Day as a special weapons Marine.After all these years, it is hard to remember certain details, but I think we went in at Red Beach 2 a little to the west of the long pier.I remember being in an amtrac going to the beach, and how could I forget?We got hung up on the reef, pointing almost to the sky, it seemed for an eternity, and that caused us all sorts of problems.Mainly, we were like a sitting duck for the machine gun and rifle fire coming from shore installations on Betio!
Finally, fifteen of my buddies and I got to the beach, and my Browning Automatic Rifle was my savior! Despite the passage of 67 years since the battle, I am still very clear about the pervasive smell of dead bodies.It was awful!You canít get used to that smell, and once you have experienced it, you never forget it!The intense, non-stop trauma and stress of battle left me and a lot of other guys feeling terribly shook up.My 42 hours in that hellish sand pit have left me with the most unpleasant memories that persist to this day.††††
After the battle, I was okay and had no serious wounds.I was just plain exhausted physically and emotionally, hungry, thirsty, sunburned and ever so glad to get back on board Ormsby.I think I was at Camp Tarawa because I remember the cold nights and the training there.I always thought they should have given us more blankets.But at age 91, I am entitled to put a lot of those memories way, way, way in the past Ö and leave them there.
Before Tarawa, I was in the Battle of Midway, and after Tarawa, I was at Saipan, Tinian and Okinawa.None of them was easy; I was pushed to and probably beyond my limits many times.I am surprised I came through all that as well as I did.
Medals earned during the Pacific campaign include the Presidential Unit Citation (Tarawa); the Asia-Pacific Campaign medal; the American Campaign medal; the World War II Victory medal; and among those are 7 stars.††
My hometown was and is Fort Bragg, California, and if there is anything in life that makes me stand tall, it my belief in the fundamental Marine Corps beliefs: ONCE A MARINE, ALWAYS A MARINE and always being faithful to my buddies, the Corps and my country.
Paul, thank you for your service and sacrifice.We appreciate so much what you helped accomplish for our country.We will remember.
Received 02 November 2010
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