As an 18 years old from Wolcott, New York, I joined the Marines.†† I was 21 years old when the assault on Betio got underway.I was in Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment in the 2nd Marine Division.†† Actually, I had been a French horn player in the band, but when the battle began, I was assigned to be a stretcher bearer.This was a common practice for bandsmen.
On D-Day, early on 20 November 1943, I was out on deck on the transport that had brought me from New Zealand to Tarawa.I canít remember now the name of that transport.On that day, I was part of a small crew of guys in a Higgins boat well outside the lagoon.We were waiting to be called up to go into the lagoon and evacuate wounded Marines off the western beaches on Betio.In fact, being on stand-by in the Higgins boat that first day, we just circled around and around the transport, but our engine overheated and we had to be towed back to the transport.
On the second day, we were sent in, and our Higgins boat came under fire.The man in front of me was shot in the head, and the round that killed him creased my helmet.That day and the next, we were part of the evacuation of more and more Marines to transports well outside the lagoon.Trying to land on the beach was very difficult most of the time, and on one trip our coxswain was killed. A lot of my trips to the beach were over toward the west end of Red Beach 1. Iíll never forget the sheer numbers of dead Marines and the even larger number of wounded Marines.When the heavy combat on Betio tapered off on the third day, my role as a stretcher bearer stopped and I returned to the transport. I helped out wherever I could for a few days, and then we steamed back to Hawaii with the wounded and others.††
I am very thankful that I received no wounds while at Tarawa, and I am so glad I could help out so many wounded Marines.Prior to Tarawa, I was in the Guadalcanal campaign, and after Tarawa I was at Saipan, Tinian and Okinawa.
Now that Iím 88, the one over-riding memory I still have of Tarawa is just how tough everything was for us Marines.Just plain tough, but we won!
And Camp Tarawa?Well, it was cold there.
I felt so fortunate to leave the Western Pacific when I did.I arrived back in San Diego on the day the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, and one week later I got married.Connie and I have been happily married now for 65 years!
Harold, every man has a part to play in an operation like the Battle of Tarawa, be that as a French horn player or a stretcher bearer!†† As a Marine bandsman, you know the meaning, necessity and value of coordinated effort to promote the outcome in a common cause!Thank you for your service!
Received 10 November 2010
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