From Laurel, Mississippi, I entered the Marine Corps at the age of 19 in January 1943.  By the time the assault on Betio began on 20 November 1943, I was 20.  I arrived on the USS Sheridan (APA-51), and I was in A Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, in the 2nd Marine Division. I was not in the initial landings because I was still recovering from a recent surgery.  
USS Sheridan  (APA-51)
Instead, I went ashore on D+1, through dead bodies and the stench and the noise and the smoke and the heat … the experience was horrible in whatever direction I looked.  Frankly, it was scary!
With my weapons and some food, I was put on a work detail mainly unloading  supplies.  A friend came in for supplies once, and I went with him to the frontlines, such as they were.  There, I reported to my friends’ company commander, and doing that really saved my butt since I had left my post handling supplies.  On D+4, the action around us came to a close, and we made our way back to the USS Sheridan.  Fortunately for me, I had been on Betio for 4 days, and I was in good condition.
Memories from Tarawa?  Well, I remember once while on watch in a hole with some other Marines, a Jap officer appeared behind me.  I yelled, “Hey! Hey!” and he fired a weapon on his wrist.  He didn’t hit any of the three of us.  A man from New Orleans got him.  His name was Navarro.  As we left the island, he was told he could not go to the ship with a pistol and sabre taken as souvenirs.  His reply was, “I shot one SOB to get them, and I guess I could shoot another to keep them!”  One other memory I’ll never forget is the time on a morning after I had been on watch, I was pinned down by a tree sniper whose rounds were kicking sand up into my face.  I had a cramp in my leg and just could not get away.  For a brief moment, I really thought this was the end.  Fortunately for me, somebody else shot that sniper.  Otherwise, . . .
I left Tarawa on Sheridan and ended up a week or so later in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii and was taken to Camp Tarawa.
After Tarawa, I was at Saipan, Tinian, Okinawa, Theya Shima and Aguni.  I had been wounded and received a Purple Heart, and in March 1946, I received a Letter of Commendation.  I was even selected for the V-12 Navy College Training Program, but the war ended on my way back to the U.S.  
All in all, the 2nd Marine Division was a great organization, and at 87 now, I still have some pretty intense memories of combat at Tarawa and the later campaigns. I am proud to say that I also have the utmost respect for my buddies and those in command.
Wilson, thank you for your service.  Your spirited and devoted service is commendable.   We will remember.
Received 18 November 2010
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