From Spokane, Washington, I enlisted in the Spokane 14th Battalion, Organized Marine Reserve on 24 April 1939 a few months out of high school.  I went to San Diego for a two-week training encampment at San Diego that year and returned for one year at Washington State College, including the Army Engineer ROTC.  When I was 18, the Marines called me to active duty as a private on 08 November 1940 and was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Brigade, which became the 2nd Division a few months later.  I was promoted to corporal as a light machine gun squad leader about nine months later.
I was shipped overseas to American Samoa with my unit on 06 January 1942 to prevent Japanese seizure of the vital US supply line to Australia.  I received a 2nd Lieutenant field commission on Samoa on 10 October 1942.  This was a few weeks prior to going into combat on Guadalcanal as a rifle platoon leader, assigned to the same company as during my enlisted service.  I was in combat at Guadalcanal for about three months up until the island was declared secure.
Between February and November 1943, my unit was in New Zealand for rest, replacements, re-equipment and training for Operation Galvanic, the next major engagement with the enemy in our campaign across the Central Pacific. The significance of this amphibious assault on Tarawa was that it was to be the first against a heavily fortified atoll. 
We left New Zealand on 01 November 1943 on the USS Sheridan (APA-51). We participated in more training exercises at Efate Island in the New Hebrides (present-day Republic of Vanuatu) for two days, before departing Efate on a 7-day journey to Tarawa.  We arrived off Betio Islet, the location of the enemy garrison at Tarawa in the early morning hours of 20 November.  At this point in my military service, I was a 1st Lieutenant commanding the 2nd Platoon, B Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines.  In the pre-dawn darkness of D-Day, I remember having a good meal; talking with my men; and checking my equipment which consisted of the normal web gear, pack, gas mask, carbine and a hand-held radio.
With about 30 men in my platoon, we spent the entire night before our run on D+1 circling in the lagoon because we never received further orders to proceed.  We began our move in the early dawn, heading for Red Beach 2 in the 1st wave. The run in was unforgettable because of the sights and sound I still remember: smoke, noise from explosions, shouting, screaming and explosions of mortars and bullets ricocheting off the water.  Multiple curtains of bullets crossing and crisscrossing the lagoon, their movements changing in speed and direction, made it very difficult for men to calculate when to submerge and avoid incoming heavy machine-gun fire from shore installations and from the wrecked freighter Niminoa off shore.  
Our LCVP started for the beach, but some 600 yards out, we crunched up on the reef.  We were stranded like sitting ducks for enemy gunners.  We knew we could not go forward and could not back up.  All of us stood there tensed and ready to go, like racehorses at the starting gate waiting for the bell.  No one moved; it seemed that time was standing still.  A strange silence descended on the men, as we realized this was our moment to evacuate the landing craft and wade in to shore. Leading my men of 2nd Platoon, B Company, 1st Battalion 8th Marines, I crossed the ramp and jumped into the water.
Initially, our objective had been to land on Red 2 and secure our zone of action across the island, but conditions forced us to swing to the right (west) to wipe out the Japanese pocket at Red 1.  Unfortunately for me, that is about when the inevitable happened to me:  with a sickening splat, like an inner tube snapping across my bare abdomen, I received a gut shot near my navel.  Normally, such a wound would have killed me.  I still remember the energy draining out of me, drifting into and out of shock, trying to keep my head above water.  PFC John Duffy applied a bandage and sulfanilamide power and PFC Thomas Sullivan asked whether he should take me to the beach or to the ship.    Knowing the situation was critical, I asked him to take me to the ship for the best medical care, and he did … to the nearest LCVP landing craft driven by BM3 Larry Wade under the command of Lt.(jg) Edward Albert Heimberger, the thirty-four year old actor known to the American public by his stage name, Eddie Albert.
Larry’s chance appearance at my time of most critical need saved my life.  Just prior to boarding the LCVP, a husky man nearby, unrecognizable due to a gory eye wound, boosted me up and over the ramp.   Larry later recalled the Marine who had helped me: “His face was nearly shot off.  Part of his ear and his face on that side.  He was very strong, very powerful, and burly – maybe 240 – 250 pounds.   It was a self-sacrificing thing he did, helping other wounded guys in his condition.”  Nearly sixty years later, this Marine was identified to me as Sgt. James Maples, Company C.”  I remember saying to him, “We made it.”  His reply was, “You’re going to make it now.”  Those were the only spoken words we had.  His help at that critical moment saved my life. My memory is that before sundown that day, he died and was buried at sea.  Thank you, Jim.
Some veterans of Tarawa will tell you that once they got ashore the worst was over, that the wading in was the worst part.  Others will say the worst part of the battle was the actual combat once they arrived on shore. Most will not – or, more accurately, cannot – choose between the two.  For most Marines, every part of the battle for Betio was the worst part.  In my platoon, casualties were 12 killed and 15 wounded (myself included), 75 percent of its original strength.  Most of these were hit while wading ashore.  For myself, the worst part of the battle for Betio was when I was wounded, and I never made it ashore on Betio.   
Having been rescued by Larry, Jim and Eddie, my new battle was for my own physical survival. I was taken to the Sheridan for immediate surgery by Lt. Cdr. Lloyd Sussex, an abdominal specialist formerly from The Mayo Clinic, another doctor and a corpsman.   My life was in their hands, and it was a very close call.  At one point after the surgery, Dr. Sussex said I could not have survived another two hours because of the toxins that were building up inside me.  For the trip back to Hawaii, I remained in sickbay where the humidity was unpleasantly very high and temperatures were over 100°.  Still one lingering memory of the trip back to Hawaii is the way my fellow Marines smelled.  They were wearing the same dungarees they had worn on Betio, and they stank of death and sweat and smoke.  Mostly of death.  You could practically smell them coming down the corridor before they entered sickbay when they came to visit me.  Looking back on those days, at each helpful step of the way between 21 and 24 November, I could not have been in better hands, and for all that Larry, Jim, Eddie and Dr. Sussex and his team did for me, I am truly grateful.
We left Tarawa on 24 November, and the Sheridan steamed into Pearl Harbor nine days later.  En route, Sheridan rode high in the water, having left much of its human and other ballast behind at Tarawa.  Frequently held burials at sea further lightened the load.  All of us were filthy, exhausted physically and emotionally. Looked stunned, with hollow eyes and thousand-yard stares.  Initially, the guys just sat around and talked with each other, quiet conversations about what had been experienced, what they had seen and the buddies they had lost.  So many were gone – good friends, members of our family.  They could hardly believe what they had been through, and they could hardly believe they were alive.  
The Sheridan was the first troop ship to return from Tarawa, and its arrival was heralded on the wharf by a band that belted out military AIRS amid a crowd on cheering onlookers yelling for souvenirs.  Not long after our arrival, a black sedan pulled up next to the gangway.  The driver got out to open the car’s rear door, and out stepped Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas.  He visited with Commander Mockrish, Sheridan’s captain.  A few hours after Admiral Nimitz left, Sheridan departed for the Big Island of Hawaii and the dusty, bumpy truck ride and a narrow-gauge railroad ride some sixty-five miles inland to the Parker Ranch where Camp Tarawa was being set up.
But before Sheridan’s departure, I was carried off the ship and taken by ambulance to Navy Hospital 10 (NH 10) at Aiea Heights (now Camp Smith).  From my room, I had a spectacular view of Pearl Harbor and the verdant mountains of Oahu, conditions that certainly aided my healing process.  I had thought my wound would guarantee me a one-way ticket back to the States, but I was wrong!   After a couple of weeks, I was told I would be able to return to duty.  Six weeks later I was given a clean bill of health and orders to report to the 8th Marines already over on the Big Island of Hawaii.  
Toward the end of my stay at NH 10, several hundred patients, myself included, formed up in ranks in front of the hospital to be decorated with Purple Hearts by Admiral Nimitz himself.  When the admiral came to me, he couldn’t manage to stick the pin through my shirt’s heavy fabric.  “Ladd, you’re going to have to finish this job yourself,” he said.  Then, handing me the medal, he moved on to the next man.
Camp Tarawa was a welcome but, in some ways, an unpleasant surprise.  In terms of sheer size, it was large – 1.5% the land area of Betio!  But it was cold and windy and wet, with bone-chilling rain and mist as well!  In a temperate zone, the altitude where Camp Tarawa was located made for many crisp and unpleasant nights!  Heavens!  We were in Hawaii and expected the warm and breezy environment for which the Hawaiian Islands are renowned.  Instead, we slept on the cold ground under blankets grudgingly issued by the Army.  Food was vastly inferior to what Marines and Seabees were used to.   And clothing … there’s a story!
Marines wore what they came with, which was pathetically little.  An appeal was made to the Red Cross for disaster relief, and they came through marvelously with all the men’s clothing it had stockpiled for emergencies.  But, can you imagine Marines wearing double-breasted pencil-stripe suits and assorted civilian clothes of every color and style?  We looked like a bunch of ridiculous rainbows!  Or as one of my friends said, “What a bunch of raggedy-ass Marines we were!”
Because of my still-weakened condition when I rejoined my unit at Camp Tarawa, I received light duty assignments, such as Ship Combat Loading Officer, Court Recorder and Officer’s Mess Officer.
I was in the Marianas as a 1st Lieutenant in C Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, serving progressively as a 60mm mortar section leader and company executive officer and I was wounded twice at Saipan, once requiring treatment for two days at a field hospital.  And I was sent back to the front withal other available walking wounded to mop-up after the largest Japanese banzai attack of the war.   When my unit went to Tinian, I became C Company commander.  After 32 months overseas combat at Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan and Tinian, I returned to the States in mid-August 1944.  Promoted to Captain on 30 September 1944 and after school assignments at Camp Pendleton and Quantico, I decided against a regular commission partly because I had not completed a college education and returned to inactive duty in December 1945 after five years of active duty with considerable combat experience.
With service of 4 months at Guadalcanal and 2 months at Saipan and Tinian, I received several wounds besides that at Tarawa.  This resulted in several Purple Hearts, as well as the Presidential Unit Citation (Tarawa) and a number of other medals recognizing my service in the Pacific Theater during the war.
After WWII, I remained active in the Reserve for thirty years, participating in several active duty assignments for training tours and completing correspondence courses in Amphibious Warfare (Jr. and Sr.) and Management in the Department of Defense.  I was promoted to Major on 14 September 1951 and to Lt. Col. on 15 September 1960.   
Along the way,  I earned a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from Washington State College (now University).  After that, I was in engineering and management with Kaiser Aluminum, North American Rockwell and Lockheed Missiles and Space until I retired in 1980.  Before retiring, I was President of the Lockheed National Management Association.
I have remained active in the 2nd Marine Division Association, Marine Corps League and other veteran activities.   My memoir of WWII in the Marines, Faithful Warriors, was published in 2009 by the Naval Institute Press.  [Selected excerpts for this narrative thankfully come from Ladd’s Faithful Warriors.]
Colonel, thank you for your steadfast and courageous service to our country.  Your story, in either the short-form here or your book, is an amazing account of courage, duty and sacrifice demonstrating that freedom is not free and that high standards of expectations and performance are essential in protecting this country we love.  You are a patriot we can admire.  We will remember.
Some 60 years after my rescue at Tarawa, I reflected on those events in a free-style poem in a very personal attempt to put into perspective what I still recall.  All those memories still seem like they happened just yesterday.  
by Dean Ladd
A very vivid event, like no other, that begs for description
Related by one who experienced it, surviving a normally fatal wound
The stage curtain opens, revealing Betio Islet on Tarawa, November 20th, 1943.
Disaster looms - tide too low, naval gunfire inadequate, communications disrupted.
A nightmare - the Corp’s worst challenge in history.
Marines on the Sheridan troop transport climb down cargo nets into LCVP landing boats.
First Battalion Eighth enters atoll lagoon to assembly area, awaiting orders.
Communication never received so circled twenty hours - a first!
Finally, seasick men welcome dawn of second day.
Long fatiguing night; men crammed on the deck like sardines.
Battalion commander’s boat chugs by,  “We’re going in at Red beach 2.”
I glance at my men, they stare back.  Expected to land on the left flank.
Our boats arrive at line of departure.
Parallel to landing beaches.
Arrayed like a cavalry squadron,
Waiting for bugles to sound charge.
Coxswains nervously rev engines in neutral.
Boats champing at the bit.
Engines blasting; hearing muffled.
Adrenalin surges as we clutch our weapons.
Look at the island; focus on the task ahead.
Getting ready - ready.
Received go-signal, our coxswain responds.
Engine bellows and belches smoke, water churns behind.
Stern dips; boat leaps forward;
Bucketing, bouncing, bulling ahead,
Getting closer - closer to the island.
Then we hear tiny objects flying past; zip - zip - zip
Not angry hornets, they are killer bullets.
Within range of enemy machine guns.
Splat splat here, splat there, splats to the left,
Splats to the right, splats in front of us.
At the reef, deadly curtain of fire spitting from many machine guns.
Heavier machine guns now join the fray,
Along with anti-boat guns and mortars.
Destroying many landing craft;
Killing and wounding many of our men.
Men look grim; resigned to their fate.
No stopping now; keep fear under control.
Do your duty; don’t let buddies down.
Unexpectedly scrape bottom; metal grinding on coral.
Stopped abruptly; thrown forward, cursing that we’ve run aground.
Still 600 yards to go; the coxswain proclaims, “This is as far as we go!”
Ramp screeches open and drops splashing into the water.
There before us, Betio beckons in all its menacing glory.
Scene from hell; inferno of fire and smoke, bellowing - bellowing.
Orange fire, red fire, black smoke curling skyward.
First down the ramp, clutching my carbine, shouting, “Let’s go!”
Leap into water to unknown depth, relieved that only waist deep.
Enemy guns rip us apart indiscriminately as we wade helplessly
Shoreward through overlapping patterns of fire.
Like shooting fish in a barrel - no place for protection.
Men get hit, cry for help, plead for corpsmen -
Going under, being chopped to pieces.
Sounds of battle everywhere - sweeping curtains of fire.
Machine guns rattling, a cacophony of staccato hammering.
Geysers of water, fire and body parts.
Keep moving forward, hold rifles above water.
Into the teeth of enfilading gunfire - adrenalin flowing like electric current
I wonder how long my luck will hold.  Are those our planes strafing us?
Oh, they’re attacking that wrecked freighter grounded on the reef!
Trying without success to terminate enemy machine guns placed there.
Finally, inevitably, it happens; a sickening splat,
Like an in inner-tube snapped across my bare abdomen.
Sharp stinging sensation - “I’m hit!”  I exclaim abruptly.
A bullet has struck me just above water line nearly dead center
Near the navel; a gut-shot wound, fatal normally.
Discard helmet, carbine, walky-talky, pack and web belt.
Energy draining out of me, drifting into shock, must keep head above water.
PFC Thomas Sullivan hastens to me asking, “Lieutenant, where are you hit?”
Disobeying orders, stopping for wounded rather than hurrying to the beach.
Raises my jacket, inspects my wound.
PFC John Duffy applies a bandage, sulfanilamide powder floats away.
“You’re going to get hit too,” I utter in a weak voice, “Leave me; get to the beach.”
They ignore me - Sullivan asks, “Should I take you to the beach or to the ship?”
I respond, “To the ship for best medical care.”
He then drags me toward the nearest LCVP landing boat at the reef.
He momentarily stops - I ask if he’s OK.
Not hit, just resting from exertion!
Reach an LCVP being loaded with wounded gathered near its bow.
Ramp positioned about three-quarters for bullet protection.
Wounded are pushed singularly over the brow.
A husky man waits nearby, unrecognizable due to a gory eye wound.
I motion for him to go before me; he is boosted over the ramp.
Then Sullivan and Duffy attempt to push me up.
The unknown man exerts his waning energy to help me and another.
He reaches down and lifts me on up with a burly arm.
I tumble down onto the deck next to my unknown helper.
Over a dozen more lie bandaged, bloody and writhing in pain.
Boat races back to a ship,
Bumping hard over the water’s corrugated surface.
My pierced abdomen complains with each jolt.
At least if I die I’ll be buried at sea instead of on that island.
I recall my parents; they will be devastated! 
But maybe I won’t die after all.
If only this tortuous ride would stop.
Coxswain encourages us that now that we approach the Sheridan.
Hoisted aboard ship in a litter basket next to the one who had helped me;
Identified nearly sixty years later as probably Sgt James Maples, Company C.
I gasp.  “We made it.”  He murmurs, “You’re going to make it now.”
Those were the only spoken words.  I made it but he didn’t.
Before sundown, buried at sea - all a vivid memory.
Received  25 November 2010
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