I came from Dunnegan, Missouri, a small town about 110 miles southeast of Kansas City, Missouri.  At age 19, I went to St. Louis and was sworn in to the U.S. Marines. Then, we had a 3-day train trip to Los Angeles, and, on a cold, rainy, grey day, we were taken in troop trucks down to San Diego for boot camp. One thing that got me into the Corps was the decision of a couple of high school classmates who had “joined up.”  Another thing was that I received an order to report to the Army, and I didn’t want to go into the Army.  So, I hotfooted it over to the Marine recruiting office and kissed the Army goodbye.  I’m sure they mourned my decision ever after! The third half of the equation that influenced my decision to become a Marine was a movie starring Randolph Scott called “To The Shores of Tripoli.”  So impressed was I by the flash and glamour of the dress blues that when the Army came breathing down my neck, my march to the Marines office was quick and sure!  That movie got me in!
Our unit came from New Zealand on the attack transport USS Heywood (APA-6), and I can tell you that on that trip we sure ate a lot of beans!  This was normal fare for swab jockeys, but it wasn’t good for us Marines who were used to better.  I remember reading a lot on that voyage, spending time watching the Pacific rise and fall from the fantail and wishing I were some place else.  One book I found on deck was entitled “Strange Fruit.”  When it came time to debark, I hadn’t finished reading it, so I stuck it inside my dungaree blouse.  Some power crazy major came along and yanked it out of my blouse and threw it over the side.  Throughout the campaign I hoped I would hear a report of his having been shot by some irate Marine! Seriously!
In the early morning darkness of 20 November 1943, I remember having a good big breakfast, going over instructions, checking my equipment, and standing out on deck with buddies watching our Navy shelling enemy targets on Betio.   I wondered what it would be like once we got to wherever we were going.  Nobody knew, of course, and nobody I knew wanted to go there, except for Herman Konzack, a big Texan who had been at Guadalcanal and was always gung ho for action.  We hadn’t been told what the procedure would be once we landed, wherever that was, and we didn’t know if we formed ranks and marched head-on into battle with the Japanese, as the Rebs and Blue Coats often did against each other in the Civil War.  Once we hit the 50-foot stretch of sand – to which history romanticists refer as ‘the beach’ – we learned in a hurry!
At Tarawa on D-Day, I was already a 20 year old private when, as a forward operations post radio operator in A Battery, 1st Battalion, 10th Marines, in the Second Marine Division, my unit went ashore in the 3rd Wave at Red Beach 2.  On my back I wore the 68-pound radio on my back with my own backpack suspended beneath that – not good for maneuvering in water or on land while dodging enemy fire!  My job as a radio operator was to work as part of a forward observation group and send locations of enemy target sightings to field guns behind me.  
From the Heywood, about 20 of us were in a Higgins boat going to the departure area.  We got there for the final run in at about 9am and waited for the 3rd Wave to move out.  Heavy enemy barrages from shore prevented any kind of strategic landing, so in many ways we were just lucky to get ashore at any place on Red Beach 2.  I came in aboard an amtrac and hit the beach at 1100.  The first man I saw die was Craiglow as he was climbing over the side of the craft.
After three days and three nights on Betio, eating K-rations and chocolate bars sprinkled with sand, we settled around small campfires and waited to board the ship for Hawaii.  During all that time, if anything moved, including sand crabs, that would be killed just as surely as would have been the case if it was a Jap soldier wielding a razor sharp saber.   A day or so later, we left Betio and headed for Camp Tarawa on the Big Island of Hawaii.
I had no reportable wounds, anything requiring intervention by a corpsman or help at a field treatment area.  On one occasion, when batteries from my radio stopped working, I returned to field headquarters by a route that took me behind enemy lines.  Colonel Ricksey thought I deserved something for that, and the result was a Bronze Star.  I remember so well some of my Marine buddies:  Bob George, Ray Forbus, Chris Hinzo, Ed O’Brien, Frank Kern and Charlie Fenolio.  What fine men!  What fine Marines!
To this day, I wonder why the Japanese fell back from the narrow beach when they could have annihilated us there with no resistance – why didn’t they come back?
At Camp Tarawa, I remember the lava fields where we staged war games in preparation for Saipan.  And, for some reason, I remember Sgt. Jeff Smith going up and down the line of Marines flattened out on their bellies, rifles aimed at targets, asking, “How long do you think the US oil supply will last?”  That was 1943!  Things sure have changed!  The beautiful little town of Kohala I remember very well:  there was a large building whose name I never knew that sat atop a sweeping green lawn where we often lounged and napped on liberty.  Oh, and I remember Clarence Bell and Pappy Ancil getting soused on pineapple whiskey and being poured into a truck and hauled back to camp and then poured into their sacks!
After Camp Tarawa, I was at Saipan and Tinian. I remember well those B-29s taking off from Tinian bound for Japan.  Those airfields were an essential element in our efforts to get at the Japanese homeland and bring the war to an end.  After Tinian, I spent a lot of time just waiting, loading cargo on transports and even was scheduled to go in to Okinawa, but that battle ended before we got there and I went back to Saipan.  I was briefly in the Nagasaki area, living in some barracks at an airbase used previously by the Imperial Japanese Air Force.   I was honorably discharged in January 1946, had a few different jobs, and then in 1949 began a 50-year stint in radio and television broadcasting and advertising.
Medals include the Presidential Unit Citation (Tarawa); the Asiatic-Pacific medal; the WWII Victory medal; the American Campaign medal; and the Bronze Star from the action at Tarawa.  That’s basically what all of us got.  I was no hero.  
To this day, I wonder whether seeing Randolph Scott’s “To The Shores of Tripoli” again after the bloody experience of Tarawa, would have driven me out of the Marines.  Now at age 88, I look back in amazement for having no idea what I was getting into the day I stormed the door of that recruiting office in Warrensburg, Missouri.  I had been working there as a grocery delivery boy and hotel clerk.  I suffered for months because of my naivete, but I have never been sorry about what that DI - gruff, sarcastic, foul-mouthed Marion Carpenter – put me through in his efforts to mold me into a Marine.  My hat goes off to Sgt Marion Carpenter of Winterset, Iowa and all men like him whose contribution to the war was their laborious effort to transform raw recruits like me into the greatest fighting machine the world has ever known.
Being a Marine has been, and still is, one of my proudest accomplishments in life.  People say, astonished because they see I am not nine feet tall, “You were a Marine?”  My response in those situations is a silent nod, as I say to myself, “I still am.”  I AM PROUD TO BE A MARINE!
Dave, we salute you and thank you for your service and indomitable spirit!  You will always be a Marine we can be proud of. We will remember!
Received 26 January 2011
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