When I was 19, I joined the Marine Corps from Donaldson, Minnesota.My hometown was a very small farming community of perhaps 20 Ė 30 families in the northwest-most corner of Minnesota 300 miles northwest of Minneapolis and 33 miles from the Canadian border.†† Joining the Marines sure changed things in my life in almost every way!
Now that I am 87, looking back on events 67 years ago is a challenge, but Iíll do my best here.††
I was in C Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines in the 2nd Marine Division.I think it was the converted liner USS Harry Lee (APA-10) that took us from New Zealand to Tarawa.I was 21 years old when we arrived off Betio in the dark, early morning hours of 20 November 1943.For my part, I remember those few hours before the assault began as a time when I checked my equipment, wondered a lot about what it would really be like when we finally got to shore about whether I would be up to whatever was ahead.I also remember praying and trying to offer comfort to some of the younger guys.
We were in the 2nd Wave on D-Day but we got stuck on the reefs and had to transfer to amtracs.When the enemy is shooting at you under those circumstances, a successful transfer is hard to do when your main thought is just trying to stay alive!As we finally got closer to shore, having been the enemyís target most of the way, all we could see was many floating bodies and complete devastation.I had lost my rifle on the way in and I learned fast that nobody from my unit was around me.I didnít know where they were.††
That first day was complete chaos; nothing seemed to be going as we were told it should go.Companies got mixed up, different leaders were met or found, but after that first night things got organized.In my case, I was on Betio for three days, and it was on the third day when I finally found C-1-2.Thankfully, I was in good shape; I thank God for that!
After Tarawa, I went to Camp Tarawa where I remember doing a lot of rubber boat training before we went on to Saipan and then Tinian.††
Medals received were just the normal ones, the same that other guys got.I wasnít any hero.††
Those were some of the most traumatic days in my life, but that is all behind me now.And thank God for that.Once a Marine, always a Marine, I say, and I have lasting memories of good friendships.††
Dale, thank you for your service to our country.We needed guys like you, and we still need you so that your story can shine valuable light on what happened back then.We will remember and treasure your service.
Received 17 November 2010
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