Thomas Simmons, L Battery, 4th Battalion, 10th Marines
My father was Thomas F. (Tom) Simmons He joined the Marines in Dallas, Texas 5 March 1943 and was put in a machine gun squad which was part of 'L' (LOVE) Battery, 4th Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division.
At Betio his squad paddled in rubber rafts onto what may have been Green Beach. He thought they landed on the second day but I'm not sure he really remembered when I asked him a few years ago. He did remember being certain that he would die on Betio but it was one of his squad mates who had his head "blown off". Ironically the same Marine had been court martialed earlier back in New Zealand and sentenced to approximately 25 years of hard labor because while cleaning his B.A.R. in his tent in camp he accidently discharged the gun and blew the head off of his tent mate who was also his best friend. At the end of the battle Tom rounded up about a half dozen Japanese soldiers who surrendered to him. He said that because there so were so many Koreans on the island that the only way to tell them apart from the Japanese was to order them to turn their palms outward. If they had calluses they were considered Korean laborers. If they had smooth palms they were thought to be Japanese. Tom said he witnessed a number of Japanese survivors but they were shot on the spot by other Marines. Tom, being in his first battle and not wanting to break any rules, kept his Japanese alive and they were transported off Betio to a Navy ship. Unfortunately the captain of the ship went into a rage when he saw the prisoners and screamed that he didn't want any "g damed Japs" on his ship, so they were thrown into the ocean and machine gunned. Tom was always peeved at that captain for negating his honorable efforts. The sights and smells of death and having to swallow flies while eating were memories of Tarawa that he never forgot.
After Tarawa and Camp Tarawa, Tom was sent to Eniwetak, Saipan, Tinian, Okinawa, Japan and even a short trip to China. He was discharged with the rank of Corporal in January 1946. He passed away July 7th, 2006 in Houston.
copyright 2010 T.O.T.W.
Created 18 October 2012