PFC Arnold Gladson, Weapons/2/2
This diary was sent to me by Arnold (Lloyd) Gladson, USMC 1942-1945, who was in Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion 2nd Marines. Their arsenal included 37mm guns and 50-cal air cooled machine guns. This picture, provided by Mr. Gladson, was taken in 1943 in New Zealand, shortly before shipping out for Tarawa.
The following narrative was taken from a diary I kept just before, during and after the landing on Red Beach 2, Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll, Gilbert Islands. It was impossible to completely record events after my company went down the nets of the assault transport. I was under great stress, as were others, but somehow, I was able to scrawl bits and pieces from time-to-time.
I have been asked how I was able to remember such detail.
... "Nothing sharpens the memory like moments of great fear." -Anonymous
20 NOVEMBER 1943
Today is D-Day. We got up at 0200 this morning. Had chow which consisted of scrambled eggs and steak. The eggs were four years old, but didn't taste bad. 1
We had made preparations for the landing the day before, so we just sat around on the deck talking. Some tried to sleep. At 0230 hours we pulled into the transport area. Our wagons and cruisers are shelling heavily. 2
At 0245 we got the standby word. The first wave went over the side to the amphibian 3 which were already in the water. Then the 2nd wave was called up, my platoon being part of it. We lowered our 37mm in the boat. The landing craft left the port side of the transport and joined the rest of the second wave.
We went around in circles waiting for word to move out. It was just about daylight in the east. We were trying to make out the island. Distance and heavy smoke from the big guns make it impossible.
It is almost light now. We haven't had any return fire from the island yet. I was sitting on the engine housing on the lighter when the sound of a large round went over our heads. When you hear it, it is too late to duck. The round splashed about 50 yards behind our transport. My first scare. After that round the landing boats spread out. The Japs fired several more times but did no damage.
H-Hour is at 0830 and it is a long time yet. We are still circling waiting for the word to go in. Have now started to receive return fire from the island. Light and heavy machine gun fire is incoming as well as something heavier I can't identify.
The amphibs are now lining up to go in. We are following about 2,500 yards behind. Destroyers are moving in close and are laying down a barrage on the beach. The first and second wave have started the run for the beach. Planes from the carriers are bombing and strafing the beach. We are told to get down in the boat. I have an empty feeling in my stomach. There seemed to be no opposition for a while. About 800 yards out from the beach all hell broke loose.
We were supposed to be 6 minutes behind the first wave but when I got the nerve to stick my head out to look, we were even with them. Boat in front of us got hit. The sides just fell apart. Our people in the water trying to swim with all their gear. Many drowned. 4
There are shells bursting near us. The coxswain was struck, a small fragment struck his helmet. Some fell in boat. It was red hot. Landing boats ahead of us and on our port side are taking hits. Some are on fire. The shelling was so heavy we were waved back. We turned around and headed back to open waters. We were fired on by small arms all the way back until we were out of range. We all stood up and looked around. Hard to describe. Boats were sunk or sinking, some burning, some out of control.
Not sure how many made it but was sure it was a weak force that did. We got word to stay back until more beach was secured. It is tough pulling 910 lbs. of gun, plus heavy ammo and other gear.
We moved in again, got close but hung up on coral reef. Finally worked off the reef and went back out. We sat there most of the morning and recieved crossfire from time to time.
(Two pages missing here, only portions of the pages remain.)
...guns and pulled them up on the pier. 5 There was heavy machine-gun fire on the pier. We had to keep down. The pier had been mined. We could pull our gun to the beach. I did not relish the thought of going across the pier. There was little cover and heavy crossfire all the time. It took about an hour to repair the pier.
Corporal Long said to standby. We started out on a run one at a time. We had to stop every 20 yards because of the heavy fire. None of our section was hit but a few men ahead and behind us were. We had about 50 or 75 yards to go and I was so tired when we got to the end of the pier my legs cramped and I couldn't move. We took the firing pin and sight off the gun and rolled off the pier to get away from the heavy fire.
We ran over to a cement blockhouse and rested. I wanted a smoke but my matches were wet and cigarettes were smashed flat. I bummed one from Fletcher. I was so nervous I could hardly light it. Charlie 6 took off to find the Major. We were still trying to get away from the sniper fire. There were a few close ones 7 but the whole gun crew made it. Charlie came back and said to leave the gun on the pier and follow him. We took off one at a time across the lagoon. I fell flat on my face in that stinking water, but made the beach.
We went to CP 8 and dug in and crapped out. The rest of our platoon and the 3rd platoon had dropped their guns 9 and went in to help the infantry.
(From this point on it appears I was able to remember only bits and pieces)
21 November 1943
Slept in foxhole. Saw Bongi. 10 He had lost all but one man in his crew. They were trying to get across the fighter strip 11 with their gun. At this point I am omitting many things that happened but I will touch on some events.
22 November 1943
Made ramp for gun. Got gun off pier. Set gun on beach and waited. we are unable to get our guns up to the line. Spent the rest of the day working with ammo. Help bury the dead. Our Lt. has not been heard from yet.
23 November 1943
Carried ammo up to half-tracks. Joe and Swede got wounded. A million snipers still around. Our Lt. came back from the line.
24 November 1943
What was left of the 2nd Regiment made a push to the west end of the island. Little opposition. Scouts and sniper platoon cleaned most of the pillboxes out. Part of "Pogie Baits" 12 reinforced us. Set our guns up for beach defense.
24 November 1943 13
Got word to move out and go aboard ship. We had been relieved. I am glad I made it. My section had it pretty easy.14
"There were many heroic acts," quoting Richard Johnston's Follow Me! The History of the 2nd Marine Division (Random House). Heroism could be measured only in degress, not by its presence or absence. It was not entirely absent in any man who managed to reach the shore. Sometimes it was expressed in valiant and spectacular leadership, sometimes in individual exploits, sometimes only in the dropping of a casual phrase.
There was the loose-jointed young rifleman from Texas who picked off six snipers and then slouched his way through a fierce field of Japanese fire, sneering disdainfully over his shoulder, "Shoot me down you son of a bitch!" There was the Oklahoma Sergeant who volunteered to walk between tanks, guiding them from one pillbox to another, "They asked for an intelligent Marine," he said. "I ain't very smart but I went."
So back to the transports, destination: Hawaii.
I didn't know it then, but this was to be my last battle and I was soon to leave this bunch of men. Many of these young men would go on to other battles: Saipan-Tinain and Okinawa. A few survived to be part of the landing at Nagasaki, Japan in September of 1945 and become part of the occupation forces.
1. Powdered eggs. Was told the eggs were dehydrated for use at sea, no need for refrigeration, store foreever. As I moved through the chowline, I saw the container the eggs had been taken from. It was imprinted PACKED 1939 Philadelphia, Penn. The eggs had a green tint as they were dropped into my tray. NOTE: this has nothing to do with this dairy but it is one of the many details that has stayed with me all these years.
2. Battleships shooting 16-inch high explosive projectiles.
3. Tracked amphibiois personnel carriers.
4. The gear consisted of: entrenching shovel, shelter-half, poncho, 2 canteens of fresh water, 2 first aid bandage kits, .30 cal semi-automatic carbine rifle, 1-unit of fire (75 rounds, .30 cal. short bayonet, leggings, and steel helmet.
5. The pier jutted out through the lagoon and had taken a major hit from our destroyer. We could not move past this damage to the pier. On this landing, I was again assigned to a 37mm anti-tank/anti-personnel gun.
6. Charlie Long, my sqaud leader. Called "The China Marine."
7. Sounded like pissed-off bees
8. Command Post
9. Left their 37mm gun on the pier. (It appears that at this moment the confusion of combat interrupted my memory.)
10. Sergeant Bongiavoni
11. A short but adequate landing strip for fighter aircraft or medium bombers.
12. 6th Marine Regiment nickname. "Pogie Baits"
13. Day and dates written this way. (More confusion.)
14. I have no memory of how many of my company survived. Many were wounded, some were killed. Later, back aboard ship, some died of wounds and were buried at sea. It was later written that every third man who took part in the landing was killed. Every second man was wounded. This all happened within a span of 76 hours.
Arnold (Lloyd) Gladson
Sadly, Arnold died on May 3, 1999.
copyright 1998 Wheaton, Illinois
Created September 1999 - Updated 7 September 2003
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