Earl F. Steeb 3/HQ/8
serial # 463864
You expressed an interest some time ago in my exploits in His Majesties Service, the USMC, and I've decided to remit some to you. It's been so long ago and there are few survivors that you may omit my name and certainly my exalted USMC rank, serial # 463864 enlisted 13 November 42 and discharged June 45. The hardest almost 3 years I ever spent. I fear the passage of time and sin have dimmed my esprit de corps.
After all kinds of training I left New Zealand for the Tarawa assault. Sheesh! All who read this know about cargo nets and debarkation, but hitting this beach is a new experience. After hours of circling in LCVP Higgins in we charged on what I think was Red beach #3. Anyway, along side the Phillips Billiard Pier which was infested with Sons of the Rising Sun. I was carrying my TBY, or maybe a PBY (air craft) and out the ramp I went when the coxswain dropped it. No one hesitated due to incoming fire. I dropped off with only one arm in the carrying straps and later learned when I stopped only the last two sections of the antenna were above water. You'll recall we "tuned" the antenna to the right frequency by sections. I left the radio at what I guess was 6-7 feet down.
My first notice on surfacing was a LVT (landing vehicle tracked) vessel 'bout 150 feet off, burning and in dire straits. I also knew I was in trouble. Paramount in my thoughts at that time was to get ashore. Once I got there I questioned my idea. At that time (first wave) we had no beach head and there was plenty of rifle fire. It had to be Jap rifle fire as we had no targets. We were the targets.
I suppose all have heard by now how the coconut logs barricade allows us to hunker down on what little beach there was at high tide. And I remember it was a lot less than the it's narrow distance of a football field. No signal equipment was ashore then. A board with nails in it did switchboard duty with a EE8 for the operator. Things were grim. Where did the board and nail came from?
At least one older Marine who had been on Samoa said, "I guess I'll stick my old bald head up and draw a little fire." This joke (?) ended at that, as he did not. Strange that I remember that. I often wondered if he survived.
For some reason, which judgement I now question, I left the beach to help out. We used bodies as sand bags. I try to forget that. Later, I was back on the beach and helped an old High School classmate of mine (Paul Ambrose Brush) move a 75 mm howitzer from the water to the pit they prepared. I asked Paul where the ammo was. He replied, "Out in the water on those trailers." At that time the Reserves were walking in on the reef and taking enemy fire. One by one they fell. Lacking now what would be called "good common sense", I ran down a Jeep and turned it around to go out to get ammo. Three round clusters stacked on the trailer. Things were moving right along so I hurriedly turned around and backed into a rather large pile of Japanese reinforcing rods for concrete. As I started to move forward I dragged the whole damn pile as some of it had looped over whatever on the Jeep. There I am, dragging this iron, raising coral dust and drawing all kinds of fire to the ocean. Near the ocean the "whatever" breaks loose and I get to the trailer in the tide. I have it back to the the gun implacement and stand there while the crew fire at the advancing Japs. Paul said they were cutting the fuses on the shells to 1/5 of a second and standing behind the gun one could see the projectile going out more than 300 yards and air bursting, just mowing down the Japs similar to a 37 mm firing cannister shot.
Three days later we secured the island. I need no sympathy at understanding but I still have a little Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (then called combat fatigue), and this is about all I oughta recall right now. I still remember some and I'll conclude the Tarawa story later. If this is what you want I'll proceed and eventually get to the Marines of Saipan and Tinian.
Some communicators of 3/HQ/8
At Camp Tarawa in Hawaii.
Steeb is in the 2nd row on the left with his hand on Patrick Doyle.
Thanks to Les Groshong for convincing and Earl Steeb for writing.
copyright 2003 T.O.T.W.
Created 25 January 2004