Two Valley Marines Fight In Heroic Unit On Tarawa
By SERGEANT PETE ZURLINDEN
TARAWA, Nov. 22.- (Delayed) - Thirty five daring marines and their indomitable "skipper," First Lieutenant William D. Hawkins, 30, of El Paso, Tex., wrote one of the most gallant chapters in the conquest of Tarawa. The unit included Corporal Paul E. Ingram of Woodville, Calif., and Corporal Robert L. Kleinknight of Bakersfield, Calif. Hawkins and more than a dozen of his men are buried beneath the sands of bloody Betio Beach, the most hazardous strip of sand ever bridged in combat.
Task Is Difficult
They were a special "scout sniper" outfit. Their job was one of the most ticklish ever assigned any contingent. They were told to secure the long 600 yard pier jutting out from Betio Beach and to wipe out all the Japanese machine gun nests threatening the invasion force. The pier was full of Japs. With a flame thrower outfit and the aid of dynamite, they routed six nests before our first wave struck the beach.
But when our carrier-based planes began the terrific bombardment that rocked Tarawa without letup for two days, Hawkins and his marines were right in the middle of it. The Japs dynamited one section of the pier, set off several mines near the scout snipers and raked them from the beach with all types of fire.
New Objective Is Assigned
The marine advance guard did not get a chance to draw second breath before orders came shooting them far down the beach where many hundreds of marines were pinned down by vicious machine gun and mortar cross fire. Hawkins learned he had to push across the airport, wiping out as many enemy emplacements as he could.
From somewhere a machine gun opened up. Hawkins was wounded in the hand and three more of his men toppled dead. Hawkins was forced to seek medical treatment for his hand and Gunnery Sergeant Jared J. Hooper, 26, assumed temporary command. Marine mortars now were on the beach and the most hazardous job yet given. Hawkins band came next. They were ordered to go out and "spot" for the mortars.
Spotters Dare Gun Fire
Corporal Charles W. Evans, 22, and Sergeant Stanley J. Deka, 22, moved deep into enemy territory and stood up in full view of the Jap guns - only yards away. They pointed out the nests with their hands until mortar fire could be unleashed. ???????????? was near Hawkins when he received his fatal wound. "He had returned to join us with orders that we had to go down to one of the hottest beaches and wipe out a series of compounds," the sergeant related. "He ran right up against the first one we reached and started throwing hand grenades from short range. He had gotten rid of a half dozen when a heavy machine gun opened up. An explosive shell struck him on the shoulder, near an artery."
Helps Carry Wounded
Ingram, 21, helped the officer to the nearest station. Corpsmen attached to the aid station reported Hawkins fought determinedly against death and Lieutenant Herman R. Burkhardt, 29, medical corps, gave the young officer blood plasma. "He lived several hours," said Kleinknight, 19, of 2509 Sunset Avenue, Bakersfield, "but Dr. Burkhardt held out little hope for him. He died during the night." Under Hooper, the scout snipers returned to the command post to await further orders.
Command Post Is Quieted
The central command post had been established alongside a well-fortified compound in which were some 25 Japs. "A colonel came up to me and said, 'Get those Japs out of there! They've been raising hell!'" said Hooper.
The remaining scout snipers dove into the compound and started firing their rifles into every corner of the place. But the Japs blazed back, Hooper said. We just kept tossing stuff in whenever we felt like it. Finally, when we repeated this several times, without response, we went in.
Is Native of Woodville
Woodville (Tulare Co.), Dec. 18 - Corporal Paul E. Ingram, a son of Mr. and Mrs. John C. Ingram of Woodville, was born in the Woodville district and educated in the Woodville Elementary School and the Tulare Union High School. A sister Viola Craig lives in Porterville.
copyright 2004 T.O.T.W.
Created 9 May 2004