2nd Lt. William C. Culp, E/2/2
Bill Culp, from West Palm Beach, Florida, had been transfered from the Raiders and joined the 2nd Marines on Tulagi. He was assigned as a clerk to Chaplain Wyeth W. Willard sometime in September 1942. At this time Culp was a sargeant and had enlisted in 1938. Chaplain Willard developed a very high regard for Culp especially when Willard was experiencing an especially serious bout of Malaria. He wrote, "I shall always be grateful to him for the hours he patiently spent caring for me both day and night." 1
For many Marines a Chaplain's clerk probably seemed like a demotion especially after being in a unit like the Raiders as Culp was. Evidently for Culp, a committed Christian, it was a job he felt was necessary and important. Some of his fellow Marines would not be coming home but through the work of the Chaplain a few or these might find Christ as their Savior.
After the island was cleared of the enemy, Willard, Culp, and Private Fred W. Sheldon, from Buna Park, California, traveled around the island visiting various units and especially the sick bays. Willard wrote,"So we three went from sick bay to sick bay. Sheldon played his guitar, while I sang gospel hymns. Sergeant Culp would read the Scripture. Then I would give a brief message. After prayer by the sergeant or myself, there would follow another gospel hymn. Always when we left the sick bays there would be spontaneous expressions of appreciation from the men and unanimous invitations to come again."2
Culp spent three months with Willard and taught him many invaluable and practical things that a Marine knows such as field stripping and detail stripping a Colt .45 automatic. 3 Willard saw Culp had great potential and knew that being a Chaplain's clerk would hinder his advancement in rank. With a transfer from Col. Van Ness, Culp was sent to B/1/2 on Guadalcanal to fill one of the many empty non-commisioned officer ranks after casualties began to mount. Capt. Maxie Williams, CO of B/1/2, greeted Culp on Guadalcanal with not so cordial words: "Sgt. Culp, to tell you the truth, I'm sorry to see you coming into my company. You've been a the chaplain's clerk too long. But I'll give you one chance." 4
Of course one chance was all that Culp needed. Soon Culp led his platoon into action as B Company advanced against the Japanese. He fullfiled his assignment given to his unit and they took a Japanese postion while Culp narrowly escaped being hit. After the fighting Culp was called to the Company CP and given a commission as a 2nd Lt by Capt. Williams.
Later on Tarawa, Willard was in charge of setting up Marine Corps Cememtary 2, nearby the Regiemntal CP on Red Beach 2. As this work progressed, Willard noticed a body, "curled up in death," only a few yards from where he attepted to rest the previous night. As Willard and his helpers began to prepare the body for burial, the name W. C. Culp became visible on the dead man's helmet. He had led his platoon ashore into action before being mortally wounded. 4 Culp's unit E/2/2 had taken heavy casualties losing five out of six officers on Red Beach 2 and during the push inland. 5 Willard penned a fitting epitaph for Bill Culp: "He had been one of the best personal workers I had ever known. His signet ring and his fountain pen were removed from his body, later to be sent to his sister. Tenderly we laid him away to rest." 6
See Bibliography for complete citations.
1. Willard, The Leathernecks Come Through, p. 57-58.
2. Ibid., p. 61.
3. Ibib., p. 84-84.
4. Ibid., p. 220-221.
5. Hammel and Lane, Bloody Tarawa , p. 265.
6. Willard, p. 221.
Created 5 August 2001 - Updated 23 April 2004