The history of the men of 1/24 in World War II and beyond

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A New Home

Welcome to the new home of First Battalion, 24 Marines – formerly located at http://ablecompany24.com

The old site has been removed, pending major updates to biographies, unit histories, and photographs. The newer one should be much easier to navigate, with better information, extensive photo galleries, and true tales of life at war in the Pacific.

However, because this is a one-man operation – run concurrently with my other site, Missing Marines – these updates take a long time to complete! There were more than 3,000 Marines who served with 1/24 in its various incarnations from the First Separate Battalion through the end of the war, and there are always new stories to tell. Check out the latest blog posts below, or start with the page links above.

If you’re searching for information on a relative or particular individual, please contact me – either in page comments, or by email – and I’ll send along what I know.

If you’d like to contribute stories, photographs, or any other material pertaining to the battalion, send me an email and we’ll take it from there.

Otherwise, please enjoy this tribute to the Marines who served with Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog, and HQ Companies of the First Battalion, 24th Marines, Fighting Fourth Marine Division during World War Two.

Thank you, and Semper Fi.

Geoffrey

Black Sand

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Seventy years ago today, a nineteen-year-old ammunition carrier from Sylvania, Ohio, saved a man’s life. He made himself a human shield, protecting his friend as shells rained down. He survived four hours on Iwo Jima. His Silver Star award was posthumous.

Many days later, a twenty-four-year-old mortarman from Port Arthur, Texas, picked up a rifle and joined a listening post. He was hit by a grenade, held on all night, and cried for his mother before he died. He survived Guadalcanal and twenty-six days on Iwo Jima. His only distinction was to be the battalion’s last combat casualty.

Between PFC Howard Pratt and PFC Willie Cordon were 138 other deaths. Some were old veterans, in their late teens or early twenties, veterans of three previous campaigns or more. Some were much newer, and their first battle would also be their last. And some arrived in the morning and were dead by afternoon, their time on the line so short that nobody wrote their names on any muster roll, their contribution to the war reduced to an anecdote in a veteran’s story, their faces associated with terrible memories of how they died.

Add to their number nearly 500 men who never saw again, walked again, or slept through the night again. Dozens who still carry pieces of shrapnel in aging bodies but received no recognition. The handful whose memories gave them no mercy, who lived out their natural lives in asylums and hospitals, who engineered their peace with a bottle in their hand or a gun to their temple. Those who simply stopped talking when it was over and never spoke of it again.

And finally those who returned, who lived a normal life, except there was no such thing as normal after what they’d seen and done. Because nobody who set foot on Iwo Jima in February or March of 1945 ever left completely. They all lost something to the island, and in return the island gave them an identity. Whether they wanted it or not. They are Iwo Jima’s Marines. They are proud of it, and rightly so. And they are leaving us. Little by little, but with increasing regularity, their numbers are dwindling. More and more obituaries appear listing seventy years of achievements, but careful to include a simple variation on the sentence “He served on Iwo Jima.”

Those who fought with First Battalion, 24th Marines are only a small part of the Marine legacy. Their story took place not in the famous first wave, or on the slopes of Suribachi. They worked the long slog through locations whose names are either starkly descriptive (Boat Basin, The Quarry, Hill 382) or brutally evocative (The Meat Grinder, Amphitheater, Turkey Knob). They saw the flag go up through binoculars. They thought it signaled victory too soon. Eleven of the 140 died on the day of the flag raising. They came from all walks of life, all areas of the country, and the oldest of all was a relic at thirty-six. Four men turned eighteen during the battle. One turned seventeen. One was rumored to be only fifteen, but died before the truth came out. The roles they played in the final victory ranged from the heroic to the minor, but all contributed, and all should be remembered.

First Battalion, 24th Marines
D-Day on Iwo Jima

Last Muster: Edward Curylo (1923 – 2015)

b_curylo A swarthy Ed Curylo smokes a cigarette following the Tinian campaign.

Edward Curylo, late of Baker Company and Headquarters Company, 1/24th Marines, passed away in January. A lifelong resident of Michigan, Mr. Curylo was born in Hamtramck in 1923 and enlisted in the Marine Corps at the age of nineteen. He served as a rifleman in the battles of Saipan and Tinian, then re-trained as a scout prior to the landing on Iwo Jima. Prior to that battle, Mr. Curylo recalled being told “We’re sending you into the jaws of death, and we want you to bring back the jawbone.” Last year, Mr. Curylo was interviewed for the Veteran’s Oral History Project. His hour-long recollection is available online, with a brief excerpt below.

I got hit with a big piece of a shell right in the back of my leg. And I laid there while we were changing positions, we were in a single file, and I’m laying there up on the ground hollering for the corpsman. And all of these guys walking by, nobody wants to stop to help me? So I finally got nerve enough to sit up and take a look at it and I says “Goddamn, the leg is still there!” Another time, we were on Saipan maybe a few days, I had the sole of my shoe cut in half. It stung like hell. I’m laying there again calling for the corpsman, none of my buddies are stopping to help me, so I sat up and fortunately the foot was still there. The only thing was the shoe was cut in half. When I got into a rest spot somewhere, I took my poncho off my gun belt, from carrying it in the back, and the poncho was just riddled with shrapnel. Fortunately none of it reached my body—though maybe it should have. Because I come out far worse. I come out paralyzed.

On Iwo Jima—I hate to say this against the military—but I’ve got all kinds of letters from them, and one states “the military does not make errors.” Okay. They show me up on my discharge papers out of Klamath Falls, Oregon, that I hit the beach on Iwo on the 19th and they carried me off on the 20th. Well if that’s the case, how the hell did I get called in for a scouting mission on the 22nd, looking for a six foot mortar that the Japanese had?

I came back from that patrol trying to find the mortar, which we couldn’t find, reported in to my CO, told him what we saw of course. Coming back, we got into it with a few of the Japanese, four or five or six or whatever. I think we shot a few of them, if we killed them I don’t know, we didn’t stop and ask. When I came back, all my buddies were up on top of the rocks, and I said “well I’ll go up and see them guys.” I got up there, we started talking, and everybody hit the deck except me. I got hit by a shell maybe three or four feet away. I went up in the air, I don’t know how far, but when I came back down I was paralyzed. The only thing that moved was my right arm and my head. I could get up my body a little bit, but everything else was dead. That’s how I missed out on the parades they had on Maui and things of that sort.

As they lifted me up to the hospital ship, all of the guys up on the beach were in a joyous mood. Hooraying and all that kind of baloney, you know? “What the hell’s wrong with these guys, they crazy?” I managed to lift up—I was in this sort of wire cage, and I managed to lift my head up and I took a look at ‘em and they’re dancing around and things. And I looked to Mt. Suribachi, and I saw the flag. Nobody believes that I saw it. And yet how could I not see it if I was there?

And from that point on, my life was completely changed.

Mr. Curylo eventually recovered from his wounds—enough to experience “one of my greatest moments as a Marine,” dancing at the Palladium with Yvonne De Carlo—but concluded “war is hell, I would not recommend it to nobody.” He returned to Michigan and settled in Detroit with his wife, Anna, and three daughters. These photographs were submitted to the 4th Marine Division Association Newsletter by Mr. Curylo, and appeared in the October-November-December 2013 issue.

Semper Fi, Marine.

Taps, 2014

These 1/24 Marines went to their final duty station in 2014.

b_vargas b_ison c_noyes1 xz_nopic xz_nopic c_fox xz_nopic
Frank Vargas Venon Ison Dale Noyes Norman Lucas David Hagerbaumer J. Murray Fox Donald Kardok
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Carl Weber William Collis Alfred Eskildsen Carroll Stout Kenneth Whitehurst George May Chester Hodge
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Andrew Paleveda Vincent Treccagnoli

Semper Fi.

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“The Company From Brooklyn”

A little-known nickname for Charlie Company, 24th Marines – even if “dem bums” were “a vigorous minority group affecting the character of the entire outfit.”

(I live in Brooklyn, and can attest to this personality trait.)

This article by correspondent Dan Levin ran in the Brooklyn Eagle on July 29, 1945. Corpsman Haynes received the Bronze Star medal for the actions described herein. (Click the image for full size.)

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(And for those wondering about cat-chasing Corporal Ciecierski: either he was a true animal lover or just fundamentally a dog person. Here he is posing with a buddy near a knocked out Japanese tank.)

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Baker Company Portrait

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Photo Source: Martindale Family Tree, uploaded by user “plaxamate1″

A neat souvenir photo of four Baker Company Marines, probably taken late in 1943, and a good representation of the casualties suffered by 1/24 during the war. None of these four men was in combat for more than five cumulative days, yet two were killed and the other two received crippling wounds.

Standing at left is Edward Duclos of West Springfield, Massachusetts. PFC Duclos was killed on Saipan, June 16 1944.

Beside him is Homer L. “Drummer” Hager. Hager, a bazooka man, was wounded in action on Namur, February 1 1944. He returned to the company as a bazooka team leader in a demolitions squad, but was hit a second time, also on June 16, and was permanently removed from combat.

Squatting at left is Ellis Thomas. “Wiley” Thomas, a rifleman, was promoted to corporal following the battle of Namur. He was killed in action on Saipan on June 18, 1944.

And beside Thomas is Everett Tackett of Allen, Kentucky. PFC Tackett was leading a fire team on Saipan when he was hit on June 18, 1944. He was discharged for disability within a year.

It’s interesting to note the coincidence that each pair, standing and kneeling, were hit on the same day, and that in each case the leftmost man lost his life. It’s also easy to imagine that each pair, as buddies and probably squadmates, were fighting close together when they were hit during the first furious days on Saipan.

For good measure, here’s a nice portrait of Everett Tackett in his dress blues from the same source.

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Charles M. Krieve

New photos of Company A, courtesy of James Krieve. James’ grandfather, PFC Charles Milan Krieve, was born in 1919 and inducted into the Marine Corps in June, 1944. He trained as a mortarman in California before being assigned to the 36th Replacement Draft in December, 1944.

Instead of heading overseas to Iwo Jima, the majority of the 36th appears to have been diverted to Hawaii. When the wrecked 3rd, 4th, and 5th Marine Divisions returned from Iwo in March of 1945, many units drew replacements from this draft. Private Krieve was assigned to the mortar section of Company A immediately after their return from Iwo, and trained with them for the invasion of Japan. These photographs were presumably taken at Camp Maui in the summer of 1945.

Charles Krieve (left) with a buddy.

Charles Krieve (left) with a buddy.

The unknown friend poses with a deuce-and-a-half truck.

The unknown friend poses with a deuce-and-a-half truck.

An unidentified group of Marines. PFC Krieve is third from right in the back row.

An unidentified group of Marines. PFC Krieve is third from right in the back row.

If you can identify any of the Marines in these photos, please contact the webmaster!

Charles Krieve served through March, 1946 and was honorably discharged as a private first class. Following the war, he settled in Michigan and raised a family with his wife, Gail, before passing away in 1972. His full biography will be featured following some additional research.

Many thanks to the Krieve family for permission to share these photographs.

Joe Driskell at Pearl Harbor

Just came across this neat article about Joe Driskell, from an unknown newspaper in the collection of Vigo County (Indiana) Public Library.

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Image direct link

More about Joe Driskell

Charlie Company Signatures

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A great souvenir of Corporal Bill Logan’s service, kindly provided by his son Brad. This document was probably given to Logan shortly before the regiment demobilized at Camp Pendleton in October 1945, as it has a mix of signatures from veterans returned from rear echelon assignments plus new replacements who joined C/24th Marines just before the end of the war. Most are machine gunners, and are either Logan’s long-time comrades (Glenn Buzzard, Mike Mervosh, Don Marston, Sil Paulini, Wallace Taylor, Carl McMahan) or, probably, junior Marines from the squad he would have led into combat in Japan. A few riflemen signed the paper as well, as did the platoon corpsman, PhM2c Andrew Kane.

Many of those who signed appear in this photo below, also from the Logan family, showing the remnants of Charlie Company after the battle of Iwo Jima. The circled Marine may be Bill Logan, but as Brad Logan says “I should emphasize that the man circled on it is not necessarily Dad (I am not sure and my wife is convinced it is not).  For all I know, one of us kids made the circle, thinking it was him but not confirming that with Dad.”

The identities of most of the men in this photograph remain unknown – if you have any further information, please leave a comment!

Photo courtesy Brad Logan.

Photo courtesy Brad Logan.

Faces To Names: Robert Santerre & William Logan

Two more previously unseen photographs of 1/24 Marines were kindly sent in by their families in the past few weeks.

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Photo submitted by Pamela (Santerre) Sloope, daughter of Robert Santerre.

Robert Ulderic Santerre, born September 9, 1925, and raised in Nashua, New Hampshire. Robert enlisted in February, 1943 at the age of seventeen. He spent the first months of his service as a guard at Naval Operating Base, Norfolk, Virginia, then was assigned to the 59th Replacement Draft headed for the Pacific. PFC Santerre was intended to be a replacement for a Second Marine Division casualty of the battle of Saipan, but on July 12, 1944 was attached to the Fourth Marine Division instead. He joined Captain Irving Schechter’s veteran Company A, 1/24th Marines, and twelve days later made his first combat landing with them on the island of Tinian.

Santerre was only on Tinian for a few hours; he was shot in the back during the great Japanese banzai attack early in the morning of July 25, 1944 and evacuated to a hospital ship. The company finished up the campaign without him, and as the surviving Second Marine Division replacements were released back to their original units, those in Able Company who’d gotten to know Santerre in the two weeks before his wounding probably reckoned they had seen the last of him. However, on October 17 1944, Santerre returned to the company. This was unusual in that few of the Second Division men stayed with 1/24, and the explanation probably lay in logistics; Santerre was hospitalized in Hawaii where the Fourth Division was in rest camp, and it was easier to send him there than to ship him to the Second Division’s home on Saipan.

Santerre went on to fight in the battle of Iwo Jima, where he was wounded a second time – again, shot in the back, and in almost the same place as before. This was the end of his combat career. After a lengthy hospital stay, he was honorably discharged as a corporal in time for Christmas, 1945.

After the war, Robert Santerre returned to Nashua, took up a career as a draftsman for General Electric, and started a family. On July 31, 1983, he was brutally attacked and murdered by two individuals who broke into his house and ambushed him in his bedroom. The Nashua Police Department opened the biggest investigation in their history, and finally tracked down the culprits. Pauline Choate (18) and Barry “Bubba” Brown (22) were arrested three months later in San Diego and charged with first degree murder, burglary, and robbery. Both were convicted and sentenced to 12 and 20-life prison terms, respectively.

Santerre, gone before his time, is buried in Massachusetts National Cemetery.

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Photo provided by Brad Logan, son of William C. Logan

William Curtis Logan, born August 22, 1918 in Clay Center, Kansas. “Bill” Logan enlisted early in the war, on January 20, 1942, and swept through recruit training at MCRD San Diego. He excelled on the rifle range – note the Sharpshooter’s badge he wears – and immediately after graduation was permanently assigned to the range. Although only a private, Logan was quickly made a coach and through the end of 1943 stayed at the recruit depot, teaching boots how to shoot. He also earned two additional weapons qualifications, as evidenced by the decoration on his uniform.

On February 21, 1944, PFC Logan was assigned to C/1/24th Marines as a machine gunner. He would fight through the battles of Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima with Charlie Company, attaining the rank of corporal and command of his own machine gun squad by the time of his discharge. Always reluctant to talk about his experiences, he did share two close calls with his son, Brad.

“In his 80s he finally described two close calls that he thought were on Iwo Jima, one involving what he called a “knee-mortar” attack on his position that killed or wounded (he wouldn’t describe those details) his two partners of his heavy machine gun team and bent the handle of his gun; and another where he was in a fox hole chatting with a man outside the hole who was helmet-less and killed instantly by sniper-fire.  He also recalled vividly a woman wading into the ocean off Marpi Point, Saipan, among those who committed suicide.”

Happily, Bill Logan came home to Clay Center and lived a long and busy life. He passed away in 2009 at the age of ninety, and is buried in his home town.

Gretchen Wood Williams (1923 – 2014)

Gretchen Wood Williams – known to her family as “Big Gretchen,” the younger sister of Lt. Philip Wood and one of the “Dear Girls” to whom he addressed every letter he wrote while in the service, passed away in late August. She had been ill for some time, but the news and realization that she is actually gone has come as a shock to our family. Gretchen was always there, a funny, vivacious presence who (as far as we East Coasters could tell) was the immortal champion of California. And yet, she knew her time had come, and in true Gretchen style met it with a quip and a loving family surrounding her. She was ninety one years old.

gretchenglamor

I learned the news via Facebook post forty-five minutes before the first family email was sent. I walked out of my office and across the Brooklyn Bridge; city living and careers in advertising being the strongest bond between my cousin (first, twice removed) and myself, this seemed appropriate. I wasn’t really paying attention, it just felt like the right thing to do. And naturally, I suppose, I wound up at 120 East 19th Street. This was the address Phil directed his letters to; this was where Gretchen and her mother had lived during the war. I had visited a few times, mostly on Phil’s anniversaries, but it wasn’t really his home. It was Gretchen’s, if only for a few years. She spent the hardest and most traumatic years of her life in that building. I couldn’t imagine she cared for it much. I couldn’t remember asking her. And that’s when I really realized she was gone.

Phil's younger sister, Gretchen Wood, about 1938.

This website – this entire project, the stories it has told, the connections it has inspired or rekindled, the memories of every Marine and every family it touches, are all thanks to Gretchen. She saved her brother Phil’s letters; she loving transcribed his lopsided scrawl over many nights with a typewriter, she passed them around the family to make sure they wouldn’t forget. She sent me, quite unexpectedly, a package several years ago; in it was a letter (beginning “Sit down, baby, because this is going to be a long one”) and an album of mementoes – not just the photographs of Phil that appear on this website, but documents about her parents as well, and their early lives in the American Field Service hospital corps in the Great War. She graciously agreed to be filmed for the documentary New York Goes to War, which featured the very letters and photographs she preserved. A wonderful and witty storyteller, she later wrote nearly two hundred pages of memoirs, which are carefully kept in a binder on my desk awaiting some sort of organization. (Soon, Big Gretchen, I promise.)

The Wood family in 1938. Phil Senior and Phil Junior are in back; cousin Kitsy, mother Margretta and sister Gretchen are in the front. Phil Sr. died in 1940 while filming Our Town.

As much as she was guardian of her brother’s memory, Gretchen lived a full and incredible life of her own. She inherited her father Philip Wood Senior’s ability to win over a crowd with any story she chose; when Phil Senior died suddenly of pneumonia in 1940, it was Gretchen who helped her devastated mother carry on. When Phil Junior was killed on Saipan, Gretchen was forced to leave school to help support her mother; her incredible artistic talents helped her secure a graphic design job and she worked her way up the ladder to become an art director for several print publications. (This is no small accomplishment as the webmaster, who works in the design industry as a writer, will fully attest.) She met, impressed, and married a handsome Air Corps lieutenant named Tom Williams, saw him through Harvard Business School, and moved with him to California where they spent 57 married years and raised children and grandchildren. For most of her life, Gretchen continued to work as a graphic artist; her hand-painted cards were anticipated every Christmas, and several hang in frames on the walls of my childhood home.

It’s difficult to admit to feeling that I’ve learned more about Gretchen in the days since she passed than I did in the thirty years we shared the planet. Or possibly, that I really understand how remarkable a person she was now that it’s too late. I was lucky enough to meet her on a few occasions, and have always been sorry that there were not more (we live on opposite ends of the country). I’m glad that we corresponded as much as we did, and will always be sorry about the things I promised to send the following day, and then didn’t, because I somehow believed there would always be a following day, and then one day there wasn’t. I have my own few memories of a great lady who made me laugh and listen, who was striking to behold, and whose innate creative skills I admired from the day we met. She was my hero’s little sister, and she’s the reason that branch of the family survives. Having that strength makes her a hero, too. It’s a trait the women in my family possess – especially my own younger sister, who carries on Gretchen’s name.

GWW

Last week, I got an email from Gretchen Williams. She was following the website, she said. She was “hugely impressed” but “can only read a little, when a curious moisture occurs in my eyes, and I have to quit, to continue a little later.” About my trip to the Punchbowl to visit Phil, she was “without words,” but wanted me to know he was in “good company” because Ernie Pyle is buried a few feet away.

The email was dated September 1, 2014. Gretchen died on August 27.

There may have been a glitch somewhere in the email service; maybe a family member sent out her last remaining draft emails. I don’t know. But I hope she knows I got the message, even though I couldn’t write back. And I hope she knows how proud I am to count myself among her family.

This website and this project, to which I have dedicated the past eight years and many more to come, have always been dedicated to the memory of Philip Wood. Now, for whatever it may be worth, I want to dedicate my work to “Dear Girl” Gretchen, without whom none of this would be possible.

We miss you both, but we’re glad you’re together again.

Gretchen and Philip Wood, date unknown.

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