Each year, this post gets harder to write.
I met Wally Duncan at an Iwo Jima veteran’s reunion, Bob Williams and Joseph Solecki at Fourth Marine Division events. Spoke with Ray Cable on the phone and Chuck Kubicek via email. The families of Walter Dodd, Wayne Gilbreath, Gerald Kyes and Ed DuBeck passed messages to their veterans. Colonel Beehner visited the website a few times. Doc Lyon was a regular commenter.
They’re all gone.
Losing Doc Lyon was the biggest shock of the year. I sent him an email one day in December 2013, not anticipating or even expecting a reply. Within fifteen minutes, he had not only replied but sent along what became one of my favorite photos of First Battalion.
Over the next three years, I grew to have a great respect (and, I’d venture to say, a friendship) with “Doc Little Dick” – his wartime nickname, which distinguished him from his much taller boss (naturally, “Doc Big Dick.”) He shared pictures, told stories, and offered long-held private opinions, some of which can’t be repeated but all of which made perfect sense. He talked about coaching the basketball team, building a camera on Iwo Jima and, modestly, how he did “little more than first aid” in battle thanks to his tireless and professional corpsmen. We called each other on Christmas one year, made plans to meet up which never panned out, and tried to get him in touch with his old wartime buddies. He kept on going, and was planning to meet with the family of one of his former corpsmen when we last communicated in November. He had just celebrated his one hundredth birthday. And then came the email that he had died. It was unexpected, the result of a fall. I was lucky to know Doc for as long as I did.
Bob Williams and Wally Duncan will be particularly missed as well. Both were wonderfully friendly and it’s hard to overstate how much they contributed to the history of Able Company. And, much to my shame, I let my contact with them lapse to the point that I only learned they had passed in the past few days.
In a year that was dominated by news of celebrity deaths, these men passed on with little fanfare or recognition.
Semper Fi, Marines.
Robert Patrick Stanley (March 17, 1923 – January 5, 2016)
Mr. Stanley was a B Company rifleman from December 15, 1942 until February 2, 1944, when he was wounded and evacuated from Roi-Namur. He remained in the service as a clerk/typist, and served at the Air Observer’s Training Center for the Fleet Marine Force, Pacific.
He is buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona.
Gerald L. Kyes (April 23, 1926 – April 26, 2016)
“Kyser” hailed from Skowhegan, Maine and dropped out of high school to enlist at the age of seventeen. When he returned to earn his diploma, he was a decorated veteran of Iwo Jima. Mr. Kyes served as a rifleman with Charlie Company, and was discharged as a corporal. For more details of his life, please read his obituary.
Mr. Kyes is buried in Calvary Cemetery, Skowhegan.
Walter Joseph Bachmeier (February 6, 1921 – April 27, 2016)
Mr. Bachmeier began his service in June, 1942. He served with Company L, Third Battalion, 9th Marines during the Bougainville campaign and, following his evacuation for illness, with the ordinance section at Camp Pendleton. Corporal Bachmeier joined A/1/24 near the end of the war as a mortar NCO. For more details of his life, please read his obituary.
Mr. Bachmeier is buried in North Dakota Veteran’s Cemetery.
Robert Lee Owensby (January 25, 1926 – May 5, 2016)
Bob Owensby, a nineteen-year-old antitank gunner, was thrown into the battle of Iwo Jima as a replacement rifleman with Charlie Company. In just eight days, he was twice wounded in action. Owensby later served as an MP on Saipan, detailing his experiences in Bruce M. Petty’s Saipan: Oral Histories of the Pacific War. For more details of his life, please read his obituary.
Mr. Owensby is buried in Naperville Cemetery.
Ardith Wayne Gilbreath (September 12, 1926 – June 2, 2016)
Mr. Gilbreath joined the Second Platoon, B/1/24 in April of 1944. He served as a rifleman and platoon messenger on Saipan and on Iwo Jima. Despite suffering two wounds, including a gunshot in the throat, PFC Gilbreath served through the end of the war and was honorably discharged in 1945. For more details of his life, please read his obituary.
Mr. Gilbreath is buried in Rock Hill Cemetery.
Robert Leyshon Williams (October 23, 1924 – June 6, 2016)
Bob Williams joined the Marine Corps at the age of seventeen, and within a few weeks was a drill instructor at Parris Island. He joined A/1/24 in November of 1942, and fought as a scout and demolitions expert. He nearly lost an arm to a grenade blast on Saipan, and was discharged for disability on 7 July 1945. Bob detailed his experiences for Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh in 2014. For more details of his life, please read his obituary.
Mr. Williams is buried in Forrest Hills Memorial Park.
Edward Walter Dubeck (October 16, 2910 – July 2, 2016)
Dog / Able Company
Ed Dubeck, a machine gunner and Silver Star recipient from Pennsylvania, passed away in July. His death was previously reported in a Last Muster post.
Mr. Dubeck is buried in Holy Redeemer Cemetery, Philadelphia.
Calvin Boone Tiller (July 31, 1920 – July 15, 2016)
Mr. Tiller, a resident of Elkhorn WV and “cowboy at heart” spent his youth working on the family farm before joining the CCCs in the early 1940s. He entered the Corps in May, 1944 and served as a rifleman with A/1/24 in the battle of Iwo Jima. PFC Tiller did double duty as the company barber, a skill he brought back to civilian life. For more details of his life, please read his obituary.
Mr. Tiller is buried in Palatka Memorial Gardens, Florida.
Kenneth August Beehner (March 22, 1918 – August 16, 2016)
Baker / HQ Company
Mr. Beehner, a renowned collegiate football player, entered the Marines after graduating from Syracuse. He served as a platoon leader with Baker Company on Namur, and as a temporary mortar platoon leader on Saipan. Wounded twice in action, he returned to the States as an instructor at The Basic School. He retired from the Corps in 1955 as a lieutenant colonel.
Mr. Beehner’s final resting place is not known.
Joseph Stanley Solecki (March 2, 1924 – August 28, 2016)
Dog / HQ Company, 81mm Mortars
Mr. Solecki was one of the first mortarmen to join the First Separate Battalion, Reinforced; he was only eighteen when he enlisted in 1942. He would go on to serve in all four battles of the Fourth Marine Division, miraculously surviving the war without a scratch. For more details of his life, please read his obituary.
Mr. Solecki is buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Cheltenham, PA.
Stanley George Shafar (June 25, 1921 – September 7, 2016)
Mr. Shafar, a machinist from Chicago, joined the Marine Corps in July of 1944. After his training, he was assigned to A/1/24 as a rifleman in May, 1945 – but only lasted a month before illness sent him to the hospital. Reassigned to the 17th Service Battalion, Private Shafar put his mechanical skills to use, developing a new system to replace faulty kingpins on trucks. For the rest of his service, and his life, he was known as a problem solver and engineer. For more details of his life, please see this profile from the Chicago Sun-Times, or read his obituary.
Mr. Shafar’s final resting place is not known.
Raymond Schede Cable (January 25, 1925 – September 8, 2016)
Mr. Cable joined the Corps in November 1942, when only seventeen years old. He saw action on Roi-Namur, and for his abilities was promoted to corporal. Twice wounded on Saipan, Cpl. Cable was returned to the United States where he discharged for disability in January, 1945. He became a graphic artist and art director upon his return to his native Connecticut.
Mr. Cable is buried in State Veteran’s Cemetery, Middletown, CT.
Wallace William Duncan (August 30, 1925 – September 8, 2016)
Dog / Able Company
“Wally” Duncan, an expert rifleman and machine gunner, was a veteran of three Pacific battles before his twentieth birthday. Though he left the service in 1945, Wally was very active in the Marine Corps League and the Iwo Jima Association of America. He contributed an interview to the Voices of WWII project. For more details of his life, please read his obituary.
Mr. Duncan is buried in Sharon Memorial Park, Charlotte, NC.
Edward Joseph Aurdahl (February 19, 1927 – September 29, 2016)
Mr. Aurdahl left the life of a turkey farmer in Minnesota to join the Marines at the age of seventeen. He joined A/1/24 as a replacement rifleman in May of 1945 and served overseas as an MP on Okinawa before his discharge in 1947. Mr. Aurdahl was recalled to the Corps in 1950, and rose to the rank of sergeant with an armored unit of the First Marine Division in Korea. He left the military for good in 1952. For more details of his life, please read his obituary.
Mr. Aurdahl is buried in Sunset Memorial Park, Coos Bay, OR.
Walter Erwin Dodd (October 19, 1918 – October 25, 2016)
Charlie Company (Medical Section)
Mr. Dodd, a rancher’s son from Missoula, Montana, enlisted in the Navy shortly after Pearl Harbor. He was selected for and excelled at training as a hospital corpsman, and was assigned to C/1/24th Marines in 1943. Dodd participated in all four of his regiment’s battles, earning two Bronze Stars for valor under fire and suffering shrapnel wounds of his own. Following his discharge, he spent the rest of his life running the “3-D Ranch” outside Missoula. For more details of his life, please read his obituary.
Peter Colombo (October 18, 1924 – November 11, 2016)
Pete Colombo wanted to be a Marine Raider or paratrooper; instead, his proficiency with languages sent him to Japanese language school. He served as a machine gunner and interpreter with Able Company in all four battles, earning a number of commendations for his work. After the war, Mr. Colombo embarked on an impressive career in the sciences, centered mainly on nuclear energy and the safe disposal of its waste products. For more details of his life, please read his obituary.
Mr. Colombo is buried in Calverton National Cemetery.
Dr. Richards Parker Lyon (November 8, 1916 – December 7, 2016)
HQ Company (Medical Section)
Dr. Lyon earned his medical degree from Stamford University and was an intern at Boston City Hospital when he entered the Navy. He served as the assistant surgeon of First Battalion, 24th Marines in action on Iwo Jima. After the war, Dr. Lyon completed his specialty training and established a urology practice in California. He was a pioneer in his field, as well as a published author, photographer, and wine enthusiast. For more details of his life, please read his obituary, or find a copy of his autobiography A Process Mind.
Charles Albert Kubicek (July 22, 1925 – December 14, 2016)
Mr. Kubicek enlisted at the age of eighteen and joined B/1/24 as a replacement after the battle of Roi-Namur. He served as a mortarman on Saipan and Tinian, and as a machine gunner on Iwo Jima; although he was never wounded, vivid memories of units “blown apart” would stay with him all his life. Discharged as a corporal in 1945, he returned to his native Winona, Minnesota where he managed a jewelry store and worked as an insurance agent. For more details of his life, please read his obituary.
Mr. Kubicek is buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Winona.
Raymond Andrew Ludwig (January 21, 1926 – December 29, 2016)
Mr. Ludwig joined the Marines immediately after graduating from Port Washington High School. He was assigned to Able Company as a replacement rifleman after the battle of Iwo Jima. During his 26 months in the service, Mr. Ludwig saw no combat but advanced in rank to corporal by the date of his discharge. In civilian life, he worked as a TV repairman and raised a family in his home state of Ohio. For more details of his life, please read his obituary.