Here’s a simply fascinating piece of history.
In addition to photographers and motion picture cameramen, the Marines also occasionally deployed audio technicians to combat operations. These guys (who were, needless to say, almost senselessly brave) carried bulky recording equipment into battle, sometimes even while wading ashore. The sound, of course, is tinny and crackly; the microphones weren’t equipped to pick up the thunderous drumfire of a bombardment, but you can hear rifle shots, machine guns, and the occasional *zip* of a bullet overhead as plain as day.
And the technicians weren’t just recording – they were commentating on what they saw, too, often with no more excitement than if they were describing a baseball game. (This, to me, is the most impressive feat of all.)
Here’s a recording from Iwo Jima – listen for the yell “Spread out, SPREAD OUT!” as they dodge incoming fire.
And here’s a famously dramatic one, possibly the best of its kind, done by Alvin Josephy during the landing on Guam.
However, the one to talk about today was found by Gregory Hitschler (thanks, Greg!) – it’s a recording of the 24th Marines’ landing on Namur, by Fred Welker and Keene Hepburn.
Not only is this interesting as a historical document, it’s particularly relevant to this research project because Welker and Hepburn are directly in the First Battalion’s area of operations.
We know this because, as Greg points out, at the 12:10 mark they waylay a passing Marine.
…hey, bud, come over here a minute, will ya? Come over here just a minute? Where were ya?
Oh, about… about 125 yards up.
About a hundred and twenty-five yards up? And how far are the boys from there? About two hundred?
Something like that.
How are they doing?
Oh, so far pretty good. They can’t shoot at nothin’.
Can’t shoot ’em, huh? What are they behind? Are they using trees?
Concrete abutments, huh?
They’re dug down in holes.
Dug down in holes, huh. Are they using bazookas to knock ’em out?
.At this point there’s a screaming siren noise that blocks out the reply, but the Marine appears to comment along the lines of “it’s a hell of a fight up there.”
Yeah, well I’ll bet! How are our boys, are there many of them getting clipped? Many casualties?
No, I didn’t see many.
You didn’t see many. And how ’bout the Japs? Quite a few of them?
Oh, there’s a lot of ’em.
A lot of them! That’s good…. What’s your name?
Private J. J. Murphy.
You’re not Irish, are you?
And where ya from?
Murphy from Jersey City! And where in Jersey City?
Right on Duncan Avenue, 312.
Three-twelve, eh? Duncan Avenue, Jersey City.
Private James Joseph Murphy, of 312 Duncan Avenue, Jersey City
Company D, First Battalion, 24th Marines
You look pretty well spent! What’d you do, come back for ammunition?
No, I came back to get to my CP, so I can get my other men, find out where they are.
What’s your rate?
And you’re communications personnel, eh?
Naw, I’m fifty caliber.
And you’re coming back to the command post? The battalion command post?
Well this is it right here, did you know it?
This hole in the ground is the battalion CP. Right over there.
Oh, oh thanks a lot!
Yeah, OK – thank you.
The whole recording is a treasure (especially the part with the chicken) but this short interchange with Murphy – banal as it might be – is perhaps the only time we’ll hear a 1/24 Marine in action.
Murphy’s company disbanded after Roi-Namur; he went on to fight on Saipan as a member of HQ/1/24, and Iwo Jima with regimental headquarters. He survived the war unwounded, mustered out in November 1945, and died on 29 May 1975.