John Charles Pope
When I was a kid growing up in Acworth, I was the scrappy type. It was not that I always started fights, I just happened to be there when it was going on. I remember being told, “When you grow up you should join the Marines because you seem to like to fight.”
James [Rainey] and I hitched a ride from Acworth to the big city of Atlanta to join the Marines. We had no idea what lay ahead of us. It was August 1942, and World War II was now about eight months old. A good part of the United States Pacific Fleet was lying on the bottom of the ocean at someplace we had never head of called Pearl Harbor. The country was frantically getting geared up for war. James and I were concerned it would be over before we had a chance to get into the fight.
John Pope was in his fourth day at Parris Island when he got into his first fight, a preemptive strike against a much bigger man who had it in for his buddy Jim. He learned two swift lessons: “you don’t get in trouble in the Marines for fighting” and, mor importantly, to stick by your friends. Although his “Georgia Platoon” was comprised half of Atlanta boys and “Yankees” – natural enemies – Pope quickly discovered the beginnings of the “special comradeship known to exist only among fighting men in the combat situations that lay in our future.” The buddies he made in training would be the ones he would fight, suffer, and kill for in the years that followed.
The war would wait for John and Jim, just like it would for Shuffler and Mike, for Pic and Tony, for Blackie and Pinkie and Chuck and Bernie and Charlie and Captain Webster and Lieutenant Carbeau. First they had to make it from Parris Island and New River to Camp Pendleton – and then overseas.
All photographs courtesy of John C. Pope.
Private Pope at Parris Island. “There is a version of the Marine Corps Hymn that goes in part, ‘Here’s to Parris Island, the land that God forgot….’ That describes Parris Island pretty well.”
Jim Rainey and John Pope at New River, North Carolina. The two were best friends; Pope later dedicated his memoir, “Angel On My Shoulder,” to “James T. Rainey, my closest buddy and true comrade in arms. We joined the Marines together, fought together, and by the grace of our Heavenly Father came home together.”
John Pope with James Pritchett, another Georgia boy, at New River. Pritchett, tall and rather ungainly, was nicknamed “Shuffler.”
“Rainey’s buddies.” Part of the newly formed D Company, First Separate Battalion (Reinforced) at New River.
Edmond Piche, Dominick Piccolomini, and a third unknown Marine at New River.
Pope with one of his “Yankee” buddies, Salvador “Mike” Nobile.
21-year-old Mike Nobile hailed from Columbia, Pennsyvania.
John Pope strikes a tough pose at the New River motor pool.
Getting ready for the New River “boondocks,” or field training. New River was cold in the winter; two of these Marines have gloves to warm their hands.
Tony Pramberger of Queens, New York, clears an obstacle in the boondocks.
Pramberger inspects his helmet on a smoke break.
More obstacles at New River.
Walter Parcheta of Buffalo, NY, negotiates a barbed wire obstacle.
Parcheta takes his smoke break. Although Pope, Pramberger, and Parcheta were heavy machine gunners, their field training centered around their personal weapons – M1 Garand rifles.
The most popular obstacle on the course was the rope swing. It could be done while smoking…
…while your friends watched…
…with a buddy…
…or in advanced mode.
John Pope was known for his irrepressible smile.
Mike Nobile, model Marine.
Pope has managed to find an unusual set of dress blues…
…while Carmen Ramputi ops for less formal wear. “Ramp” relished his role as the jokester of Company D.
When duty called, however, Ramputi was as responsible as the next Marine.
Somewhat unusually, Pope’s team trained with the massive .50 caliber M2 machine gun. The linked ammo made for some heroic poses.
Training and camaraderie couldn’t prepare everyone for combat. John Pope scribbled out the face of one man in this photo, noting “Jerk shot himself in the foot the night before we embarked from San Diego.”
California was quite a sight for boys from the East Coast. John Pope takes in the view from the Camp Pendleton backcountry.
Striking a pose for posterity.
Enjoying the view.
At Camp Pendleton, “the land is very hilly and home to coyotes and lots of rattlesnakes. We were not allowed to wear our leggings outside our pants. Loose fabric was safer than tight canvas in case of a snake strike.” Having struck first, JCP poses with a few of the rattlers.
Cacti were a perpetual irritation on maneuvers, and many a Marine ran afoul of the sharp spines. Pope and John “Blackie” Poggioli address the situation with good humor.
The Camp Pendleton boondocks were expansive and sparse – ideal for practicing larger unit maneuvers.
The .50 cal machine gun outfit of the 24th Marines. Chuck [Podolski], me [Pope], Blackie [Poggioli] and Pinkey. Camp Pendleton.”
“Pinkie” – Melvin Pinkerton – and John Pope, festooned with ammunition for a .50 caliber machine gun.
“Chuck” Podolski models his ammo belts.
“Pinkey & me.” Pinkerton on the gun, Pope assistant gunner. 1943
Carmen Ramputi and Ray “Robie” Roberson take their turn.
The Corps’ love of alphabetizing is evident in the names of those assigned to the .50 caliber section: Pinkerton, Pope, Podolski and Poggioli.
Chuck Podolski in the field. He has traded his M1 rifle for the more portable M1 carbine.
Training in the California summer was brutal. Here, Podolski takes a breather…
…Pope takes a sip of water, and Blackie passes out.
Any opportunity to catch a nap was welcomed by training Marines.
Landing exercises at Camp Pendleton. A heavy .30 caliber team comes ashore. Note the gunner and assistant at center, flanked by two ammo carriers. The man at left is carrying the water tank that cooled the gun.
A .30 caliber machine gun on its tripod in the field.
Horsing around instead of doing laundry on one of the mandatory “field days.”
“’Here’s to the old 50 Cal Pope.’ – Lt. Carbeau.” Charles W. Carbeau was killed in action on Saipan.
“The 50 cal. section was on duty at the officer’s mess. As you know, mess duty is to avoided if possible, however since we were all together you can tell we had a great time.” – JCP
Mess duty calls: Podolski…
…and Poggioli (at left; his friend is unknown.)
Ramputi, naturally, took the opportunity to get a laugh.
Making the best of a bad situation.
There was the occasional reprieve, when a Marine could put on his dress uniform and escape on liberty. Mike Nobile and John Pope went to the seaside.
Pope and Rainey, the hometown buddies. Note Rainey’s expert rifleman badge.
Mike Nobile and Jim Rainey.
Mike Nobile, relaxing after a rare non-Corps-mandated swim.
Nobile and Pope were close friends. Mike sent this photo home with the following caption: “Once a Pal, always a Pal. That’s John & I on the front, believe it or not, and my fatherly hold on his neck.” Their young companion isn’t explained.
John Pope in California, 1943.
A tourist trip to Mission San Juan Capistrano. Pictured are Steve Navara, Bernie Novak, and San Juan himself.
Novak and Navara pose with the Mission’s famous bells.
Bernie Novak. He would survive a close call on Iwo Jima, where an enemy bullet destroyed one of his eyes.
Nobile and Navara. Steve Navara would become one of the company’s first combat fatalities.
Mike Nobile checks out the oranges at the Mission.
Feeding the birds near the Mission entrance. Novak watches Nobile’s expertise.
Formal portraits taken in May, 1943. This is Jim “Shuffler” Pritchett of Forsyth, Georgia.
Melvin “Pinkie” Pinkerton of Warrendale, PA
Five buddies on their way to war. Pinkerton and Nobile in the rear row; Pope, Rainey, and Pritchett in the front. (Pinkerton’s paratrooper wings are a mystery.)