JOHN C. POPE
HEAVY MACHINE GUNNER
OCTOBER 19, 1942 – OCTOBER 19, 1945
We were the only ones to see the enemy up close. He was one of the many figures moving about in front of you. He was intent upon killing you. He was brave, well trained, and well armed. You could see the expression on his face as he advanced toward you…. He might shoot as he advanced or he might be intent on pushing his bayonet through your chest. Lots of bullets are flying and your bullet might or might not be the one that killed him. You could see the expression on his face change as he went down. Adrenaline flowed strong in your veins. The noise was deafening. You felt nothing as you shifted to another target….
John C. Pope, a “scrappy type” of teenager from Acworth, Georgia, enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1942. Accompanied by his buddy Jim Rainey, Pope learned his job while sweating in an all-Georgia “Cracker Platoon” at Parris Island, while freezing with D Company at New River, and while lugging a huge .50 caliber machine gun through the boondocks of Camp Pendleton. He fought on Namur, Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima; in every encounter with the enemy, he “shot first as he was trained to do.” And while he came through the war alive and in one piece, very few of his friends could claim the same.
In 2004, at the age of ninety, John Pope set down his memoirs in Angel On My Shoulder. Among his references were his personal photographs, spanning from his first boot leave with Jim Rainey to the battlefields of the Pacific, to dress parades at Camp Maui at the end of the war. Some of his pictures accompanied his text; many others have never been published before now.
All photographs on this page are courtesy of John Pope.
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 and Jim Pritchett, two Georgia boys in the machine gun platoon.
Edmond Piche, Dominick Piccolomini, and a third unknown Marine at New River.
John Pope and Salvador “Mike” Nobile at the tank park at New River.
Private Carmen Ramputi of Beacon, NY, was widely known as the company clown – and fully lived up to his reputation.
When duty called, however, Ramputi was as responsible as the next Marine. He would be killed on Namur, one of the company’s first fatalities.
Gunners load up with heavy belts of linked .50 caliber ammo at the property shed. From left: three unknown Marines, Jim Pritchett, Charles Podolski, Charles Czerweic, Carmen Ramputi. New River, 1942.
Anthony Pramberger – “Tony” – hailed from Forest Hills, Queens, NY.
Crawling through the obstacle course at New River.
Dog Company employs teamwork.
“Rainey’s buddies.” Mortarmen and gunners at New River, 1942.
“The .50 cal section” on mess duty at Camp Pendleton, 1943.
“The 50 cal. section was on mess 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
Charles “Chuck” Podolski
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.
“Pinkie” – Melvin Pinkerton – and John Pope, festooned with ammunition for a .50 caliber machine gun.
“The .50 cal machine gun outfit of the 24th Marines. Chuck [Podolski], me [Pope], Blackie [Poggioli] and Pinkey. Camp Pendleton.”
The Corps’ love of alphabetizing is evident in the names of those assigned to the .50 caliber section: Pinkerton, Pope, Podolski and Poggioli.
“21. Camp Pendleton, .50 cal section. Me, Robie, Pinkey.”
“25. “Pinkey & me.” Pinkerton on the gun, Pope assistant gunner. 1943
John “Blackie” Poggioli and John Pope take a breather on field exercises at Camp Pendleton.
PFC “Chuck” Podolski of Yonkers, NY.
Out in the Camp Pendleton boondocks
Pope takes in the view from a summit in the boondocks.
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 Poggioli address the situation with good humor.
“Bernie Novak. Shot in the eye and survived. Picture in Calif. before leaving.” Novak was the runner for Lt. Joseph Swoyer, and received his wound on Iwo Jima.
“Mike Nobile, left, & Steve Navara. Steve was killed on Namur.”
Salvador “Mike” Nobile
“’Here’s to the old 50 Cal Pope.’ – Lt. Carbeau.” Charles W. Carbeau was killed in action on Saipan.
Melvin “Pinkie” Pinkerton, Warrendale PA.
Jim “Shuffler” Pritchett, Forsyth GA.
Salvador “Mike” Nobile, Columbia PA.
Standing: Pinkerton, Nobile. Seated: Pope, Rainey, Pritchett.
After the battle of Namur, 1/24 was ordered to clean up its battlefield. “We found an old flatbed truck and managed to get it started. We got the bright idea to use it to haul bodies.” Disgust is evident on every face, despite the blurred focus.
“Navy corpsman Doc Munski assigned to 1st Batt. Maui.” Munski won the Legion of Merit for saving fifty lives on Saipan.
“Blacky & Deets – a swabby corpsman attached to D Co. to take care of us. A first aid man.” Pharmacist’s Mate Deets was killed on Iwo Jima.
“Pinky & me. Mel has on Doc Deets’ Navy uniform.”
“Maui. Billy Skeens, without shirt, killed Saipan. Bob Sherrill.”
Sergeant Olin England, mortar section, in the field on Saipan. The excavation at right is probably a mortar pit.
1/24 mortarmen cluster around one of their tubes during a lull in the fighting for Saipan.
John Pope with capsized truck on Saipan.
Captain Irving “Buck” Schechter, the skipper of Company A, on Saipan.
Abandoned oxen were frequently put to use hauling supplies. Jim Rainey leads the wagon train; John Pope is standing with his “liberated” bicycle. Saipan, 1944.
“Jap body, Saipan. Never surrendered.”
John Pope, almost unrecognizable after three weeks on Saipan, with buddies after the battle.
Showing off the spoils of war at Camp Maui, 1944.
Sergeant Pinkerton. “Pinkie” was transferred from the machine guns to become a battalion carpenter.
“Skinny dipping at Maui.”
Calling a halt during a march on Maui. The work was exhausting, as evidenced by the Marine caught mid-yawn.
“Chow down on Iwo Jima.” These 1/24 Marines are lucky to have found boxes of coveted 10-in-1 rations.
“A quiet moment, Iwo Jima.”
“Mail call, Iwo.” Few things brought joy like letters from home; note the broad smile third from left.
At a formal occasion at Maui, near the end of the war. Pope is front and center as indicated by the arrow.
One of Pope’s oldest buddies, Corporal Wally Duncan, with his squadmates in 1945.