“Like Hunting Rats.”

OPERATION FLINTLOCK, D+2
2 FEBRUARY 1944

Holding
0300 – 0659

We had been told before we went in to expect it.
That no matter how hopeless the situation, the Japs would always counter-attack, to save face and all that.
They did… before dawn with wild yelling and all the accoutrements.
Firecrackers, sword-waving officers who shouted commands in English.
B Company was pushed back by the sheer violence of the attack….
1Lt. Philip E. Wood, Jr.

The Japanese attacked, nearly one hundred strong, in the last few minutes before sunrise.

It was a last-ditch effort. They stood no chance against American firepower. Daylight meant the huge shells from the fleet, the endless waves of aircraft. In darkness, they might be able to get close enough to negate the enemy advantage. Surely the Americans would not call down fire on their own lines. This way, their chances were a little better. And their timing was almost perfect: the American commander was away from his men.[1]

Few, if any, believed their actions would turn the tide. They were but one hundred men, facing thousands of Marines. Even if they broke through, how much more could they hope to accomplish? The final outcome of the battle was clear. There would be no reinforcements, no saving fleet. It was no longer a question of whether they would lose; it was no longer a question of whether they would die. The only question was when, and the only choice was whether to try and take an enemy with them.

They gathered in groups of ten to twenty. Officers gave final exhortations, drew their sabers, threw scabbards away. Soldiers picked up rifles, bayonets, clubs. And they began to run, with no greater organization than those small groups, with no greater plan than to strike at their enemies. The sublime peace of Yasukuni Shrine was just a few dozen yards away.


PFC Joseph Meyers was sound asleep. He’d had an exhausting twenty-four hours.

The 21-year-old from Portland, Oregon was part of a demolitions team led by 1Lt. David Lownds of Baker Company, First Battalion, 24th Marines. His job was to “sneak around the back of a pillbox and blow in the door” using TNT or rounds from the bazooka he carried with PFC Homer Hager. Meyers and Hager had little training on the bazooka, but had plenty of opportunities to practice on Namur, where low, solidly-built fortifications dotted the western end of the island. Their platoon had advanced almost all the way across the island before Japanese mortars found their range; one shell wounded Meyers and killed two of his buddies. To escape being cut off, the forty-odd Marines executed an “advance to the rear” and jumped into shell holes and trenches, forming a ragged defensive line. The bazooka men were joined by Corporal Robert Koch, and the three marines took turns sleeping and fighting throughout the long and rainy night.[2]

Sometime during the night, a gap developed between the two left-most companies (Item and Baker). The marines knew the lines were fragmented, but the Japanese were the first to discover this major weakness. As Item Company’s right flank opened fire, the trapped Baker Company men realized they were next. A lieutenant took charge of the defense; to tighten his line, the men on the far left would have to move. First Koch, then Hager crawled from the shell hole, found individual positions, and waited expectantly for Meyers to follow. But Meyers slept on, blissfully ignorant of his new role as Baker Company’s leftmost man.[3]

“I am a Marine! I am a Marine!”

The high-pitched scream finally roused Meyers, whose “blood turned cold” when he realized his predicament. He was alone, his carbine jammed, and a “barefooted Jap charging with a machete” was bearing down on him. Meyers backpedaled as the Japanese man jumped into the shell hole. “He chased me out of the hole and around the edge, all the time shouting ‘I am a Marine,’” Meyers related. “He slipped and fell. I knocked him in the face with my rifle, kicked him in the chest, and then struck him with my knife until he was dead.”[4] More Japanese appeared and started shooting at Meyers, who tumbled back into his shell hole, casting around for other weapons. A single grenade was all that remained.

meyers illustration
Joe Meyers in action, as sketched by an artist for Leatherneck Magazine, March 1944.

By now, other Baker Company men were shouting for Meyers to get the hell out and back to the main line. Meyers heaved his last grenade at his tormentors and made a break for safety – but his missile was a dud. Two shots rang out, and Meyers felt a stinging and a numbness as the .25 caliber slugs drilled into his chest. As he fell, a buddy scooped him up and dumped him into yet another shell hole; Meyers stared glassily at the “many dead Japs and marines lying in the water” and felt helping hands bandaging his wounds.[5]

As the riflemen pulled back and constricted their perimeter, Baker Company’s 60mm mortar teams came to life. PFC Leslie M. Chambers, the gunner whose quick reflexes saved his crew the night before, kept his eye glued to his sight. Sergeant Fred Penninger was screaming corrections; as he called out direction and distance, Chambers cranked his weapon’s screws to traverse the line and shorten the range. Ammunition carriers tore open their cloverleaf containers and passed prepared rounds to Chambers’ assistant. The two kept up a dialogue: “Hanging.” “Fire!” and the mortar gave a metallic thwang as each three-pound projectile left the muzzle. Nearby, two other crews were performing a similar ballet. As fast as they fired, the Japanese kept coming, and the range kept shrinking. Penninger’s last correction brought the range down to a perilously close 35 yards; after that he was heard no more.[6]

A rifle-wielding soldier spotted PFC Peter Wilchinski and tried to run him through; the marine dodged the bayonet but tasted blood as the Arisaka’s front sight smashed his teeth. PFC Harold Rediske was also hit, but kept shooting until leaving his post to rescue a more seriously wounded buddy. Joe Meyers attempted to throw another grenade before he was shot in the chest; this final wound, his fifth, sent him slumping to the bottom of his shell hole, spitting blood. Those not wounded were running low on ammunition, or both. Sensibly, the lieutenant in command ordered a fighting withdrawal. Corporal Robert Koch was displacing back to the shelter of some trees when a spent bullet struck him in the back and knocked him to the ground. As he reached for his helmet and rifle, another bullet bored into his thigh. Though close to blacking out from the pain, Koch kept crawling and covered nearly 75 yards on his own before PFCs Pedro Gaminde and Charles Thompson picked him up “fore and aft” and ran the remaining 150 yards to safety.[7] The dead and wounded were everywhere; Captain Milton Cokin would later write that “the Third Platoon, Company B… was practically wiped out.”[8]

Ultimately, the Japanese effort failed with most of the attackers dying long before they reached the main American line. The few who did were quickly dispatched by Baker, Item, and Love Company, which had been ordered up from the landing team reserve. Astonishingly, Item even notched a net gain in yardage, chasing the Japanese survivors some fifty yards past their original defensive lines.[9] The entire attack, from start to finish, had lasted only thirty five minutes.

The scene of the attack on B Company, February 2 1944.
The aftermath of the charge.

Baker Company was out of the fight. Stunned and exhausted marines lit cigarettes with shaking hands. Nothing in their training had prepared them for a calamity such as this. Casualty collection teams were busy throughout the morning; PFC Rediske directed several of them despite his own wounds. As the rest of the regiment carried out the final assault, Baker Company spent a heartbreaking morning tending to its wounded and counting its dead – two thirds of whom were killed by the banzai attack.

Things were pretty hot this morning, bullets were flying everywhere… we had about 40% casualty in my company B Co.
PFC Harlan C. Jeffery


Reckoning
0700 – 1000

Sunrise on Namur, 2 February 1944.
Sunrise on Namur, 2 February 1944.

If the Japanese were fatalistic about their morning attack, the Americans were optimistic in equal measure. Their chief concerns were how long victory would take, and how many of their men would yet die. Colonel Franklin Hart, the regimental commander, summoned his three battalion commanders to the CP at 0700 for a planning council. Lieutenant Colonels Aquilla Dyess, Francis Brink, and Austin Brunelli shared Hart’s desire to end the battle as swiftly as possible, and readily agreed to a pincer movement that would end with the regiment’s wings meeting up on Natalie Point, Namur’s northernmost beach. Both flanks would have tank support; the steel behemoths were supposed to be fueling and rearming as they spoke. Hart warned his officers to be ready to go by 0900, and dismissed the meeting.

Hart was under the assumption that all of BLT-2 was in reserve. LtCols Brink and Dyess may have known better – parts of Brink’s Easy, Fox, and George Companies were intermingled with Dyess’ Able and Charlie Companies, as they had been the night before. Word of this tangle reached Hart shortly after the meeting ended; wanting to avoid the confusion of command that characterized the previous day’s attack, Hart put Dyess in charge of the entire right wing of the attack. Any BLT-2 units not on the front line would be organized into a mopping up force headed by Brink.[10] This arrangement suited both commanders. Brink, wounded the previous day, rightly felt he earned a breather while Dyess desperately wanted the opportunity to lead his own troops in a frontal assault. “Big Red” dispatched his runner, PFC Willie Turner, to pass the word along to his companies.

Captain Irving Schechter was making preparations long before Turner reached his CP. When a fouled-up order killed PFC Steve Hopkins, Schechter got on the radio and spent the rest of the night ascertaining exactly where his neighboring units were located. By dawn, he was satisfied that only the “Daring Dozen” were still forward of the main lines. The survivors of that salient came hobbling back just after sunup, stiff with wounds and fatigue but overflowing with stories, most of which painted Sergeant Frank Tucker as the hero of the day. Tucker, accompanied by Sergeant Carl T. McMahan, spent the night sniping at a troublesome trench full of Japanese. When “a strange and unfamiliar silence had settled over the place,” the Marines crept forward to investigate. “They found 50 dead Japs lying in a tangled, bloody heap,” reported war correspondent Gil Bailey. Tucker was credited with 32 kills – many shot “right between the eyes” – and McMahan with seventeen. The fiftieth Japanese soldier was found with his rifle barrel in his mouth and his toe on the trigger; he committed suicide as the Americans approached.[11]

Hara_Kari

“Only four of us got out of that trap whole,” wrote Phil Wood. “That any did was Sgt. Tucker’s doing…. He put two enemy machine guns out of action, and gave the others a chance to pull the wounded into nearby shell holes. Bullets creased his helmet, punctured his canteen, and cut off his rifle belt, but he didn’t get down until the rest of them were safely in position.”[12] Wood’s platoon now had two budding legends: Tucker and Corporal Arthur Ervin.

The attack was scheduled for 0900; RCT 24 had a little time to perform the morning rituals of weapons maintenance. As PFC Edward DuBeck’s crew cleaned their heavily used machine gun, they counted 40 dead Japanese in their fire lane – the products of DuBeck’s “trigger happy” shooting the night before.[13] Lieutenant Wood “cleaned my carbine in the growing light, ate a couple of squares of chocolate – the first food I’d had in 24 hours, but I wasn’t hungry – drank a little water, the first I’d had in almost a day, and smoked my first cigarette with relish, as soon as it was light enough not to show.”[14] When Private Dwyer Duncan inspected his M1, he “found the recoil spring in three parts” and had to locate another firearm.[15] Rain played havoc with weapons; 1Lt. Murray Fox recalled “it was all you could do to keep your rifle and equipment from rusting,” and the battalion’s AAR reported that the rain “rendered some weapons unserviceable,” when suggesting a rust preventative for future operations.[16]

PFC Robert L. Williams had one such unserviceable weapon; he discovered the problem when a Japanese sniper took a potshot at him just after dawn. His group spent a restless night in a clearing some distance ahead of the Marine lines; no infiltrators came their way, but large rats running across their legs “made for interesting sleeping.” Although not privy to Colonel Hart’s plans – they had been on their own for the past eighteen hours – the little band decided to strike out for the far shore in hopes of meeting victorious friends. Williams was stuck in the underbrush when the snipers opened up. In desperation, he forced his way through the vegetation, and burst forth onto a beach. Hey! I’m already across the island!

A shell hole in the sand looked to be the perfect place to clean a rifle.. Williams jumped in – only to find that four Japanese soldiers manned the position. He froze: I can’t fire my rifle. All I have is my bayonet. Then he took a closer look.

They were all sitting there, with the rifle in their mouth and their toe on the trigger.
And there’s a big hole coming out of everybody’s head.

All I could think of when I looked at them was, “it looks like a little girl took her dolls, hit them on the head with a hammer, and broke them.”

Naturally, since they were all dead, I was safe and got my rifle fixed.

 

A buddy slid in beside him, asking “What should we do?” “Burch, I don’t know where their lines are, or where our lines are,” Williams replied. “So let’s just wait here and see what happens.”[17] They were now even farther within enemy lines; the friendly air observation planes now buzzing overhead might easily mistake them for Japanese. And as they waited, the final bombardment began.


Breaking Their Back
1000 – 1215

All right, Willie. Let’s get the chestnuts out of the fire.
LtCol Aquilla J. Dyess

“Big Red” wanted to be the first on Natalie Point, but got off to a slow start. He needed his tanks.

Brunelli’s BLT-3 jumped off on time; their supporting armor (Company C, 4th Tank Battalion) was already on station, having spent the night closer to the front lines. Company B – previously commanded by the late Captain Jim Denig – had a greater distance to travel to refuel and rearm, and Namur’s terrain was notoriously unfriendly to their lighter tanks. Furthermore, they were to rendezvous with a platoon of medium tanks from Company C, but supply problems delayed the larger vehicles.[18] The acting tank commander assembled his fifteen light tanks at the appointed area off Sycamore Boulevard; when the Shermans failed to appear, Company B motored off to take up their positions in support of BLT-1 while the lead tank went searching for Jimmie Dyess.[19]

Namur, 2 February. Bayonets fixed, a rifle squad gets ready to move out into the underbrush. Official USMC photo by Sgt. Andrew Zurick.
Namur, 2 February. Bayonets fixed, a rifle squad gets ready to move out into the underbrush. Official USMC photo by Sgt. Andrew Zurick.

Dyess was hard to miss. A veritable dynamo of restless energy, he was pacing up and down his lines, waving his Thompson submachine gun, talking to the men, plainly intending to lead the attack on foot. His enthusiasm was contagious. PFC Johana Parrish remembered Dyess shouting “Come on, you guys, we’re going to move out” as he trotted past Charlie Company.[20] PFC Alva Perry noted the officer’s bright red hair and matching bandanna and thought he is a Marine’s Marine.[21] PFC John C. Pope saw “the big redheaded colonel… with the rest of us, right up front, yelling encouragement to us and waving us on. We felt invincible in the excitement and noise.”[22] The fear of the previous night gave way to a fierce joy. As they poured a hundred rounds “into the dugouts and pillboxes that had given us so much trouble the day before,” the screams and groans of dying men reached Lieutenant Wood’s mortar section and “it was all we could do to keep from cheering.”[23] Dyess had done more than organize an attack – he had whipped his men into a frenzy. “Big Red” waved his arm, the tanks gunned their engines, and the infantry lunged forward. It was just after 1000 hours; the race for Natalie Point was on.

81mm81mm2

Marine 81mm mortars fire in support of the February 2 attack.

“That attack broke the back of the resistance,” wrote Lieutenant Wood. “From then on, the Japs were disorganized and fleeing.”[24] The fighting followed the same format as the day before – attacking pillboxes, throwing grenades, chasing Japanese troops out of trenches or pulling them out of spider traps uncovered by tank fire. This time, though, the Marines were at the height of confidence, the Japanese in the depths of despair. The farther the Marines pushed, the more disorganized the Japanese became, until the experience resembled “hunting rats – they scurried and scrambled, hid among the bodies of their own dead.” Their casualties were tremendous; near the beach, Wood’s mortars had made “a slaughterhouse” of their target area, and a nearby tank trap was jammed full of “hundreds of dead…. horribly twisted and mangled. Headless bodies laid open to the backbone, small pieces of flesh splattered on the ground, and carcasses so thick that at times we had to walk on them to get by.”[25]

And Jimmie Dyess was at the head of it all, conferring with the tank commanders, directing fire, and absolutely refusing to take cover. “He was fearless to the point of being foolhardy,” thought Lieutenant Wood. Some of the enlisted men agreed, and yelled at their commander to get down. Dyess would laugh, wave his Tommy gun, and shout I’m a lucky Irishman. He spotted a handful of Marines crouched in a hole, staring at him open-mouthed. Well hey, fellas, how you doin?

Bob Williams could not believe he was speaking to his battalion commander. “Uh, we’re doing great,” he replied.

“Seen any Japs?”
“No… not lately. Say, Colonel, where’s A Company?”
“Oh, they’re back at the line a ways, they’ll be coming up shortly. Just wait here, they’ll catch up to you.”

Williams noticed that Dyess was carrying, not wearing, his helmet. Colonel, you’d give me hell if I took my helmet off like that. He kept his opinions to himself; Big Red’s good humor only extended so far. And I know he loved his hair. Dyess took off again, bodyguards in tow, and Williams once again settled in to wait for his company.[26]

  japanesetrench2japanesetrench1

Grim scenes from an anti-tank ditch on Namur. At least two of these soldiers committed suicide.

The Japanese were in full flight, rushing pell-mell up an anti-tank ditch, hoping to reach temporary safety in the Natalie Point fortifications. Light tanks fired down the length of the trench, “piling up Japanese bodies three deep.”[27] Every now and again, small groups or individuals stopped running, either taking their own lives or setting up hasty ambushes for overeager Americans. PFC Cecil G. Lewis was shot in the chest by a sniper’s bullet; he was the first Able Company man to die on the battlefield.[28] A Dog Company Marine, PFC Carl E. Cooper, was hit in the head and killed, not far from where his younger brother, PFC Howard “Junior” Cooper was still fighting. PFC Walter J. Parcheta, also of Dog Company, was running up the trench when he was suddenly blown to the ground; a Japanese bullet struck the grenades he carried in his hip pocket, wounding but not killing the lucky Marine.[29] Luckiest of all was Lieutenant Wood, who heard the click of a Japanese bolt and hit the deck as a burst of machine gun fire zipped overhead.

The Japanese gunner missed his intended target, but struck another. LtCol. Dyess was directing an assault against a final pillbox when he pitched backwards, shot through the head. “I saw him killed just as he was standing on a little knoll, waving his men on to the final attack,” remembered Wood.[30] Corpsmen were summoned, but it was too late: Aquilla James Dyess was declared dead at 1045.[31] Willie Turner and Bob Fleischauer carried his body past war correspondent George E. Jones, who recorded the scene:

They brought down one of the most popular officers in the Marine Corps…. He leaped into battle, throwing grenades and firing his rifle, standing upright in a field of fire. A machine gun burst got him. As his poncho-covered body came down a trail on a litter, one Marine told me: “He was standing up when he got it.”

The Marine looked at the corpse and muttered: “Damn fool!” There were tears in his eyes as he plodded on.[32]

casualtycarry

The word spread quickly through the ranks, provoking a range of reactions. Many men were heartbroken. “Oh, I loved that man, we all did,” remembered Alva Perry.[33] “It was tough to lose a great leader like Colonel Dyess,” said Corporal Mike Mervosh. “It made me realize how vulnerable we are…. He was a hard man to please, but he got the most out of us. I truly respected that man.”[34] Others were more grounded: “We really hated to lose him, and felt bad, but we had to keep moving,” remarked John Pope.[35] And a few didn’t understand the fuss, even after they learned that Dyess was up for the Congressional Medal of Honor. “I don’t know what he did,” confessed PFC Keith Little. “He was a goofy guy.”[36] Dwyer Duncan was even more pointed. “Dyess… received the Congressional Medal of Honor just for breathing,” he complained. “False heroes could sell war bonds.”[37]

Bob Williams learned of Dyess’ death from a distraught messenger; his first thought was I should have said something about his helmet. Losing “Big Red” drove home a troubling point. “It made me realize how cheap life is. I mean, when you see parts of a human being laying around, legs here, arms there… life has always been so special to all of us, and now all of a sudden it’s not. One minute you’re talking to somebody, and five minutes later he’s dead.”[38]

Dyess’ executive officer, Major Maynard C. Schultz, assumed command of the assault, but the men needed little prodding. Just minutes after Dyess’ death, a demolition team breached the last pillbox and BLT-1 broke through to Natalie Point, making visual contact with friendly forces on Nora Point at 1100. Within the hour, the two wings of the assault converged on the last few broken structures and dug out the last few broken defenders of Namur. How many offered to surrender in this final bitter fight is not known; BLT-1 at least was not in a forgiving mood, and reported no prisoners.[39]

1230: 1/24 to CT24. Marines have taken NATALIE PT. Are on both sides of it.
1238: CO CT24 to CG 4th MarDiv. NATALIE PT secured 1225. Officer patrols in both Bn sectors. Now engaged in mopping up. Col Dyess wounded in head. Hope not seriously. Will advise when island is secured.
1250: CO CT24 to CG 4th MarDiv. NATALIE PT. secured at 1215. Last organized resistance overcome. Wiping out isolated posts. Organizing for defense of CAMOUFLAGE….[40]

The American flag is raised on Namur.
The American flag is raised on Namur.

Well In Hand
1250 – 1800

I realized that my face was taut and tired, and it was from pulling my lips tight into a set expression so that the sight of those piled bodies wouldn’t show on my face.
1Lt. Philip E. Wood, Jr.

The end of organized resistance at 1215 did not mean the battle was over; nor did the establishment of defensive positions at 1315, or the official declaration that Namur was secured at 1418. In later campaigns, Marines would grimly joke that the Japanese were the last to “get the word” that the battle was over. Japanese soldiers who rejected the options of surrender and suicide hid in holes or under blasted buildings, waiting for a careless American to come too close.There were occasional surprised shouts followed by bursts of gunfire, or the blasts of grenades hurled into or out of hiding places, or clamped tight against heads or chests. The Marines were particularly souvenir-hungry, and several ignored warnings about booby traps and ambushes. PFC Paul G. Southerland of Company A wandered away from his buddies and never returned; when his death was reported, some in his platoon surmised he had been out looking for souvenirs.[41]

moppingup
Marines mopping up at the battle’s end. Although noticeably more relaxed, they are still ready for anything.

Lieutenant Wood’s weapons platoon was tasked with mopping up a heavily wooded zone designated as “area 851.” Despite the danger and an official injunction against souvenir hunting, somebody found a treat too good to pass up – a few cases of Japanese beer and sake. Wood looked the other way as his men loaded up, and to show their appreciation, “they forced five on me, and I promptly got tight!” After thirty six hours of little sleep and almost no food, the lieutenant was “very quickly and quietly looped. Helped clean up the last few snipers with a bun on.” As they hunted through the trees, Wood reflected on the historical accuracy of “victors drunk on their spoils” and thought it would make “a funny story for the grandchildren.”[42]

"Victors, drunk on their spoils." USMC photo.
“Victors, drunk on their spoils.” USMC photo.

While the combat troops completed the tedious and dangerous process of mopping up, the island was divided into defensive sectors. Specialized Marine defense battalions would eventually provide permanent garrisons for the islands, but those units would not arrive for several days. The hard-hit BLT-2 was withdrawn to a rear area (or what passed for a rear area) near the landing beaches. BLT-3 maintained their positions on Namur’s western beach, extending out to cover the causeway to Roi. And Major Schultz’s BLT-1 drew the northern sector of Namur, bivouacking in the very treelines, foxholes, and clearings they had just fought over. This decision had its roots in practicality. BLT-1 already occupied the familiar ground and, having suffered fewer casualties than the other teams, were the best choice to defend the tactically important northern beaches. However, the prospect of camping on ground quite literally soaked with the blood of friends, surrounded by the debris of battle and mangled bodies, was not easily reconciled. “We camped right in the middle of our own company battlefield,” remarked Phil Wood, “and it was a mess, but the ocean was only a few yards away and there was a steady sea breeze to blow the stench away.”[43]

That afternoon we was walking around admiring the dead Japs.
PFC Harlan Jeffery

"INP Soundphoto. Some of 8,000 Japs who died on Kwajalein - Namur Island, Kwajalein Atoll.... Dramatic picture made after the fighting had ceased on Namur Island, showing hundreds of dead Japs littering the sandy ground near their blasted pillbox, while US Marines move up to the firing line in the background. 2-2-1944."
“INP Soundphoto. Some of 8,000 Japs who died on Kwajalein – Namur Island, Kwajalein Atoll…. Dramatic picture made after the fighting had ceased on Namur Island, showing hundreds of dead Japs littering the sandy ground near their blasted pillbox, while US Marines move up to the firing line in the background. 2-2-1944.”

As the fighting petered out and the stream of casualties from the front lines abated, the task of tabulating the butcher’s bill began. The wounded were cleared “most expeditiously” and most were safe aboard a hospital ship within three hours of being hit. A total of 462 officers and men were now recuperating aboard the very attack transports that carried them to the islands; 85 more were bandaged and sent back to duty. The majority suffered from gunshot or shrapnel wounds, others nursed broken bones, burns, and blast injuries. One man was treated for “lacerations, bayonet” – this may have been PFC George A. Smith, sliced in the leg by an enemy’s edged weapon. Eight men were diagnosed with “war psychosis” and placed under psychiatric observation. And eighteen died of their wounds and were buried at sea.[44]

burial fingerprinting

A dead Marine is rolled onto his poncho; fingerprints are taken to help identify his remains.

Directly between Roi and Namur lay a small spit of land dominated by a water distillation plant. The spit, called “Aqua Pura” by the Americans, was not heavily fortified, and as a result was spared the fierce fighting that all but leveled its neighbors. If there was such a thing as a last peaceful place on the islands, it was on Aqua Pura’s sandy tip, christened Pauline Point. It was here that the Fourth Marine Division established its burial ground. Late in the afternoon of February 2, a small crowd including General Harry Schmidt, the regimental commanders, and a handful of other officers and men gathered at Aqua Pura to dedicate the cemetery. Fourteen of their comrades were buried in a collective service; in the days that followed, details would dig dozens of additional graves.[45]

pauline point burial

Sometime between 1600 and 1800 hours, the tired Marines of 1/24 completed their mop-up sweep and staggered back to their assigned defensive areas. “The terns were again beginning to show luminous white against the darkening sky,” wrote Lieutenant Wood. “We returned to the spot on the beach where we had spent the night before, and fell exhausted on the ground.”

Never have I been so weary, so drained of feeling.
I heard that Ted had been killed (I had been very close to him) and two boys in my platoon.
They were merely facts to be noted, not to feel.

We slept, although it wasn’t sleep that we needed.
Just a chance to stretch out in the sun, alone, and think of nothing at all.[46]


The Fallen

hq_dyess a_lewis2 a_southerland b_drumright b_peninger
LtCol.
Aquilla J.
Dyess
Age 35
Battalion Commander
Gunshot, head
PFC
Cecil G.
Lewis
Age 23
Squad leader, A Co.
Gunshot, chest
PFC
Paul G.
Southerland
Age 20
Machine gunner, A Co.
Gunshot, head
Sgt.
John C.
Drumright
Age 29
Section Leader, B Co.
Shrapnel wounds
Sgt.
Fred B.
Penninger
Age 23
Squad Leader,  B Co.
Gunshots, head & body
b_donnelly b_fawthrop b_kennedy b_moler b_mulcahy
PFC
Stewart C.
Donnelly
Age 21
Rifleman, B Co.
Gunshot, abdomen
PFC
Frank

Fawthrop, Jr.
Age
Rifleman, B Co.
Gunshot, body
PFC
Arnold E.
Kennedy
Age 19
Rifleman, B Co.
Gunshot, body
PFC
Allen W.
Moler

Age
Rifleman, B Co.
Cause unknown
PFC
Joseph P.

Mulcahy
Age 19
Rifleman, B Co.
Gunshot, head
b_olock b_parente xz_nopic b_pretaboir b_esmith
PFC
Paul
Olock
Age 21
Rifleman, B Co.
Gunshot, head
PFC
Giustino
Parente
Age 21
Rifleman, B Co.
Gunshot, head
 PFC
William O.
Paul
Age 21
Rifleman, B Co.
Traumatic amputation,
both legs
PFC
Edward
Pretaboir
Age 24
Rifleman, B Co.
Gunshot, head
 PFC
Edwin W.
Smith
Age 20
Rifleman, B Co.
Head wounds
b_vaid b_hurlbut b_stephenson d_ccooper
PFC
Edward R.
Vaid
Age 19
Machine gunner, B Co.
Gunshot, head
Pvt.
Mason L.
Hurlbut
Age 19
Rifleman, B Co.
Gunshot, head
Pvt.
Jay
Stephenson
Age 18
Rifleman, B Co.
Gunshot, head
 PFC
Carl E.
Cooper
Age 25
Machine gunner, D Co.
Head wounds
For a complete list of the wounded, see A Sad Voyage Back.

NIGHT ON NAMURMAIN PAGETHE CLEANUP


FOOTNOTES

[1] LtCol. Austin R. Brunelli had just departed for a scheduled 0700 meeting at the regimental command post. Major John Van Vechten Veeder was temporarily in charge.
[2] Frank X. Tolbert, “The Ear-Banger On Namur,” Leatherneck Magazine (May, 1944), 22. Two men stayed awake while the third tried to sleep; Meyers stayed up for the first two shifts.
[3] Ibid. The officer may have been Lt. Lownds, though Tolbert does not specifically name him here as he does elsewhere in his article.
[4] Sergeant David C. Stephenson, “Wounded Marine Escapes Japs in Marshall Landing By Throwing Dud Grenade,” The Herald and News (Klamath Falls, OR: 19 April 1944), 5.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Baker Company’s mortars would be highly commended for their work. 1Lt. Philip Wood, himself a mortar officer, commented that “their 60mm mortars saved the day. They fired at a perilously close range, but succeeded in breaking up the charge. A damned good weapon – my favorite – if I had enough of them and enough men, I think I could pretty near win this war with them alone.”
[7] Tolbert. The Marines are named as “Pete Gamainde, Jr. and Tommy (Meatball) Thompson.” Charles was the only Thompson in Baker Company at this time.
[8] Robert D. Heinl, Jr. and John A. Crown, The Marshalls: Increasing the Tempo (Washington, DC: Historical Branch, U. S. Marine Corps, 1954), 96.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Colonel Franklin A. Hart, “Combat Team Twenty-Four Report on FLINTLOCK Operation” (10 March 1944), in Schmidt, Final Report on FLINTLOCK Operation (17 March, 1944), 94. Hereafter “RCT Commander’s Report.”
[11] Sgt. Gilbert P. Bailey, “Marine Shoots 38 Japs During Kwajalein War,” The San Bernardino County Sun, San Bernadino, CA (1 March 1944). This event was covered by two correspondents, Bailey and TSgt. Fred E. Welker. Bailey, who also covered Steve Hopkins’ death, referred to McMahan only as “a corporal” – presumably because McMahan, from Charlie Company, was a stranger to most of the men in Able Company. Welker, whose reports came out somewhat after Bailey’s, correctly identified both Tucker and McMahan as sergeants, and upped the combined body count to 70.
[12] Philip E. Wood, Jr., to Gretchen and Margaretta Wood, 2 April 1944.
[13] Anthony Strada, “Union Member Kills 40 Japs,” Square Dealer (date and city of publication unknown), 7.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Dwyer Duncan, “Military Career – Dwyer’s Memories.” Posted May 16, 2013; recorded 1995. Although Duncan somehow had access to a pistol, a carbine, and a shotgun on Namur, losing the Garand was a major concern. “I still have nightmares about rifle failure when I need it in combat,” he wrote in 1995.
[16] Major Maynard C. Schultz, “Brief report of operations in Namur action” (8 February 1944), in Memorandum to D-3, Fourth Marine Division (10 February 1944), 3. Hereafter “Battalion Commander’s Report.” “This was especially true in Baker Company where there was no chance to clean weapons,” which may account for the high casualty count.
[17] Robert L. Williams, “In My Own Words,” interview conducted by Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh, March 12, 2014.
[18] Capt. Robert M. Neiman, “Report of Action of Company “C” (Medium) Fourth Tank Battalion, Fourth Marine Division in the FLINTLOCK operation,” enclosure (B) to Schmidt, “Report of FLINTLOCK operation, 4th Tank Battalion,” (20 April 1944), 35. C/4th Tanks had to scrounge fuel and ammunition from across their company to provide the armor support for BLT-3; only four tanks could be reasonably equipped. The remainder had to wait for resupply, further frustrated by the delivery of useless “flamethrower fuel and unfixed pack howitzer ammunition!” [emphasis in original]. To prevent any further delay, the medium tanks went into action only partially fueled and armed. Fortunately, these meager supplies proved to be enough.
[19] 1Lt. Roger F. Seasholtz, “Report of Action of Company “B” (Light) Fourth Tank Battalion, Fourth Marine Division in the FLINTLOCK operation,” enclosure (B) to Schmidt, “Report of FLINTLOCK operation, 4th Tank Battalion,” (20 April 1944), 24. “The Second Platoon Leader was in command of all the tanks because he and his Platoon had been in the same sector the day before.” This was either 1Lt. Thomas M. Horne, 1Lt. Jerome A. Krinberg, or W/O Charles E. Essko, Jr.
[20] Gail Chatfield, “Sgt. Maj. Joe Parrish, USMC (Ret.)” in By Dammit, We’re Marines! (San Diego:Methvin, 2008), 206.
[21] Alva R. Perry, Jr., “A Personal History of the Fourth Marine Division in WWII,” 2011.
[22] John C. Pope, Angel On My Shoulder, Kindle edition (2013).
[23] Wood, letter of 2 April 1944.
[24] Ibid.
[25] Ibid.
[26] Williams, “In My Own Words.” Williams mentions seeing only Dyess and his bodyguards, and no other friendly Marines.
[27] Seascholtz, 24.
[28] PFC Steve Hopkins died of his wounds after being evacuated to a hospital ship, which likely makes him the company’s first combat fatality.
[29] Author unknown, “Grenades on Marine’s Hip Hit by Japs,” The Tucson Daily Citizen (Tucson, AZ: 18 February 1944).
[30] Philip E. Wood, Jr., to Gretchen and Margaretta Wood, 5 April 1944.
[31] Battalion Commander’s Report, 2.
[32] George E. Jones, “Marines Mop Up Japanese Near Insanity From Shelling And Retreat,” The Evening Review, East Liverpool, OH (4 February 1944), 1.
[33] Alva Perry, interview with CNN, 2001. Available online [download link].
[34] Gregg Stoner, Hardcore Iron Mike, Conqueror of Iwo Jima (Bloomington, iUniverse, 2015), 40.
[35] John Pope, Angel On My Shoulder.
[36] Keith M. Little, interview with Ann Ramsey, “Veterans History Project,” July 19, 2004.
[37] Dwyer Duncan, “Military Career – Dwyer’s Memories.” Posted May 16, 2013; recorded 1995.
[38] Williams, “In My Own Words.”
[39] “Funny about the surrendering business. They seldom try it because they’re afraid they will be tortured by us–and we’re fearful of their tricks and don’t like to take chances. So we don’t take any–our Battalion didn’t take a one, though at least fifty offered themselves.” Philip E. Wood, Jr., to Katherine Billings, 30 March 1944.
[40] Major General Harry Schmidt, Final Report on FLINTLOCK Operation (17 March 1944), 60. Hereafter “Division Commander’s Report.”
[41] George A. Smith, interview with the author, 2009. Southerland may have been hunting particularly grisly souvenirs; he was seen removing gold teeth from dead Japanese the day before. “The gunner that took the Jap officer’s tooth got killed and we really never knew how, but suspected he was souvenir hunting and a sniper got him.”
[42] Philip E. Wood, Jr., to Gretchen and Margaretta Wood, 27 February 1944.
[43] Philip E. Wood, Jr., to Gretchen and Margaretta Wood, 13 February 1944.
[44] Division Commander’s Report, 171. These totals represent the entire Fourth Marine Division. The 24th Marines accounted for the lion’s share of casualties: 116 killed, 307 wounded, and two missing.
[45] Ibid. 190 members of the Fourth Marine Division were killed in action or died of wounds in the operation. Of these, most were brought to the Pauline Point cemetery; others were buried on the small islands seized by RCT-25, at sea, or were classed as “missing in action.”
[46] Wood, letter of 2 April 1944.

One thought on ““Like Hunting Rats.”

  1. My uncle, James Marlow Morgan was killed in the Roi-Namur battle. He was a PFC in Co. B, 1st Bat, 24th Div.
    Thank you for all the devotion in complying the site.

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