Saipan. D+16. July 1, 1944

Bob Tierney was tired.

As we moved up the eastern side of the island, we lost men daily—many to snipers, some to small battles while taking a gun position. The Japanese were extremely fanatical. They had had the idea that it was an honor to die for the Emperor instilled in them. There were a number of instances where ten to twenty men were firing from a trench. We would call up a flame-throwing tank and before we used it, we would hear numerous explosions and shots. The Japanese would commit suicide. Most wore shoes with the big toe of the shoe split like a glove. They would put the toe on the rifle trigger and shoot themselves in the head. They were short of bullets for their 31 caliber rifles. A few Marines were shot with wooden bullets.[1]

These Japanese soldiers defended their simple trench until the end. Linked from ww2online.org

Tierney had seen more than enough bloodshed to last the rest of his life. His close friend Bob Vail died in agony when a Japanese grenade took off his leg. He’d stood between Thomas McCay and Henry Woods at the moment they were killed a single machine gun burst. There was the Marine – what was his name? – hit by the short artillery round. And the guy from Third Platoon who’d grabbed his grenade by the pin, blown to pieces as his buddies scattered for cover.[2] He could rattle off the names of his squad mates and list their whereabouts, or what he guesed were their whereabouts: Corporal Anderson, wounded; PFC McGinnis, wounded; PFC Loban, nerve case; best friend Herb Mauritz, hospitalized somewhere, either sick or wounded. One third of the squad, gone.

Tierney himself was beginning to feel the effects of some unknown ailment; his corpsman thought it might be dengue fever, but Tierney wasn’t sick enough to evacuate. So he held on. “Fatigue was getting to the point where we were not as effective as we should be,” he wrote. For one blessed night, however, he did not have to worry about the standard two-hours-on, two-hours-off night watch. “Our Captain [Schechter] called up another unit to guard, while we got about six hours of rest. It rained quite hard and when daylight came, my foxhole was completely filled with water. Just my head was above the water. We were in the open and I did not notice the rain as I slept.”[3]

The evening shower passed, and as word came down to remain in position, the Marines busied themselves with adding cover to their foxholes to keep out the sun as much as the damp.[4] Administrative and organizational duties became the order of the day for those not assigned to patrols. “Mail came up in quantity and was joyfully received, although men, having philosophically adjusted themselves to the fighting, felt that this tie with the past destroyed the combat mental state which had been gradually acquired,” wrote Lieutenant Stott. “Also we were presented with the first opportunity to send out mail, although the identification of our location was still prohibited. Few wrote, for the general feeling prevailed that wisdom dictated waiting until the passage of danger.”[5]

The 4th Marine Division set up this post office in June, 1944; mail was distributed to 1/24 in the field. Official USMC photo.
The 4th Marine Division set up this post office in June, 1944; mail was distributed to 1/24 in the field. Official USMC photo.

For battalion adjutant Herbert Hines, the day of inactivity coincided nicely with the first of the month, which allowed a chance to square up the battalion’s muster rolls. The battalion aid station was inundated with sick Marines, twelve of whom were evacuated; many had been ill for days but kept on the line due to combat conditions. Worryingly, Hines realized he had no idea of the whereabouts of seven other men, all of whom were summarily listed as “missing in action.”[6]

A handful of men were either wounded on the day of rest, or recorded as such in Hines’ housecleaning dragnet. The list included Platoon Sergeant Alfred Brengle of Charlie Company’s machine gun platoon, affectionately known as “Pop” to his gunners. The sobriquet was generally applied to any Marine over the age of 28, but Brengle “really was a Pop” at the ripe old age of forty. He liked to tease his NCOs, particularly Sergeant Mike Mervosh. After hearing Mervosh “beat his gums” about the living conditions on Saipan, Brengle admonished “Mike, if you live to be my age, you will be doing great.” “Gunny, if I live to my next birthday I’ll be doing great!” Mervosh shot back.[7]

The adjutant’s traffic was not all one way. Company B welcomed Second Lieutant William James back from a two-week stay in the hospital, and also received the popular First Lieutenant Charles W. Carbeau, Jr. “Lt. Bill Carbeau, our transport quartermaster, finally joined the battalion after more than two weeks spent in unloading all our cargo from the transport,” recorded Lieutenant Stott. “It was a tribute to Bill’s versatility that he was immediately assigned to “B” Company as a rifle platoon leader. In the past twelve months his work had not involved the handling of troops in the field, but his capabilities were highly regarded, and Captain Cokin was glad to welcome him into the company.”[8] Corporal James Frazier rejoined Baker Company, and Private Marwood B. Smith, a rifleman from H&S, was assigned to the battered unit.[9]

From his newly fortified foxhole in Able Company’s sector, PFC Bob Tierney saw a welcome sight—his friend Herb Mauritz, back from the hospital. For a little while, at least, the future didn’t seem so hopeless.

WOUNDED

COMPANY Name Assignment Cause Destination
Able Pvt. Robert D. Sivertson Rifleman Unknown Unknown
Baker PFC Murray Bower
PFC Henry J. Reiker
Ammo Carrier
Rifleman
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
Charlie PlSgt. Alfred J. Brengle
Sgt. Carl T. McMahan
PFC Francis J. Hermansen
PFC Wallace R. Rook
Pvt. Windle L. McDonald
Platoon Sgt., MGs
Unknown (MOS 875)
Rifleman
Ammo Carrier
BAR Gunner
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
USS Bellatrix

NON-COMBAT EVACUATION

COMPANY Name Assignment Cause Destination
Headquarters PFC John J. Reilly, Jr. 81mm Ammo Carrier Sick Unknown
Able PFC James H. Adams
Pvt. Claude L. Godwin, Jr.
Rifleman
Rifleman
Sick
“Missing In Action”
Unknown
Unknown
Baker Cpl. Aniello A. Puliafico
PFC Eugene M. Andree
PFC Harvey S. Armstrong
PFC Alfred E. Kirkpatrick
PFC George Louvris
PFC James W. Smith
PFC Thomas E. Underwood
Pvt. John A. Gilboy
Pvt. Edwin E. Mullis
Pvt. Carroll E. Stout
General Duty
Rifleman
Ammo Carrier
BAR Gunner
Barber
Mortar Gunner
Fire Team Leader
Rifleman
Rifleman
Rifleman
Sick
Sick
“Missing In Action”
“Missing In Action”
“Missing In Action”
“Missing In Action”
Sick
Sick
“Missing In Action”
“Missing In Action”
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
Charlie PlSgt. Elmo A. Burns
Sgt. Celio E. Sperandio
PFC Reuben Hollingsworth
PFC Floyd W. Lamberson
PFC William C. Logan
PFC Eugene Vahle
Platoon Sgt., 1st Platoon
Squad Leader
BAR Gunner
Messenger
Ammo Carrier
Ammo Carrier
Sick
Unknown
Sick
Sick
Sick
Sick
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown

JOINED / ATTACHED / TRANSFERRED

Action Name From To Duty
Returned 1Lt. Kenneth A. Beehner Hospital HQ Unknown
Returned PFC Herbert J. Mauritz Hospital A Rifleman
Returned 1Lt. Charles W. Carbeau TQM B To rifle platoon
Returned 2Lt. William C. James Hospital B To rifle platoon
Returned Cpl. James R. Frazier Hospital B Squad Leader
Joined Pvt. Marwood B. Smith H&S/24 B Rifleman
Returned Pvt. G. H. J. McCaleb Hospital C Rifleman

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FOOTNOTES

[1] Robert E. Tierney, “My Marine Corps Experience.”
[2] Ibid. Neither the short round fatality nor the accidental death are known by name; Tierney states that the grenade incident happened “in Third Platoon” and that afterwards Captain Schechter forbade his men to straighten the pins on their grenades.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Frederic A. Stott, “Saipan Under Fire” (Andover: Frederic Stott, 1945), 11.
[5] Ibid.
[6] The “missing” (enumerated in the table at the end of the article) were, with few exceptions, returned to the battalion within a few weeks. Several received Purple Hearts for Saipan indicating they were wounded and evacuated; the rest were likely sick. The dates of their evacuation are not known.
[7] Gail Chatfield, By Dammit, We’re Marines! (San Diego: Methvin Publishing, 2008), 70. Mervosh observed his 21st birthday on June 14, 1944, one day before landing on Saipan.
[8] Stott, 11.
[9] Smith’s assignment was unusual simply due to its banality. Company B needed riflemen, but more than one; Smith had some training as a scout, but still had only seven months in the Corps. Why this single private was transferred in the middle of the campaign—Smith was the only true grunt to join the battalion during combat on Saipan—is not known.

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