Earl Vincent Bender
|HOME OF RECORD:
|NEXT OF KIN:
Mother, Mrs. Eleanor Wissinger
|DATE OF BIRTH:
10/18/1938 – 6/21/1947
|DATE OF DEATH:
|Pearl Harbor||3rd Defense Battalion||—||Corporal|
|Midway||3rd Defense Battalion||—||Sergeant|
|Guadalcanal||3rd Defense Battalion||—||Sergeant|
|LAST KNOWN RANK:
Earl Bender was born in Pennsylvania in 1916. He had few memories of his father; Percy Bender died in 1920, leaving widowed Eleanor to raise Earl and his younger brother, Robert. By 1930, the boys had a stepfather in the form of George Wagner, and were firmly established in the steel making community of Johnstown.
Bender enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1938, one week before his eighteenth birthday. He went through boot camp at Parris Island, and deployed to the Fifteenth Marines as an artillerist in January, 1939. For the first few months of the year, Bender was on maneuvers with the First Marine Brigade, and traveled as far as Puerto Rico with B/15th Marines.
By September, Private Bender was back at Parris Island with Battery G, Third Defense Battalion. This unit manned fixed anti-aircraft and anti-boat defenses on the lookout for any German aggression, but by early 1940, the invasion threat from the East was far more worrisome. The 3rd packed up lock, stock, and barrel to transfer and crossed the United States, then sailed to the Territory of Hawaii. The Navy Department was growing concerned about the defenses on their atoll holdings, and numerous surveying and work parties were sent out to Johnson, Wake, and Midway islands. PFC Bender got to see Midway itself in 1940; the flyspeck island in the Pacific held little charm, after the sights, sounds, and sensations of Honolulu.
Duty at Pearl Harbor was a dream come true for a young Marine in 1941. The mighty battleship fleet was based there and the docks and piers bustled with military activity. On liberty, there were Army dogfaces to fight, local wahines to impress, and a never ending procession of distractions from simple to sinful. Bender continued to improve his skills as well; he rated a promotion to corporal in the summer of 1941 and specialized in the operation of anti-aircraft machine guns mounted in defense of the harbor itself.
Of course, the perfect assignment came to a violent end on December 7, 1941. Bender’s defense battalion had its first chance to engage enemy aircraft; whether they hit any or not is unknown and scarcely mattered given the lopsided Japanese victory at Pearl Harbor. The following January saw a number of men in the 3rd extending their enlistments; they wanted to be in for the final victory. For his part, Bender extended for another two years.
Bender left the machine guns in favor of the larger three-inch antiaircraft guns; he also received a promotion to sergeant. In May, his battery was deployed back to Midway and fought another Japanese air attack in the pivotal battle of June 4 – 5, 1942.
With the Japanese defeat at Midway, the Americans could go on the attack. The 3rd Defense Battalion was packed along for the invasion of Guadalcanal in August 1942, and quickly set up their heavy weapons to defend the newly captured Henderson Airfield. It was their first major campaign, and daily Japanese air raids took their toll; on one occasion an enemy bomb scored a direct hit on one of their gun emplacements, killing the entire crew. Bender’s exact duties on the ‘Canal aren’t known, but it would suffice to say he was glad to leave when the battalion pulled out the following spring.
Sergeant Bender made the most of his unit’s R&R time in Wellington, New Zealand; they then set back to training for the next engagement, during which time Bender made Platoon Sergeant. Something happened in August, 1943 that resulted in his hospitalization; this unknown incident, in addition to his time spent overseas, placed Bender high on the rotation list to go back to the States. He reported to Camp Elliott, California in October, and following his recuperation and a refresher course in machine guns became an MG instructor at Camp Pendleton.
Bender taught at Pendleton for a full year, from June 1944 to June 1945. He was reassigned to the 69th Replacement Draft and sailed for Hawaii once again, this time to the island of Maui for assignment with Company A, 24th Marines. Platoon Sergeant Bender’s arrival preceded the end of the war by weeks at the most; fortunately he would not have to go into combat again.
The remainder of Earl Bender’s service was spent with the 7th Service Regiment; he traded the responsibilities of machine gun instructor and squad leader for those of a senior clerk. By the time of his discharge in June, 1947, he had attained the rank of staff sergeant.
Bender died in 2001 at the age of 84. He is buried in Riverview Memorial Park Cemetery, Watha, North Carolina.