Eugene H. Baumeister

No photo available.
No photo available.
Eugene Harold Baumeister
Ash, MI
Wife, Mrs. Eva Baumeister
4/1/1942 – 4/1/1946
None Served B/1/24 737 Corporal
Good Conduct Medal

Eugene Baumeister entered the Marine Corps on April 1, 1942, at the age of nineteen. He attended boot camp at MCRD San Diego, then sailed for Pearl Harbor to become part of the navy yard’s defense force. By September of that year, a Japanese land invasion of Pearl Harbor was thought less likely, but there were plenty of other American installations farther out in the Pacific that would need garrison troops. Private Baumeister was assigned to the newly-formed 16th Defense Battalion, and shipped out for tiny Johnston Island in October, 1942.

Marines from Baumeister’s 16th Defense Battalion on Johnston Island.

Duty on Johnston Island was infamously boring. The tiny island was an important waypoint for ships and aircraft needing fuel or a temporary rest, but for the troops stationed there, the monotony quickly became a greater danger than the threat of Japanese attack. A senior medical officer even claimed, “he wouldn’t be responsible for a man’s sanity after six months.” (1) For lonely sentries, the only company was a gaggle of the ever-present “gooney birds” and it was not unheard of for long-serving Marines to strike up conversations with the gangly creatures. This was considered perfectly normal on Johnston Island; the problem came when a man thought he heard the birds talking back. Small wonder that desperately bored men turned to drinking – but even that had its dangers, as several men died from a bad batch of moonshine. It was, all told, a miserable place to serve.

For Private Baumeister, the war consisted of standing at his post by a 5-inch seacoast defense gun, occasional drills, and trying to stay entertained in his off duty hours. He would remain on the flyspeck island for the full eighteen months, during which time he became proficient in both anti-ship and anti-aircraft gunnery and advanced in rank to corporal. His unit was finally relieved and returned to Hawaii in April, 1944. Most would be reorganized into the 16th Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion and eventually go on to guard duty on Tinian and Okinawa, but Baumeister did not. He was hospitalized not long after returning to Hawaii; while the cause isn’t known, it could likely have been a result of his long service on Johnston Island. Records are scarce for Baumeister’s service in the latter half of 1944, but he spent part of it in California – he married his wife, Eva, in San Diego on December 2, 1944.

A year after returning to Hawaii, Corporal Baumeister was re-trained as an infantry NCO. His days of defending conquered territory were behind him, and he joined an assault unit – Company B, First Battalion, 24th Marines – in the summer of 1945, preparing to invade Japan. However, the war ended before the Marines could invade, and within weeks of the surrender, Baumeister was back to doing what he knew best – standing guard. However, he could do so as a member of the 9th MP Battalion, chasing rowdy servicemen through the streets of San Francisco and San Diego until his discharge on April 1, 1946. He had served his four-year hitch to the day, and was awarded the Good Conduct Medal upon leaving the service.

After the war, Eugene and Eva returned to Michigan, where they owned and operated “Gene’s Mart” in River Rouge for twenty years. Baumeister died in 1997, and is buried in Saint Joseph Cemetery, Ida, Michigan.

(1) William Stokesberry, oral history interview with Bruce M. Petty in Voices From The Pacific War.

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