Thursday, October 23, 2014



An inspiring WW II narrative including a bonus describing the night naval engagement during which the battleship USS Washington sunk the Japanese battleship Kirishima.

As Paul Harvey used to say...... this is the rest of one helluva story....

On Nov. 15, 2003, an 85-year-old retired Marine Corps colonel died of congestive heart failure at his home in La Quinta, Calif., southeast of Palm Springs. He was a combat veteran of World War II. Reason enough to honor him. But this Marine was a little different. This Marine was Mitchell Paige.

It's hard today to envision -- or, for the dwindling few, to remember--what the world looked like on 26 Oct 1942. The U.S. Navy was not the most powerful fighting force in the Pacific. Not by a long shot. So the Navy basically dumped a few thousand lonely American Marines on the beach at Guadalcanal and high-tailed it out of there.

Nimitz, Fletcher and Halsey had to ration what few ships they had. I've written separately about the way Bull Halsey rolled the dice on the night of Nov. 13, 1942, violating the stern War College edicta against committing capital ships in restricted waters and instead dispatching into the Slot his last two remaining fast battleships, the South Dakota and the Washington, escorted by the only four destroyers with enough fuel in their bunkers to get them there and back.

Those American destroyer captains need not have worried about carrying enough fuel to get home. By 11 p.m., outnumbered better than three-to one by a massive Japanese task force driving down from the northwest, every one of those four American destroyers had been shot up, sunk, or set aflame. And while the South Dakota -- known throughout the fleet as a jinx ship -- had damaged some lesser Japanese vessels, she continued to be plagued with electrical and fire control problems.

"Washington was now the only intact ship left in the force," naval historian David Lippman. "In fact, at that moment Washington was the entire U.S. Pacific Fleet. She was the only barrier between Admiral Kondo's ships and Guadalcanal. If this one ship did not stop 14 Japanese ships right then and there, America might lose the Pacific war ..."

On Washington's bridge, Lieutenant Ray Hunter had the conn. He had just seen the destroyers Walker and Preston blown sky high. Dead ahead lay their burning wreckage. Hundreds of men were swimming in the water and the Japanese ships racing in.

Hunter had to do something. The course he took now could decide the war, Lippman writes. ''Come left, he said. ...Washington's rudder change put the burning destroyers between Washington and the enemy, thus preventing her from being silhouetted by their fires.

The move made the Japanese momentarily cease fire. Lacking radar, they could not spot Washington behind the fires. ... Washington raced through burning seas. Dozens of destroyer men were in the water clinging to floating wreckage. Get after them, Washington! one shouted.

Sacrificing their ships by maneuvering into the path of torpedoes intended for the Washington, the captains of the American destroyers had given [ADM] China" Lee one final chance.

Blinded by the smoke and flames, the Japanese battleship Kirishima turned on her search lights, illuminating the helpless South Dakota, and opened fire. Finally, as her own muzzle blasts illuminated her in the darkness, Admiral Lee and Captain Glenn Davis could positively identify an enemy target.

The Washington's main batteries opened fire at 12 midnight precisely. Her radar fire control system functioned perfectly. During the first seven minutes of 14 Nov 1942, the "last ship in the U.S. Pacific Fleet" fired 75 of her 16-inch shells at the battleship Kirishima. Aboard the Kirishima, it rained steel. At 3:25 a.m., her burning hulk officially became the first enemy sunk by an American battleship since the Spanish-American War. Stunned, the Japanese withdrew. Within days, Japanese commander Istook Yamamoto recommended the unthinkable to the Emperor -- withdrawal from Guadalcanal.

But that was still weeks in the future. We are still with Mitchell Paige back on the malaria jungle island of Guadalcanal, placed like a speed bump at the end of the long blue-water slot between New Guinea and the Bismarck Archipelago .... the very route the Japanese Navy would have to take to reach Australia.

On Guadalcanal the Marines struggled to complete an airfield. Yamamoto knew what that meant. No effort would be spared to dislodge these upstart Yanks from a position that could endanger his ships. Before long, relentless Japanese counterattacks had driven supporting U.S. Navy from inshore waters. The Marines were on their own.

As Platoon Sgt. Mitchell Paige and his 33 riflemen set about carefully placing their four water-cooled .30-caliber Brownings, manning their section of the thin khaki line which was expected to defend Henderson Field against the assault of the night of 25 Oct 1942, it's unlikely anyone thought they were about to provide the definitive answer to that most desperate of questions: How many able-bodied U.S. Marines does it take to hold a hill against 2,000 desperate and motivated Japanese attackers?

Nor did the commanders of the mighty Japanese Army, who had swept all before them for decades, expect their advance to be halted on some jungle ridge manned by one thin line of Yanks in khaki in October of 1942 But by the time the night was over, The Japanese 29th Infantry Regiment had lost 553 killed or missing and 479 wounded among its 2,554 men, historian Lippman reports. The Japanese 16th Regiment's losses are uncounted, but the [US] 164th's burial parties handled 975 Japanese bodies. ... The American estimate of 2,200 Japanese dead is probably too low.

You've already figured out where the Japanese focused their attack, haven't you? Among the 90 American dead and seriously wounded that night were all the men in Mitchell Paige's platoon; every one. As the night of endless attacks wore on, Paige moved up and down his line, pulling his dead and wounded comrades back into their foxholes and firing a few bursts from each of the four Brownings in turn, convincing the Japanese forces down the hill that the positions were still manned.

The citation for Paige's Congressional Medal of Honor picks up the tale: When the enemy broke through the line directly in front of his position, P/Sgt. Paige, commanding a machine gun section with fearless determination, continued to direct the fire of his gunners until all his men were either killed or wounded. Alone, against the deadly hail of Japanese shells, he fought with his gun and when it was destroyed, took over another, moving from gun to gun, never ceasing his withering fire."

In the end, Sgt. Paige picked up the last of the 40-pound, belt-fed Brownings -- the same design which John Moses Browning famously fired for a continuous 25 minutes until it ran out of ammunition, glowing cherry red, at its first U.S. Army trial -- and did something for which the weapon was never designed. Sgt. Paige walked down the hill toward the place where he could hear the last Japanese survivors rallying to move around his flank, the belt-fed gun cradled under his arm, firing as he went. And the weapon did not fall; Coming up at dawn, battalion executive officer Major Odell M. Conoley was first to discover the answer to our question: How many able-bodied Marines does it take to hold a hill against two regiments of motivated, combat-hardened infantrymen who have never known defeat?

On a hill where the bodies were piled like cordwood, Mitchell Paige alone sat upright behind his 30-caliber Browning, waiting to see what the dawn would bring.

One hill: one Marine.

But "In the early morning light, the enemy could be seen a few yards off, and vapor from the barrels of their machine guns was clearly visible," reports historian Lippman. "It was decided to try to rush the position." For the task, Major Conoley gathered together "three enlisted communication personnel, several riflemen, a few company runners who were at the point, together with a cook and a few mess men who had brought food to the position the evening before." Joined by Paige, this ad hoc force of 17 Marines counterattacked at 5:40 a.m., discovering that this extremely short range allowed the optimum use of grenades. The cleared the ridge.

And that's where the unstoppable wave of Japanese conquest finally crested, broke, and began to recede. On an unnamed jungle ridge on an insignificant island no one had ever heard of, called Guadalcanal. But who remembers, today, how close-run a thing it was -- the ridge held by a single Marine, in the autumn of 1942?

When the Hasbro Toy Co. telephoned some years back, asking permission to put the retired Colonel's face on some kid's doll, Mitchell Paige thought they must be joking. But they weren't. That's his face on the little Marine they call "G.I.Joe."

And you probably thought that was an ARMY Doll....!!!


Source: David Lippman; Other Sources "Unknown"

On The Lighter Side...

A Marine and Superman once fought each other on a bet. The loser had to start wearing his underwear on the outside of his pant.

Most Marines have a grizzly bear carpet in their room. The bear isn't dead, it's just afraid to move.

The Marines have already been to Mars; that's why there's no sign of life.

Death once had a near-Marine experience.

A Marine can slam a revolving door.

When the boogeyman goes to sleep every night, he checks his closet for Marines.

A Marine once got bit by a rattlesnake. After 3 days of pain and agony, the snake died.

A Marine does not sleep; he waits.

Guns are warned not to play with Marines.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Real Story

The Marine Corps is the only branch of the U.S. Armed Forces
that recruits people specifically to Fight.

The Army emphasizes personal development (an Army of One), the
Navy promises fun (let the journey begin), the Air Force offers
security (its a great way of life).

Missing from all the advertisements is the hard fact that a
soldier's life is to suffer and perhaps to die for his people
and take lives at the risk of his/her own.

Even the thematic music of the services reflects this evasion.
The Army's Caisson Song describes a pleasant country outing.
Over hill and dale, lacking only a picnic basket. Anchors Aweigh
the Navy's celebration of the joys of sailing could have been
penned by Jimmy Buffet.

The Air Force song is a lyric poem of blue skies and engine thrust.
All is joyful, and invigorating, and safe. There are no land
mines in the dales nor snipers behind the hills, no submarines or
cruise missiles threaten the ocean jaunt, no bandits are lurking
in the wild blue yonder.

The Marines' Hymn, by contrast, is all combat. "We fight our
Country's battles", "First to fight for right and freedom", "We
have fought in every clime and place where we could take a gun",
"In many a strife we have fought for life and never lost our nerve".

The choice is made clear. You may join the Army to go to adventure
training, or join the Navy to go to Bangkok, or join the Air Force
to go to computer school. You join the Marine Corps to go to War!
But the mere act of signing the enlistment contract confers no
status in the Corps.

The Army recruit is told from his first minute in uniform that
"you're in the Army now, soldier". The Navy and Air Force enlistees
are sailors or airmen as soon as they get off the bus at the
training center.

The new arrival at Marine Corps boot camp is called a recruit, or
worse (a lot worse), but never a MARINE. Not yet, maybe never.
He or she must earn the right to claim the title of UNITED STATES
MARINE and failure returns you to civilian life without hesitation
or ceremony.

Recruit Platoon 2210 at San Diego, California trained from October
through December of 1968. In Viet Nam the Marines were taking two
hundred casualties a week and the major rainy season and Operation
Meade River had not even begun, yet Drill Instructors had no qualms
about winnowing out almost a quarter of their 112 recruits,
graduating 81. Note that this was post-enlistment attrition.
Every one of those 31 who were dropped had been passed by the
recruiters as fit for service. But they failed the test of Boot
Camp! Not necessarily for physical reasons. At least two were
outstanding high school athletes for whom the calisthenics and
running were child's play. The cause of their failure was not in
the biceps nor the legs, but in the spirit. They had lacked the
will to endure the mental and emotional strain so they would not
be Marines. Heavy commitments and high casualties not
withstanding, the Corps reserves the right to pick and choose.

History classes in boot camp? Stop a soldier on the street and
ask him to name a battle of World War One. Pick a sailor at
random and ask for a description of the epic fight of the Bon
Homme Richard. Ask an airman who Major Thomas McGuire was and
what is named after him. I am not carping and there is no sneer
in this criticism. All of the services have glorious traditions,
but no one teaches the young soldier, sailor or airman what his
uniform means and why he should be proud of it.

But...ask a Marine about World War One and you will hear of the
wheat field at Belleau Wood and the courage of the Fourth Marine
Brigade comprised of the Fifth and Sixth Marines. Faced with an
enemy of superior numbers entrenched in tangled forest undergrowth
the Marines received an order to attack that even the charitable
cannot call ill-advised. It was insane. Artillery support was
absent and air support hadn't been invented yet. Even so the
Brigade charged German machine guns with only bayonets, grenades,
and an indomitable fighting spirit. A bandy-legged little barrel
of a Gunnery Sergeant, Daniel J. Daly, rallied his company with
a shout, "Come on you sons a bitches, do you want to live forever?"
He took out three machine guns himself.

French liaison-officers hardened though they were by four years of
trench bound slaughter were shocked as the Marines charged across
the open wheat field under a blazing sun directly into the teeth
of enemy fire. Their action was so anachronistic on the
twentieth-century field of battle that they might as well have
been swinging cutlasses. But the enemy was only human. The Boche
could not stand up to the onslaught. So the Marines took Belleau
Wood. The Germans, those that survived, thereafter referred to
the Marines as "Tuefel Hunden" (Devil Dogs) and the French in
tribute renamed the woods "Bois de la Brigade de Marine" (Woods
of the Brigade of Marines).

Every Marine knows this story and dozens more. We are taught
them in boot camp as a regular part of the curriculum. Every
Marine will always be taught them! You can learn to don a gas
mask anytime, even on the plane in route to the war zone, but
before you can wear the Eagle, Globe and Anchor and claim the
title United States Marine you must first know about the Marines
who made that emblem and title meaningful. So long as you can
march and shoot and revere the legacy of the Corps you can take
your place in line. And that line is as unified in spirit as
in purpose.

A soldier wears branch service insignia on his collar, metal
shoulder pins and cloth sleeve patches to identify his unit,
and far too many look like they belong in a band.

Sailors wear a rating badge that identifies what they do for
the Navy. Airmen have all kinds of badges and get medals for
finishing schools and showing up for work.

Marines wear only the Eagle, Globe and Anchor together with
personal ribbons and their CHERISHED marksmanship badges.
They know why the uniforms are the colors they are and what
each color means. There is nothing on a Marine's uniform to
indicate what he or she does nor what unit the Marine belongs
to. You cannot tell by looking at a Marine whether you are
seeing a truck driver, a computer programmer or a machine
gunner or a cook or a baker. The Marine is amorphous, even
anonymous, by conscious design.

The Marine is a Marine. Every Marine is a rifleman first and
foremost, a Marine first, last and Always! You may serve a
four-year enlistment or even a twenty plus year career without
seeing action, but if the word is given you'll charge across
that Wheatfield! Whether a Marine has been schooled in
automated supply or automotive mechanics or aviation
electronics or whatever is immaterial. Those things are
secondary - the Corps does them because it must. The modern
battle requires the technical appliances and since the enemy
has them so do we. But no Marine boasts mastery of them.

Our pride is in our marksmanship, our discipline, and our
membership in a fraternity of courage and sacrifice. "For the
honor of the fallen, for the glory of the dead", Edgar Guest
wrote of Belleau Wood. "The living line of courage kept the
faith and moved ahead." They are all gone now, those Marines
who made a French farmer's little Wheatfield into one of the
most enduring of Marine Corps legends. Many of them did not
survive the day and eight long decades have claimed the rest.
But their actions are immortal. The Corps remembers them and
honors what they did and so they live forever. Dan Daly's
shouted challenge takes on its true meaning - if you lie in
the trenches you may survive for now, but someday you may die
and no one will care. If you charge the guns you may die in
the next two minutes, but you will be one of the immortals.

All Marines die in either the red flash of battle or the white
cold of the nursing home. In the vigor of youth or the
infirmity of age all will eventually die, but the Marine Corps
lives on. Every Marine who ever lived is living still, in
the Marines who claim the title today.

It is that sense of belonging to something that will outlive
our own mortality, which gives people a light to live by, and
a flame to mark their passing.

Passed on to a Marine from another Marine!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

~ An Anonymous Canadian Citizen

"Marines are about the most peculiar breed of human beings I have ever witnessed. They treat their service as if it was some kind of cult, plastering their emblem on almost everything they own, making themselves up to look like insane fanatics with haircuts to ungentlemanly lengths, worshipping their Commandant almost as if he was a god, and making weird animal noises like a band of savages. They'll fight like rabid dogs at the drop of a hat just for the sake of a little action, and are the cockiest SOB's I have ever known. Most have the foulest mouths and drink well beyond man's normal limits, but their high spirits and sense of brotherhood set them apart and, generally speaking, of the United States Marines I've come in contact with, are the most professional soldiers and the finest men I have had the pleasure to meet."

~ An Anonymous Canadian Citizen

Sunday, April 3, 2011

LaSalle Veterans Home

It's that time of year again that the Peoria Leatherneck's get the privilege of visiting our Veteran's in LaSalle. Those of us that go always return feeling that we received much more than we gave.

The dates are as follows:

May 4, 2013
June 1, 2013
July 6, 2013
Aug. 3, 2013
Sept. 7, 2013
Oct. 5, 2013

Muster at 0830; The caravan leaves the Navy/Marine Club at 0900.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Once a Marine...

A Marine is a Marine. I set that policy two weeks ago - there's no such thing as a former Marine. You're a Marine, just in a different uniform and you're in a different phase of your life. But you'll always be a Marine because you went to Parris Island, San Diego or the hills of Quantico. There's no such thing as a former Marine.

General James F. Amos, 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Army vs Navy Game

I don't know if this is a true story or not or even in what year it took place if it took place at all but it is a good sentiment:

It started last Christmas, when Bennett and Vivian Levin were overwhelmed by sadness while listening to radio reports of injured American troops. "We have to let them know we care," Vivian told Bennett. So they organized a trip to bring soldiers from Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Bethesda Naval Hospital to the annual Army-Navy football game in Philly, on Dec. 3.

The cool part is, they created their own train line to do it. Yes, there are people in this country who actually own real trains. Bennett Levin - native Philly guy, self-made millionaire and irascible former L&I commish - is one of them.

He has three luxury rail cars. Think mahogany paneling, plush seating and white-linen dining areas. He also has two locomotives, which he stores at his Juniata Park train yard. One car, the elegant Pennsylvania , carried John F. Kennedy to the Army-Navy game in 1961 and '62. Later, it carried his brother Bobby's body to D. C. for burial. "That's a lot of history for one car," says Bennett.

He and Vivian wanted to revive a tradition that endured from 1936 to 1975, during which trains carried Army-Navy spectators from around the country directly to the stadium where the annual game is played. The Levins could think of no better passengers to reinstate the ceremonial ride than the wounded men and women recovering at Walter Reed in D. C. and Bethesda , in Maryland . "We wanted to give them a first-class experience," says Bennett. "Gourmet meals on board, private transportation from the train to the stadium, perfect seats - real hero treatment."

Through the Army War College Foundation, of which he is a trustee, Bennett met with Walter Reed's commanding general, who loved the idea. But Bennett had some ground rules first, all designed to keep the focus on the troops alone:

No press on the trip, lest the soldiers' day of pampering devolve into a media circus.

No politicians either, because, says Bennett, "I didn't want some idiot making this trip into a campaign photo op"

And no Pentagon suits on board, otherwise the soldiers would be too busy saluting superiors to relax.

The general agreed to the conditions, and Bennett realized he had a problem on his hands. "I had to actually make this thing happen," he laughs.

Over the next months, he recruited owners of 15 other sumptuous rail cars from around the country - these people tend to know each other - into lending their vehicles for the day. The name of their temporary train? The Liberty Limited.

Amtrak volunteered to transport the cars to D. C. - where they'd be coupled together for the round-trip ride to Philly - then back to their owners later.

Conrail offered to service the Liberty while it was in Philly. And SEPTA drivers would bus the disabled soldiers 200 yards from the train to Lincoln Financial Field, for the game.

A benefactor from the War College ponied up 100 seats to the game - on the 50-yard line - and lunch in a hospitality suite.

And corporate donors filled, for free and without asking for publicity, goodie bags for attendees:

From Woolrich, stadium blankets. From Wal-Mart, digital cameras. From Nikon, field glasses. From GEAR, down jackets.

There was booty not just for the soldiers, but for their guests, too, since each was allowed to bring a friend or family member.

The Marines, though, declined the offer. "They voted not to take guests with them, so they could take more Marines," says Levin, choking up at the memory.

Bennett's an emotional guy, so he was worried about how he'd react to meeting the 88 troops and guests at D. C.'s Union Station, where the trip originated. Some GIs were missing limbs. Others were wheelchair-bound or accompanied by medical personnel for the day. "They made it easy to be with them," he says. "They were all smiles on the ride to Philly. Not an ounce of self-pity from any of them. They're so full of life and determination."

At the stadium, the troops reveled in the game, recalls Bennett. Not even Army's lopsided loss to Navy could deflate the group's rollicking mood.

Afterward, it was back to the train and yet another gourmet meal - heroes get hungry, says Levin - before returning to Walter Reed and Bethesda . "The day was spectacular," says Levin. "It was all about these kids. It was awesome to be part of it."

The most poignant moment for the Levins was when 11 Marines hugged them goodbye, then sang them the Marine Hymn on the platform at Union Station.

"One of the guys was blind, but he said, 'I can't see you, but man, you must be beautiful!' " says Bennett. "I got a lump so big in my throat, I couldn't even answer him."

It's been three weeks, but the Levins and their guests are still feeling the day's love. "My Christmas came early," says Levin, who is Jewish and who loves the Christmas season. "I can't describe the feeling in the air." Maybe it was hope.

As one guest wrote in a thank-you note to Bennett and Vivian, "The fond memories generated last Saturday will sustain us all - whatever the future may bring."

God bless the Levins.

And God bless the troops, every one.