Memorial Day 2022: “Together We Prayed over Our Friend”

#1

OneManGang

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#1
(Author’s note: This is an essay from Sgt. Jim Lucas dealing with his time on Tarawa’s Betio Island during that particular Hell on Earth. Sgt. Lucas would go on to be a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist with the Scripps-Howard group after the war. Lucas was a combat correspondent but he was first and foremost a Marine. He carried a rifle as well as a typewriter and it was expected that when the going got tough, he’d take his place in the line. The thing about Betio was that there was nowhere truly safe. It is the evening of D-Day, November 20, 1943…)

“Together We Prayed over Our Friend”

An hour later the command boat was back. “Do you have assault troops?” we were asked.

“We carry military police and correspondents.”

I felt the sickening guilt which sometimes comes to specialists among fighting men.

I was to take the watch at midnight and I had not yet been awakened by the man who had the 8 to 12, so I know it was sometime before midnight when Matty shook me.

“We’re going in,” he said.

Four boats were following the command vessel, which was edging toward the pier. For a moment I feared we might land among the Japs. The danger was not as real as it appeared then, for Colonel Shoup since has assured me that our men held a beachead of considerable length that first night.

We drew fire – I swear it came from the hulk of a small Japanese merchantman that had been blasted by our bombing of September 4 and was beached just beside the pier. Fortunately the fire, wherever it came from, passed over our heads.

Shortly before midnight – fifteen hours after we had left our transport – our landing craft drew alongside the partially wrecked pier.

We were not fooling ourselves. After our first abortive attempt to get in, Matty and I knew our chances were none too good, no better than fifty-fifty. Matty took out his fountain pen and wrote: Mrs. E. A. Matthews, Jr., 501 Sixth Street, Dallas Texas.

“Let her know how it happened,” he said.

I nodded and gave him Ashleigh’s address in Wellington. I had written letters to my own family and left them behind to be mailed if “anything,” as I had said, “happens to me.”

I had later to write to Virginia Matthews and tell her how Matty died.

It was one of the hardest jobs I ever tackled.

Matty was the first man out of the boat. He helped me onto the pier. As I stepped onto the pier I saw a marine directly underfoot. I thought he was a wounded man and cautioned (Ray) Matjasic to be careful.

“He’s dead,” Matty said.

He was a kid of not more than eighteen. The white stripe on his dungaree trousers meant he was a member of the shore party and had come to Betio to help in the unloading. He had died, in all probability, without firing a shot …

We had moved down the dock less than ten feet when the Japanese opened up with a hateful 40mm barrage. The first shell hit the water and exploded not ten feet away, and we fell flat – not a difficult thing to do under fire.

The pier was crowded, for several hundred men lay crouched there waiting for the next shell to hit. My gas mask, strapped to my side, prevented my getting as low as I thought the circumstances demanded, and I detached it. A great deal of my weight is in my hips, and one of the most frequent questions I was asked, when I returned to the States recently, was how I had kept from suffering an embarrassing wound. I could only reply that I was conscious of my exposure, and took pains to safeguard it.

Matty was on the outside, with Matjasic next to him. I was next to Matjasic. The three of us did not cover four feet of the pier.

The second shell hit directly beneath the pier. I was stunned, and drenched by salt water. I heard Ray scream. Matty moaned.

Ray and I jumped to our feet and ran to the opposite side, expecting the next to be a direct hit.

Matty did not move. I called to him, loudly, but he did not answer. I ran back and begged him to get up/ Marines shouted at me to get down, and I was sorely tempted. I do not know when I have been as badly frightened. I tried to drag Matty, but he collapsed in a heap. The third shell, at this moment, hit farther out in the water, and I yelled for Matjasic.

Stunned by the blast, he had been lifted three feet in the air and thrown back on the wooden pier. He had disappeared.

Ray suddenly materialized out of nowhere.

“Who is it?” he asked.

“Matty,” I replied.

Ray began to cry, and disappeared again.

I begged a marine to help me. I got Matty to the other side, and lay down beside him. The shelling lifted, and I began a frantic search for help. Finding a hospital corpsman, I asked him to come with me.

“Man,” he said helplessly, “I’ve got 500 men hurt since 9 o’clock this morning. All I can tell you to do is put him on a stretcher, try to get him on a boat, if you can find a boat going back, and send him out to one of the ships.”

Meanwhile, I had found Ray again.

“How’s Matty?” he asked.

“I’m afraid he’s dead.”

We waylaid a second corpsman – a tow-headed kid who ought to have been back home teasing the girls in the junior play – and brought him to our lieutenant.

He felt of Matty’s pulse and stood up.

“He’s gone,” he said.

Ray is a Catholic and I am a Protestant. Ray had attended confession aboard ship, and I had prayed with men of my own faith.

Together we fell on our knees. Together we prayed over our friend.

I stood up. A watching marine asked, “Your buddy?”

I could only nod.

“They got my kid brother this morning,” he said.

I have never felt so much alone as at that moment. It was difficult to leave Matty, but we had no choice.

Ray and I covered Matty’s body and began our slow trek. Many of Matty’s friends, coming ashore later, saw him there.

Slowly we moved down the pier. We would drop when a man was hit, freeze until the firing ceased, and then move forward. It is impossible to describe one’s feelings. I have tried many times to analyze how I felt. It is as much a mystery to me today as it will probably be to most readers of this book. Few of us had ever gone through such an experience, and I had, throughout, the suspicion that it wasn’t really happening. And there was but one choice – keep moving.

It was morning before we reached the beach. I asked for the command post. Someone pointed indefinitely – so indefinitely that we paid no attention to the gesture.

On the beach fighting still was heavy. In the still-smouldering ruins of a beach warehouse, we spotted a gutted Jap steam roller and edged toward it, trying to put its bulk between us and the Japanese lines. It looked as good a place as any to spend the night, and we dug in the hot sand, still alive with red coals. There the two of us spent the night …

Source: Smith, S. E. (editor), The United States Marine Corps in World War II. Random House: 1969

"Utmost Savagery" Marines in combat on Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll, November, 1943. (US Marine Corps)

tarawa 11-20-43.jpg
 
#2
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#2
With deep sorrow and regret we honor those fallen in battle. War is a terrible waste of blood, treasure, and emotional health. A sacrifice, dressed up as a call to duty, that is foisted on the young for the benefit of the elitists and politically entitled. Most wars are a racket.

One of the best books for telling the story of wartime experiences from a Marine PFC infantryman perspective during WWII is "With the Old Breed," by Eugene "E.B." Sledge. Nicknamed Sledgehammer. Much of his story involves the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa. One of his most profound insights acquired during battle was that he was considered expendable.
 
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#9

bigorangepoppa

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#9
War is not pretty, many lives are lost, emotional damage done that will never completely heal, and nations devastated and destroyed, always by some want to be dictator. Unfortunately, there are times we have no choice but to engage in it. My ancestors have fought in every war this great nation of ours has been a part of, some of them died, some survived, but each and every one of them fought to keep this nation free. Fortunately for me, I never had to be a part of war, but I have the utmost respect for those who fought, those who died, they all were a part of something bigger than themselves. May God give them eternal rest and peace.
 
#11

Hacksaw

BELIEVE THE HEUP!
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#11
My old unit and my guys who flew out to never return. I was there during Linebacker II. I mourn them every year at this time and think of them often. One was from Gallatin, TN.

Brave Men from the 97th Bombardment Wing Historical Marker
Salute to you from a grateful fellow American. We owe literally everything to those who made the ultimate sacrifice (and to their loved ones who suffered in ways that were perhaps, in some ways, even worse). It should be unacceptable that anyone could think of it as nothing more than another day off from work. Tarawa, Linebacker II and the rest of our history should never be forgotten -- or fail to be appreciated.
 
#13

Volfaninfl2

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#13
World War II casualties - Wikipedia

The Allied soldiers in World War II fought and died for the existence and survival of the free world. They were fighting against genocide and mass murderers. The above account was about the experience of one man. Multiply that not by hundreds, or thousands, or hundreds of thousands, but by millions.

The estimated death toll of World War II is 70 to 85 million people. Of those, 21,000,000 to 25,500,000 were military deaths. All the rest were civilians.

Civilian deaths due to military activity and crimes against humanity are estimated to be between 29,000,000 to 30,500,000.

Germany killed between 5,620,000 and 5,820,000 civilians in Poland. They erected camps in many places for mass murders. If not defeated, they would have continued. In the bombings on the UK, almost 70,000 civilians were killed, 20,000 in London.

Japan killed between 7,357,000 and 8,191,000 civilians in China.

We fought for the survival of our Allies, fought for freedom, and fought to save innocent civilian victims from imprisonment and death.

Thank God we had the unbelievably brave men and women to defeat the evil that was happening. We can never forget them.
 
#14

HEAD-VOL

Active Member
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Jan 5, 2020
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#14
(Author’s note: This is an essay from Sgt. Jim Lucas dealing with his time on Tarawa’s Betio Island during that particular Hell on Earth. Sgt. Lucas would go on to be a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist with the Scripps-Howard group after the war. Lucas was a combat correspondent but he was first and foremost a Marine. He carried a rifle as well as a typewriter and it was expected that when the going got tough, he’d take his place in the line. The thing about Betio was that there was nowhere truly safe. It is the evening of D-Day, November 20, 1943…)

“Together We Prayed over Our Friend”

An hour later the command boat was back. “Do you have assault troops?” we were asked.

“We carry military police and correspondents.”

I felt the sickening guilt which sometimes comes to specialists among fighting men.

I was to take the watch at midnight and I had not yet been awakened by the man who had the 8 to 12, so I know it was sometime before midnight when Matty shook me.

“We’re going in,” he said.

Four boats were following the command vessel, which was edging toward the pier. For a moment I feared we might land among the Japs. The danger was not as real as it appeared then, for Colonel Shoup since has assured me that our men held a beachead of considerable length that first night.

We drew fire – I swear it came from the hulk of a small Japanese merchantman that had been blasted by our bombing of September 4 and was beached just beside the pier. Fortunately the fire, wherever it came from, passed over our heads.

Shortly before midnight – fifteen hours after we had left our transport – our landing craft drew alongside the partially wrecked pier.

We were not fooling ourselves. After our first abortive attempt to get in, Matty and I knew our chances were none too good, no better than fifty-fifty. Matty took out his fountain pen and wrote: Mrs. E. A. Matthews, Jr., 501 Sixth Street, Dallas Texas.

“Let her know how it happened,” he said.

I nodded and gave him Ashleigh’s address in Wellington. I had written letters to my own family and left them behind to be mailed if “anything,” as I had said, “happens to me.”

I had later to write to Virginia Matthews and tell her how Matty died.

It was one of the hardest jobs I ever tackled.

Matty was the first man out of the boat. He helped me onto the pier. As I stepped onto the pier I saw a marine directly underfoot. I thought he was a wounded man and cautioned (Ray) Matjasic to be careful.

“He’s dead,” Matty said.

He was a kid of not more than eighteen. The white stripe on his dungaree trousers meant he was a member of the shore party and had come to Betio to help in the unloading. He had died, in all probability, without firing a shot …

We had moved down the dock less than ten feet when the Japanese opened up with a hateful 40mm barrage. The first shell hit the water and exploded not ten feet away, and we fell flat – not a difficult thing to do under fire.

The pier was crowded, for several hundred men lay crouched there waiting for the next shell to hit. My gas mask, strapped to my side, prevented my getting as low as I thought the circumstances demanded, and I detached it. A great deal of my weight is in my hips, and one of the most frequent questions I was asked, when I returned to the States recently, was how I had kept from suffering an embarrassing wound. I could only reply that I was conscious of my exposure, and took pains to safeguard it.

Matty was on the outside, with Matjasic next to him. I was next to Matjasic. The three of us did not cover four feet of the pier.

The second shell hit directly beneath the pier. I was stunned, and drenched by salt water. I heard Ray scream. Matty moaned.

Ray and I jumped to our feet and ran to the opposite side, expecting the next to be a direct hit.

Matty did not move. I called to him, loudly, but he did not answer. I ran back and begged him to get up/ Marines shouted at me to get down, and I was sorely tempted. I do not know when I have been as badly frightened. I tried to drag Matty, but he collapsed in a heap. The third shell, at this moment, hit farther out in the water, and I yelled for Matjasic.

Stunned by the blast, he had been lifted three feet in the air and thrown back on the wooden pier. He had disappeared.

Ray suddenly materialized out of nowhere.

“Who is it?” he asked.

“Matty,” I replied.

Ray began to cry, and disappeared again.

I begged a marine to help me. I got Matty to the other side, and lay down beside him. The shelling lifted, and I began a frantic search for help. Finding a hospital corpsman, I asked him to come with me.

“Man,” he said helplessly, “I’ve got 500 men hurt since 9 o’clock this morning. All I can tell you to do is put him on a stretcher, try to get him on a boat, if you can find a boat going back, and send him out to one of the ships.”

Meanwhile, I had found Ray again.

“How’s Matty?” he asked.

“I’m afraid he’s dead.”

We waylaid a second corpsman – a tow-headed kid who ought to have been back home teasing the girls in the junior play – and brought him to our lieutenant.

He felt of Matty’s pulse and stood up.

“He’s gone,” he said.

Ray is a Catholic and I am a Protestant. Ray had attended confession aboard ship, and I had prayed with men of my own faith.

Together we fell on our knees. Together we prayed over our friend.

I stood up. A watching marine asked, “Your buddy?”

I could only nod.

“They got my kid brother this morning,” he said.

I have never felt so much alone as at that moment. It was difficult to leave Matty, but we had no choice.

Ray and I covered Matty’s body and began our slow trek. Many of Matty’s friends, coming ashore later, saw him there.

Slowly we moved down the pier. We would drop when a man was hit, freeze until the firing ceased, and then move forward. It is impossible to describe one’s feelings. I have tried many times to analyze how I felt. It is as much a mystery to me today as it will probably be to most readers of this book. Few of us had ever gone through such an experience, and I had, throughout, the suspicion that it wasn’t really happening. And there was but one choice – keep moving.

It was morning before we reached the beach. I asked for the command post. Someone pointed indefinitely – so indefinitely that we paid no attention to the gesture.

On the beach fighting still was heavy. In the still-smouldering ruins of a beach warehouse, we spotted a gutted Jap steam roller and edged toward it, trying to put its bulk between us and the Japanese lines. It looked as good a place as any to spend the night, and we dug in the hot sand, still alive with red coals. There the two of us spent the night …

Source: Smith, S. E. (editor), The United States Marine Corps in World War II. Random House: 1969

"Utmost Savagery" Marines in combat on Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll, November, 1943. (US Marine Corps)

View attachment 459630
We can not let there sacrifice be in vein!!🙏🇺🇸🙏🇺🇸
 
#15

SmokinBob

(♀) Team chargervol
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#15
(Author’s note: This is an essay from Sgt. Jim Lucas dealing with his time on Tarawa’s Betio Island during that particular Hell on Earth. Sgt. Lucas would go on to be a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist with the Scripps-Howard group after the war. Lucas was a combat correspondent but he was first and foremost a Marine. He carried a rifle as well as a typewriter and it was expected that when the going got tough, he’d take his place in the line. The thing about Betio was that there was nowhere truly safe. It is the evening of D-Day, November 20, 1943…)

“Together We Prayed over Our Friend”

An hour later the command boat was back. “Do you have assault troops?” we were asked.

“We carry military police and correspondents.”

I felt the sickening guilt which sometimes comes to specialists among fighting men.

I was to take the watch at midnight and I had not yet been awakened by the man who had the 8 to 12, so I know it was sometime before midnight when Matty shook me.

“We’re going in,” he said.

Four boats were following the command vessel, which was edging toward the pier. For a moment I feared we might land among the Japs. The danger was not as real as it appeared then, for Colonel Shoup since has assured me that our men held a beachead of considerable length that first night.

We drew fire – I swear it came from the hulk of a small Japanese merchantman that had been blasted by our bombing of September 4 and was beached just beside the pier. Fortunately the fire, wherever it came from, passed over our heads.

Shortly before midnight – fifteen hours after we had left our transport – our landing craft drew alongside the partially wrecked pier.

We were not fooling ourselves. After our first abortive attempt to get in, Matty and I knew our chances were none too good, no better than fifty-fifty. Matty took out his fountain pen and wrote: Mrs. E. A. Matthews, Jr., 501 Sixth Street, Dallas Texas.

“Let her know how it happened,” he said.

I nodded and gave him Ashleigh’s address in Wellington. I had written letters to my own family and left them behind to be mailed if “anything,” as I had said, “happens to me.”

I had later to write to Virginia Matthews and tell her how Matty died.

It was one of the hardest jobs I ever tackled.

Matty was the first man out of the boat. He helped me onto the pier. As I stepped onto the pier I saw a marine directly underfoot. I thought he was a wounded man and cautioned (Ray) Matjasic to be careful.

“He’s dead,” Matty said.

He was a kid of not more than eighteen. The white stripe on his dungaree trousers meant he was a member of the shore party and had come to Betio to help in the unloading. He had died, in all probability, without firing a shot …

We had moved down the dock less than ten feet when the Japanese opened up with a hateful 40mm barrage. The first shell hit the water and exploded not ten feet away, and we fell flat – not a difficult thing to do under fire.

The pier was crowded, for several hundred men lay crouched there waiting for the next shell to hit. My gas mask, strapped to my side, prevented my getting as low as I thought the circumstances demanded, and I detached it. A great deal of my weight is in my hips, and one of the most frequent questions I was asked, when I returned to the States recently, was how I had kept from suffering an embarrassing wound. I could only reply that I was conscious of my exposure, and took pains to safeguard it.

Matty was on the outside, with Matjasic next to him. I was next to Matjasic. The three of us did not cover four feet of the pier.

The second shell hit directly beneath the pier. I was stunned, and drenched by salt water. I heard Ray scream. Matty moaned.

Ray and I jumped to our feet and ran to the opposite side, expecting the next to be a direct hit.

Matty did not move. I called to him, loudly, but he did not answer. I ran back and begged him to get up/ Marines shouted at me to get down, and I was sorely tempted. I do not know when I have been as badly frightened. I tried to drag Matty, but he collapsed in a heap. The third shell, at this moment, hit farther out in the water, and I yelled for Matjasic.

Stunned by the blast, he had been lifted three feet in the air and thrown back on the wooden pier. He had disappeared.

Ray suddenly materialized out of nowhere.

“Who is it?” he asked.

“Matty,” I replied.

Ray began to cry, and disappeared again.

I begged a marine to help me. I got Matty to the other side, and lay down beside him. The shelling lifted, and I began a frantic search for help. Finding a hospital corpsman, I asked him to come with me.

“Man,” he said helplessly, “I’ve got 500 men hurt since 9 o’clock this morning. All I can tell you to do is put him on a stretcher, try to get him on a boat, if you can find a boat going back, and send him out to one of the ships.”

Meanwhile, I had found Ray again.

“How’s Matty?” he asked.

“I’m afraid he’s dead.”

We waylaid a second corpsman – a tow-headed kid who ought to have been back home teasing the girls in the junior play – and brought him to our lieutenant.

He felt of Matty’s pulse and stood up.

“He’s gone,” he said.

Ray is a Catholic and I am a Protestant. Ray had attended confession aboard ship, and I had prayed with men of my own faith.

Together we fell on our knees. Together we prayed over our friend.

I stood up. A watching marine asked, “Your buddy?”

I could only nod.

“They got my kid brother this morning,” he said.

I have never felt so much alone as at that moment. It was difficult to leave Matty, but we had no choice.

Ray and I covered Matty’s body and began our slow trek. Many of Matty’s friends, coming ashore later, saw him there.

Slowly we moved down the pier. We would drop when a man was hit, freeze until the firing ceased, and then move forward. It is impossible to describe one’s feelings. I have tried many times to analyze how I felt. It is as much a mystery to me today as it will probably be to most readers of this book. Few of us had ever gone through such an experience, and I had, throughout, the suspicion that it wasn’t really happening. And there was but one choice – keep moving.

It was morning before we reached the beach. I asked for the command post. Someone pointed indefinitely – so indefinitely that we paid no attention to the gesture.

On the beach fighting still was heavy. In the still-smouldering ruins of a beach warehouse, we spotted a gutted Jap steam roller and edged toward it, trying to put its bulk between us and the Japanese lines. It looked as good a place as any to spend the night, and we dug in the hot sand, still alive with red coals. There the two of us spent the night …

Source: Smith, S. E. (editor), The United States Marine Corps in World War II. Random House: 1969

"Utmost Savagery" Marines in combat on Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll, November, 1943. (US Marine Corps)

View attachment 459630
We can not let there sacrifice be in vein!!🙏🇺🇸🙏🇺🇸
1653958662883.gif
 
#16

ZippyMorocco

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 22, 2014
Messages
819
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#16
Hey, OMG.
I listed mine in the Pub yesterday. Didn't see this thread.
Ancestor
Cpl. James Davison Heriot
KIA Vaux-Andigny France, 10/12/1918
Medal of Honor

Mom's first husband
They were married for 3 days before he shipped out
Lt. Stephen Hudson
KIA Normandy, 6/11/1944

My best friend
PFC Al Sirmans
KIA Vietnam, 9/17,1968
 
#22
Joined
Sep 3, 2012
Messages
4,425
Likes
6,134
#22
World War II casualties - Wikipedia

The Allied soldiers in World War II fought and died for the existence and survival of the free world. They were fighting against genocide and mass murderers. The above account was about the experience of one man. Multiply that not by hundreds, or thousands, or hundreds of thousands, but by millions.

The estimated death toll of World War II is 70 to 85 million people. Of those, 21,000,000 to 25,500,000 were military deaths. All the rest were civilians.

Civilian deaths due to military activity and crimes against humanity are estimated to be between 29,000,000 to 30,500,000.

Germany killed between 5,620,000 and 5,820,000 civilians in Poland. They erected camps in many places for mass murders. If not defeated, they would have continued. In the bombings on the UK, almost 70,000 civilians were killed, 20,000 in London.

Japan killed between 7,357,000 and 8,191,000 civilians in China.

We fought for the survival of our Allies, fought for freedom, and fought to save innocent civilian victims from imprisonment and death.

Thank God we had the unbelievably brave men and women to defeat the evil that was happening. We can never forget them.
The last war where the sacrifice was actually worth it
 
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