6:41 | The first operation for the 4th Division was the landing on Roi-Namur. Lawrence Snowden remembers that, though it was an easy victory, valuable combat experience and important lessons were imparted on the Marines.
Keywords : Lawrence Snowden Roi-Namur Japanese camouflage rifle company Saipan Tinian Iwo Jima twill uniform tank lagoon camaraderie amphibious
Lawrence Snowden’s family dentist would regale him with tales of his Marine Corps service and invariably finish by telling him that it would be too tough for him. The young Snowden took this as a challenge.
After a stop at Camp Lejeune, newly commissioned Lieutenant Lawrence Snowden was sent to Camp Pendleton to help put together the new 4th Marine Division. His was the first unit to train at Pendleton.
On Saipan and Tinian, Lawrence Snowden discovered huge green flies and poor use of artillery. He also had a profoundly moving experience when he heard soft crying coming from a pile of bodies.
Marine Captain Lawrence Snowden learned two things made Iwo Jima a valuable prize for the Allies: its position halfway between B-29 bases in Saipan and Tokyo, and the fact that it was, legally, a part of the Japanese mainland.
During the difficult landing at Iwo Jima, company commander Lawrence Snowden dove into a bomb crater for shelter and found Sgt. Leonard Ash there with a gruesome wound.
Lawrence Snowden was told that the campaign for Iwo Jima would take maybe 5 days. Instead it was 36 long, bloody days and when the flag was raised, no one in his unit stood up and cheered. That Marine would have been a dead Marine.
Iwo Jima was a unique battle in that the victors suffered more casualties than the defeated. Marine Captain Lawrence Snowden says that you came to feel that like it wouldn't happen to you, and that spirit enabled the men to reach their objective.
Lawrence Snowden knew that the machine guns on the wings of the Zero could not be aimed at him, so he stood up in the bomb crater he was using for cover and waved to the pilot of the low flying plane.
Lawrence Snowden was wounded on Iwo Jima and discovered that the policy was to not return any wounded troops to the battle. He wanted to return to his men and persevered because he knew there was always someone around who could change policy.
Aboard a troop ship, Lawrence Snowden found out what it means to be a union chef when he had to finish cooking his own eggs. Then he reveals the reason he loves sardines.
Captain Lawrence Snowden was transferred to the 3rd Marine Division on Guam, where he readied for the expected invasion of Japan. The commander was Maj. Gen. Graves B. Erskine, who had a reputation as a “tough cookie.”
Lawrence Snowden points out that the lasting effects of WWII go far beyond the fighting. The makeup of America’s labor force was forever changed, as women stepped up, and provincial attitudes were swept away.
Lawrence Snowden was one of only 95,000 active Marines when war broke out in Korea, drawn down from a force of over 500,000. His superiors wanted him to stay in his planning role, but he pushed for a transfer to the action.
During the Korean War, Lawrence Snowden visited postwar Japan for the first time. During a train ride from Kyoto to Tokyo, he became aware of an essential truth regarding wartime enemies.
In Vietnam, Regimental Commander Lawrence Snowden saw the dirty part of the war operating down in the Delta. Later, working at HQ making bombing assessments, he began to realize the aerial assault on the North was not working.
Lawrence Snowden had a long and varied career as a Marine officer, but the most important lesson on leadership, he learned as a newly commissioned 2nd Lieutenant at Camp Lejeune. His men were not there to serve him. He was there to serve them.
He was finally on his way to flying, but aviation cadet James Tabb kept playing a waiting game at each level of training. First some college, then some flight training. All the while, the Allies were progressing in the fight and the need for new aviators was lessened. There was this new plane, however, the B-29. (This interview made possible with the support of KETURAH THUNDER-HAAB.)
It took a while for the Army to decide how to best use Nathan Radin's chemistry degree. He was assigned to a petroleum products unit which was formed to test tanker loads of fuel for quality and possible reuse. He just missed his deployment when he was delayed by a storm and the man who replaced him probably was headed to a much better place than he was. (This interview made possible with the support of KETURAH THUNDER-HAAB.)
When Nathan Radin got to New Guinea with the Army petroleum products laboratory unit, no one there had any idea who they were or what they were doing there. While that was sorted out, he got to personally know thousands of fuel drums in the depot. When the operation moved around the coast, he was issued the dreaded D ration for the duration of the trip. (This interview made possible with the support of KETURAH THUNDER-HAAB.)
After the hard fought battle of Tarawa, Walter Marshall trained in Hawaii for the next operation, the invasion of Saipan. Once again, it was chaotic, with units split up and men moving up into leadership when called upon. This was a big advantage over the Japanese with their rigid command structure.
The goal was to intercept and destroy Japanese ships. RADAR Officer Hank Sturgess had help finding the enemy convoys from the coast watchers, civilian residents with hand cranked radios who acted as spotters. His ship was assigned a dangerous mission, to move in at night right in front of one of these task forces and lay a mine field. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
He's not sure, but Nathan Radin thinks he saw some sumo wrestling going on in the Japanese POW camp across the way. He was in New Guinea and his job was to test the loads of fuel tankers for quality and contamination. The men in the unit had to scrounge for the lumber and build the lab themselves, but at least the Japanese never bothered them. (This interview made possible with the support of KETURAH THUNDER-HAAB.)
Hank Sturgess was in college when he joined the Navy and they told him to finish and then report to Midshipmen's school. A brief stay at Notre Dame was followed by a an intense, shortened session at Northwestern University. He was ready for the Pacific fleet. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
Tarawa was an atoll that had a fishing and coconut oil operation before the war. After 76 hours of US Marines versus entrenched Japanese, there was not much standing. Walter Marshall was lucky enough to come in on an amphibious tractor. Most had to wade through hundreds of yards of coral reef. Once ashore the enemy had to be removed from fortified pillboxes and spider traps.
With 500 survivors of the sinking of the USS Helana on board, the men of the USS Radford received a hero's welcome back at Tulagi. Hank Sturgess felt badly about leaving some men behind, but with the help of a civilian coast watcher, most of them were eventually recovered. Part 3 of 3. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
The Japanese defenders on Tarawa were very good soldiers, Imperial Marines experienced in Manchuria. They would rather commit suicide than surrender and hundreds did. Walter Marshall hated them during the war, but time has changed his perspective. Not long after it was declared that organized resistance had ceased, he was shot through the thigh and had to be evacuated. Before that happened, he got to see the heroic actions of future movie star, Eddie Albert, a Navy Ensign at the time.
Hank Sturgess had mastered the new RADAR technology in the heat of battle, and after one last mission, he returned stateside to become an instructor. He was an officer on the USS Radford, a very highly decorated ship. Before he could rejoin the fleet, the joyous news of the Japanese surrender sent him home instead. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
POW Jack Litchfield went to work every day in a steel factory near the prison camp in southern Japan. His favorite task was taking the cart to exchange empty oxygen cylinders because he frequently had to wait, which gave him a much needed break. He was interned for over three years and near the end of the war, he noticed that the Japanese foreman was making something new on the anvil.
The men headed to Saipan were already on edge, especially the Marines who had participated in the previous invasion of Tarawa. Then, as they waited on board ship in the dark, someone dropped a grenade. Having survived that, they next faced a very difficult task, going over the side and down a rope net to board bobbing and heaving Higgins boats.
Captured by Germans but held in Japan, former POW Jack Litchfield returned to his Liverpool home four years after he went to sea as a lad. He felt lucky to be alive, having learned that the second atomic bomb had been originally targeted in the vicinity of his prison camp. As time has passed, it has all proved to be a positive experience in his life.
He had no technical knowledge about RADAR, but Hank Sturgess was a fast learner in using it. Part of his job was keeping track of friendly ships and planes. His ship was fast and heavily armed with guns, torpedoes and depth charges. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
Former POW Jack Litchfield says his Japanese captors were two faced. You never knew when their mood would change. He did receive a personal kindness from a civilian boy who worked with him on his work detail. After the war ended, and the freed men were waiting for repatriation, the town was open to them and they took every advantage of their new role as victors.
The USS Radford was part of an ad hoc task force dispatched to deal with Japanese ships spotted in the area. When the cruiser Leander from New Zealand suffered a crippling blow from a torpedo, the Radford escorted her back home to Auckland. This led to a training layover in New Guinea for RADAR officer Hank Sturgess which included a Bob Hope show and maybe the best party he would see until the war was over. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
His father was a captain in the British Merchant Navy and Jack Litchfield was determined to follow in his footsteps. He left behind the air raids in Liverpool and went to sea as a radioman, but his third voyage turned to disaster when a German torpedo slammed into the freighter.
The USS Radford became part of MacArthur's fleet at New Guinea and began protecting troop transports and making shore bombardments. On one mission, they were covering slow ammunition barges when a lookout yelled. In came four kamikazes. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
As he readied for the next operation on Tinian, Walter Marshall received the word that he had enough points to go home. He was carrying a bullet in his leg and had a fractured vertebra and the latter condition was destined to plague him for a long time. Determined to make a better life for his children, he ignored the pain and worked on.
The British prisoners were well treated on board the German cruiser that sank their cargo ship. This came to an end when they were sent to Japan to be imprisoned there. Jack Litchfield watched as the first group of men went down the gangplank and promptly received a beating. When they arrived at the prison camp, the Japanese commander had some sobering words for them.
In 1938, twenty one dollars a month made a real difference. That's what George McLaughlin received when he joined the National Guard. His unit was activated in early 1941 and he rapidly became a very young Master Sergeant. When he was sent to Alaska, it was decided that the tents they were assigned were not adequate, so they milled the lumber to build barracks.
You could trade cigarettes for food in the prison camp, but Jack Litchfield explains why that could be a bad idea. The food supplied by his Japanese captors was meager, but at least it contained something he was very fond of. The men had access to a bath house, though there was not much soap, and it was there that a showering guard uttered something that causes a laugh til this day.
Allena McLaughlin was married, but she had no children so she volunteered for the Army Nurse Corps near the end of World War II. After her basic training, she began to care for soldiers and was destined for postwar Europe, but an unexpected visit to the doctor changed all that.
He'd always wanted to fly airplanes, so when war came in 1941, high school student James Tabb was tested and approved as an aviation cadet. Upon graduation, he was inducted and sent to Miami Beach for basic training. It was a pleasant place for training, where Hollywood stars and movie making were to be found, but off in the distance, you could see merchant ships burning at night. (This interview made possible with the support of KETURAH THUNDER-HAAB.)