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.
Verner Chaffin was in Law School when Pearl Harbor was attacked and then, in a whirlwind of activity, he got his degree, took the bar exam, and applied to the Naval Intelligence Japanese language school. He was accepted and began the grueling program.
When it came time to leave Burma, Army nurse Mary Ann Koontz had a rough jeep ride across way too much of India. She flew out of Karachi and got stuck for a week in Cairo, which was OK because of the sightseeing. When she got home, she married a soldier she had met in New Caledonia, a career military man.
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.
Graduates of the Naval Intelligence Japanese language school had been put right to work, but the Navy decided that they really needed intelligence training, as well. So Verner Chaffin went from there to the advanced school where he learned the craft of intelligence. Finally, he got his first assignment, at the ONI office in Washington and he was ecstatic to get away from being instructed.
When he had to bail out, Jim Wicker was literally sucked from the cockpit when he released the canopy because of his high rate of speed. He was just a hundred miles inland a few days after D-Day and the Germans caught him almost immediately. As he sat in solitary confinement waiting for interrogation, he was comforted by his faith.
Two engines were out, a third smoking, and they were were losing airspeed and altitude, but they were flying level and pointed home. Then time ran out for the B-17 and Don Scott had to slip down the hatch into the slipstream. Part 2 of 3.
At Camp Ritchie in Maryland, Navy Japanese linguist Verner Chaffin pored over documents shipped from the Pacific, but most of them had already been gone over and sorted as less important. Later, he was assigned to the translation section at the Joint Intelligence Center at Pearl Harbor and he picked out the plum documents.
Bill Garrison was standing in a chow line when a man up the line suddenly dropped, shot dead by a sniper. That was only one hazard at the air fields in China; the others being Japanese air raids and infiltrators. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
It was their third mission over Berlin and they were heading home. Four German fighters pounced on the B-24 and it was engulfed in flame and going down. Clyde Burnette fought for consciousness as the other crew in the back of the plane bailed out. He woke in free fall with no idea how he had made it out, and soon he was in German custody. Everyone made it out of the plane except George "Danny" Daneau, the nose turret gunner, who went down with the aircraft.
B-24 flight engineer Bill Toombs was over Germany when bad went to worse. One engine was shot out. Then an 88 round went right through the number four wing tank. It didn't blow up the plane, but they lost all the fuel for that engine, so now they had two engines out. They made a desperate run for Brussels, which had been liberated.
After a nerve-wracking mission to bomb Tokyo and a typhoon, B.E. Vaughan and the destroyer O'Brien suffered a second kamikaze attack which killed all three of his hometown pals who served with him on board. Then, began the grim task of collecting the personal belongings of the dead and preparing them for burial at sea.
Robert James was in the shower aboard ship when the alarm went off. He scrambled to his gun mount to man the 20 mm gun and then the threat became apparent. Kamikazes had broken through the air cover and were headed for the convoy. He heard some firing from another gun and turned around just in time to see a horrifying sight. Part 1 of 2.
Naval Intelligence Officer Verner Chaffin recalls meeting Gen. Douglas MacArthur in postwar Japan. He shared the general's vision for the rehabilitation of Japan and, when the next war came, he lamented that his strategy for victory was not followed.
Robert James was propped up against a bulkhead, going in and out of consciousness. The kamikaze had destroyed the starboard gun mounts and there were many dead and wounded. He was grateful when someone gave him some morphine to ease the pain from multiple shrapnel wounds. This was the beginning of a painful journey to healing. Part 2 of 2.
Verner Chaffin had a special pass that allowed him to go nearly anywhere in occupied Japan. He and his team were looking for secret Japanese weapons facilities and they found one at a place called Turtleneck Island. Later, in Tokyo, he endeared himself to Japanese civilians because of his ease with their language.
Army nurse Mary Ann Koontz worked in the psychiatric ward and when a new hospital was being built in Myitkyina, she designed her ward with an eye towards security. Many of the men she cared for were truck drivers who were stressed out by their long treks on the Burma Road.
Dachau was just one of many forced labor camps for Norbert Friedman. One of the first built, it was run internally by German political prisoners. At the next camp, it was Gypsies. Along with his father and two uncles, he was fortunate to be classified as skilled labor, which was in high demand at German aircraft plants.
Army Nurse Mary Ann Koontz was in New Caledonia where there was some confusion about where her group would be assigned. She worked in the psychiatric ward at a hospital in New Zealand until she was needed somewhere else. This time it was India on the Burma Road.
The Navy Japanese language school was concentrated, intense and psychologically taxing. Vern Chaffin cultivated an air of detachment that kept him from washing out. In fact, he was near the top of the class. Most of the teachers were Japanese Americans from the internment camps.
It was a difficult experience. Army nurse Mary Ann Koontz was sent up the Burma Road to a camp to care for a lot of sick Chinese soldiers. She was glad to return to Ledo but it wasn't long until she was traveling up the Burma Road again, this time to Myitkyina, where she cared for people in bamboo hospital wards.
Naval Intelligence Officer Verner Chaffin had often been chided for his "Southern" Japanese accent, but he found in Okinawa that the locals spoke the language that way, so he felt at home. After a chance meeting with Tyrone Power, he reported to a new assignment in occupied Japan.
From Sapulpa, Oklahoma came Phillip Coon, a member of the Creek tribe who volunteered for the draft just before World War II. He could already drill, thanks to the military rigor at the tribal school. It was also there that he read about exotic Pacific islands which caused him to volunteer again, for duty in the Philippines.
Although she was never in danger from enemy fire, it was still a difficult life in Burma for Army nurse Mary Ann Koontz. The details of daily life became a problem in the jungle hospital where she worked. One day she saw Merrill's Marauders on their march out of Burma toward India.
Verner Chaffin never met an angry or disgruntled Japanese during his work for Naval Intelligence in occupied Japan. They were fatalistic, resolute and forward looking and their country was destined to be a close ally of the United States. A big factor in this was Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who shepherded the process of post war reconciliation.
Norbert Friedman was watching a group of arriving prisoners at the Leonburg concentration camp when he spotted an old friend from Krakow. They stuck together from there through to the last camp, when they were suddenly put on the road in a death march. His friend, Oscar, was sick and wasn't going to make it. They came up with a desperate plan to save him.
During his time in Nazi forced labor camps, Norbert Friedman came to the conclusion that there is no limit to evil inclinations in men. He gives an example of this and then relates the story of Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a dissident German Lutheran theologian, who was in the concentration camp with him.
The translators at Naval Intelligence in Pearl Harbor liked to kid their counterparts back in Washington by writing uncomplimentary notes on the boxes of documents they shipped there. Verner Chaffin was one of them and he was lucky enough to get out of the office and go with the fleet to Okinawa, where he assisted with Japanese translation.