5:56 | When he was headed to Parris Island, Emory Ashurst knew nothing about the Marine Corps. It only took him a few days to find out what it was all about. That was in 1940 and he was at his first post, guarding a naval powder factory when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He was sent to demolition school and slotted for the South Pacific. (This interview made possible with the support of MICHAEL J. TANNER.)
Keywords : Emory B. Ashurst Parris Island esprit de corps China Marine Indian Head MD Pearl Harbor Quantico VA demolition South Pacific bomb disposal booby traps Camp LeJeune Camp Pendleton
After some amphibious training at La Jolla, Emory Ashurst crossed the Pacific with the 2nd Marine Division to their first island objective, Gavutu, in the Solomon Islands. On his way to the beach in the Higgins boat, he listened to the whining and emotional panic of some of the others. He was not rattled because he had old time religion. (This interview made possible with the support of MICHAEL J. TANNER.)
Emory Ashurst was not technically infantry. He was in a Pioneer unit, tasked with various support functions on the battlefield. His specialty was demolitions and he recalls an incident in which he was placing charges at the mouth of a cave when a gunshot rang out. Another time his crew nearly hurt a fellow Marine when a rock went flying. (This interview made possible with the support of MICHAEL J. TANNER.)
When the Marines hit Tarawa, there was a vast coral reef which prevented the Higgins boats from reaching the shore. Emory Ashurst was lucky to not be in the first wave, walking over the reef. He got a ride in on an amphibious tractor. Many who walked in were killed. He remembers the fine job done by the Navy Corpsmen, who came in alongside the Marines. (This interview made possible with the support of MICHAEL J. TANNER.)
The Japanese commander on Tarawa boasted that it would take a million men a hundred years to take the island. The Marines accomplished it with somewhat fewer in quite a bit less time. Emory Ashurst says the battle was something you would never want to see again. (This interview made possible with the support of MICHAEL J. TANNER.)
The trip to Saipan was normal for a Marine, stuffed in the bottom of a ship. Emory Ashurst was a bomb disposal specialist and he recalls several incidents from Saipan and Tinian. He survived all the munitions and a little Dengue fever as well. (This interview made possible with the support of MICHAEL J. TANNER.)
On his way back to the States after the battles of Saipan and Tinian, at a church service in Hawaii, Emory Ashurst wondered why the chaplain said, "You'll never go home." When he got there, he understood. He wasn't home yet, though. After more demolitions training, he was deployed again to Okinawa. (This interview made possible with the support of MICHAEL J. TANNER.)
There is an outstanding esprit de corps with Marines and Emory Ashurst knows at least one reason why. He served with the Marines and then the Army. That put him in some curious situations while in the Army. (This interview made possible with the support of MICHAEL J. TANNER.)
Between two South Pacific deployments, Emory Ashurst was at the demolitions school at Camp Lejeune. He was giving a safety lecture one day when a corporal started complaining that it wasn't needed. He should have been listening more closely. (This interview made possible with the support of MICHAEL J. TANNER.)
When Emory Ashurst was on Tarawa, his platoon leader asked the men if any of them were wounded. He and several others said yes, but they all thought their wounds were very minor and declined to be put in for a Purple Heart. He has one now, anyway, thanks to that platoon leader. (This interview made possible with the support of MICHAEL J. TANNER.)
He was tired of war and service, but he still found himself trying to get back in the Marine Corps. Emory Ashurst had to settle for the Army, but it worked out for 17 more years serving his country. In Korea he was a communications specialist and was fortunate to face no combat. (This interview made possible with the support of MICHAEL J. TANNER.)
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Stationed in Japan after the war, Curtis James had the opportunity to see the devastation at both atomic bomb sites. It was hard to believe. Marines went into occupation duty with a lot of animosity for the Japanese people, but were surprised to find out how friendly they were.
James Parish volunteered for the US Army on November 17th, 1942. He went to Camp Adair in Oregon for his training, and also endured desert training. At one point during training, he became a cook for the rest of the men.
McBrayer talks more about his Okinawa experiences. He brings up that his crew hauled dead Japanese soldiers aboard his ship to loot them, and how he escorted the broken ships back to Guam and Saipan. He also remembers how his ship was hit.
It took four days to send him to war by plane, but when the time came to return from India, Ralph Way spent a month on a ship. At home, he got married and went to college, thanks to the educational benefits from Uncle Sam.
Jack McBrayer was born in Birmingham, Georgia, and wanted to be a sailor all his life. When he joined the Navy, he had to use dummy guns during basic training because they were underfunded at the time. He talks about his shakedown cruise to Bermuda, and how it felt being right at the heart of a hurricane.
While in training for the US Merchant Marine, Roy Walker had to be pushed into the water. He couldn't swim, but when he was at sea, he didn't even think about it. The ships he sailed on kept the war effort supplied with fuel and ammunition.
He was trained in the Army Air Corps as an aircraft mechanic, specializing in hydraulics. Ralph Way would put his training to work in Karachi, which was in India at the time. He serviced cargo planes flying over the Himalayas to supply the war effort against the Japanese in China.
McBrayer was able to make it safely to North Africa. From there he escorted tanks to Aruba. His typical missions consisted of making trips to North Africa, the Caribbean, and sometimes he would go back to the ship's home base located in Northern Virginia.
The men at the air base in India were due for some badly needed R&R, so they were shipped off to a rest camp. Ralph Way remembers watching the monkeys in the trees and thinking how nice it would be to have one of those monkeys. How, exactly, could you make that happen?
Ralph Way was an aircraft mechanic in India, maintaining cargo planes. He recalls one incident in which a pilot couldn't tell if the landing gear was up or down. That was resolved successfully, but there was another incident regarding propellers which did not end so well.
Roy Walker had a pretty good set up on one trip. The Merchant Marine steward had cornered the market on decks of cards and Coca-Colas, plus he got tips out of the kitty because he ran the officers mess. He also had an identical twin brother on the crew, which could lead to some confusion.
On a visit to Miami, Clyde Milam saw Navy personnel training and immediately sought out a recruiter. He was very young, but he was ready. It was 1943 and he was eager to contribute. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
He wanted to choose his service instead of getting drafted, so Curtis James went for the Marine Corps in 1943. As part of the V-12 program, he attended college for a year, then had his training and got his commission. Assigned to the occupation forces in Japan, the friendliness of the Japanese was a big surprise to him.