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.)
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.
It was a fierce week long battle for the city of Heilbronn. Even though they were only delaying the inevitable, the Germans weren't beat, yet. Forward Observer Rufus Dalton went into the demolished city looking for a rifle company he was instructed to find. It was an eerie setting with the city in flames all around him. Part 2 of 2.
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.
The men of the 92nd Infantry Division had to fight on three fronts. They had to fight the Germans. They had to fight the racial animosity of their fellow soldiers and commanders. And they had to fight Congress, which wanted to maintain segregation in the Army. Lyle Gittens made it through all that with an undampened spirit.
On his first raid in North Africa, reconnaissance platoon leader John Souther captured a hundred Germans with no losses to his own unit. His job in the 1st Armored Division was to be out in front with his eyes open, and he was doing just that when a huge amount of enemy was spotted. Rommel's big push had begun.
Wes Ruth was eating breakfast when he saw the planes coming in. He thought they were ours until the bombs started falling. As he drove frantically to his hangar on Ford Island, he saw the USS Arizona hit. The Japanese had made their move. As a photo-recon pilot, he was dispatched as soon as the attacks ended to search for the enemy fleet.
John Souther was on reconnaissance patrol when he nosed his halftrack up over the edge of the gully in the Tunisian desert. A round from a German 88 immediately tore through the engine compartment, but left him unhurt. They paid mightily for that shot. With his radio, he began spotting artillery on their position, under fire the entire time. He was awarded the Silver Star for this action.
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.
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.
Bill Adair was suffering from the effects of a concussion when the battle for the Philippines came to an end for him. Along with thousands of others, he was forced to surrender and was facing the prospect of joining what would become known as the Bataan Death March. Then fate intervened in the form of an ambulance without a driver. Part 1 of 2.
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.
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.)
He bunked with regular B-17 crew members, but Bill Livingstone was a gunnery instructor who was there to keep skills sharp. He was also there to substitute for any crew member who was not able to fly. His very first mission turned out to be a memorable one. Part 1 of 5.
Bill Adair may have been the luckiest man in the Bataan Death march. With a commandeered ambulance full of casualties, he threaded his way through the ordeal thanks to luck and guile. At the end, though, there was a camp waiting for him just like all the rest. Part 2 of 2.
Hannah Deutch was a teenager when the Kindertransport rescue effort became her means of escape from Germany. England was taking in thousands of Jewish children and she got her papers in order and left. Right away, as the oldest one in the large group, she became the leader on the journey.
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.
During one mission, B-17 pilot George Stamps was startled when another formation of bombers passed through his at the same altitude. That was scary but the Germans had something that was also very frightening, the Messerschmitt Me 262, the first jet fighter.
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.
Rufus Dalton was at the Maginot Line bouncing mortar shells off an old citadel. His unit was suddenly pulled and sent to take Patton's place in the line after the general was summoned to the Bulge. Once they got there, a fierce ten day battle ensued due to the last major German offensive, Operation Nordwind. Part 1 of 2.
Near the end of the war, the food supply in Holland had been disrupted and there was widespread hunger. Henk Duinhoven was lucky to be in the countryside, where gardens had been harvested. When he heard the sound of Canadian tanks, he knew that liberation was finally at hand.
Ed Marriott's role in the Beach Battalion was in hydrographics, which meant he had to assess water and beach conditions and give a green light to boats to come in. Before the D-Day invasion, he was training near Slapton Sands when a training exercise was attacked by German E-boats, resulting in over 700 deaths.
It was Christmas day, 1944. Patton's prayer had worked. The weather had cleared and the 5th Division moved up to a spot that was way too open for Arnold Whittaker. He pushed four feet of snow aside and began to dig his foxhole. He had a hole about as big as his head in the frozen ground when he heard it, the unmistakable sound of Screaming Mimis.
The tree bursts were tremendous. Clayton Byrd was hunkered down in a foxhole with a newly arrived replacement when one exploded close by, seriously injuring the new man. Byrd was carrying him back to the aid station when a green lieutenant told him to stop and return to the line.
Ed Marriott was hunkered down on the beach by a disabled vehicle. Close to him was his buddy, Amin Isbir, also taking cover. The next shell flipped the huge amtrac over and there went Amin, crushed by the wreckage. Eventually, the beach was brought under control, which meant that a floating dock could be assembled and the landing of equipment could accelerate.
Most Germans knew it. The end was getting near and, as long as you didn't run into any SS troops, the fighting was minimal. Arnold Whittaker had made it down to Czechoslovakia and, in the last week of the war, a German Tiger tank stood between him and some refreshing beverages.
After a year on a new destroyer protecting convoys, Ed Marriott was sent to a new type of Navy unit, the Beach Battalion. These sailors went ashore during amphibious invasions to manage the ship traffic and establish some order with medical and communications teams, among others.