6:28 | 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.)
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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.)
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 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.)
Just weeks off the ship, Jim Murphy was in a jeep driving his forward observer team up the Rhone Valley. At Barr in France, his lieutenant was killed. Along with the sergeant on the team, they fulfilled their mission for the rest of the war.
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.
Forward observer Jim Murphy was alone in an outpost on Christmas in 1944, watching a German outpost where they were watching him. A runner brought him some hot food, which he greatly appreciated but, later that night, he became severely ill. It was not the food.
Jim Murphy was seventeen years old when the radio brought the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Since he enjoyed ROTC in high school, he was an enthusiastic member when he went off to Georgia Tech, where recruits were promised they would graduate and receive a commission. Of course, it didn't work out that way and he was off to active duty, where he managed to conceal something that would have ended his enlistment.
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.
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.
It was a former luxury liner but the Atlantic crossing was anything but luxurious. Jim Murphy had something in his duffel bag to help fight the boredom and he wound up entertaining the whole ship with it. He was also one of the lucky ones who wasn't seasick.
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.
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.
His unit was moving fast at the end of the war and Jim Murphy wound up in Austria. He didn't have nearly enough points for discharge, so he returned to the States to prepare for the invasion of Japan. Then came the news that seemed like a miracle from heaven.
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.
Jim Murphy was lucky to grow up at the Masonic Home of Georgia, an orphanage near Macon. He was not one of the orphans, rather his father worked there as a printer, running the print shop and teaching the trade. There was a farm for food, a nice thing to have during the Great Depression.
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.
Jim Murphy describes the job of a forward observer during the push on Germany. They had bulky radios and strung a lot of telephone wire, the only two means of communicating with the battery. They also took German fire from mortars and the dreaded 88 mm guns.
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.
He was taken from college ROTC, sent to basic training, then sent to another college as part of the ASTP program. It seemed the Army just couldn't make up it's mind about what to do with bright students like Jim Murphy. Then it decided. It was off to the war for them.
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.
At first, Jim Murphy was assigned to an infantry unit, but when they found out about his previous artillery training, he was moved to the field artillery. The morale was awful there but he persevered and became a forward observer team member. He was just about ready for the push on Germany.