Captain Dye's Blog
These are all the Blogs posted in February, 2008.
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Friday, 22
Week 32: Basilone Inherits Boots at Camp Pendleton
While Privates Eugene Sledge (K-3-5) and Robert Leckie (H-2-1) face the intimidating task of crossing Peleliu's airfield under intense Japanese fire, we fired up the Movie Magic Time Machine this week and whirled back to before L-Day on Iwo Jima to spend some time with Manila John Basilone. He completed the fund raising chores on the War Bond Drive and found himself fretting and frustrated in an admin billet at the Washington Navy Yard. The Corps concluded that the Medal Of Honor Guadalcanal hero should be given a respite. That would suit most people who've been through what he has right down to the deck, but not John Basilone. These days he lists his occupation as "professional Marine" and he wants to do what professional Marines do, namely train to fight and then fight. As far as Basilone is concerned anything other than that is just grab-ass. He's made a visit to LtGen. A. A. Vandegrift, the Commandant of the Marine Corps and a fellow Canal Vet, to plead for assignment to a line unit. General Vandegrift recognized Basilone's sincerity and granted a transfer to the 5th Marine Division just forming at Camp Pendleton along with the nucleus for a 6th Marine Division. Manila John arrives on the West Coast to find his fame has preceded him but not much else. He's assigned to B Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Marines at Tent Camp #1, Las Pulgas, only to discover that the weapons platoon he's supposed to train only contains two Marines. The rest are coming, he's told, as fast as they can be shoved through boot camp and trucked up the road to Pendleton. While he's waiting and training his two Marines to be machinegunners, Basilone reenlists, gets promoted to Gunnery Sergeant and makes his first ever acquaintance with Women Marines. One of those women, Sgt. Lena Riggi, will become the first and only Mrs. John Basilone before the 5th MarDiv ships out for combat in the Pacific. We've gone to some lengths to recruit and train females for this portion of our story because of their importance to the survival and success of the Corps back in the darkest days of World War II. As CMC Vandegrift said after the war, these women could "feel responsible for putting the 6th Marine Division in the field; for without the women filling jobs throughout the Marine Corps, there would not have been sufficient men available to form that division." Semper Fidelis.
Posted By Captain Dale A. Dye at 9:02 PM / Category:The Pacific War
Friday, 15
Week 31: 1st MarDiv and 5th MarDiv in Bloody Pacific Action
On the shifting black sands of Iwo Jima, the 4th and 5th Marine Divisions continue to struggle off the beaches and move inland against galling fire from Japanese positions on Mount Suribachi and elsewhere on the sulfurous island redoubt. With the 28th Marines on his left pushing hard to pinch off Suribachi, Gunnery Sergeant Manila John Basilone is a sight to behold in the 27th Marines area. He's making regular trips from forward of the faltering assault line to the beachhead, bringing up ammo and reinforcements through walls of well-cited incoming fire. Some armor, including M-4 Sherman tanks and LVT(A)-4 armored amphibians, has made it ashore and Basilone is struggling to get the vehicles forward to engage hard targets to his front. Along the way as he makes these deadly dashes, he's policing up every Marine he can find to advance behind the armor shield and reinforce the regimental front. Other veteran officers and NCOs are doing similar things up and down the beaches, but Basilone's stirring presence and reputation is clearly making him a stalwart in this brutal fight. Seeing Basilone grab a group of terrified Marines by their collective stacking-swivels and propel them forward is doing a lot to preserve the momentum of the attack. On Peleliu, the costly dash across the airfield has begun with PFC Eugene Sledge and Marines from K-3-5's weapons platoon following behind two rifle platoons. Japanese artillery and mortar fire is taking a terrible toll and there is no available cover out on the runways. The only option is to keep charging until you make it to the other side. Those who stop or hesitate are being torn to pieces by shrapnel from the incoming rounds that are striking everywhere on the airfield. Apparently, the Japanese command knew this assault was coming and decided to maximize the cost in Marine lives by leaving "stay-behind" soldiers hidden in the rubble. These suicide troops pop up behind the advancing infantry and willingly sacrifice their own lives just to shoot a Marine in the back. With all hands focused on reaching safety across the open runway, these snipers are hard to spot and proving particularly deadly. The scorching sun and intense heat on Peleliu is also taking a toll among the 1st MarDiv assault troops. There is no potable water source on the island and drinking water has yet to make its way up from the beachhead to the assault line. So far, the troops have been fighting for nearly two full days with only what water they carried ashore in their canteens. Thirst and dehydration are becoming problems on Peleliu. And the Marines don't need any more problems on that bloody island. Semper Fidelis.
Posted By Captain Dale A. Dye at 9:44 PM / Category:The Pacific War
Saturday, 9
Week 30: Iwo Looms Large as Peleliu Pounding Continues
Gunnery Sergeant Manila John Basilone is back in action and up to his knees in the black sands of Iwo Jima as the 1st Battalion, 27th Marines struggles to move inland from the bloody beaches. Their initial objective is an assigned portion of the Motoyama #1 airfield but there are a bunch of fanatical Japanese defenders between their current exposed position and that area so the momentum of the landing is being slowed significantly. Disregarding the intense incoming fire from Mount Suribachi on his left, Basilone is roaring up and down, back and forth across the battalion sector trying to get groups of shell-shocked Marines to move. Owing mostly to his tactical savvy and inspirational conduct under fire, Basilone's machinegunners have advanced well ahead of the faltering assault line. There's now some danger that they could fall victim to friendly fire from air or naval guns hammering away at hard points all along the front as both the 5th Marine Division and the 4th Marine Division struggle to advance on L-Day at Iwo. Meanwhile, our 1st Marine Division is on Peleliu and contemplating one of the most dangerous missions required of them in the bloody campaign to wrest the Palau Islands from Japanese control. From the scrub jungle inland of the landing beaches, PFC Eugene Sledge of K-3-5 and PFC Robert Leckie of H-2-1 are staring across the flat, open stretch of the Peleliu airfield with anxious glances at the left flank where Japanese artillery and mortar positions in the Umurbrogol Hills have the area in their sights. When the word comes to move - as it inevitably will - all hands will have to advance across that exposed area regardless of the galling fire from the high ground. The plan is simple. Run like hell and don't stop for anything until they reach the other side of the airfield. It's not tactically sophisticated but it's the only option available for the Marines who will have to execute a left wheel and close with the Japanese in the high ground. As in so many of the island campaigns of World War II in the Pacific, on Peleliu it's either keep moving in the assault or die in place. The latter is not an option for the 1st Marine Division. We continue the attack. Semper Fi.
Posted By Captain Dale A. Dye at 7:03 PM / Category:The Pacific War
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