Dispatches From Curt — John Huston’s ‘The Battle of San Pietro,’ Semper Fi, Wounded In Action, And Other Musings

Image courtesy of Mr. Bongo Films

By Curtis Narimatsu

John Huston’s  “The Battle of San Pietro”

Huston filmed on location in Italy w/the 36th Division between December 1943 & February 1944.  Ernie Pyle’s most famous column, “The Death of Captain Waskow,” was penned during this San Pietro campaign/battle.  As a retrospective said, “This is what less accurate representations of infantry warfare neglect:  Not death, but the dead and their eloquently unspeakable presence.  Killing people doesn’t mean that they go away.  The physical bodies stay right there, dead, yet in imagination so alive, to be lugged around, to be worked with, to be talked about, until Graves Registration gets them out of sight.  Huston and Pyle both knew this, and their extraordinary representations of the Texas 36th Division at San Pietro are enriched by that knowledge.”  Reality check, you/our fellow/sister 3rd generation [sansei] Japanese Americans — our fathers joined the Army because their friends went and it was cool [early] or they were drafted 1944 [late].  After all, at age 18, no political awareness seeps in to a hormonal teenage boy.  But at age 18, when you experience nose to nose the obscenity of war/carnage, the dead keep talking to you  — the ghosts are real, just as Huston/Pyle experienced them.Pyle even was maligned for having a death wish, and die early he did!!  Pyle is buried at Punchbowl, the most realistic scribe of WWII. PTSD/postwar alcoholism, the impact on family life.  Even the tightest/most inseparable unit in military history, our 442 [my dad Toshi was Silver Star awardee, 2nd Batt. infantry, for saving lives, not killing], is strewn w/veterans who scream in the middle of the night [yes, gang, our mamas/aunties know all about these].  With no physically active stress reducers, Mr. Jordan stands in the background, whispering, “It’s time to go, Isamu.”  Nightmares sneak back.  Our greatest WWII hero, Audie Murphy, drank too much, and then went to sleep in the garage with a loaded pistol under the pillow, in his vain attempt to protect himself from the onslaught of the faceless Germans who attacked him nightly.  Support/comfort  — brothers in arms. Khaldun noted back in the 1300s that men fight for their buddies, not for camels, just as William Manchester reiterated this in the 1970s in his book, “Goodbye, Darkness,” about the Pacific War.  Life in the barracks/on the battlefield build camaraderie/team spirit.  Yikes, even racism vs. 442/Buffalo soldiers helped develop collective morale — after all, there is nothing like shared hardship to bring people/folks together, gang!!

The British exemplar/model 1914-1916 show females scornfully bestowing white feathers on no-no males who avoid military service, while rewarding heroes in uniform w/great sex [favors].  But again, focusing on gung-ho heroics misses a huge wallop of the dilemma/difficulty of making choices, especially when a very young man doesn’t know the right answers in advance [as we old farts might know].

As to the Holocaust, certainly our 442 Dachau liberators never imagined that Hitler’s Final Solution would include using Norwegian whale processing mega-procedures on people.  Even Stalin killed by neglect/bullets instead of industrial ovens!!   Pogrom worse by orders of magnitude than anything a censored Hollywood movie could ever imagine, thence the flash of the Deity — “There but for the Grace of God I go.”  Yes, unlike our Nikkei/Japanese Americans, where collaboration w/internment authorities led to positive community results [after all, we live in America, not Hitler’s Nazi Germany], for the Jews collaboration led to extermination/ethnic cleansing, whereas resistance led to survival.  Apples/oranges in the most extreme senses.

No, talking heads like Wil/J Roy Souza are turn-offs for a film on the horror of war.  Images are critical/consecrated  — a Martin Scorsese/Stanley Kubrick fit the bill.    — Curt

Semper Fi

Korean War’s Inchon, our U.S. Marines planned it, but Army’s Gen. Douglas MacArthur took the credit.  Our Marines got even vs. MacArthur by erecting signs saying, “Brought to you courtesy of the 7th Marines,” or whomever, as Mac drove into Seoul with his bulging press corps.  On the other hand, Gen. Matthew Ridgway did tons to restore faith and confidence in the American soldier, and one of the ways he did it was revolutionary — he actually visited the front for purposes other than press conferences!!  —  Love always, Curt

Wounded In Action

Camaraderie/morale are high [small unit cohesion] when brothers in arms know each other.  When infamous Gen. Dahlquist ran roughshod over his 442nd soldiers, the 442 command structure accomplished the missions its own way, its methods having worked successfully.  In this sense, the 442/100th deserve more credit than they get, because subordinates [Hanley/Lovell/Young Oak Kim/etc.] reinterpreted orders to ensure mission accomplishment.  Official unit histories do not log such victories since such record undermines the notion that disciplined soldiers obey blindly orders. I beg to correct the record.  Disciplined soldiers accomplish missions!!   Huge difference!! — Love everlasting, Curt

(Curtis Narimatsu is a lifelong resident of Hilo who writes about the forgotten past such as the old plantation days & untold heroes.)

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  1. Curtis Narimatsu
    Curtis Narimatsu says:

    Great Marine Evans Carlson:

    Evans Carlson
    From Wikipedia,
    Evans Fordyce Carlson
    February 26, 1896(1896-02-26) – May 27, 1947 (aged 51)

    BGen Evans Carlson
    Place of birth Sidney, New York
    Place of death Portland, Oregon
    Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery
    Allegiance United States of America
    Service/branch United States Army
    United States Marine Corps
    Years of service 1912–1916, 1916–1921 (USA)
    1922–1939, 1941–1946 (USMC)
    Rank Brigadier General
    Commands held 2nd Raider Battalion
    Battles/wars World War I
    World War II
    *Makin Island Raid
    *Guadalcanal campaign
    **Carlson’s patrol
    *Battle of Tarawa
    *Battle of Saipan
    Awards Navy Cross (3)
    Legion of Merit
    Purple Heart (2)
    Brigadier General Evans Fordyce Carlson (26 February 1896 – 27 May 1947) was the famed U.S. Marine Corps leader of the World War II “Carlson’s Raiders”. He is renowned for the “Makin Island Raid” on August 17, 1942 and their “Long Patrol” (aka Carlson’s Patrol or Carlson’s Raiders) from November 4, 1942 to December 4, 1942 behind Japanese lines on Guadalcanal, in which 488 Japanese were killed, 16 Raiders were killed and 18 wounded, during the Guadalcanal campaign.

    Early years
    Evans Carlson was born on 26 February 1896 in Sidney, New York, the son of a Congregationalist minister. He ran away from his home in Vermont in 1910 and two years later disguised his age to enter the United States Army.

    Service in the U.S. Army
    During his first enlistment in the Army, he served in the Philippines and Hawaii. He was discharged in 1916 as a “top” or first sergeant. Less than a year later, he returned to the Army and participated in the Mexican punitive expedition.

    During World War I, he saw action in France, and was awarded a Wound Chevron (later exchanged for the Purple Heart) for wounds received in action.[citation needed] He was commissioned a second lieutenant in May 1917, and made captain of field artillery in December 1917. He served in Germany with the Army of Occupation. He was discharged from the Army in 1921.

    Early Marine Corps career
    Carlson’s famed career as a Marine started in 1922 when he enlisted as a private. In 1923, he was again commissioned a second lieutenant. After duty at MCB Quantico, Virginia, he sailed for Culebra, Puerto Rico in 1924 and remained there five months before being ordered to the West Coast for duty with the Pacific Fleet. Applying for aviation training in 1925, he went to Naval Aeronautical Station Pensacola, Florida, for instruction, but was subsequently returned to duty with ground units. He served another tour of foreign shore duty from 1927 to 1929 at Shanghai, China.

    Nicaragua
    Carlson was ordered to Nicaragua in 1930 as an officer in the Guardia Nacional. A first lieutenant at the time, he earned his first Navy Cross for leading 12 Marines against 100 bandits in a night attack to break up a threat to his garrison. He was also commended for his actions following the 1931 earthquake at Managua, and for performance of duties as Chief of Police in 1932 and 1933.

    Friendship with the Roosevelts
    Returning to the United States in 1933, Captain Carlson served as executive officer of the Marine Corps Detachment at President Roosevelt’s alternative White House and vacation retreat at Warm Springs, Georgia where he became closely acquainted with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his son James.

    Second and third China tours
    After his Warm Springs tour Carlson was posted to the 4th Marines in Shanghai. Shortly afterward he was transferred to the Marine Detachment, American Legation, Peiping, China, where he served as Adjutant and studied the Chinese language. In 1936, he returned to the United States via Japan. At home he served at Quantico while attending Marine Corps Schools, and studying International Law and Politics at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

    He went back to China for the third time in 1937 as an official student of the Chinese language and as a military observer with Chinese forces. There he was afforded the opportunity to learn the tactics of the Japanese soldier.

    He met Edgar Snow in China and read Snow’s Red Star Over China. This encounter led him to visit the Chinese communist troop headquarters in northern China, where he met Chinese Communist leaders such as Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping. Traveling thousands of miles through the interior of China with the communist guerrillas, often on foot and horseback over the most hazardous terrain, he lived under the same primitive conditions. He was impressed by the tactics used by Chinese Communist guerrillas to fight Japanese troops.

    When he left China in 1938, he was commended by the Commander in Chief of the Asiatic Fleet for his services. He was so impressed with the danger of Japanese aggression in the Far East that in 1939 he resigned his commission as a captain in order to be free to write and lecture on that subject. When the danger he foresaw neared reality in 1941, he applied to be recommissioned in the Marine Corps and was accepted with the rank of major.

    World War II
    Carlson’s Raiders

    LtCol Carlson after the Makin Island RaidA year later, in 1942, he was placed in command of the Second Marine Raider Battalion with the rank of lieutenant colonel, a new combat organization whose creation he influenced. The organization and discipline of the 2nd Raiders was modeled on that of the Communist Route Armies he had observed during his time in China. Because of his relationship with President Roosevelt and the president’s son, Captain James Roosevelt, a Marine reserve captain who authored a letter to the Commandant of the Marine Corps proposing creation the Raiders, the Marine Corps authorized the creation of the Raiders despite misgivings about Carlson’s philosophy.

    In the military there is a sharp caste-system divide between officers and enlisted personnel, and even experienced noncommissioned officers were expected to be subservient to even the newest, greenest second lieutenant. Carlson’s experience in having gone back and forth between officer and enlisted status in both the Army and the Marine Corps convinced him that this was not in the best interests of the service. Carlson saw the Communist approach as superior. Leaders were expected to serve the unit and the fighters they led, not to be served. Responsibility, not privilege, would be the keyword for battalion leadership when the Second Raiders formed up. Using an egalitarian and team-building approach, Carlson promulgated a new way for senior NCOs to mentor junior officers and work with the officers for the betterment of the unit. Even more controversial in concept, Carlson gave his men “ethical indoctrination,” designed to “give (his men) conviction through persuasion,” describing for each man what he was fighting for and why.

    LtCol Carlson is decorated by Adm Chester W. Nimitz, on 30 September 1942.Of more lasting importance to the Marine Corps, Carlson also changed the organization of his squads, eschewing an eight-man squad dictated by the Marines in favor of a 10-man squad composed of a squad leader and three 3-man “fireteams”, each containing a BAR, a Thompson, and an M1 rifle.

    Carlson’s leadership of the Second Raiders in the Makin Raid, 17 August 1942, earned him a Gold Star in lieu of a second Navy Cross. A second Gold Star was awarded him for heroism and distinguished leadership on Guadalcanal in November and December of that year.

    On March 15, 1943, the four raider battalions were placed under the control of the newly created 1st Raider Regiment, commanded by the former commander of the 3rd Raiders, Col. Harry B. Liversedge. A week later Carlson was relieved as commander of the 2nd Raiders by Lt. Col. Alan Shapley, an officer of much more orthodox thinking, and made executive officer of the 1st Raider Regiment. Within a month Shapley had reorganized the 2nd Raiders into a traditional organization, and Liversedge then standardized the organization of the four raider battalions along the lines of the 1st Raider Battalion, although all adopted the 3-fireteam squad-organization concept pioneered by Carlson, which was soon adopted by the Marine Corps as a whole.

    Later service in the Pacific
    Carlson was soon ordered back to the United States for medical treatment of malaria and jaundice, and served as a technical advisor to Walter Wanger’s Gung Ho!: The Story of Carlson’s Makin Island Raiders (released December 1943). He subsequently returned to Tarawa as an observer. In its November 1943 engagement he was cited for volunteering to carry vital information through enemy fire from an advanced post to division headquarters.

    He was wounded during the 1944 Saipan operation while attempting to rescue a wounded enlisted radioman from a front-line observation post, and was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of a second Purple Heart.

    Retirement
    Physical disability resulting from the wounds received on Saipan caused Carlson’s retirement on 1 July 1946. He was advanced to the rank of brigadier general on the retired list at that time for having been specially commended for the performance of duty in actual combat.

    On 27 May 1947, at age 51, Carlson died as the result of a cardiac ailment at Emmanuel Hospital, Portland, Oregon. He had been living in Brightwood, Oregon, since his retirement. He was survived by his wife, Mrs. Peggy Tatum Carlson, and a son by a previous marriage, Evans C. Carlson.

    General Carlson is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

  2. Curtis Narimatsu
    Curtis Narimatsu says:

    Great Marine Merritt Edson:

    Merritt A. Edson
    From Wikipedia
    Merritt Austin Edson
    April 25, 1897(1897-04-25) – August 14, 1955 (aged 58)

    “Red Mike” Edson
    Nickname Red Mike
    Place of birth Chester, Vermont
    Place of death Washington, D.C.
    Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery
    Allegiance United States of America
    Service/branch United States Marine Corps
    Years of service 1917-1947
    Rank Major General
    Unit 4th Marine Regiment
    2nd Marine Division
    Commands held 1st Marine Raider Battalion
    Battles/wars Banana Wars
    World War I
    World War II

    Guadalcanal Campaign
    Battle of Saipan
    Battle of Tinian

    Awards Medal of Honor
    Navy Cross (2)
    Silver Star
    Legion of Merit (2)
    Distinguished Service Order (United Kingdom)
    Other work Commissioner of the Vermont State Police
    Executive Director of the National Rifle Association
    Major General Merritt Austin Edson (April 25, 1897–August 14, 1955), known as “Red Mike”, was a general in the United States Marine Corps. Among his many decorations he was awarded the Medal of Honor, two Navy Crosses, the Silver Star, and two Legions of Merit. He is best known by Marines for the defense of Lunga Ridge during the Guadalcanal Campaign in World War II.

    He received a commission as a second lieutenant in the Marines in October 1917, and served in France and Germany in World War I. After the war he held several positions until going to flight school in 1922. After graduating flight school he performed several assignments in Central America and China. It was in Central America where he received his first Navy Cross and the Nicaraguan Medal of Merit with Silver Star.

    When World War II started Edson was sent as the Commanding officer of the Marine Raiders and earned his second Navy Cross on Tulagi. When his unit was sent to fight on Guadalcanal, Edson led his men in fighting for which he would later receive the Medal of Honor.

    After World War II Edson held several commands until retiring from the Marine Corps August 1, 1947. After retirement he had several jobs including the Director of the National Rifle Association but on August 14, 1955 he committed suicide and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

  3. Curtis Narimatsu
    Curtis Narimatsu says:

    Great Marine Archie Vandegrift:

    Alexander Vandegrift
    From Wikipedia
    Alexander Archer Vandegrift Sr.
    March 13, 1887(1887-03-13) – May 8, 1973 (aged 86)

    18th Commandant of the Marine Corps (1944-1947)
    Nickname Archie[1]
    Place of birth Charlottesville, Virginia
    Place of death Bethesda, Maryland
    Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery
    Allegiance United States of America
    Service/branch United States Marine Corps
    Years of service 1909-1949
    Rank General
    Commands held 1st Marine Division
    1st Marine Amphibious Corps
    Commandant of the Marine Corps
    Battles/wars Banana Wars
    *Battle of Cayotepe
    *Battle of Le Trou
    *Battle of Fort Capois
    Mexican Revolution
    *Battle of Veracruz
    World War II
    *Battle of Guadalcanal
    *Battle of Empress Augusta Bay
    Awards Medal of Honor
    Navy Cross
    Navy Distinguished Service Medal
    Légion d’honneur

    Alexander Archer Vandegrift, CB, KBE (March 13, 1887 –May 8, 1973) was a General in the United States Marine Corps. He commanded the 1st Marine Division to victory in the first ground offensive of World War II — Battle of Guadalcanal; for his actions during the Solomon Islands campaign, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. Vandegrift later served as the 18th Commandant of the Marine Corps; and was the first U.S. Marine to hold the rank of four-star general while on active duty.

  4. Curtis Narimatsu
    Curtis Narimatsu says:

    Great Marine David Shoup:

    David M. Shoup
    From Wikipedia
    General David Monroe Shoup
    December 30, 1904(1904-12-30) – January 13, 1983 (aged 78)

    22nd Commandant of the Marine Corps (1960-1963)
    Place of birth Battle Ground, Indiana
    Place of death Arlington, Virginia
    Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery
    Allegiance United States of America
    Service/branch United States Marine Corps
    Years of service 1926-1963
    Rank General
    Unit HQMC
    Commands held 2nd Marine Regiment
    Service Command, FMF, Pacific
    Basic School
    USMC Inspector General
    1st Marine Division
    3rd Marine Division
    MCRD Parris Island
    Commandant of the Marine Corps
    Battles/wars World War II
    Battle of Tarawa
    Battle of Saipan
    Battle of Tinian

    Awards Medal of Honor
    Distinguished Service Medal
    Legion of Merit (2)
    Purple Heart (2)
    General David Monroe Shoup (December 30, 1904 – January 13, 1983) was a World War II Medal of Honor recipient and the twenty-second Commandant of the United States Marine Corps (January 1, 1960–December 31, 1963). After his retirement, he was a vocal critic of the Vietnam War. He publicly supported the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) VVAW by 1971. In May 1966, he said about the building war in Vietnam:

    “ I believe if we had, and would, keep our dirty, bloody, dollar-crooked fingers out of the business of these nations so full of depressed, exploited people, they will arrive at a solution of their own. That they design and want. That they fight and work for… and not the American style, which they don’t want. Not one crammed down their throats by the Americans. ”

    This statement ties back to an assessment made by Shoup that “in every case… every senior officer that I knew… said we should never send ground forces into Southeast Asia.”

  5. Curtis Narimatsu
    Curtis Narimatsu says:

    Renowned Marine Chesty Puller:

    Chesty Puller
    From Wikipedia
    Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller
    June 26, 1898(1898-06-26) – October 11, 1971 (aged 73)

    Lieutenant General Lewis “Chesty” Puller
    Nickname “Chesty”
    Place of birth West Point, Virginia
    Place of death Hampton, Virginia
    Place of burial Christchurch Parish Cemetery Christ Church, Virginia
    Allegiance United States of America
    Service/branch United States Marine Corps
    Years of service 1918–1955
    Rank Lieutenant General
    Unit 1st Marine Division
    Commands held 2nd Battalion 4th Marines
    1st Battalion, 7th Marines
    1st Marine Regiment
    Battles/wars Banana Wars
    Occupation of Haiti
    Occupation of Nicaragua
    World War II

    Battle of Guadalcanal
    Battle of Cape Gloucester
    Battle of Peleliu
    Korean War

    Battle of Inchon
    Battle of Chosin Reservoir

    Awards Navy Cross (5)
    Distinguished Service Cross
    Silver Star
    Legion of Merit (2)
    Bronze Star
    Air Medal (3)
    Purple Heart

    Lieutenant General Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller (June 26, 1898 – October 11, 1971) was an officer in the United States Marine Corps. Puller is the most decorated U.S. Marine in history, and the only Marine to receive five Navy Crosses, the United States Navy’s and Marines’ second highest decoration after the Medal of Honor. During his career, he fought guerrillas in Haiti and Nicaragua, and participated in some of the bloodiest battles of World War II and the Korean War. Puller retired from the Marine Corps in 1955, spending the rest of his life in Virginia.

  6. Curtis Narimatsu
    Curtis Narimatsu says:

    Great Marine Holland Smith [as in Camp Smith, O’ahu]

    Holland Smith
    From Wikipedia

    Holland McTyeire Smith
    April 20, 1882(1882-04-20) – January 12, 1967 (aged 84)

    Holland Smith
    Nickname “Howlin’ Mad”
    Father of Modern Amphibious Warfare
    Place of birth Seale, Alabama
    Place of death San Diego, California
    Place of burial Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery
    Allegiance United States of America
    Service/branch United States Marine Corps
    Years of service 1905-1946
    Rank General
    Commands held Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps
    1st Marine Brigade
    1st Marine Division
    V Amphibious Corps
    Battles/wars World War I
    World War II
    Awards Distinguished Service Medal (4)
    Purple Heart
    Croix de Guerre

    General Holland McTyeire “Howlin’ Mad” Smith, KCB (April 20, 1882 – January 12, 1967) was a General in the United States Marine Corps during World War II. He is sometimes called the “father” of modern U.S. amphibious warfare.

    On the eve of World War II, General Smith directed extensive Army, Navy, and Marine amphibious training, which was a major factor in successful U.S. landings in both the Atlantic and Pacific. Later, he helped prepare U.S. Army and Canadian troops for the Kiska and Attu landings, then led the V Amphibious Corps in the assaults on the Gilberts, the Marshalls, and Saipan, and Tinian in the Marianas.

    During the Marianas operation, besides the V Amphibious Corps, he commanded all Expeditionary Troops, including those which recaptured Guam. After that, he served as the first Commanding General of Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, and headed Task Force 56 (Expeditionary Troops) at Iwo Jima, which included all the assault troops in that battle.

    Holland McTyeire Smith
    April 20, 1882(1882-04-20) – January 12, 1967 (aged 84)

    Holland Smith
    Nickname “Howlin’ Mad”
    Father of Modern Amphibious Warfare
    Place of birth Seale, Alabama
    Place of death San Diego, California
    Place of burial Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery
    Allegiance United States of America
    Service/branch United States Marine Corps
    Years of service 1905-1946
    Rank General
    Commands held Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps
    1st Marine Brigade
    1st Marine Division
    V Amphibious Corps
    Battles/wars World War I
    World War II
    Awards Distinguished Service Medal (4)
    Purple Heart
    Croix de Guerre

  7. Curtis Narimatsu
    Curtis Narimatsu says:

    Great writer William Manchester:

    Pageclot’s partial review:
    William Manchester – Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of
    the Pacific War [WWII]

    William Manchester has been an historian in the public eye since his association with John F. Kennedy, before and after his death (Portrait of a President, John F. Kennedy in Profile, before, and Death of a President, after). His most lengthy work, a biography and history of Winston Churchill, is still in progress. With biographies of H.L. Mencken and Douglas MacArthur and general histories of the United States from 1932 to 1972, (The Glory and the Dream) and the European renaissance (A World Lit only by Fire) under his belt, he is one of the most popular historians still writing today. In Goodbye Darkness, Manchester writes of his personal experiences during World War II in the Pacific theatre of operations, and the experiences of the Marines in general. Goodbye Darkness is important reading material for anyone interested in understanding the nature of the World War II American soldier. Manchester’s writing style falls about halfway between the elegance of John Keegan and the tough-guy prose of Stephen Ambrose. Flashes of both appear in Goodbye Darkness

    A childhood divided

    Manchester was the son of a World War I Marine veteran, and grew up in the shadow of what he considers one of the most charismatic people he’s ever met (and Manchester has since met most of the powerful countries’ leaders), his father. Manchester enlisted in the Marines after the bombing at Pearl Harbor, endured basic training at Parris Island, and after a brief try at officer school, was shipped out to Guadalcanal to begin his Marine career in earnest as a Non-commissioned officer, a Sergeant.

    This is Manchester’s first real opportunity to reminisce about his childhood and adolescence. There were tensions involved in being the child of a mixed marriage (Yankee father, Rebel mother). The Southern spur towards gentlemanliness conflicted with the Yankee aggression and induced paralysis in young William, making him the target for any bully who needed to show he had the right stuff. There were also tensions in being the son of a severely disabled father. In ill health and with the use of his left arm only, William’s father nevertheless provided for their small family until his death, when William was 18 and attending Amherst College.

    Even before his father’s death, William felt a tremendous affinity for the Marine Corps, the ardor of which his father tried to dampen. The mythology surrounding the Corps has been built up over time, through their performance in pivotal battles (in the Argonne forest in World War I, in the Spanish American war, and in countless minor conflicts in Central America) and due to their legendary press corps (apocrypha has it that for every fighting Marine, there were two press agents behind him, writing of his exploits). After his father’s death, William welcomed the thought of joining the Corps and subsuming his personality into the greater whole of the Marine Corps.

    It was only after his combat experience that he realized that there is no greater whole, and that the whole legend surrounding the Corps counts for very little when you’re on outpost duty on the line. Disillusionment was long in coming, however.

    Harrowing pre-war experiences

    Before going into combat, Manchester enjoyed a few brief months of relative freedom. He spent this time trying desperately to rid himself of what he considered a millstone around his neck: his virginity. Re-reading his descriptions of his two attempts to “get laid”, I am still astonished by his candor and total lack of the need to appear dignified to the public. Manchester is to blame for my occasional nightmares involving Murphy beds that won’t stay down.

    The Pacific War revisited

    To understand his own role in a part of World War II that is often overshadowed by the European conflict, Manchester visited all the major battle areas of the Pacific theatre of operations: Pearl Harbour, Guadalcanal, New Guinea, Tarawa, Peleliu, The Phillipines, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

    His brief tour of Pearl Harbor is full of wry observations. The PR film he saw seems to suggest that Pearl Harbor was actually a great victory for the Navy. But out of 176 anti-aircraft weapons, only a handful were manned and firing. Most of the Navy personnel were sleeping off hangovers. Ammunition for the AA weapons was locked away for fear that it would “get dusty”. The attack was not or shouldn’t have been a surprise for upper brass at Pearl Harbor, yet unaccountably, leave was not cancelled for Saturday night, and no special precautions were taken. Manchester’s comment was that the professionals had screwed it up, and now it was up to the civilians to pull their fat from the fire.

    His account jumps back and forth in time, from 1943-1945 to 1978 (when he visited the battlefields). His narrative usually tells us how he gets to these sometimes remote areas and then leaps back into the fray of battle, recounting a banzai charge here, an amphibious landing through a hail of bullets there. The battle scenes are gripping, showing just how close the Marines were to losing at Guadalcanal, and how that battle was pivotal to winning in New Guinea, and in turn how that turned the tide in the Pacific and put the Japanese military on the defensive.

    The waste of life on Tarawa and Peleliu is explored and deplored by Manchester, who compares the waste of life there to the Battle of the Bulge. Not exactly a fair comparison, as the Battle of the Bulge was a defensive action, and Tarawa and Peleliu offensive actions. More appropriate would be to compare it favourably to the battle for the Hurtgen forest, taken at heavy loss in a frontal attack.

    Fighting in the Pacific theatre was extremely rigorous, and Manchester does a great job of making us feel the stupefying tiredness in sitting in a ship offshore, waiting to land on a defended beach, or trying to dig a foxhole from coral, or hacking your way along the Kokoda trail in New Guinea. War is hard work. Manchester lets us know. The casual history buff will also find Manchester’s views and opinions about the Pacific conflict good reading. There are also haunting images of horror, casually referred to, like the man in his unit last seen sitting astride a tank, firing his M1 into a pillbox and happily singing:

    I’m a Brown man born, and a Brown man bred
    and when I die I’ll be a Brown man dead

    He writes also of his own demons. The nightmares that haunt him, and that have haunted him since he threw away his .45 revolver after Robert Kennedy was shot in 1968. A steady feature of his nightmares is a younger version of himself, “The Sergeant”, bitter and cynical, embodying all of Manchester’s negative qualities. As Manchester’s journey to the battlefields continues and he revisits the horrors of war once more, the Sergeant is an indicator of his growing confusion. Throughout, Manchester attempts to answer the great question, “Why?” Why did people risk their lives in these conflicts? Why did people knowingly stride up beaches to their almost certain wounding and possible death?

    It is fascinating to watch Manchester come to grips with these questions.

    Well worth your time.

  8. Curtis Narimatsu
    Curtis Narimatsu says:

    Boston Blackie Nakasato’s literal acceptance of Genesis contravenes supposed science:

    From Answers.com: But interest in geology was also stimulated by its bearing on religion. When geologists considered the rates at which geological processes like denudation and sedimentation take place, they were forced to conclude that the earth was millions of years old. How could this finding be reconciled with widely credited inferences from Old Testament history putting the age of the world at 6,000 years? And then there was the newly uncovered fossil record showing that vast stretches of time separated the first appearance on earth of the major types of plants and animals and that most of the ancient forms had become extinct before humans appeared. How could these facts be harmonized with the doctrine of the divine creation of the world in six days set forth in the book of Genesis? Benjamin Silliman Sr. and Edward Hitchcock, among other antebellum geologists, believed in the inspiration and authority of the Bible, but they were also stout champions of geology and did not want to see it succumb to biblical censorship. Certain that Genesis and geology must ultimately agree, they reconciled the two by adopting nonliteral interpretations of Scripture; Silliman, for example, subscribed to the “day-age” view, whereby the days of the Bible were interpreted as geological periods. This kind of harmonizing exegesis had an appeal for a while, but by the middle of the [19th] century it had begun to appear less convincing.

    Noah’s Flood was even easier to reconcile with geology, since it had long been invoked to explain the sculpting the earth’s crust had undergone. As suggestive as this idea was, it did not stand up to close scrutiny, and by the mid-1830s the Flood had been abandoned as a universal, geological agency by the leading geologists. Among nonspecialists, of course, these issues were not so quickly resolved, and as long as geology appeared to bear in critical ways on the truth of Scripture, it continued to interest the public.

    From the Catholic Church in England and Wales:
    “We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision”. The Bible is held to be true in passages relating to human salvation, but “We should not expect total accuracy from the Bible in other, secular matters.”

    DNA claims rebutted on Book of Mormon

    By Carrie A. Moore

    Deseret News [Deseret means honeybee]
    Published: Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2007

    Brant Gardner, a software consultant with training in Mesoamerican studies and anthropology, told about 200 people gathered at the Red Lion Hotel that a lack of DNA evidence showing American Indians are of Hebrew descent is “the most important non-issue we have in modern Mormonism.”

    Gardner said that response can be attributed to what he called “the ‘CSI’ effect,” referring to the popular TV series that depicts forensic scientists solving complicated questions about crime scenes using DNA evidence. Based on those fictional depictions, “One of the things we all know is that DNA proves pretty much everything,” when in reality, there are major limitations on what it can define about family lineage.

    Because most genetic mapping is done through mitochondrial DNA, which tracks only the female line, Gardner said the category of people excluded from being linked to a living person by genetic testing going back several generations is huge. “Most tests trace only a few of a person’s ancestors and a small portion of their DNA.”

    He also referred to what is known to researchers as a “genetic bottleneck,” where “only a few people survive” some major cataclysmic event “and we end up with only the DNA of the survivors and not the rest of the population. It’s entirely possible other people were here that had different DNA, and we can’t find it because they never made it through the ‘bottleneck event.”‘

    DNA tests also may report false positives or false negatives, he said, and there are many historical scenarios where physical evidence of things that are known to have occurred doesn’t match what researchers expected to find using DNA evidence.

    ƝɨѕhҠѡe, [from Answers.yahoo.com March 2008]
    From all the debate from how lineage X2 came over, many criticize that particular American Society of Human Genetics paper because it only makes a point that a different route isn’t needed to explain the evidence, but they point out that it doesn’t actually disprove other routes (such as that European hypothesis). That criticism also comes from non-Mormons. There is also debate, among non-Mormons, how accurate DNA molecular clock is. Many criticize it as estimating an older time than what fossils often may say.

    Now, if devout Berean Bible [sola scriptura inerrancy of Scripture] authority Boston Blackie
    literally believes in Genesis/Revelation [closed scriptural canon/revelation, not open & continuing a la LDS], then why reject at the outset Joseph Smith [LDS] based on human migration patterns as discussed above? Love is forever, –Curt

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] http://www.bigislandchronicle.com/2010/02/15/dispatches-from-curt-%e2%80%94-john-hustons-the-battle-… * May 17, 1892 Advertiser article on Wainaku Camp 2 [Nikai camp]:  “A mile and a half from Hilo, far above the Wainaku mill, there is to be found, in a green, fern-clad valley with a sparkling stream and a dashing waterfall, a complete Japanese village, with thatched roofs and bamboo walls for its homes.  Few strangers know of its existence, but it is to my eye [Thomas L. Gulick] the most picturesque and unique cluster of dwellings in the Hawaiian isles.  Many of the doors of the cottages are shaded by luxuriant banana trees, bearing bunches weighing from sixty to seventy pounds.  The hamlet is swarming with rosy babes and smiling young mothers.  All look healthy, contented, and happy.  Mr. Furneaux has some very artistic photographs of this Arcadian village.”  Little does the writer know of the abject subjugation of the Japanese immigrants under these conditions.  From the Advertiser July 24, 1895:  “During Monday afternoon the 15th, the Japanese camp at Wainaku was completely destroyed by fire.  The village consisted of fifty or sixty thatched houses fashioned from bamboo and cane leaves which formerly had been often pointed out to tourists as one of the most picturesque sights in Hilo.  To rebuild, the new dwellings will be constructed of prosaic northwest lumber.”  My Dad’s parents first arrived/immigrated  to Nikai camp, which was in the gulch next to today’s Wainaku Camp 2 park grounds, which today is like a Brazilian rain forest/jungle.  Nikai camp nestles up to Maile stream [Nikai stream].  –Curt […]

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