Activation and Growing Pains
C-1-23 was born on July 22,1942. It was formed by 58 enlisted men that officially had been in H & S Co., 23rd Marines for the two days preceding; the regiment itself having just been born. Actually, these 58 men had just crossed the U.S. from Camp Elliot, California, having been split off from C-1-9, 2nd Marine Division. When we arrived in North Carolina on July 20, 1942, we were sent to "Tent City" near Jacksonville. The name "Camp LeJeune" was not in use yet, and I believe our site is now called Camp Geiger. The first Muster Roll for "C" Company was from July 22 to July 31, 1942 entitled "Company "C", First Battalion, 23rd Marines (Reinforced), FMF, NRTC (New River Training Center), New River, North Carolina." Note there is no 4th Division yet!
The 23rd Regiment was commanded initially by Lt. Col. Onley, and after September 2, 1942 by Colonel Louis R. (Cigar Smoking) Jones. Col. Jones remained our regimental commander until October 1944, after our third battle - Tinian.
In addition to the 58 men of "C" Company, there were seven other enlisted men in the 1st Battalion that had come from the Ninth Marines who were in "D" Company. They became "C" Company men after the battle of Roi Island two years later, when heavy weapons companies were absorbed into the infantry rifle companies (except for the 81mm mortar platoon which went to Battalion Headquarters Company.) Also one man - Corporal Charles C. Killian - was in "B" Company and later became 1st Sergeant of "C" Company just before we went overseas, in January 1944.
Our first 1st Sergeant was waiting for us in New River - Sgt. Edward C. Poirier, known as "May Rue" - but that's an insider's joke. "May Rue" had become the 1st Battalion Sergeant Major by the time we went overseas.
Two officers are on the July 1942 Muster Roll for "C" Company, although I do not remember seeing them in person for about a month or so: 2nd Lt. Eberhardt, Fred C., and 2nd Lt. Goulet, Norman D. Lt. Goulet was only with us a few months.
Approximately thirty-two of the above original men were still in C-1-23, or the battalion, eighteen months later as we left the states for the shooting war. About half of our original sixty-nine men had been transferred to C-1-25 in April 1943, by another split-up, to form the 25th Marines. We lost track of most of these men, even with Rowland Lewis' diligent search methods on his computer. Some could still be alive.
We know a few stories about the 25th - originally 23rd - originally 9th Marines men. Carl Gray went to OCS, became a 2nd "Looey", but unknown history after that. Slim Harrison threw himself on a Japanese grenade on Saipan to save a few buddies. The grenade went "poof!" - it was a dud. Dan Kinnally was the hero of a book called "The Assault", by Allen R. Matthews, written in 1956 about the exploits of C-1-25 on Iwo Jima. Several men became paratroopers, but we lost track of them afterwards. Stan Jankun transferred to a unit then in combat, in early 1943. He was immediately killed in action. Stan was the only man I knew in the war that was positive he would not be KIA and would return, and boasted of this many times. Bill "Willie" Boudrie had the words "Cut on dotted line" tattooed on his chest/neck with the dotted line encircling all around the lower neck. He survived the war.
The following note is on the cover page of the July 1942 muster:
Notes: Company "C", First Battalion, 23rd Marines (Reinforced), FMF, MB, NRTC, New River, North Carolina, organized 22,July, 1942. Auth 23rd Marines, FMF, (Reinforced), Regimental General Order No. 1, dated 22 July 1942. All enlisted men whose names appear hereon, unless otherwise stated in column REMARKS performed general duty from 22-31, July, 1942.
Of the 32 remaining (when we went to the shooting war in January, 1944) original C-1-23 men, five were later killed in action.
One man, Alex Tappa, was killed in an accident in North Carolina on March 20, 1943. Seven men have died in the 1989-1998 era. Five were wounded twice and ten were wounded once. Five endured all four battles without getting hit: Gordon Kraft, Lloyd Givens, John Seymour, Earl Wacaster and George Ritchie. A few were transferred elsewhere. The total above is more than 32 because some are in multiple categories. Only four are known to be alive today (February 1999): they include Rowland Lewis (who owns this website), George Anderson, Bill Smith, and John Seymour (Author of this History). John's only claim to fame is that he is the only original "C" Company man alive today in 2003 that was never hit - (enough to count.)
Our training as a rifle company at Tent City began with a few old salt NCO's as instructors. Very few officers were in evidence in our entire first battalion. Our acting battalion commander was Major William Via. It was hot in New River, but fortunately there was plenty of beer available. On one of the early weekends a particularly large beer blast was proceeding nicely, when unbeknown to us, the first officer assigned to "C" Company arrived in camp. 2nd Lt. Fred C. Eberhardt was assigned to be Commanding Officer. He found 60 percent of his command sprawled on the ground passed out, and two were in the brig for drunkenness, AWOL, and attempted suicide. They had a few beers, tried to sneak into Jacksonville via a railroad trestle and fell off into New River. Fred realized immediately that he had taken over an upright dynamic bunch of men. Photographs of this infamous weekend are still available at $1000 per copy. John Seymour had a pass that weekend and was in Raleigh, N.C. visiting his brother and missed all the fun. What a great Lost Weekend!
In August 1942, the Muster Roll lists seventy persons plus three officers in "C" Company, (a 2nd Lt. Jake Harshbarger joined us from Headquarters Company) plus ten from other companies in the battalion that were later joined to "C" Company. However, only two names can be added to the final departure list. They were PFC William (Pappy) Parker, and PFC Paul Dupuis. The acting battalion commander at the end of August was still Major Via.
In October 1942, Lt. Goulet disappears from the "C" Company rolls and 2nd Lt. Stan (Champ) McDaniel appears in "C" Company and 2nd Lt. James E. Tobin appears in HQ Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marines. Also appearing in "C" Company are 2nd Lt. Roy Hjelm, 2nd Lt. Edward Swan, and 2nd Lt. Charles Zulick, in January 1943.
In January 1943 we have 170 enlisted men and six officers, plus at least twelve men from "D" Company and other 1st Battalion companies who later joined Charlie Company. Some of the "D" Company records are missing from the National Archives.
We had one man declared as a deserter as of August 21, - a Pvt. F.W. Kenny, who apparently never got on the train in California, or never got off in New River on July 20, 1942.
January 1943 will not be easily forgotten by anyone who was with us. Our Battalion went on "maneuvers" in the Chesapeake Bay, aboard the USS Calvert, to practice assault landings and disembarking to Higgins boats and reboarding. The official note on the Muster Roll for January 1943 is as follows: (Note: we are now "Camp LeJeune".)
09. Departed Camp LeJeune , New River, N.C.
10. arr. Norfolk, Va., and emb aboard USS Calvert
11. sailed fr. Norfolk, Va.
25. arr and disemb Norfolk, Va., and departed therefrom
27. arr Camp Lejeune, New River, N.C.
(Auth: Ltr fr CO dated 15Feb43. Confidential.)
It so happened during our 16 days at sea that the weather was abominable. Although hard to imagine, the author still feels the Chesapeake Bay was the roughest sea he ever experienced, with six to nine months total sea time over the next three years. Climbing down or up the rope nets with the Higgins boats (Amtracs were not yet available) rising and falling with forty foot sea swells was not a picnic. We learned in a hurry to let go instantly as the Higgins boat reached the crest of the swell. If you released a fraction of a second too late you could fall forty feet into the Higgins boat. If you climbed down too far, the boat would rise to swat you in the keister and knock you off the net. That was the better choice - at least you were in the boat, not falling. Reboarding was slightly different. You had to grab the net at the top of the swell and climb five to six feet immediately or the next swell would raise the boat up to swat you. I also learned during these exercises that a waterproof belt was a great thing to have, unless it got wet. I lost some "valuables". Our practice landings were made on Solomon Island and as Russ Gross observed, it was "colder than hell". We agree that it was cold, although we don't know how cold it is in "hell". Another footnote to that history, in later years Rowland Lewis had a fishing boat on the Chesapeake Bay and often went fishing in the vicinity of Solomon Island. However, he had learned his lesson, he didn't go in January.
The Chesapeake training was not all misery. When we returned to Norfolk, the Brass gave us "Liberty" in Norfolk - until 6 p.m. That was because Norfolk rolled up the sidewalks at 6 p.m. anyway - not even a drugstore remained open. Most of us were broke as a payday (the 15th) had passed us by while aboard ship, but they gave us - each and every man - ten dollars in two-dollar bills. There was not too much to spend it on in Norfolk, but I believe there are still remnants of those two-dollar bills floating around there. (Ten dollars would have bought much more than a hundred dollars today.)
Also in January 1943, our company commander, 2nd Lt. Fred C. Eberhardt, was promoted to 1st Lt., effective Dec. 31, 1942, and resigned from the reserves to accept his new commission as a regular.
Back at Tent city, John Butchko's first attempt to throw a grenade for distance went ninety-two yards. He could easily later break the one hundred yard mark.
Squad leaders in January '43 were Giles, Givens, Harrison, Lyons, Moore, Seymour, Wright, Baker, Burns, Grant, Jakun, Kinnally and Young. Alex Tappa was a mortar section chief. All of us were designated as "acting", as no one had yet been actually promoted to Corporal. Everyone's favorite Battalion commander, Lt. Col. David K. Claude, appears on the January 1943 Muster. (Actual date he was assigned to us should be available soon.) February 1943 Muster Roll is not yet available.
The March 1943 Muster Roll lists 212 men and eight officers in "Charlie" Company, at the end of the month. Also another eleven men and one officer were in the other Battalion companies that later joined "C" Company.
The first of two unwelcome (and short-lived) changes of command occurred on the 10th of March. A Captain Victor Bisceglia joined us as company commander. He was a Washington desk Marine that actually did not know his left foot from his right. He had a small mustache that constantly twitched - earning him the undercover name of "Felix". The gloom that was rampant among the men was easy to see. We did not wish to go to war with an idiot "leader". (Our other officers tried valiantly to hide their disappointment, but they really couldn't.)
Although I do not (yet) have the April 1943 Muster, "Felix" does not appear anywhere on the Battalion Muster of May 1943, nor did we ever hear from him again. I don't know for sure, but believe Lt. Col. Claude shipped him back to Washington, among his own kind. "Captain" Fred resumed command for a while.
A tragedy occurred on March 20, 1943. Alex Tappa was walking back to camp after a night in Jacksonville on Liberty. A car on the road hit him and he died almost immediately. Corp. Dan Kinnally was temporarily detached to escort the remains to Lakewood, Wisconsin. Alex was very well liked and an excellent Mortar Section chief.
Incidentals of some interest that occurred in March '43:
Sergeant Kraft was promoted to Platoon Sergeant.
Lloyd Givens was temporarily detached as an instructor at the post Infantry Weapons school.
A few unnamed men (still alive) were in the Brig for being "under the influence of intoxicating liquor in Jacksonville, N.C., …and willfully and maliciously destroying property". Times don't really change.
2nd Lt. Garfield M. Randall is on the Muster. (Having joined us on February 23.)
George Anderson went to the Regimental Ordinance school for ten days.
Bob Ellis and Bob Fletcher joined "C" Company from the Infantry Weapons school.
Lou Klins went to Scout/Snipers school - also Ray Parnitzke.
Charlie Chibookian joined us from a "School Battalion"?
George Powers, who was in my squad, was assigned the title of Truck Driver - I never knew we ever had a truck in Charlie Company. (-until Saipan; a Japanese truck.)
A Pvt. Montgomery, Paul R., and Pvt. Taylor, Wayne B. were declared Deserters.
In addition to "Felix" and Captain Eberhardt the other officers on board were:
1st Lt. Jake Harshbarger
2nd Lt. Roy Hjelm
2nd Lt. Stan McDaniel
2nd Lt. Garfield (Randy) Randall
2nd Lt. Ed Swan
2nd Lt. James E. Tobin
Two officers were transferred out of "C" Company on March 29; 2nd Lt. William Robertson and 2nd Lt. Martin Scheid. One 2nd Lt., John Shaw, joined us on the first of March and transferred out on the 29th.
In early 1943 or late 1942, before the split-up in April '43 to form the 25th Regiment, Moses Iadanza, in my squad, was the designated Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) man. Moe loved the weapon and took great care of it. Moe had immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 12, with an older brother. One of his parents died just before leaving Italy and the other died on the way over. His brother and Moe eked out a living during the depression days in the 1930's by selling newspapers in Summit, New Jersey. Moe loved his adopted country and joined the Marines in early 1942. After boot camp he was sent to C-1-23 and became my BAR man.
Moe was not big in physical stature. Our Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Claude was also small in physical stature. After one particular inspection, Col. Claude called his four company commanders to task for assigning some BARs to smaller men, and we were to change this condition immediately. Accordingly, "Captain" Eberhardt called several of his guilty squad leaders, including myself, into the office and told us to change our BAR men to bigger men. (It really was a heavy rifle weighing 18.5 pounds as opposed to the M1 Rifle which weighed 9.5 pounds. The BAR could be fired selectively, either fully automatic or semi-automatic.) Knowing how Moe loved the BAR, I attempted to ask for an exception, but was cut short with a resounding "No!".
I walked back to our squad hut (deciding on the way not to point the blame at our officers) and simply told Moe that he was no longer BAR man, and to give it to someone whose name I no longer remember.
Moe did not say a word, but several minutes passed by and he simply walked out the door. About a half hour later, I was summoned to the company office. As I entered the office, I was greeted by Captain Fred with these words: "FOR GOD'S SAKE SEYMOUR GIVE HIM BACK HIS B.A.R.!!" I did! I do not know, nor did I ever ask what was said between them, but damn few men of any rank ever bested Fred C. Eberhardt; Moe was some Marine! The "rest of the story" about Moses Iadanza will be in the Saipan chapter.
Another identity, which had been with us for many months until the 23rd/25th split up in April 1943, was Susie. Susie joined us in the Fall of 1942. She was obviously not a puppy, but a small (14-18" high) mature dog, a black and white "pure bred mongrel". She attached herself to C-1-23, especially to Bill Boudrie. She went everywhere with us - even on the trucks on our special training outings and bivouacs. I remember, and have pictures of - at least one large litter of pups, and I think there were more. I also have pictures of various individuals such as Earl Moore, Angus MacCorquodale, Bill Wetten holding pups, and a nice picture of Dan Kinnally with Susie. One of the pups, named Budweiser, joined us on hikes as Susie did, but a truck on the highway got him. The rest of the pups were given to other companies, etc. Susie was friendly with all Marines. However, she had a distinct aversion to people in civilian clothes. The sight of someone in civilian clothes would cause the hackles to rise on her back and she would growl and bark at the person.
We lost Susie to the 25th Marines (and Willie Boudrie) during the April split. We heard the rest of this story later. The 25th went to the west coast in August/September via troop transport through the Panama Canal. As they were attempting to take Susie aboard in Norfolk, the naval captain refused her permission to board. Thereupon the 25th Marines Regimental Commander (whose name we can't recall) called a full formation and "commissioned" Susie a Corporal in the United States Marine Corp. Susie went through the canal! Both the webmaster and the author remember that we were told that, one night on Maui, Susie curled up and died at the movies behind Willie Boudrie's sandbag seat. Thats as much as we know, but we would welcome conflicting memories.
Although I have forgotten the month, while still on the East coast, our company (Battalion?) was trucked to Onslow Beach where we all spread out amid the sand dunes looking out to sea. Our purpose was target shooting a "white sheet" towed by a Navy seaplane plane of the type used as spotter planes on battleships. After several passes, the plane aborted by making a "pancake" landing parallel to the shore, but in the surf. It did a nose flip into the breakers. We were told that one or more stray rounds hit the plane causing it to crash. Our understanding later was that the pilot was not seriously hurt. We never had that type of training again! - And we were never told how many holes were in the target or the plane? It is amazing what a 30 cal. will do.
Speaking of Onslow Beach, some of the men had some temporary guard duty patrolling the beach at about this same time. The newspapers were full of a story that eight German saboteurs who came ashore in a rubber boat from a German submarine landing on Long Island June 12, 1942. All eight were captured, but we patrolled the beach on the New River reservation for several weeks to calm some National jitters that Germany would land more saboteurs on the Atlantic coast. We believe there were also many other military personnel assigned to patrol beaches along the Atlantic seaboard for some period of time.
The following was gleaned from searching through old news articles on the Internet:
On August 8th, 1942 six of the eight would be German saboteurs caught in the bungled German sabotage attempt were executed shortly after noon in the federal electric chair. Two of them, George John Dasch, who had testified for the government in the trial, had their sentences commuted. John Dasch got 30 years, his partner, Ernest Burger, was sentenced to life.
In 1948, the two would be saboteurs not executed were deported to Germany, after five years and eight months in prison. Burger gave an interview blasting Dasch for causing the deaths of their six colleagues. Dasch, vilified in Germany as a traitor, tried to get a pardon from Washington and to return to the US. He failed in both. In 1959, he wrote his version of events in a book that sold poorly.
As a result of all this, Company C members spent many lonely nights walking the beach. We would be assigned to patrol several hundred yards of beach being alert for German spies or saboteurs. We were to challenge intruders and were given a sign counter sign routine to follow. Each sentry was alone except when the Officer of the Day or the Sergeant of the Guard came around or when we met another sentry at one end or the other of our assigned post. No one saw any German spies or anyone else for that matter. Eventually we were relieved from the duty since it was adversely affecting our training mission.
In May, 1943 while still at Tent City, "C" Company went on a Bivouac. The company size was down to 120 men, having just split apart to form the 25th. I became Asst. Property Sgt. and in June, Property Sgt. One morning, on Bivouac, Leo Simpkins, our field cook, and I and the jeep driver (Malcom Eisman, KIA-Saipan) returned to Main camp to get food for the Company's mid day and evening meal. At the galley, both the mess sergeant and the mess officer were quite busy and told Leo to take whatever he wanted. (The jeep had a trailer.) I still remember the best meal ever in the corps, out in the "boonies" that night! Among other (forgotten) items, we took a side of beef - steaks for everyone! I can still taste them!
Another memorable Tent City meal was a noonday meal of delicious ham (temporarily), the first and only time I remember cured ham in the corps (doesn't count Spam). "C" Company had a hike scheduled for the afternoon. About a half-hour into the hike several men got violently sick. - Then a few more! Then a few more! We headed back to camp, reaching base with only a handful that were not sick. The sickness was camp-wide. Many went to the hospital for various lengths of time. Rumors, unconfirmed, reached us later that several had died, but I don't know for sure. The situation was made worse by the fact that most of the medical personnel were just as sick as everyone else.
LtCol. Claude interviewed every man still standing. It was laid to the ham. If you read this and were there, let us know if you were sick or lucky. I was lucky - ate three helpings of the ham?? However, I had my comeuppance several months earlier - stole a gallon can of pears from the galley and proceeded to eat the entire gallon by myself. Then spent the next 18 hours groaning while perched upon the throne. I still won't eat canned pears!
During the final months at Tent City, the East Coast Camp, (we rarely called it Camp LeJeune because the main camp was 20 miles from us, with barracks, and all that good stuff) there were a series of regimental technical schools, each lasting about two weeks. Only several from each company attended each school, but there were many schools. I will try to amend this part when further Muster Rolls arrive, to list those in attendance at each (Sorry! - Attendance was not recorded in the Muster Rolls). The top performers were awarded a four-day furlough
Our second short-lived change of command came in May 1943. Captain John Roberts joined us from "D" Company, where he had been since March, and took over as C.O. This Author had gone into the Property Sgt. business and had almost no direct personal contact with him, but nobody cared for him. My impression was that he was a buffoon. (Jim Tobin's letter describes an incident about "Captain Smith" illustrating this. [Click here to read Jim Tobin's letter]. He was transferred to another company in August and out of the battalion before we went overseas. "Goodbye! Good luck! - And don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out!" (There are several other "New River" items in Jim Tobin's letter that are really excellent.)
"Liberty" during our year at Tent City was reasonably frequent but not too many places to go. Jacksonville had a few bars and liquor stores but not much else. Restaurants were scarce and generally sleazy. I had to talk one man in my squad out of attempting to marry a barmaid at the dive outside the camp gate. I only won the argument because she married someone else! (She was 14 years old.) My man went to the 25th Marines and might be alive, so no names.
The only other hangout possible to reach and return on a liberty pass was Kingston, N.C. - very famous for its numerous (1942) red light houses. Both Rowland and myself disclaim any knowledge of details of the area, but I understand (not confirmed) that Capt. Eberhardt had to persuade one man not to marry one of the girls! 'Nuff said!
Furloughs were really scarce. I had a total of 13 days in 45 months - the longest being 4 days. Got home for a day and a half twice. Rowland went with me once and Tex Hughes once. (We would like some other furlough tales from you fellows who are still active.) Trying to catch a train from Rocky Mount to Washington, D.C. was an awful experience. Once the train would not even stop. Five of us, Carl Gray, I forget the others - probably Woody Humphreys, etc. paid (illegally) a cabby $75 to take us to D.C. That was almost a month's pay for each - $15 each. We all tried to cram the limited time. When Tex Hughes went home with me, I arranged a date with two beautiful young ladies from my high school class. We went to the movies in Philadelphia. Tex and I promptly fell asleep, before the show started. The girls were somewhat miffed!
The July 1943 muster roll states "Unless otherwise stated in remarks, all men whose names appear hereon embarked aboard train at Camp LeJeune, New River N. C., 6 July 43; 6 - 11, enroute; 12, arrived and disembarked at Camp Joseph H. Pendleton, Oceanside, California." There were a total of 110 men and officers in "C" Copmpany on July 31, 1943.
All Muster Rolls from July 1942 until August 1943 do not have a Division notation. The 23rd Marines had been activated on July 20, 1942 as part of the Third Division, although it was known that we would be part of a new Division. Since "4" generally follows "3" we all knew we would be part of the Fourth Division. We were detached from the Third Division on February 15, 1943 and assigned to the new Division. The 24th Marines were activated in March of 1943. In April/May, the 23rd was split to form the 25th. Both the 23rd and 25th were on the East coast with the 14th Marines (artillery) and some support units, while the 24th and other support units were at Camp Pendleton. In July, 1943, the 23rd went by train to Camp Pendleton and the support units followed in August. The 25th followed in late August - September by ship through the Panama Canal. The Fourth Marine Division was formally activated at Camp Pendleton on August 16, 1943, under the command of Brigadier General Underhill. Two days later Major General Harry Schmidt took over and remained our Commanding General until after Saipan was secured. All units were together at Pendleton by September.