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World War II veteran of 2nd Marine Division recalls Tarawa, family's service

I was living in Fairfield, Conn., when World War II broke out. I enlisted in the Marine Corps in August 1942, and was soon followed by two brothers and a sister.

My brother Bernard joined the Army and fought in France and Germany. My brother Harry joined the Navy. A kamikaze pilot sunk his ship. His shipmates were rescued by a sister minesweeper, and a kamikaze pilot hit that ship but did not sink it.

My sister, Ruth, joined Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES).

My father, Harry, fought in France in World War I, and my son, Timmy, was appointed to the Air Force Academy during the Vietnam War. But we are not really a military family, as we were all honorably discharged after the wars.

I enlisted at 19. Everybody was joining and I went right with them. I served in the 2nd Marine Division. There was a priority to take islands with air strips from the Japanese to shorten bombing runs to Japan. Our first invasion: the Ellice Islands. We took few casualties in our landings and subsequent bombing raids.

From there, we were scheduled to take the well-fortified island of Tarawa. This was a battle of complete death and destruction. I walked across dead bodies in the surf and on the shore - 18- and 19-year-old Marines like myself. One thousand dead and 2,000 wounded in 76 hours of hell.

My stomach is knotting up as I write this. It is something I will never forget; although never isn't that far away. I am 91.

Our next battles were Saipan and Tinian. Two more islands gained, many Marines lost.

I received the Presidential Unit Citation and two battle stars. After the war, I went to work for AT&T Telephone Company, and there I met my future wife, Margaret, who was a telephone operator. It's hard to believe how it was back in 1945: dozens of women operators were all sitting in rows at a huge switchboard, plugging in each call.

Margaret and I were married in 1948, and 67 years later we are still married. "One man, one wife, one love through life" - good words. We moved to California to be near our son. While living there, my wife bought a small gift shop and I got a real estate license. I also became involved in politics as a campaign manager for three selectmen and two mayors. Golf was my hobby then; helping with the dishes is my hobby now.

Our daughter moved to Oklahoma to be near her husband. The power of wife and daughter persuaded me to move from the shores of the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific beaches to the four-season state of Oklahoma in the middle.

Branch of Service:
Marines

Submitted by:
Wallace Reynolds

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