I am going to try and set down as many of the events that happened to me, from “boot camp up to the present. Of course, hundreds of things will have to be left out due to loss of memory, and other unavoidable circumstances.
To start with, I was a foot-loose vagabond before enlisting in the Marine Corps. I have tried my hand at doing nearly every thing, and succeeded at nothing. Simply because it never held any interest enough for me to continue it. Following is the things I’ve did and tried . All interesting while it lasted.
Ran away from home at 10 years of age. Burned a barn down at 3 years of age, with brother Stanley. Held janitor job in the 8th grade, 14 years old. In high school was on track team (mile), vice president of Dramatics Club, Editor-in-Chief of high school annual. In senior play, in band, Boys Glee Club, Mixed Chorus, Boys Quartet, Pep Squad, French Horn Trio, and was on NYA. Graduated out of 12th grade in three years, age 17.
Joined C.C.C.’s for fourteen months, served as Assistant Educational Advisor, Forest Service Clerk, Drove caterpillars and operated jackhammer. Did timber work, planted pine trees, studied map reading, blue-prints, organized a revolt in camp and a Forest Service Foreman. Learned photography and developed enlarged and printed for the camp. Was noted as assistant leader. Got honorable discharge to accept outside employment.
Was superintendent of Sunday School, and was president of B.Y.P.W., sang in choir, quartet of the church.
Was salesman for Kansas City Brokers. Sold house hold items, everything from fly spray to cosmetics.
Drove tractors one summer long. All night work in Kansas.
I’ve been over nearly all states in Union by riding freights.
Went to Detroit and worked as a truck driver, store room clerk, worked for Fordson Hotel in Dearborne, Mich., as bellboy and trouble shooter. Worked for Woolverine, Mfg., and Fabricating Co. Left there to enter service. Becoming too fond of wine, women, and song made good money, but night clubs got most of it. Wasn’t getting anywhere, so enlisted.
I enlisted with Raymond Rion, home town friend. Had quite a time in Boot Camp. I joined to fight, and was put blowing a bugle. There is a right way, and Marine Corps Way, naturally it’s easy to see which way we go.
As the Marine Corps as a whole, I’m pretty damn proud of it. I think no other service equals it, but not because I’m a member. But there are some stupid pig-headed officers who would rather regard their bars as tin Gods, rather than one-half of the Marine Corps they are. I’m glad they are in the minority. But just one can be enough hell.
At last the great day comes,
After tons of scuttlebutt, calculations, hard training, landing maneuvers, after drawing all equipment we were shoving off.
I was on board B train, with Lacy for the cross-continent trip of better than 4,000 miles, due to zig-zagging of troop trains. We wasn’t told San Francisco was the point of embarkation, suppose to be a secret My Lieutenant wrote the name on paper and “accidentally” dropped it in front of us. San Francisco it was.
It was hard to leave Raymond Rion back there when we pulled out of New River. I knew he wanted to go as badly as I did. And I figured that it was the last time I would see him. He figured the same I suppose. After boarding the Pullmans, one man to a seat and berth, we stored away all of our gear and leaned out the windows for a last look. There was no girl friends or any of our folks because of military secrecy, only buddies in other outfits. The band was playing “Fighting First Marines,” ”Over the Hill, “Lets Go Men” and just as the train whistled a long blast, they broke into the “Marines Hymn” until we gathered speed and left them behind. Officers and enlisted alike behind were waving and hollering at the top of their voices.
I suppose the first 6 hours of that train ride we did more thinking about home, friends, everything than we ever diid.
We zig zaged through the states, had a swell time, seeing all the sights, reading, etc. We went through N.C., S.C., Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona into California.
We got off of train immediately into buses to the docks and aboard the U.S.S.. Erickson. Use to be the pride of the Swedish Merchant Marine then named the “Kungsholm.” We slept aboard one night, and was lost most the time trying to find our way around her as she was an enormous ship. The next day we went aboard the U.S.S. George F. Elliott, formerly the “City of San Francisco.” This was our home until landing on Guadalcanal.
We went on liberty from her every night until we left. Went to Oakland, Berkley, and San Francisco mostly. Famous hang outs was U.S.O., Club Shanghai, Club Shang LaRoy, Hurricane Club and the “Jade Dragon” in China town.
At last - All liberty was canceled. We weighed anchor, sailed under the Oakland Bay bridge and past and around Alcatraz Island, under the Golden Gate Bridge into the sea. All in a small convoy of about 13 ships. We only had one tin can (Destroyer) to guard us.
We watched land recede far behind us, until it was out of sight. We was ‘sure’ that it was the last we would see of the U.S. Then we all got the word that we were bound for New Zealand first. Slips of paper describing the country, people, and type of money were passed around.
Before two hours passed, we hit rough weather, and sailors as well as marines were green in the face, hanging over the side puking. I never really ever felt completely well any time aboard ship. But I never heaved yet - cause of sea sickness.
On board, two decks down our hold was rather small and cramped. Some bunks were 5 on top each other, mostly four. You had to slide side-ways to get in them. Everywhere we went we wore “Kapok” life preservers. Slept on them. We had “General Quarters” daily, as well as gun watches 24 hours a day. We were very lucky (I later found out) in having 3 meals daily. The accommodations were so small, usually you ate one meal and fell into the rear of another chow line for the next meal, time you ate. You weren’t allowed to stay below decks in your quarters, you couldn’t lean on the rail, couldn’t go aft, couldn’t go forward, couldn’t sit on life rafts or equipment, couldn’t go in Wardroom Country, couldn’t go topside to sun deck, couldn’t do nothing but sit on steel deck and read. Sit - not lie down for there wasn’t enough room. Then every 15 minutes the swab jockeys came through swabbing down the decks with hoses. Such was the life aboard most any transport. Guys would sing, shoot craps, play poker, blackjack, cribbage - most anything to occupy time and mind.
Several days and night passed until the first land was sighted. Everyone deserted their jobs on the ship over to go topside for a glimpse of land. We sailed all morning long with the land to our starboard side. Occasionally we would catch sight of Artisan boiling wells. The land looked strange and sort of queer. Started boarding at last in mist of fog and rain. We entered the harbor at Wellington. We were met by tugs and a pilot at the entrance. I was on top of a pile of landing boats, others were hanging from ropes, cables, tops of gun turrets, anywhere to see everything to be seen. We entered the harbor and sailed around an island in the middle. Finally we docked. The buildings were tan English style. Straight and prim looking. The highest one was 12 stories high.
At last I finally got my first liberty.
We fairly had some time. Catching “trams” (street cars), catching on to the English money, trying to understand their talk. Too much hard liquor there, warm beer and plenty of ‘milk bars’ or confectionery mostly.
I, Red O’Hara, Jack Hughes decided to have us ‘tea and crumpets’ a favorite with the Zealanders. We went in, and when the waitress came around, all three felt so foolish that after a few minutes Red finally ordered it. Felt like ordering some women’s pants or brassiere or something similar. Girls didn’t know how to Jitterbug when we landed - but about an hour afterward, they were all trying it..
Boys curled their hair, and wore corsets, both boys and girls had complete sets of false teeth at 18-21 years of age, due to lack of minerals in their water there.
People were all very, very friendly. Especially the girls. The girls there are very hot natured, and they are frank in their intentions.
Red and I were sitting with two once, at a dance, when one made the remark that she “sure was all knocked up.” Red looked at me, and I looked at him; we both looked at the girls, finally acted like we never noticed it. Later on one of them asked the other how much she had been screwed that evening. That was too much for Red - (he) haw-hawed out. Both girls looked at us in surprise. I knew then they were referring to something else, from what Red and I thought.
I asked them if they knew what that was in our American slang - they didn’t - and I plainly told them. They were very much embarrassed, but said they were glad I told them so they would watch what they say around any more Marines.
The two weeks there - I worked the hardest I ever did in my life. Combat loading ships. Finally one day, we slipped out again into the sea, all primed for action. We still didn’t know where we was going. After a zig-zag course, we arrived at Coral Island in the Fiji’s, and had 3 days landing maneuvers there. Then we sailed again. One day later our task force joined us, and we were told Guadalcanal was our destination.
Then we started preparing right. Sharpened bayonets, cleaned our rifles all day long,, packed and repacked our combat packs, so’s to have the right things, and just the right amount. Our knives were like razors. Every one wrote last letters and gave them to sailors to take back for them.
Finally, the night before, Colonel Cates, our battalion commander, made a speech over the loud speaker of the ship. Lot of bull shit. About how we were picked to start the first American offensive in this war, that Marines were picked to do it - etc., so on. The whole group sang Marines Hymn, which did help to settle nerves.
Everyone made a last check and went to bed. Every minute we were looking for a bombing or torpedo attack. 2:30 next morning guys were up without being woke, some hadn’t slept all night. We had 2 eggs; boiled, two apples, cup of hot Joe, for breakfast. As we received this, the sailors wished us good luck, and said not to come back for more unless we each had at least two pair of Jap ears.
We put on packs and stood by, waiting for hell to break loose. We were slipping by all the Islands undetected so far. Our faces were all black from cork. Each man had a belt full of ammunition, and two bandoliers more around his shoulders. Some of us had 2 hand grenades apiece.
As the hour (H hour) approached, you could see a lot of them nervous, some were in corners praying, some were shaking hands with buddies who were not in the same wave as they were.
At last we heard a plane motor. Then immediately everything opened up. It was a Jap observation sea plane. Our anti-aircraft guns opened up. Everything was a huge roar. We heard the loud speaker say “Stand by!” finally up we went, soon as I cleared the hatch, I started looking around. Everywhere it was kind of dark, just was getting gray in the east. Planes in the sky were shooting everywhere.
On Guadalcanal I saw smoke pouring high in the air. Dive bombers were bombing all over one big continual roar. I caught all of this in a glance. We had an hour’s ride ahead of us in the Higgins boats. We was over the side down the nets like rats pouring out of a hole. Machine guns were lowered to us, as well as ammunitions. We rendezvous in a circle with other boats of our wave, and then off we took for shore at top speed. Holman, Kahle, Myers, Lacey, Captain Fergerson, Lt. Licktman (sp?), Graham, were in the command boat with me. We ducked our heads low and waited.
We passed our battlewagons on all sides of us. They were some sight to see. They would throw broadside after broadside into the Japs. Flame and smoke would shoot out a hundred feet. They would slide sideways after firing. Most all were brown from powder smoke.
Finally the barrage stopped. We were getting close to shore. Finally our boat hit sand. We were up and over the side. The top kick jumped off the rear into water over his head. All of us grabbed two boxes of machine gun belts and ran under cover. We had landed.
We were bombed in about 2 1/2 hours afterward. Then again later. Later my battalion’ mission was to circle back of Henderson Field and come in and capture it. We went behind it all right, but the 5th Marines had found no opposition, so they went on down the beach and took it. The Japs ran like hell, left breakfast and everything on the table.
We later sat up beach defenses and along the Lenora River on August 20, about 11:30 at night, the Japs came in off cruisers and destroyers in high speed landing boats and together with their forces who came out of the hill attacked the Lenora front. My company’s machine guns were all up and down the River.
The Japs were crack Imperial Black Dragon Troops, Japan’s finest landing forces. We found out they had made 16 successful landings before then, on Wake Islands, Timor, Philippines, in China, and other places. Anyway, the Lenora battle was the first major land battle in this war by Marines in the Solomons. In two days battle we killed 1462 Japs by actual count. We lost 28 men and 72 wounded. Japs were stacked up 3 to 5 deep on the beach, with their guts, arms, heads, everything all over the beach.
We buried 300 of them in one hole. Dynamited out. Hundreds of things happened during that fight.
Schmidt, Dramond, Johnny Rivers was in my company, and Johnny was killed. He was shot first, and a sergeant grabbed his legs and tried to pull him off of the gun for first aid, but he wouldn’t go. He later got killed. He held a long burst on the gun, almost a full belt, and they got him. Then Schmidt took over. Rivers was a swell guy, liked by all.
Corporal Wolvington was killed there. He would run up and down the line with a light 30 machine gun. He knocked out 2 Jap nests before he was killed. Verlon Sanders was killed, he was crawling out to help Ryan back to shelter (who was wounded) when he got shot. One day, Dillman (came back with me) was bayoneted 3 times and wounded 3 times by hand grenades.
Corporal Cayo (sp?), our barber was caught in his fox hole by a Jap Captain, who practically cut his head off with his sword, not satisfied, he slashed him across the belly and legs. Came up from behind. The Jap died too, a minute later.
One Jap on the beach threw up his hands to surrender, but a Marine jumped in front of him and run his bayonet clear through him. Officers and men went along and shot every Jap through the head, dead, wounded or alive. They would be 2 and 4 hours playing dead until some one came through, then they would throw a grenade.
One corpsman had a pair of pliers in his pocket. Every Jap he came to - he pulled out their gold teeth - whether they were dead or alive. He had 218 solid gold teeth the last I knew. Each Jap had at least 4 gold teeth.
One Marine in G Co. killed 3 Japs with a machete, after killing the last one, he looked down and fainted away.
We sent in 6 tanks in Hell’s Point to clean out the last few sniper nests One tank hit a coconut tree going up and knocked out a sniper with a light machine gun and run him down.
Our first German planes arrived on the 20th.
Then followed days and days of lying in foxholes and watching Jap bombers come over and bomb us. We never could leave the side of a fox hole for fear of a bombing raid. We didn’t have enough planes to keep them off.
For one month and a half we ate Jap rice, with the husk on it, and it was full of little white worms. Japs had it in straw sacks, worms could get in easily. Couldn’t throw them out. We got one lump in the morning and another in the evening. No coffee at first at all.
We captured almost 100 trucks, equipment we captured was valued at 20 million dollars.
It isn’t any fun lying in a hole watching those bastards drop eggs on you, and can’t do nothing about it. One day alone it killed 11 guys alone in my Company.
I used to write most of my letters, or post cards mostly, when I heard that an air attack was on its way. I laid the letters about fifty feet away, so if I got killed, maybe they still wouldn’t be damaged any, and some one would send them on. I use to write that I was well, in good health, and eating 3 squares a day, during those bombing raids. One day I had a 500 lb. bomb hit in the back of my fox hole, and two anti personnel bombs in front about 65 feet away. It caved the dirt in on my legs and arms. I got out OK. Picked up a chunk of shrapnel big as my head out of the hole with me.
We had every type of warfare known on Guadalcanal. Including tanks, flame throwers, submarines shelling us, also Jap battleships, bombing continuously during the day and night, We had to fight snipers everywhere among us. We had Jap land based artillery shelling us, as well as strafing from their Zero planes.
Patrols would find Negro women tied to coconut trees, hands and feet tied, stripped naked, raped by the Japs, their breasts cut off, tongues cut out, and their bellies looked like pin cushions, where they had been bayoneted so many times. We found a few of our men that way also. There’s no prisoners when taken afterward.
The Army finally came in - about 3 months late, to relieve us.
I don’t have much to say for them. They were really a mess. Scared to death because we were leaving, and all I ever heard was how some of their officers led them into traps and a lot was true too.
They came down with bathrobes, pajamas, cots to sleep on, and right across from them, we had clothes almost torn off, had to sleep on the ground, no blankets, no chow hardly, nothing at all. And we were supposed to be under Army orders, under McArthur. We had to draw what chow we had from the Army, after they came in. The first army group had been there ONE month only, when they all started to cry for relief. We had only been there 4 1/2 months, and no relief. And people wonder what the difference between the Marine Corps and the Army !
You couldn’t tell them any thing at all. Lots of men died on that account. Wouldn’t listen. Army had several men to crack up there. 5 guys went mad in 30 minutes once.
They have more weapons, and better equipment, everything, yet one battalion of Marines can take sticks and kill more Japs than a regiment of Army can.
I didn’t believe there is a man who can tell 1/10 of what happened down there. Something was happening every minute. And no one will ever know the thoughts, ideas that a man gets in a hell like Guadalcanal was.
A place where you starved for food and water, mosquitoes and flies by the millions, hot in the day, cold as hell at night, no blankets enough to keep warm, continual rain, had to carry rifle in hand every where, eat two meals a day, if you had it, shelled and bombed at night, bombed in the daytime, standing 4 hour guard watches. Always waiting for an attack by the Japs. Loss of sleep and food - everyone was skin and bones, with low resistance. A small cut turned into a running sore overnight. Men’s lips were cracked open by heat and chapped.
As well as riding on a transport, waiting for a bombing or a torpedo in the night. Traveling without lights, wearing life preservers, and crowded all the time. Once the men all caught diarrhea, and they didn’t have enough toilets for the 1500 men. They shit in shirts, trousers, anything and threw it over board. Only thing they could do.
After all that, get in the states, and have some guy ask you if you knew there was a war on, cause you asked for two packs of gum, not knowing anything about rationing, and dozens of other cases!
Some people appreciate it all, most just take it all for granted.
I left Guadalcanal 22 December on U.S.S. Nordham, a Dutch ship, to Lulagi Harbor. Next day went aboard the U.S.S. President Johnson and went to New Hebrides Islands. Was over there for a while, then through to Melbourne, Australia on the U.S.S. Lyon.
Rough waters there, in the Coral and Tasmanian Seas. Left my old Company outfit in Lawrence Stadium, went aboard the U.S.S. West Point and sailed for Auckland, New Zealand. From Auckland on into San Francisco, Calif.
I was sent back because of my severe case of malaria. I went to Treasure Island in San Francisco’s Bay, then to Camp Linda Vista, then to Camp Elliott. From there to Hadnot Point, N.C., then joined 23 Marines at Tent City, Camp LeJeune. From there to Camp Pendleton, Oceanside, California.
I came back and found my girl almost married to another guy in the army, as most of the boys did. She did at least wait until I got back. Most didn’t.
So endeth this chronicle.
Darrell S. Cole
On February 19, 1942, Sgt. Cole led his machine gun section ashore on Iwo Jima. After being pinned down by two enemy machine gun positions, armed with only a pistol and grenades because the machine guns had jammed taking out a previous position, Sgt. Cole, acting alone, destroyed the enemy positions. During his one man assault he returned to his own lines twice to retrieve additional grenades. On returning to his men after completing his mission he was killed by an enemy grenade.
For his actions Sgt. Cole was awarded the Medal of Honor. The destroyer USS Cole is named for him.