Tarawa and Guam

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Marshall Ralph Doak Chief Pharmacist's Mate United States Navy

Tarawa and Guam
Tarawa was a bloody mess. In the annals it is written up as such. We lost so many Navy hospital corpsmen with the fleet Marine force on the beach that word came from General "Howling" Smith. He was asking for hospital corpsmen to leave the ships and help on the beach. The Captain gave me permission to go. Right next to us, and not too far from the beach, was a LST hospital ship. The front ramp would go down and we'd bring wounded in on motor launches. This was a surgical ship and the lower part was all surgical suites. I went over on the beach and we were bringing wounded back to the LST only 300 to 400 hundred yards off the beach.

I'll never forget one time one of the surgeons was outside crying and he'd emotionally broken down. I went to him and I'll never forget him. He said, "I can't do this, I can't do it anymore. I'm a baby doctor, I know nothing about this type of surgery. I'm not an army surgeon and I'm inadequate." I had him in my arms and I said, "You can do it. You're doin a helluva lot better than I could do in there, so you do it." I stayed with him for quite a while and he finally went back in.

I keep thinkin' that during that barrage they should have had a few of us master riflemen on deck. The Japanese were just walkin ahead of the bombs. You could see them just walking ahead of them on the island. We could have had snipers and knocked off most of them. The island was finally taken. The island was so small and not very wide. John Ryan, from St. Joseph, was there and he was a fire control man on one of the battleships on the other side of the island. I complained to him later on and said a lot of those big 16 inchers were comin' over the island and hittin' the water by us. The Japanese troops were there, but they were the top of the line. I remember only one prisoner. He was Korean and he was probably in supply. Then the Sea Bees came in and rebuilt.

We stayed there and worked. The water was filled with bodies and it was just red. We also had problems with the Marines themselves. We actually had fire fights between Marines groups damnit it all! About the fourth day after Tarawa was over, we were about the only ship left. There was one destroyer aground and we took it off. I'll never forget this day because we couldn't see the sun. There were no clouds. The green bot flies were so great because of all the decaying bodies that were carrying the larva for the fly. The sky was black with these big green flies. We had to pull out and it was awful. We stayed away until they started burying all the bodies. In the Marine Corps Tarawa is considered probably the bloodiest of all battles considering the square footage of land.

Majuro

After Tarawa we went back to Majuro. I saw five B 25s come over the fleet when we were all anchored. All these American planes were shot down because they didn't have IF's on. They came over not blinking and they were all shot down.

Guam

From there we went into Guam and particiapted in that invasion. Guam was the main encampment of the Japanese. When things got quieted down at Guam, we had a native Officer steward named Jesus Cruz who wanted to go ashore to his village to see his family. Everybody called him "Jesus" and he hated it and would always say, "My name is pronounced 'Yeasus. ", I volunteered to Captain Lee to go with him and we went. It wasn't too far away. There was still a lot of Japanese on the island, but hopefully not that part of it. I wish I'd never gone up there in hindsight. When he got to his home, he found his one sister had committed suicide and another one had been terrorized and raped. I think his mom and another aunt had been murdered. It was a real sad situation and the food situation wasn't good. Jesus never got over this when he got back to the ship, he was real morose. We gave whatever supplies we could from the ship and that helped a bit, but it was a sad situation. At this point in time there was one navy hospital corpsman that had stayed on Guam from the time it fell to the start of the invasion. He stayed alive and hidden all that time. He came out of hiding once the invasion came. I think his name was Head. The citizenry at Guam helped him survive in the mountains.