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Front Page » November 7, 2006 » Scene » My Marine Corps experiences
Published 3,760 days ago

My Marine Corps experiences

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Ray Wareham

I was inducted in Salt Lake City, Utah on May 22, 1943 and reported for duty May 26, 1943. I went through boot camp in San Diego, Calif. with Sgt. Gross as drill instructor of Platoon 469. My serial number is 8671334. These tags were worn around your neck at all times. They were made of copper. If you were killed in action, one was left with your body and the other one was sent home to your parents.

We left San Diego in November on our way over seas. We had completed our basic training. I can still remember the lights of San Diego as we headed out into the Pacific. Our first stop was New Caledonia in the New Hebrides. There I saw true justice when I saw a man being beheaded for raping a white woman. The next stop was Enowetoke in the Marshall Islands. These islands are a line of volcanic rock sticking out of the ocean. One island is completely surrounded by coral out croppings. No enemy submarines could get into this bay. We sat there for 62 days with nothing to do but play pinochle. On the 63rd day, we were finally on our way to the Marianna's Islands. The second day out of the harbor a Japanese submarine surfaced and fired two torpedoes towards us. Luckily both missed our ship and our destroyer escort sank the Japanese submarine with depth charges. We were on our way to Saipan and Guam. Much has been written about the hard won battles there. Tianian was the island they loaded the atom bomb on the Enola Gay. The plane headed west, passing over Iwo Jima, heading north dropping one atom bomb on Nagasaki and one atom bomb on Hiroshima, which ended World War II. Japan formally reported to General McArthur World War II was over.

One of my most memorable experiences was when I came home from Guam. Thirty-two of us were to fly home on a plane from Guam. Upon arriving to the airport at Agama, a plane came going to the U.S. The plane had only one seat available so the colonel took that seat. Another plane landed with three seats available so the two nurses and one commissioned officer took those seats. That left me in charge of 27 men with absolutely no travel orders. The next plane landed with enough seats for all of us. We thought we were on our way home and the plane landed in Kwajalane to refuel. Here we were bumped out of our seats for wounded soldiers. That left us with no orders, no food tickets and no place to sleep. We were put up in a metal barracks. I harassed the office every four hours to help me get home with these men. Finally they told me to line up all the men just inside of the barracks. We were staying.

One night about 2 a.m., I was awakened and told to get my men up and get ready to leave. We were boarded on a plane bound to San Francisco with a stop over in Hawaii to fuel and feed the men, but the men refused to leave the plane for fear they would lose their seats again. So we sat on the plane until it left for San Francisco, Calif., hungry but happy to finally be going home. When I reported to fleet headquarters the next morning, they asked where have you been? We have been looking all over the Pacific for you. They said we were the only group of men that had to hitch hike our way across the Pacific.

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November 7, 2006
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