Heroes: the Marines
"...listening at nighttime to the japanese in their camp whooping and hollering, drinking saki and smoking muggles, getting pyched up for the sunrise banzai attack. They would attack Marine positions with bayonets tied to bamboo poles and never stop, even engulfed in flames..."
- Branch of Service: USMC
- Unit: 2nd Marine Div. (Guadalcanal - Saipan), 27th Weapons Company, 5th Marine Division (Iwo Jima)
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: Pacific Campaign -- Guadalcanal, Saipan, Tiniam, Iwo Jima, Japan Occupation
- Rank: CPL
- Birth Year: 1925
- Entered Service: New Orleans, LA
These guys are my best friends, we always pal around
Joe entered the United States Marine Corps on March 5, 1942 and was given an honorable discharge as a corporal on November 8, 1945. His basic training took place at Camp Pendleton, San Diego, California
Engagements in which Joe Bernard took part in were:
Guadalcanal, Saipan (other engagements?)
The above image was taken in 1942 at age of (age?) in Hollywood, CA., when these best friends were ready to be shipped out to Guadalcanal.
From left to right:
Harry Kemp of Tacoma, Washington
Joe Bernard of New Orleans, Louisiana
Bob Berger of Chicago, Illinois
Bob Benning of Brooklyn, New York
The above image of Joe and his best buddies was entitled:
"These guys are my best friends, we always pal around".
Less than one year later his three best friends had been killed in action.
Joe Bernard over time (reluctantly) did tell his family at times about some of the events that occured during the years spent in the Marine Corps.
One particular story that Joe recalls is that of himself and the other marines on the island (Guadalcanal?)listening at nighttime to the japanese in their camp whooping and hollering, drinking saki and smoking muggles, getting pyched up for the sunrise banzai attack. They would attack Marine positions with bayonets tied to bamboo poles and never stop, even engulfed in flames.
The marines would annihilate them and then have to dispose of the bodies before the sun would get too high and start the rapid decomposing of hundreds of dead bodies. Some marines would pull out the gold teeth of the dead japs with pliers.(Though this is an unpleasant account and not normally in keeping with the usual clean-cut American boy image -- it was depicted in some of the movies about these battles).
Joe served during the invasion of Iwo Jima with the 27th Weapons Company, 5th Division. This was one battle that he would not talk about with his family. Much later, Joe's wife, mentioned to their son, Keith, about the Navajo Indians who served along side him as "Windtalkers" and that they never did get the true recognition that they so richly deserved.
A recollection of Joe Bernard is of an event that took place during the various battles in the Pacific -- and this was with regards to the interrogation of prisoners. Joe, according to recollections of his son, would argue this point during conversations with his (Joe's) brother. The job of Army intelligence was to interrogate Japanese prisoners in the Pacific. Joe, according to information passed on to his son, would counter with the fact that the Marines would jump the Army guard of the unfortunate Jap and knock him out while they took the Jap off and killed him deep in the jungles. He never admitted to taking part in these activities -- but he surely was aware of the practice.
Following the surrender of the Japanese forces, Joe was detailed to the Japanese mainland where he served for over a month before finally being allowed to return his home -- for good.
A friend of Joe's who also served during the war, was in the Navy and he and Joe remained friends during the war and after. His son became friends with the story contributor, Keith Bernard. He mentioned that the two men would occasionally meet after some of these engagements -- battles.Joe's friend would ask how things had gone during the fighting. Joe, in his easy going manner would just shrug his shoulders and say that it wasn't too bad, just a bunch of dead Japs lying around, that's all. Joe's friend also told his son that a lot of Joe's buddies were killed in action -- possibly why he never talked much about the battles that he took part in.
In speaking of his Dad, his son Keith mentions the following account:
'My Dad was a very kind individual...Every year around the holidays, he and my uncles would have a few drinks and tell war stories. I was allowed to listen to them every time. They would start off telling the light-hearted stuff and then talk about the brutal stuff. Afterwards, they would become real quiet for a while.' He (my Dad) would tell tales -- but not many of his battlefield actions.
There are many web sites devoted to the United States Marine Corps. Below are some of the more interesting ones that give accounts of the 5th Marine Division on Iwo Jima:
5th Marine Division on Iwo Jima
World War II - Battle for Iwo Jima
Iwo Jima Flag Raising on Mt. Suribachi
If you would care to read more about the military experiences and see additional photographs of Joe Bernard, you may do so by clicking of the following link and will be taken to our Photo Album and Scrapbook:
Joe Bernard, U.S.M.C.
Original story is from a messages (e-mail) received in May-June 2002.
Story added on June 23, 2002.
We, at the World War II Stories - In Their Own Words web site wish to offer to Mr. Keith Bernard, the son of Joe Bernard, our most profound THANK YOU for the poignant story of his Father's personal experiences -- during World War II and especially for allowing us to share those memories. We will always be grateful for this fine gentleman's contributions to the war effort and to the countless other men and women who put forth their "finest hour".
September 5, 2002.
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