Heroes: the U. S. M. C.
"...our unit landed on a little island called Puruata. That was where I saw my first dead Japanese. He was a sniper, and he was lying there close to the water where we landed. I looked at him, and that's when I decided, "It's them or me, and you have be the first one to pull the trigger..."
Richard H. Carter
- Branch of Service: USMC
- Unit: 3rd Raider Battalion, B.A.R. Man
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: Pacific Theater
- Rank: PFC
- Birth Year: Sept. 30, 1922
- Entered Service: Live Oak, California
Story by Randy Carter
the son of
Richard H. Carter,
B. A. R. man in M. Co., 3rd Raider Battalion
What Did You Do In The War, Daddy?
What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? was a Blake Edwards film released in 1966. It was not a great movie, but the title was one that the majority of young boys who grew up in the fifties and sixties could relate to. Our fathers had fought World War Two, and most of us uttered those words, or something similar, during our childhood. I was proud of my father's service, and fascinated by the stories he told. And in the following pages I will relate some of these stories as best I can. For you, the reader, I hope it is an interesting slice of American History. For me, the writer, it is a memorial to the man I admired, and the father I loved.
I have decided to write these stories through my father's eyes, as if he were sitting here telling them to me again. Most of the stories I heard many times, over a span of many years, and in some cases, I will string together things he told me at different times, as if it were told to me in one sitting, just for the sake of continuity. Much of what I write will be in his exact words, but of course, I cannot remember everything word for word. In these cases, I will stay true to the general content of the story, relating, as my Dad would have, in his straightforward and simple manner, the events that occurred.
Sure, I remember where I was when I heard about Pearl Harbor. I was hunting Geese, out at the Kelley's place that morning. When we got back in we heard it on the radio.
That Monday when I went to school, our shop teacher was ticked off, and he said some things. Poor Frankie Hatamiya [A Japanese American], he ran out of the class crying. The thing about it was, him and the shop teacher had always been real close. [Frank Hatamiya served with the U.S. Army in WWII]
Mom belonged to the Church of the Brethren, and they were conscientious objectors. When I joined the Service, the preacher came over to the house and tried to talk me out of it. I told him that if you can't fight for your country, then something is wrong.
THE U.S. MARINES
I enjoyed Boot Camp. I was a farm boy, and use to hard work. But some of the city boys had a hard time.
Our Drill Instructor, Sergeant Van Hekken, was a real Marine. His uniforms were always perfect, and he was a good teacher. He was one of those old time Marines. But when I was overseas, I ran into somebody who told me he had shipped over, and when he got into combat, he cracked up; they had to send him home. You just never know.
L-R: Unknown Buddy / Richard Carter,
taken in 1943, in San Diego California
I shipped overseas with the 18th Replacement Battalion. When we got to New Caledonia, a Lieutenant came on board the ship and asked all the guys qualified with a B.A.R. [Browning Automatic Rifle] to volunteer for the Raiders [3rd Raider Battalion]: so I did. I didn't even know what the Raiders were; I had never heard of them.
The ship [18th Replacement Battalion] was going to New Zealand, and the rest of the guys ended up landing at Tarawa [2nd Marine Division]. A lot of the guys I went through Boot Camp with got killed there. I was glad I missed that one.
On the first morning when we hit Bogainville, our unit landed on a little island called Puruata. That was where I saw my first dead Japanese. He was a sniper, and he was lying there close to the water where we landed. I looked at him, and that's when I decided, "It's them or me, and you have be the first one to pull the trigger."
We spent weeks in those swamps [Bougainville]. It was miserable. You couldn't keep anything dry.
You find out why they have young guys fight wars. There were times when I didn't think I could take another step; but I did. The older guys just couldn't take it. We had a guy we called Pappy Lisiak. He was probably thirty years old. When we got up on the line, he started snoring at night. He got sent back to the rear right away.
You couldn't have that.
There was another guy in our unit named Rainbow Campbell. His father was the President of the Campbell Soup Company, and he had sent him [Rainbow] a pearl handled .45. He got killed on the Piva Trail, and I was in charge of the burial detail. We buried him just off the trail. One of the guys asked me, "What do we do with his pistol, take it, or leave it on him?" I didn't want to be responsible for it, so I said, "Just leave it on him." Later on, I got called up in front of the Company Commander, and he says, "Were you in charge of the Marines who buried Rainbow Campbell?" I told him I was, and he says, "His father has written asking for that pearl handled .45. and it's not on the body; where is it?" I told him that I had it left on the body -- and that was it. I know what happened to it though. We buried guys as soon as we could, and marked the area. Then Grave Registration would come along when it was safe, and dig the bodies back up. Somebody in Grave Registration got that pistol.
It seemed like the rear area guys always got that stuff. I got a couple of swords off of a dead Japanese Officer one time. I strapped them to my pack until we got off the line. There was one long one, and another short one. When we were going back on the line, I didn't know what I was going to do with them. You couldn't carry them with you all the time. There was a cook who I knew from back home, and he says, "Dick, I'll keep them for you." But when I came back off the line, he told me he had got drunk, and lost them in a card game. I knew who got them, but what could you do?
One time I was sick with the Cat Fever, and Sgt. Stein comes by and says, "Come on Carter, we're going on a little patrol." I said, "Sgt. Stein, I've got the Cat Fever." Well, that didnít matter; so here we go. We wondered around out there all day and got lost. And the later it got, the more scared I was. Finally, Sgt. Stein had one guy climb a tree, and he was able to see the dust coming off of the fighter strip, so we were able to orient ourselves. We came in just before dark. That really shook me. I thought a lot of Sgt. Stein -- I had always had a lot of faith in him.
Sometimes at night you knew when the Japanese were infiltrating because you would hear; click, click, click. They would take bamboo sticks and tap them together so the ones who were infiltrating, could tell which way to go. It was so dark, you couldn't see your hand if you put it right in front of your face.
Once there was a Doberman [A War Dog] and his handler in a foxhole next to mine. That night the dog started to growl real low. Pretty soon I hear, click; the handler lets him off the leash, and boom; away he goes. He got a hold of something. There was a lot of noise, and then the handler calls him back. The next morning we went out there and found some blood, but that was all.
Richard H. Carter, USMC.
Image taken on Guadalcanal, 1944.
I was a farm boy, so there were things I just naturally knew how to do. We had a Lieutenant Stewart, and one time on Bougainville, when I was down on the beach, they brought some heavy equipment in on a L.S.T [Landing Ship Tank], but they didn't send any drivers. Well, the coxswain of the L.S.T. says he has to get back to his ship, and Lt. Stewart is pacing up and down, trying to figure out how he is going to get those tractors off. So I said, "Lieutenant Stewart, do you want me to drive'em off?" And he says, "You can drive those things?" I said, "Sure." So I did. Another time, when we were building some bunkers, they were having trouble moving the largest logs into place. So I told Lt. Stewart I thought I could do it easier. I rigged up some ropes so the logs could be lifted, and then swung right into place. That's just stuff that you learned if you grew up on a farm. Then later, when we were on Guadalcanal, Lt. Stewart was in charge of building a mess hall, and he was looking for someone who had some building experience. I told him I could do it. He smiled at me, and says, "Carter, is there anything you can't do?"
On Okinawa, when I was in the Combat Engineers, I was sitting down against my dozer, and here comes Captain Stewart [he had been promoted], and he had some men with him. There was a patrol that was trapped in a ravine, and he was going to try to get them out. He sees me and says, "Carter, grab a B.A.R." I said, "Captain Stewart, I'm in the engineers now." But it didn't do any good. So we went down there and got 'em. When we were coming back out, I carried a guy who had been wounded, up the side of that ravine. When we got to the top, a Corpsman started taking splinters of wood out of his head. He had been shot with a wooden bullet. They were putting wood in the shell casings instead of lead.
We made a night landing on Bogainville with the Para-Marines [Koiari Raid].
They were supposed to move inland while we [M Company] were supposed to hold the landing area until they came back. But they were green, and they didn't scout the beach far enough inland, before bringing the rest of us in. When we landed, we ran right into the middle of a Japanese Regimental C.P. [command post]. At first, we surprised them, and they fell back. But then they got organized, and started coming back at us. It was rough. We called for immediate evacuation, but the boats wouldn't come in because the Japanese were lobbing mortars out into the water. There was only a couple of times when I really thought I wasn't going to make it, and that was one. We started running low on ammo. I was always deathly afraid of running out of ammo, so I always carried extra, and they used to give me a bad time about it. Guys knew I carried extra, and some came over looking for some. No, I didn't give them any! I thought to myself, "Hell with you, brother!" I'll tell you, they never kidded me about carrying extra ammo again! The only thing that saved us from being overrun were the fighters that came in and strafed. They strafed within fifty feet of where I was at. I heard a lot of stories afterwards. One guy said he saw two guys, one with a radio, just all of a sudden stand straight up, put up their hands, and walk into the jungle. He never saw the Japanese. We were there all day. They didn't pull us out until that night. I was on the last boat out, and as we left, someone spotted a guy on the beach we had forgot. He was waving his arms like crazy. So we went back in to get him. I was called up to the bow of the boat to cover the approach, and when this guy dropped into the boat, he was shaking like a leaf.
After Bogainville, they disbanded the Raiders, and made us into the 4th Marine Regiment. The 4th Marines were the old "China Marines," and they had been lost at Corregidor. We felt pretty good about that [Being the new 4th Marines].
When we landed on Emirau, the Japanese had already left, so we didn't do any fighting there. They put me in charge of a .50 caliber machine gun crew on this little island just off of Emirau. I used to like taking the early morning watch so I could see the sun come up. It was beautiful; all of a sudden, it would come right up out of the ocean. As it came up I would sing, "Turn Out the Lights, Marie." It was something.
We used to go back to Guadalcanal to get replacements and retrain. I remember we were sitting around one time, and this guy who was carrying a Thompson [machinegun] says, "When I get out of the Corps, Iím going take a couple of these [Thompson] with me." I said, "What the hell do you want with one of those?" He says, "I rob banks; that's what I do for a living. I joined the Corps 'cause I knew the law wouldn't get me here." You met all kinds in the service.
You can't always order people around to get what you want done. Sometimes that just won't work. Once, on Guadalcanal, they put me in charge of some guys to do some digging. These guys were real screw-offs. So, I took them over and showed them what needed to be done, and sure enough, they just go over and sit down under some trees. I knew there was nothing I could say to get them to work, so I just went over and started digging. They watched me for a while, and finally, one of them gets up, and comes over and says, "Hey, you aren't supposed to be doing that." I just looked at him and said, "Someone has to do it." He went back, and then pretty soon, sure enough, here they come; and they started digging.
They tried to make me a sergeant. I was called in, and they told me that they were going to give me Sergeant stripes. I told them I didn't want to be a Sergeant, and they said they didn't care if I wanted to be a Sergeant or not. I had heard that there was an Engineer unit that was being formed up, so me, and a couple of other guys went over and signed up for it. I knew that if I was a Sergeant, and I made some decision that got some guys killed, I wouldn't be able to sleep for the rest of my life. That's just the way I am. So, I ended up driving an Armored Bulldozer.
Once when we were training, I was working with another dozer, but I was supposed to be somewhere else. So, I headed out down this trail. Well, here comes this guy running after me. He says that the other dozer was stuck, and they needed me to pull him out. So I go back, and we hook up a cable, and I pull him out, and I start off again. All of a sudden, here comes the same guy running after me, but I can tell that something is wrong. He's yelling, "Come back! Come back!" So I turn it around and go back again.
As I drive up, I see two guys holding the driver of the other dozer down on the ground, and he is going crazy. Then here comes the guy who had run after me, and he is pointing at the other dozer, and yelling. "Back up the dozer!" It's just sitting there running, so I get off of mine and trot over, and I see this head sticking out from underneath one of the tracks. I backed it up, but there was nothing you could do for the guy. What happened was that after I pulled the dozer out, this guy was standing there winding the cable back up, but the driver didn't see him. So, he turns the dozer, and the blade knocks the guy down, and then he runs over him. When he found out what he had done, he just went berserk.
We listened to Tokyo Rose sometimes. Before we went into Guam she said, "You boys of the 4th Marine Regiment who are going to Guam; you had better hold the torch high -- or youíre going to get burnt." They knew we were coming. That made you feel a little funny. ["Hold High The Torch" was the motto of the 4th Marines.]
One of the replacements was a guy named Dorn. He was from District 10 [Highway 70, just out of Marysville, California.] We automatically got together because we were from the same area. Just before we landed on Guam I saw him in the head, [the bathroom] and he says, "Dick, I'm not going to make it; when you get home, would you go see my parents?" I said, "Dorn, just don't lose your head, and stay down, and youíll be fine." But he just kept saying he knew he wasn't going to make it. Well, that first night on Guam, they hit us real hard. I was in the Engineers, so we were back a little bit off the line. I heard later, that when the Japanese started coming, Dorn stood straight up in his hole, and started yelling, "Here they come!" They cut him in half. When I got home I tried to find his parents, but they had moved.
On Guam, when I was attached to the tanks, we were just sitting there, and over this ridge come these two Japanese tanks. They are coming down the ridge right at us: chuk, chuk, chuk. Then all of a sudden they see us. Japanese tanks were no match for Sherman's, so they turn right around, and now they are going right back up that ridge: chuk, chuk, chuk [laugh]. Then one of our tanks fires a round: ka-phow! And picks off the first one. Then, ka-phow! He picks off the other one. And that was it.
They make a big deal about friendly fire accidents nowadays. We saw it happen all the time. Rounds would fall short and get our own guys. Itís just part of war.
On Okinawa, I saw a guy sit down next to some of his buddies to clean his rifle. He had it sitting across his lap, and it went off. It went through one guy and into another.
Another time on Guadalcanal, we were getting trained on how to use explosives. A Sergeant had us in a semi-circle giving a talk on how to use them, and here comes this Captain. He had some explosives he was going to use for a demonstration. He walks off a ways away and starts to handle them, and boom! No more Captain. These things just happened.
On Okinawa I saw bodies [ours] stacked like cordwood.
When I was attached to the tanks, we were moving from one place to another. There were two dozers; me, and a buddy of mine. We were close to the front of the column in case we ran into obstacles. We came up to this little draw, and it was blocked. The Japanese had blown it so we couldn't pass through. So the tank commanders at the front talked it over. The beach wasn't to far away, and they decided the best thing was to have a couple of tanks go down to the beach, and come up from behind -- clear it from the backside, and then we could go in and open it up. Then here comes this little ninety-day wonder [new 2nd Lieutenant]. He starts asking what the holdup is. One of the tank commanders shows him, and tells him what they plan on doing. He says, "That will take to long." Then he points at me and says, "Get up there and start clearing that out." Well, when we were moving, I always took off my hatch and strapped it to the side of the dozer. It was more comfortable when I was standing up while I was driving. So, I start to unstrap the hatch, and this Lieutenant says, "What are you doing?" I said, "I'm not going up there without being buttoned up." Then my buddy in the other dozer says, "I'll go." So they setup a B.A.R. to cover him in case any Japanese tries to knock him out. He moves up, and sure enough, a Japanese pops out, drops a Satchel Charge right on top of him, and blows the dozer in half. The B.A.R. got off a burst, but he missed. The Lieutenant starts yelling at the B.A.R. man for missing, but he tells the Lieutenant, "That man shouldn't have been up there in the first place. And if you don't shut-up, I'll turn this weapon on you." That Lieutenant just turned around and walked away. I've always felt guilty about that. It should have been me.
One morning I saw Dixie Mitchell [friend from home]. He worked in the rear, and he told me that they were going to let him go up with the tanks that day. He was looking forward to it; he wanted to see what it was all about. That afternoon I saw him sitting against a tree, and he was white as a ghost. I said, "Hey Dixie, what's wrong?" He said, "Oh Dick!" And he tells me that a 20mm AT round went right through the tank he was on. [Laugh]. It scared him to death. He found out what it was all about alright. He said, "I'am not going up there again!"
We were moving up to support some guys who were in trouble, along this narrow road through some rice paddies. There was a couple of real tight turns, and the lead tank didn't quite make the curve; he slipped off and got stuck. So now he's blocking the road. They were going to try to pull him out, but you could hear the sound of the firefight and tell those guys were in trouble. I was looking around, and saw some buildings pretty close, on the edge of the paddies. I backed it up and started to bulldoze 'em down. The tank commander saw what I was doing, so he left the one tank and moved through the spot I cleared out. After we got back, he thanked me for doing it.
We went back to Guam to get ready for the invasion of Japan. I was standing in the chow line, and this guy comes up and starts telling everyone how we dropped a single bomb on this Japanese city and blew it up. No one believed him.
After we landed in Japan, we went into some of those big caves along the coast where they had their big guns. After seeing what they had in there, I was really glad they dropped the bomb.
I'll tell you, if they were the ones who were going to have to go in there, they would think differently. [About those who think we shouldn't have dropped the bomb].
When I was on the islands, I became a firm believer that when you are born, your time is marked -- and that's it.
Of his Dad, Richard Carter, Randy says:
Dad came home from the war, got married, had a one girl, and one boy [me]. And became a well respected Building Contractor in the area. He was a charter member of the local Lions Club, and a charter member of the local Volunter Fire Department. He was always involved in the community, also working with the local Little League, and the local Boy Scouts.
Just another example of those men and women we now call "The Greatest Generation".
God bless them all.
Mr. Richard H. Carter
July 6, 2003
Live Oak, California
M. Co., 3rd Raider Battalion
United States Marine Corps
The materials depicted on this page were reprinted with kind permission of the son of the subject of our story -- Randy Carter.
We, at the World War II Stories - In Their Own Words web site wish to offer to Mr. Randy Carter. our most profound THANK YOU for his poignant story of his Dad's [Richard H. Carter] personal experiences -- during World War II and especially for allowing us to share those memories. We will always be grateful for Mr. Carter's contributions to the war effort and to the countless other men and women who put forth their "finest hour".
Original story transcribed from e-mail correspondences between Mr. Carter and this webmaster in June 2004.
Story added to website on 11 June 2004.
Story modified on 17 June 2004
September 5, 2002.
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