It all started in June 1954 and I was about to get a letter from Uncle Sam saying he would like to have me join him in the Army. I, along with about 30 other boys from around Sedalia, decided we didnít want to go that route, so we joined the Marines. We were called the Sedalia Leathernecks.
After our physical and induction, we were sent to San Diego for boot camp. While in boot camp, we were put in platoons which competed against each other. Out of three platoons, my platoon was the honor platoon. This may be where my luck started.
After boot camp, we went to Camp Pendleton where we went through a lot more training for combat. After this, we went to a staging area to get ready to be shipped out overseas. Around Jan. 1, 1955, we went to cold weather training in the Sahara Mountains of California, where it got down to 20 to 30 degrees below zero. This told us one thing ó that we were going to Korea and we needed the training.
Some time in late January, we shipped out and docked in Kobe, Japan, where 200 or so of us Marines got off and the rest went on to Korea. I was one of the 200, so my luck was still with me. I was then sent to Middle Camp Fuji, which was on the south side of Mount Fuji. There were three camps on that side of the mountain ó North Camp, Middle Camp and South Camp, which were about 10 miles apart.
Upon arriving at Middle Camp, I was put in an anti-tank company. It was really a neat company to be in. The company had four 75-mm recoilless rifles plus anti-tank tanks at South Camp. We also had other types of weapons to knock out tanks, bunkers and machine gun nests. I was assigned to the motor pool which had weapons carriers, jeeps and 6x6 trucks.
They decided to give me a weapons carrier. I liked to keep everything in top shape including myself. After about a month I was called to the office and asked if I would be the company commanderís driver. Now this was about the best job the Corps had as far as I was concerned. A lot of time I did not have to stand inspections, as I had to keep myself and jeep ready to go to South Camp to inspect the tanks and personnel. Also I did not have to pull guard or mess duty. My luck was getting better all the time.
Around September 1955, there was a lot of unrest in the Burma area, so everybody in the 3rd Marines were to be shipped out for Burma including anti-tanks. Somehow the unrest in Burma got settled and the Marines werenít needed. The higher-ups decided since all these Marines were aboard ship, they needed to do some beach landing training. Okinawa was close by, so we made a landing there. My luck was still with me, as I did not have to go to Burma.
We loaded back up and headed back to Middle Camp. In February 1956, word came down that the Marines were going to make a landing on Iwo Jima like they did in World War II. In my company only the gun platoons were going and the motor pool was staying back. I was close to being shipped back home in a month or two and knew that sitting around in the motor pool was going to make time drag. I was one of the few who never did get seasick and liked being aboard ship. I asked my commanding officer if there was anyway I could go along on the trip.
We had become fairly good friends by this time. He thought it over for a while and said I could go as his aide. This meant I would be a gopher, which was all right by me. My luck was still on my side. We landed on Iwo Jima about 11 years to the day that the Marines landed in World War II. We were told to be real careful on the island, as it had not been policed up very good since the war and not to join the Marines of World War II.
There were still old mines and grenades laying around that had not exploded during the war. We were there for a week or so, then loaded back up and headed back to Fuji. I enjoyed the trip, but I can see why we lost so many men taking Iwo Jima.
You talk about luck staying with me, when I loaded aboard ship for the trip home, there were only 205 Marines going at that time. It was like being on a cruise ship instead of a troop ship. We ate, played and worked with Navy personnel all the way home. We even stopped in Hawaii for three days of liberty.
When I got to the States, I was sent to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where I received another stripe and became motor transport chief of Anti-tank Company of the 2nd Marines.
In November 1956, there was a lot of unrest in the Suez Canal area, so everybody loaded up and headed there. We were going to be back up for the Marines who were already over there. I was standing on the fan tail of the ship, when I noted that the wake behind the ship was making a 180-degree turn. After a while, it came over the loud speakers that we were going to be on stand by and sail up and down the East Coast until we were needed.
We did this for about two weeks, before they decided to send us back to Camp Lejeune. I had a friend who wrote me the whole time I was overseas. After I came home on leave, Leila became my girlfriend. Twenty-one days before I left the service, we got married and have been for 50-plus years.
I was a lucky, lucky Marine.