Biography of James Joseph Gorman
Capt., 1st Marine Division, Guadalcanal Canal, WWII, Korea
Forward by Joe Gorman
It was a Holy Day of Obligation so we had no school that day and after Mass we all hung out in a candy story and, of course, everyone was talking about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Somebody said let's all go to the Customs House and enlist. "All" turned out to be my three older brothers and me. They only took my 17-year-old brother Jim. My 18-year-old brother had a punctured ear drum, my 16-year-old brother had a heart murmer and I was only 14. I thought they would take me because I was taller and heavier than all of them.
We said we wanted to go right away but the recruiter told us to wait until after Christmas and Jim left for boot camp on Jan. 2, 1942. He was one of the first casualties to return home so he was a local hero...
March 5, 1943
Private James J. Gorman
2nd Guard Company
Marine Barracks, Navy Yard
Dear Private Gorman:
I am sorry to say there was a rejection by the Elks Magazine on your story. The Elks Magazine, it seems, prefers to accept a story on Guadalcanal by some newspaperman, and from what I can learn, it is just the type of story that is filled with a lot of dramatic action that is probably not very accurately reported. However, if that's what the Elks want, we have nothing to say about it.
I am enclosing the rejected story, thinking that perhaps you might want to keep it. It seems to me, that you, a local boy, should be able to plant your story in one of the Philly papers. If you can sell it to a newspaper or perhaps a magazine, after getting security clearance, you are welcome to keep whatever you realize from it.
Very truly yours,
From Alan Hynd
530 Park Avenue, Manhattan, NY
Phone Regent 7-0414
BEHIND THE LINES
With the Marines in the Solomons
By Private James Joseph Gorman
of the United States Marines
As told to Alan Hynd
Reveille sounded on our anchored transport at 0300. It was cold and clammy throughout the ship as we dressed in the darkness and ate a battle breakfast of steak, eggs, toast, fried potatoes, coffee and jam. After breakfast, as we stood on deck peering out across the dark Coral Sea, we could dimly make out the silhouettes of the other transports, and the warships, lying at anchor, and of Guadalcanal.
Doc Preston -- LeRoy N. Preston, Jr., third class pharmacist's mate of Clinton, Connecticut -- said to me, "Jim, if I get it will you send this to Peggy?" He handed me a letter. Peggy was my sister, who lived with my parents in Philadelphia. The romance between Doc and Peggy was like something from a movie.
Some months previous1y, Doc and I, who had trained together at the Fleet Marine Force Base at New River, North Caro1ina (now Camp Lejune) had been given a 48-hour leave together, and I had taken him home with me to meet the folks. He had spent most or his time with my sister, and now, this morning of August 7, we were getting ready to batter our way onto Guadalcana1. Doc and my sister had one of those "understandings." When the war was over he intended to marry Peggy and become a research chemist.
I put the 1etter in my wallet. Then I told Doc, "Maybe you'll have to mail this yourself; I might get it. The C.O. says we can expect stiff resistance."
Two other pals of mine found Doc and me in the darkness -- Charlie Woodward of New Jersey who was, like myself, a line fighter, and big Campola, a rifleman from Utica, New York. Woodie was only eighteen, the same age as me, and Campola, whose nickname was Pat, was just a year older than we were. Campola was of Italian extraction, and we used to kid him by referring to the Italians in the war and remarking, Camp, the English sure have you fellows on the run."
"What do you mean us?!" Campola would bellow, all ready to smack down the guy who had made the crack. Campola was a real patriot if you ever saw one; he thought there had never been a country like the United States in the whole history of the world.
Our C.O., Captain Charles H. Brush, lined us up for a little talk. He went over certain facts with which he had already acquainted us on the way to our South Pacific rendezvous, just so there would be no slip-ups. We were lying three miles off shore. When the signal came, we and the Marines in the other transports would take to the Higgins Boats and go in for a landing. The warships were to put up a covering barrage for us, and Navy fighter and bomber planes were to go into action.
Once we made shore we were to mow down any Japs in our path, then hack our way through a strip of dense jungle and take over Henderson Field. This airdrome, as you probably know, was a priceless objective, since, if we took it and based our planes on it, the United Nations lifeline in the South Pacific would be protected. We all had a good laugh when we were informed that for a long time the Japs had been working like beavers to make Henderson field into a major drome. Uncle Sam had permitted them to go right ahead, and now that the Japs had just about completed their work, we were to snatch the field from them and reap the benefits of their toil. It was a grim joke we were about to play.
We did not know exactly how many Japs there were on Guadalcanal, and while the number of our landing boats is in the nature of a military secret, it can be said that there was no question about the fact that we were greatly outnumbered. But our job was to land against any obstacles and hold Henderson Field until reinforcements arrived.
At the first sign of dawn, the show started. Our warships opened up on Jap shore installations. The Japs were quick to answer back. We were anxious to get in our Higgins Boats for the run-in, but we hadn't yet received our signal to start. Jap shells were dropping all around us -- many of them far too close for comfort - but, fortunately, they were doing little damage. By this time, our planes had swung into action and they were doing a beautiful job of bombing and strafing shore installations.
Every once in a while Woodie would comment on some tracer fire that went up from the Japs on shore. It was beautiful to see, this orange tracer fire against the deep blue dawn sky. But we wouldnt see it for very long. Our bombers or warships were quick to get the range and any spot that showed tracer fire was quickly blasted to kingdom come.
The shelling from both directions went on for a much longer time than I had expected it would. My guess was that the Jap shore installations were stronger than they had been thought to be. Campola was watching the show with Doc Preston, my future brother-in-law. The big guy was bellowing oaths at the Japs, and we could hear him in between bursts of warship and shore fire and the falling eggs from our bombing planes. He was impatient to get going, and Doc was laughing at him.
It's very hard to describe just what emotions take hold of you at a time like that. In fact, there is so much going on that you really don't have much time to do much thinking or speculating. Of course you are always conscious that you may be living your last minute on this earth, for instinct tells you that if one of these shells from a shore battery happens to land near you, it'll be curtains for everybody around. Yet, none of the guys near me seemed in the least afraid. They were all very tense, yes; but not afraid.
We all hated Japs with everything that was in us, particularly since Pearl Harbor, and if there was one ruling passion among us, I guess it was anger. And impatience, too. Now that we were so close to the Japs, we wanted to get into action and tangle with them.
We were confident that we would acquit ourselves with credit. Big Campola, Woodie, Doc Preston and I -- and most of the other guys on the little party -- had never been in actual battle before. But our basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina, and specialized training later at New River, had made us ready for anything that the Japs had to offer. We had been taught how to dig foxholes and slit trenches, we were all crack shots, we had gone on maneuvers in North Carolina over a terrain that was quite similar to that on Guadalcanal. We had the tricks of camouflage drummed into us, and, on the way to the Coral Sea, we had stopped at two different points and made practice landings in Higgins Boats. So you will see that while most or us had never been in actual combat, we were certainly far from green. If you ever hear a rumor to the effect that any American fighting man, whether he be in the Army, Navy or Marines, is sent into combat unprepared, just reply to the rumor-monger that he is talking through his hat.
Finally we got the word to go to the assembly areas. The Higgins Boats were lowered and then we went over the side, down cargo nets. Woodie and I were in the same boat; Campola and Doc were in another one. Another transport had been between ours and the beach where we were to land, so I hadn't yet had a view of our landing spot, even from a distance. Nor would I see the place until our Higgins Boat ran right up on the sand. Our orders were to crouch below the gunwales until we got there.
[In the movies they show men in similar situations praying or making some profound statement, or some young kid crying for his mama (he usually gets killed later in the movie). Jim told us about a guy who got them laughing by saying, in the voice of an Evangelist preaching from the pulpit, Take all the pine in Texas and all the oil in Pennsylvania. Take all that there oil and all that there wood, put it all together and make one big fire. Take a man out of hell and put him in that there fire, he would fre-e-e-eze to death. Sinner man, you better repent. Amen. Halleluia. Praise the Lord. - Added by Joe Gorman, July 2004]
On the way in, curiosity got the better of me. I sneaked a look, but all I saw were palm trees. Then I heard a voice saying, "Duck, you dope!"
I felt our boat scraping against the sand. We got the order to hit the beach, and we stepped out with bayonets fixed. My first reaction was one of disappointment. There wasn't a Jap in sight. All I saw was about fifty yards of pinkish sand, then the beginning of a coconut grove. The sand was dry and so fine that it was not possible to tell whether others had just walked on it, for a footprint wouldn't remain. Other boats had landed too, and I looked around to see if I could find Doc and Campola. I didn't see them.
The warships and the shore installations were still going at it hot and heavy, but there was no fire near where we were. While we were organizing to go into the coconut grove, then hack our way through the jungle beyond, I heard that some other guys had landed ahead of us, up the coast a little way, and driven some Jap line fighters into the jungle.
Marines simply love souvenirs. Some of the guys had never seen coconuts growing on trees before, so they shot some coconuts off for themselves. I wondered how they were ever going to carry the coconuts with all the equipment they were loaded down with. The answer was they didn't carry the coconuts, although a few of them slashed the tops off with bush knives and drank the milk.
We got through the coconut grove and to the beginning of the jungle without event. Some of the guys up ahead took turns slashing a path for us through the dense growth. Even where there weren't any trees in the way, the other growth was far higher than a human head and absolutely impenetrable unless cut down.
Progress was slow and painful, even though the guys who were doing the hacking had long, razor-sharp knives and machetes. It had rained during the night, and now that the sun was out, the intense heat turned the gloomy jungle into a steaming no-man's-land. We all suddenly developed a thirst more intense than any of us had ever known. The heat was so bad that our uniforms were soon soaked with perspiration and clung to us like wet rags. We were instructed to take it easy on the water, for there was no telling when we might next run into anything safe to drink. We might hit streams, yes, but we had to be careful of streams, because the Japs had a way of poisoning them. We had to be careful, too, of any stores of water or bottled beer that we might run across, for that stuff would probably be poisoned also.
Our main fear, though, as we made our slow way through the jungle toward
Henderson Field, was of Jap snipers. A Jap sniper is the most cunning thing of his kind known to modern warfare. He gets dressed up in an outfit made from the bark of the same kind of a tree that he is hiding in, and he wears a green net over his yellow face so that he blends in perfectly with the jungle foliage. He can see you, but you can't see him. Usually, he waits until you pass the tree he's in, and then he lets you have it in the back. But at other times he gives it to you right between the eyes. He's best when you offer a stationary, rather than a moving target. That's why we were instructed never to stand still when we are on an objective through the jungles.
We were pretty well into the jungle when he heard a large force of enemy planes overhead. The Japs, we were later to find out, had sent aerial reinforcements down from another base in the Solomons. Nip observers on Guadalcanal had tipped the planes as to where we were, and down came the eggs. We all hit the deck -- that is, we fell flat on our faces -- so that we wouldn't be hit by flying fragments of the bombs that were dropping all around us. Our own fighter planes, we later learned, had mixed with the raiders, and gotten almost every last one of them.
I hadn't yet seen Campola or Doc since the landing, and Woodie and I began to worry about them. Some of the guys had picked up the story that a few of the landing boats had run into trouble from a Jap shore battery that hadn't gone into action until the landing boats had started the run-in. The thought came to me that maybe Doc and Campola had been in a boat that was blasted out of the water. Maybe, I told myself, I would have to mail Doc's letter to Peggy after all.
In the late afternoon, we were still hacking our way through the jungle. So far, we had no trouble with snipers. Behind us, out in the Coral Sea, Naval action was going on. Things were shaping up for a tremendous battle that was to cost Uncle Sam three cruisers and Australia one. We could hear, too, land fighting in the rear. Our wave had struck no opposition, but other waves had run into stiff stuff. Jap planes, which we could easily distinguish by the sounds of their motors, kept coming over all day, and laying their eggs right about where we were. Sometimes whole rubber trees would be lifted by the roots. We could distinguish the noise of Jap machine guns on all sides of us, because a Jap machine gun fires a little slower than ours.
Toward dusk our thirst became unbearable. Our canteens were empty, and our tongues were dry and swollen. Sores had broken out on parched lips, and we had no nourishment of any kind since the battle breakfast (steak and eggs) on the transport before dawn. Yet the guys were staying on their feet, grimly moving inch by inch toward the airdrome that meant so much to the side of the democracies.
Finally we dug foxholes and slit trenches for the night. For this purpose we used a tool of all uses called the pickmatic. This is sort of a portable pick that folds up compactly when not in use. Aside from being useful for digging a foxhole, it comes in handy on a Jap skull in hand-to-hand combat. I was so tired that I wasn't hungry, and I took only a little prepared beef out of a ration can before I dropped off to sleep in my foxhole. My last conscious thoughts were of Doc and Campola; I was sure they were dead.
At daybreak on the morning of August 8 we were on our way again. We found some water in a small stream. The stream was fairly rapid, which meant that it was probably safe. And so, after treating the water with a device that we carried with us, we drank our fill, filled our canteens and were off again. The second day was much like the first had been. Although we had felt as if we were going to freeze to death during the cold, clammy jungle night, the day brought with it heat unlike anything we had ever known. Behind us the sea battle was on in earnest, and all around us, it seemed, other Marines were running head-on into machine gun nests. All during the day my thoughts were never far removed from Doc and Campola.
Late on the afternoon of August 8, we spotted our first Japs. There were only eight of them, and apparently we took them by surprise in the jungle right near Henderson Field. Some of the other guys beat them to the draw, and in a little while we found ourselves on Henderson Field.
Other Marines were there by this time, having come by different routes. They had various stories to tell. Snipers had cut down some of their number. Others had been machine-gunned. Still others had found themselves being shelled by mortars. The Japs had built a hospital on Henderson Field, and it was already in use, with our wounded there.
That night, just after we had dug in in our foxholes, a torrential rain began to fall. Right after it stopped we heard a plane overhead. We knew it wasn't one of our planes. Then a flare came down and lit up that part of the field where we were. It was as bright as daylight. Now the plane came low over the field and began to machine-gun us in the foxholes. Fortunately, none of the guys was hit, but we were in a tough spot, for there hadn't been time yet to set up anti-aircraft equipment.
We were to get used to that plane on subsequent nights. The pilot was a loner, and his objective seemed to be to annoy us more than anything else. We got to calling him Washing Machine Charlie. It was during our first night on Henderson Field, not long after Washing Machine Charlie had come and gone, that we became acquainted with Little Oscar.
Little Oscar was a Jap submarine whose objective, like that of Washing Machine Charlie, was pure annoyance. It was Little Oscar's habit to slip in during the dead of the night, when we were all asleep, and lob over a couple of shells just so the noise would wake us up and get us so sore that we couldn't go back to sleep again.
On the morning of August 9 -- our third day on the Solomons -- I was sent in a seized Jap ammunition cart to another end of Henderson Field to bring back some chow that the Japs had stored there and which our forces had seized, tested and found to be okay. Upon my return to where we were bivouacked, who did I see waiting for me, with grins all over their faces, but Campola and Doc! I can't tell you how glad I was to see them. They had become lost after a successful landing two mornings previously, having gotten separated from their squad during the penetration into the jungle. "Don't ask me how we ever made this field," Doc said. "We'll never know."
Big Campola nodded in agreement. "If I ever hated Mussolini," he said, "it was while I was lost in the jungle. I figured the big b------ was partly responsible."
Doc asked me if I still had his letter to my sister Peggy. I nodded, reached into my wallet and gave it back to him. "I'm glad you'll be mailing it yourself," I said.
Ten days went by. I, myself, didn't get into any tangles. Neither did Woodie, Doc nor Campola. Doc, of course, couldn't be expected to; his job as a pharmacist's mate was to stick pretty close to the hospital and take care of the wounded. Campola was grousing all the time. "Why the hell should I come over here to this steaming hole on the other side of the world and not get a crack at them yellow b------s?" he asked me one day. "You will, Camp, soon enough," I assured him.
Woodie, who was a very mild guy and not given to much talk, was getting impatient, too. Campola, Woodie and I did a lot of patrol work -- going out and covering certain specified areas near Henderson Field to see what we could see. But we saw nothing.
We began to envy the other guys who were seeing action. One group had run into a nest of Japs and surrounded them. They had wiped out the Japs, with the exception of two men who were wounded. A couple of our fellows went over to pick up one of the wounded Nips to carry him back to the field for hospitalization, and what did the Nip do but set off a grenade that blew him and his two rescuers to pieces.
The Japs, of course, were on practically all sides of us in the jungles. There was no way of knowing when they might get together a concentration and pull a surprise attack on the field. For that reason, sentries were always very much on the alert at night.
One night a sentry manning a machine gun heard some noise at the edge of the jungle near where he was stationed. The night was pitch black and he couldn't see his hand in front of him. He knew, however, that no Marines were supposed to be in the jungle just ahead of him. So he opened up. When he was through firing, he heard the words, "Please hold your fire; we are the United States Marines!"
The sentry opened up again. He heard no more talk after the second burst, and no other noise of any kind. Another Marine who was stationed near by, asked him, Why did you shoot when you couldn't see those guys who said they were Marines?"
"Did you hear that guy say the word 'Please'?"
"That was my tip-off. No Marine would ever be that polite."
Daybreak revealed the correctness of the sentry's deduction. He had mowed down six Japs who had been attempting to get through the lines to find out about concentrations on Henderson Field.
The Japs, of course, weren't going to let Guadalcanal go without a struggle. Time after time we could hear, from the field, our machine gun fire along the beaches during the night. Night was the favorite time of the Japs to attempt landings of reinforcements. They'd sneak warships and transports in under cover of night. Sometimes they got away with it; mostly they didn't. Beach patrols could tell in the morning, sometimes, if the Japs had sneaked men in during the night. If the landing had been made during a rain, footprints and the marks of heavy equipment remained in the sand. On several occasions, however, the Japs got out of their landing boats just in time to walk into the deadly barrage of Marine machine gun fire.
Less than two weeks after we had established a beachhead, our fighter and bomber planes came into Henderson Field from a carrier. It was the job of the bombers to go out on patrols from dawn to dusk, hunting for Jap sea concentrations. The job of the fighter pilots was to protect Henderson Field from raiding Nip planes that took off from a base on another island. I must say that the fighter planes had their work cut out for them. Henderson Field was raided constantly, yet only a small percentage of the Nips ever got as far as the field because our fighters intercepted them. High noon was one of the favorite times for the Jap bombers to arrive over Guadalcanal. The noon-time raids got to be so constant, in fact, that there was a standing joke among us guys that ran something like this: "When you hear the fall of the first bomb, it will be exactly twelve o'clock, courtesy of Tojo."
One night there was a particularly big landing attempt a few miles from Henderson Field. It was a dangerous one, too -- for us. Some Jap warships got the range on the field, and a lot of us were certain that our number was up. It had been raining, and the field itself made take-offs by our bombing planes exceedingly dangerous. But take-offs were ordered, nevertheless. Those warships had to be sent on their way at all costs, and our bombing planes were the best things that we had to throw at them.
As yet, there was no night lighting system for the field. But the old saying that necessity is the mother of invention proved true again that night. The ground crews hauled out huge jugs of saki, a Japanese rice wine with a very high alcoholic content, and lit the wine. It was a weird sight to see the muddy runway illuminated by the flickering glare of the burning wine. Our big bombers took off and were soon over the warships, dropping flares the better to see where to lay their eggs. In a little while there was no more firing from the warships, and the bombers came back again, making perfect landings in the light of the flaming saki.
One night, just after Little Oscar, the submarine, had wakened us all up and we were getting back to sleep again, some Jap bombers came over and were really laying their eggs down the slot. I ran over to where my platoon sergeant was asleep. The man was so asleep, in fact, that I thought he had been hit and was dead. I started to shake him vigorously, just about convinced that there was no life left in him. But finally he stirred and asked, "What the hell do you want?"
"The Japs are here, Sergeant," I said.
"How many?" he asked sleepily.
The bombs were bursting nearby. "Quite a lot of them, sergeant," I said.
He turned over, as if to go to sleep again. What're you waking me up for?" he asked, quite annoyed. "You got a rifle, haven't you?"
Although the sergeant's remark may sound humorous, it was typical o£ the attitude that many of us had come to have after more than a fortnight on Guadalcanal. We had begun to take death, danger and discomfort for granted. There were times when we craved sleep more than anything. The constant night and day noise of the firing and the bombs of both sides no longer frightened us, as it had in the beginning. But nerves had grown ragged from lack of rest that the Japs just wouldn't let us have. If we were dog-tired after having been on a patrol, we felt we were entitled to a little shut-eye. Yet, if we just came in from one patrol and were sent out immediately on another, we all took on a strange vigor. That was because we had grown to hate the Japs more intensely with the passing of each hour.
There was social life of a sort on the island. Some mail came in, and we read our letters to one another and talked of home. Practically every unmarried Marine -- and most of us were unmarried -- had a girl, and a picture of her. The pictures were passed around so much that the face of every girl was so well known to at least a dozen of the guys, that they would have probably recognized her on the street. We got baked by day and almost froze at night. Once in a while we'd get a chance to swim in the Lunga River, which wasn't far from Henderson Field. We washed our clothes there, too. The chow wasn't too bad, nor was it too good, but it was sufficient for nourishment.
[Jim told us that the Jap food they captured was canned fish heads and rice. He also told us about a conversation he had with a Jap prisoner. He said to the prisoner, You Tokyo? The prisoner shook his head and said, Osaka. You New York? Jim shook his head and said, Philadelphia. The prisoner said, Ph, Ph, Ph, then laughed and nodded his head vigorously and said, You New York! They both had a good laugh. I also took the liberty of changing boys and fellows to guys because Jim only referred to his fellow Marines as guys or Gyrenes. - Joe Gorman, July 2004.]
Many of the guys were convinced that they'd never leave Guadalcanal alive, and so money became meaningless. There were some crap games where the stakes were far higher than they would ever be back in the States just because of that odd quality which money had taken on because of circumstances. Around seven at night we'd get fifteen minutes or so of swing music from a couple of American radio stations that got through to us. After that, the Australian stations drowned out everything else.
I got to be very attached to Woodie, the kid from New Jersey. Maybe it was because he was always playing tricks on me. He had the "cute" habit of "accidentally" waking me up twenty minutes ahead of time when I was supposed to relieve him on guard duty. Another little stunt of his was to give me a resounding wallop on the back of my head and then say, "Sorry, Jim, but I thought I saw a big ant on your neck. My mistake."
It was wearing along toward the end of the month when we got the news one morning that some Japs had sneaked in for a landing during the night. They were between Henderson Field and the beach, and it was the job of us who were picked for this particular objective to form a skirmish line, go into the jungle and meet them head-on. Campola was happy; at last he was going to get to tangle with the Nips. I took the thing in my stride. Woodie was moody about it; he seemed to have a premonition that something was going to happen and that one of the three of us -- Campola, himself or I -- wasn't coming back. He said so in so many words. I tried to tell him that we'd be all right, but I couldn't shake him out of his mood.
Well, we went into the jungle. Scouts ahead of us who had with them a portable radio sending set were keeping us advised over the walkie-talkie as to what they found. Finally we got the news that we knew must come. We were nearing the Jap concentration, headed right for them. Moreover, we were warned that we were in sniper territory.
No sooner had the warning come about the snipers than a Jap bullet, fired from high in a tree somewhere, bounced off Woodie's helmet. "What'd I tell you?" asked Woodie. "Didn't I tell you my number was up?"
"Get moving, Woodie," snapped Campola. "Don't stand there and be a target!"
Campola and I had hit the deck. Now some tracer bullets started coming out of the trees. They landed close to Campola, Woodie and me but missed us. In the distance, I heard a scream -- the scream of one of our own men. Then I heard him yell, "I'm done for!"
I saw Campola taking a bead on something up high. He let go with his rifle. I saw a grin flicker over his dark features. "Got 'im!" he said to me. I looked up in the direction in which he had fired. I saw a Jap sagging in the crotch of a tree. He had tied himself into the tree in a sitting position. Now that Campola had got him, he was leaning over from the waist.
I don't know why, but my attention was drawn to a tree nearby. I didn't see any movement there, nor did I see anything that looked like a human form. Still, I couldn't take my eyes from a certain spot in that tree. Then, suddenly, my eyes made out the outline of a sniper tied into a crotch. I let him have it, and in a moment he was sagging from the waist, just like the one Campola had gotten.
The jungle war was on in earnest for us in that skirmish line. Hardly a second passed now when we didn't hear firing from the trees or from our guys on the ground.
It went on that way for two hours. We'd advance a few steps, hear or see bullets coming at us from the front, sides or rear, hit the deck and try to get a bead on the snipers. We were all making out very well. We were on the left flank of the line. The right flank had run into the heaviest opposition, but word had been passed to us that for every dead Marine there were at least ten dead Japs. But the going was tough. I figured my luck couldn't hold out much longer. I had gotten perhaps a dozen snipers so far, and all I had received in return was a close shave or two. Luck like that just couldn't last. Woodie felt the same way about it, but not big Campola. He was in his glory, alternately cursing Mussolini and the Japs and acting as if he had eyes in the back of his head so far as snipers were concerned. Some of the snipers weren't tied into the trees, but were just sitting there. When we'd get them they'd tumble down into the thick growth just above the ground with a weird sort of a crunch.
I turned once just in time to see a tracer bullet miss Campola. I had just turned away when I heard him let loose with some vocal sulfur.
"What happened, Camp?" I asked.
He was holding out his rifle. He stopped swearing long enough to explain that an explosive bullet had ruined the stock of the weapon. Then Woodie said to me, "Look at Camp's right arm; it's bleeding."
Camp and Woodie were both to my left. From my right came a tracer bullet, and I ducked behind a tree. Lying on the deck, I saw Woodie going over to Campola. "That's a bad wound you've got there, Camp," I heard him saying to the big guy.
Campola was swearing, splitting his wrath between Mussolini and the Japs. The same bullet that had shattered his rifle stock had all but shattered his right arm. Yet, he wasn't giving his own injury a second thought! He was upset only because his rifle was out of commission!
Woodie ripped off a piece of his shirt and made a tourniquet for Campola's arm. A sniper on our right went to work on me again and took my attention from Woodie and Campola. Right then, there was firing all up and down the skirmish line, and I could hear the yells and curses of men I couldn't see. Then, from above everything, I could hear big Campola crying. That alarmed me. That wasn't like Campola. I looked to my left. Tears were streaming down the big guy's face, and Woodie was lying flat on the ground, face upward. Campola was pointing to Woodie. "They got him," he told me, "right through the heart." Then Campola went into another fit of sobbing.
I went over. Yes, Woodie was gone. He had made a perfect target when he had stopped to help Campola.
Campola grabbed Woodie's rifle and went fighting mad. He was like a jungle animal, with every sense acute. He seemed, now, to know instinctively where the snipers were. He fired three shots, and got three. I seemed to catch fire from Campola's anger and from my own grief over my buddy's death. I seemed to take on a sixth sense, mostly in my eyes. Despite their camouflage, I was able to see the snipers now almost as clearly as if they weren't camouflaged at all. I don't know how many I got.
Then I felt a pecu1iar sensation in my left arm. It felt hot, then cold, then hot again. Then came a terrible pain that made me crumple to my knees. An explosive bullet had shattered the bone in the forearm.
Campola and I were both definitely out of commission. His wound, like mine, was a bad one, and bleeding profusely. There we were, in the midst of the steaming jungle, with snipers all around us, and with our pal lying there dead. Campola and I crawled behind a couple of trees where we figured we would be out of sight.
I don't know how long we lay there. We were both almost out of our minds with pain. Then we heard footsteps approaching. We didn't know whether the sounds were those of a Jap or one of our own men. I certainly was surprised when I saw Doc, my future brother-in-law. He was supposed to stay behind the lines.
"I know it's not exactly regulations," he said, "but something told me you might be in trouble."
"Woodie's gone," I said.
"Yes," said Doc, "I saw him."
Then Campola and I got in the darnedest argument you've ever heard. He insisted that Doc take care of me first, and I held out for Doc to attend to him first. It was regular Alphonse and Gaston stuff, right in the middle of jungle warfare on Guadalcanal.
They got us back to the hospital. The Japs had certainly taken a shellacking. Of twelve hundred who had been in the landing party, our comparatively slim force had killed all but twenty of them, and taken the rest prisoners. Our losses that day were twenty-eight killed and seventy-two wounded.
No sooner were Campola and I back in the hospital than the Nips came over and began to bomb the place. The hospital got a good shaking up, but none of us was any the worse for it. Campola and I were eventually evacuated, and now we're both back in this country getting patched up. At least I was able to give my sister Peggy a first-hand account of Doc's actions on Guadalcanal. Doc and I, and Campola, will meet up again before the war's over.
There's work to be done -- for Woodie.
[Jim went on a war bond tour with Gloria Stewart (the old lady in Titanic). He was Admiral Draemels body guard at the Philadelphia Naval Base. He went to OCS at Villanova and Quantico. He achieved the rank of captain and was a company commander in Korea during the Korean War. He married a Navy Nurse from Pennsylvania that he met in the Naval Hospital in San Diego; they had three girls. He was sent home from the war in Vietnam with excruciating headaches. They removed a benign tumor from his head at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital; they found splinters in the tumor from the bullet that went through his arm on Guadalcanal. Jim is buried in Beverly NJ Veterans Cemetery.]
----- Joe Gorman
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