Biography of Ben Roebuck
Sergeant, 23rd Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, USMC, Saipan, WWII
This is concerning my 87-year-old Dad, Ben, who served at Saipan. I excerpted his recollection from the 50th Reunion Book for the 1939 Class at Erskine College.
I "joined"(volunteered) the US Marine Corps and received my basic training (boot camp) at Paris Island near Yamassee in South Carolina. I was then reassigned to Quantico, Virginia, which is in the vicinity of Washington, DC. Subsequently, our outfit moved to the West Coast: first at Camp Elliott near San Diego and then at Camp Pendleton, Oceanside. I was a buck seargent in the FOURTH MARINE DIVISION --the first Marine Division to sail from the US (San Diego) into combat (Kwajalein Atoll of Roi and Namur in the Marshall Islands). Subsequently, I was wounded in action 17 June 1944 on the Island of Saipan in the Marianas Islands with 23 Marines (23rd Regiment, Fourth Marine Division). We had landed via amphibious tanks/tractors of of LSTs (Landing Ship Tanks). We received the Presidential Unit Citation and I received a "gunshot wound, left leg" on Saipan--40 percent disability by the Veterans Administration. And ... yes ..I received the Purple Heart. Our hospital ship (actually one of Henry J Kaiser's famous Liberty Ships) was the "former" Officer's Quarters converted to a sick bay area. We were at sea for a couple of weeks off Guam (Saipan lay 3,715 miles from Pearl Harbor and only 1,485 miles from Tokyo, Japan), then our ship sailed for the US Naval Hospital at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
After one month at USNH, Pearl Harbor, I received "word" that I would be sent to Colorado Springs unless I excercised an option. And that option meant that I could be sent to a Naval Hospital "nearer my home." So I asked for USNH, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina! Home at last -- THANK GOD, HOME AT LAST. Camp Lejeune at "New River" North Carolina (actually Jacksonville) is some 75 miles from my hometown of Washington. I was able to visit my parents every weekend from December until 5 June 1945 when I received my honorable discharge. I had an "early out" because I had enlisted 19 August 1941 as a Reserve on active duty.
Following my discharge I obtained employment in my hometown at a 5,000 watt AM radio station -- WRRF on 930 khz. I did some announcing, read the news and wrote major commercial copy as the station's first Continuity Editor.
Dad eventually finished a Civil Service career in Washington DC and retired in 1972. He returned to North Carolina later that year and in 2003, he and my Mom moved closer to my sister in Kansas City, MO in an assisted living facility called the Gardens.
My Dad, was a great man of faith. Raised a Methodist, he swore he'd never be two things, a Holiness or a Pentecostal. He didn't. He became a Pentecostal Holiness!
While on board ship on the way to Saipan he had fellowship for the first time with Christians of many denominations. On board the LST approaching the island, the men had been told just to take cover and not to take "pot" shots. He looked and saw one of his friends kneeling, as if to pray. Dad came along side of him to pray with him and his friend's head fell back, his helmet fell off, the whites of his eyes filled with blood and burst. Dad's pal had been taking pot shots and caught one under the helmet.
The time came for the Marines to disembark the LST and gather prior to advancing to shore. Dad decided to take cover behind the LST as fire was coming all around him from the island. Amidst the gunfire, and the sound of the engines of the LST, a very quiet, audible voice said, "You'd better move." No one was close by, certainly not close enough to speak so quietly. Dad obeyed the voice and swam from behind the vehicle. Just then it lunged backward and no doubt would have ground my Dad into hamburger, had he not complied. He looked to the sky and said, "OK, Lord, it's You and me!"
I believe it was the third day on the island, Dad was given orders to go to the forward positions and let them know that chow was ready. He went to one group and was told, "Go to Hell!" Undeterred, he went to a second group and again was told to "Go to Hell!"
When he got to the third group, at a distance, he saw a ball of fire. Instantly his left chin felt as though someone had poured molten led into it. Dad said he screamed like a "stuck pig."
He lay there for what seemed an eternity, thinking, "Well sir, this is the way I die, I guess."
Just then, as Dad put it, "the prettiest little Corpsman, I mean a TINY little guy came up and said, 'OK, Marine, we're gonna get you outa here!'"
Dad's leg was not set properly and for years he walked with a limp and had to wear mismated shoes.
The last time I saw Dad was in december of last year. He was in ill health. But he could still be heard in his room saying, "OK, Lord." A mighty man of God and every bit a Marine, that was my Dad, Ben Roebuck.
He taught me many things, but the most important were, not to be afraid to be tender-hearted and cry and whenever I felt I had no one to talk to, the Lord is always there. "Son, just take a walk and talk it over with the Lord. He loves you and He's always there."
Semper fi, Pop!
----- popparoebuck AT myway DOT com
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