Friday, December 12, 2008

Herman Enlists in the Marines

Written by Kimberly Eden, Heath's Row: A History of Herman and Beula Heath

Herman did not finish high school. He was 18 in 1943 and in September before his senior year he joined the Marines. Pearl Harbor had been bombed barely a year and a half before. His name was placed on a plaque in the Price Court House for enlisting. He was assigned the Second Marine Division Sixth Regiment and spent much of the war on special assignments as a scout and sniper. He taught his grandchildren how to shoot a gun also. Part of his job included training any new Lieutenants and rescue and retrieval.

Boot camp was in San Diego and lasted 14 weeks when Herman was sent to Camp Elliot, California for advanced training. After that he was sent to the Big Island Hawaii or Hawaii, Hawaii for more in field training in new recruits and final training. "Following this training, I was sent to Saipan aboard the USS Comet a troop transport ship. I have a bayonet wound in my knee and back that happened during the original invasion. I hobbled to the first aid station for repair. They sewed me up without and anesthetic." Herman was on Saipan for three or four weeks capturing and securing the island. During this time he ran into a number of the enemy. "The closest I ever came to getting killed was our first day in Saipan. There were three of us walking through a grove of trees and I heard somebody in back of us start shooting. We turned around to see what it was about. The guy had shot a Jap sniper up in a tree. He told me that the sniper was aiming right at my back."

Herman also came across a Japanese officer and his girlfriend making love in a cave. He shot a flamethrower and killed them both knowing that :otherwise I might have met him on the battlefield the next day."

"One day we were sitting around eating K rations when a Japanese mortar landed in our midst. We all had to use our toilet paper rations after that. No one was hurt."

"We were about half way through Saipan and my friend Ost from Montana made a foxhole by piling rocks up and covering it with vines. During the night, I heard someone stumble and fall. Ost opened up with his automatic weapon and killed the guy. Way in the distant [sic] a Jap sniper began shooting at us because of the fire action but never hit us."

"After we captured and secured the island, we went to Tinian aboard a Higgins boat. It held 20 marines. Some of the guys went on Amtraks. It took us two t three weeks to capture Tinian. As we were walking past the island, we could hear the Japanese committing Hari Kari, exploding grenades against their chest. I heard many explosions. The civilians in the island were pushed over in a corner and they began jumping off cliffs in order to kill themselves because they were told we were monsters. The way we came at them, they probably thought we were monsters. There was a destroyer sitting beneath the cliffs, broadcasting in Japanese, telling them not to kill themselves."

When the island was secured, Herman was stationed on Saipan for a year. He worked intelligence missions and participated in a "rabbit drive" or skirmish line where they found and killed nearly 300 Japanese, anyone who would not surrender. Next Herman was sent to Okinawa for five or six hours to work an operation with the intent to divide the Japanese troops. "We were guinea pigs sent there to draw the Japanese to us while the main landing force landed in the idle of the island and stretched clear across the island, cutting the Japanese forces in two. We returned to Saipan again because they didn't need us anymore. My division got out of there just in time because all hell broke loose on both sides of the landing party. The resulting battle was horrible but the Americans finally captures the island. When they hit Iwo Jima later we were on standby but never had to go."

Once again in Saipan, Herman trained for the final invasion on Japan. They landed on a rough rocky shoreline roughly 30 days after the atomic bomb was dropped from a plans, the Nola gay, stationed in Tinain. His platoon was stationed as military police in Nagasaki for about three months. Then he was sent to Sesibo, Japan for disbursement to return home. In San Diego, California and Camp Pendleton, Herman was honorably discharged January 25, 1946 on Mare Island were he received $127.73 for transport on the train to Green River and $100 mustering out pay. He received a Good Conduct Medal in 1944 and a WWII Victory Medal, and American Campaign Medal, an Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and a China Service Medal. His monthly pay rate was $66 as a marine. Upon returning home, Herman received an honorable high school diploma. Soon after, Herman enrolled at BYU Academy and started his education on the GI Bill.

2 comments:

Kaselehlia Heath said...

also ask dad about he and the other members of his squad, actually went about training these leiutents. There are some pretty funny stories, and he gets so excited to tell these.

Twyla said...

Herman loved to tell how they were assigned to prepare the officers when they first joined the unit. They would take them on runs around the area. The officers weren't in as good a shape as Herman and his friends were. They would take off running and then wait for them to catch up. As soon as the officers were almost up with them they would take off again. They continued this till they wore the officers out completely.

One day they had rubber boat training. They were supposed to go out and cross the reefs and come back in. You could do this safely if you kept the boat straight. They tried to get this across to the officer but to no avail. He landed in the water. Herman still laughs about that.