William G. James

June, 2012

These are from notes my father, William G. James, made a few years back. He passed away last July (2011). When he landed on Tarawa he had the rank of Pharmacist's Mate First Class (PhM1c). He retired in 1966 as a Hospital Corpsman-Master Chief Petty Officer (HMCM).

"Second Marine Division departed New Zealand in large convoy. Practice landings in Fiji. Landed on Tarawa with Medical Officer and 10 Corpsmen to set up causality collection section on beachhead. Our boat was hit on landing approach. Only 5 corpsmen made it to the beach, working our way under a pier.

Fierce machine gun, mortar and artillery fire coming from Jap Stockade. Many boats & amphibious tractors hit on way in. Dead and wounded were everywhere in the water. Efforts to save the wounded was extremely dangerous and often fatal to the brave people making the effort, due to the heavy machine gun and small arms fire.

There was a 6-foot sea wall that offered protection to the ones that made it to the beach. Finally after Navy dive bombers and a beached Navy Destroyer blasted the stockade and machine gun and mortar nests in our section, hostile fire slowed and the Marines started going over the sea wall with machine guns, mortars and flame-throwers.

We were able to treat and evacuate causalities to the hospital ship, with occasional sniper fire. During the lull in firing a Marine Captain approached me and asked my name and how many units of plasma I had started. My hands and uniform were covered in blood. On leaving he said "Doc, for what it's worth I'm putting you up for a Silver Star. He went over the sea wall and was killed minutes later by a mortar burst. This was undoubtedly the longest day of my life."

Mike James mike@mikejamesdesign.com

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