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Ben Ridge

Ben Ridge

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This is a story that was published in Leatherneck magazine in 1944 about my father who was a Marine in WWII.
This is a story that was published in Leatherneck magazine in 1944 about my father who was a Marine in WWII.

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Published by: Justine Ridge Centanni on Nov 18, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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11/18/2013

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 Outlined in silhouette against the blazing fire, he pleaded with his men: "Don't shoot, it's only me." BEN RIDGE is typically American in many respects. Aboard our LST he was among the most talkative. He wisecracked a lot and grumbled just as frequently. He loved to indulge in exaggeration and expressions such as "I'll stomp the hell out of you if you spill that coffee on me" and "I've been to six fish fries, a county fair and a hog callin' and never seen the beat of this." He had been a horse wrangler for his uncle back in his home town of Phoenix, Ariz., and he wondered how come he never realized how well off he was in those days. He flashed a heavy growth of black whiskers on his swarthy face. He was as profane as they come. He never attended nightly prayer meetings, yet he admitted he would lie awake hours at a time in his stuffy hold, "tuning in on the Lord's frequency" as he termed it. He had been wounded in the invasion of Eniwetok and he knew that assault landings are romantic only in the movies. His tractor ran into a storm of Jap artillery on the way ashore the morning of Guam's D day. A piece of shrapnel splintered the stock of his Tommy gun. He took a deep breath, tightened his belt and continued ashore to help establish the beachhead and begin the advance from Apra harbor to Sumay. His first sergeant was injured and Platoon Sergeant Ridge took over his duties. He underwent a punishing mortar barrage one afternoon and came back with wide eyes and pale face. That night he was in a front-line foxhole as usual. It was Ben Ridge who first recognized the danger when a star shell ignited the grass near our lines and it was he who led a party outlined in full silhouette against the blaze to extinguish it. The next morning he joked about the sound of his voice as he pleaded with his men: "Don't shoot, it's only me !" "Only two of them shot at us," he said. "I guess the rest were asleep." Then he began kidding his stoutish executive officer about digging a foxhole entirely too small to cover the subject. The next night after a long day of patrolling a hilly, brush-ridden sector it was Ridge who maintained a one-man watch until dawn so that his equally exhausted companions could get some sleep. His eyes had become glassy and blood-shot by then, but the Japs were unsympathetic. About 11 the following night they opened up with artillery and felt out our lines with light, probing thrusts. At 1 the big Banzai began. Several hundred shambos came tearing out of their holes toward the Marine positions. The front lines held but a machine gun was knocked out in the foremost defenses and the Japs closed in toward it. It was Ridge who directed moving up a machine gun crew from another company to fill the gap and who helped carry out a plan of bringing up our mortars and shelling the enemy from shorter range to cover the advancing machine gunners. Ridge fired few shots himself, but he was out of his hole and exposed through all the fury of the Jap drive which ended in the attackers being killed almost to a man. Just after daylight there was another blast of artillery. Again Ridge was on his feet, urging the men to get back out of range. A piece of shrapnel caught up with him and his fighting days on Guam were over. On his way to the field hospital he was the same old Ridge. He complained in his best "beefing" tone that a fellow passenger and casualty had had himself wounded on purpose so that he could get back to the States as soon as Ridge. "And you haven't half the time out here I have," yelped Ben Ridge. JELLY-FACED, chunky Merlin Honeycutt is lackadaisical in appearance. He is a corpsman but medicine and medical treatment seemed the least of his concerns in his poker-playing period on the LST. He won, lost, borrowed, won and paid his debts. He listened to Ben Ridge and laughed at him. He didn't talk about his job or the operation at all. Unless you made careful inquiries you would never learn he was a hospital orderly in Dry Prong, La., before enlisting in the Navy. He went in with the second wave D day and that afternoon still seemed to be walking in something of a fog. Then another corpsman was injured and responsibilities for Third Class

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