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" 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
Pharmacist Mate Honeycutt increased. You noticed him tying on the splint for the fellow with the broken leg, making arrangements to get casualties to the beach. Perhaps anyone could have done that, but anyone couldn't have run from one wounded man to the next during the hot spot his company hit a couple of days afterward. He didn't crawl; he stood up and went from one to another, administering first aid. The next morning, a big cigar in his mouth, he looked carefree and incompetent once more and that night he was all over the battlefield bringing in casualties and administering vitally needed blood plasma in the flarelighted blackness. He never left his assault company during his eight days up front. He looked tired but he never complained. The eleventh day he was helping give plasma to a sergeant who had been hit by a Jap grenade while on patrol. He worked for ten minutes over the patient. Then they carried him away on a poncho-made litter. "Hey," yelled an officer, "there are plenty of regular stretchers around here." "It doesn't make any difference," someone answered. "He's dead." Only then did Merlin Honeycutt close up his first aid kit and head toward the hospital. He was turning in with a fever of 103. He never told anyone how long he had been ill. Honeycutt was that kind of a guy. PRIVATE First Class George Weber is a youngster of 23. His friends remember him as a quiet fellow who might be a tough man with whom to tangle. He was an easy-going sort and no one ever really found out about Weber until the Japs came along. Young George did not toe the mark too strictly during training and his record book showed his failings. En route to the Marshalls for his first taste of combat he' confided to intimates he was intent on making up for past mistakes. His platoon leader remained skeptical; the kid from Schaghticoke, N. Y., certainly hadn't proved himself as yet. At Eniwetok a Jap set up a machine gun in a sunken barge just off shore and raked it back and forth along the crowded beach. Weber ducked low while the gun was turned in his direction. As it swung back the opposite way he charged forward, brandishing a pistol and hand grenade. A Marine tank came up to finish the job but by then Weber had things well in hand. For that he was commended and all agreed he'd paid his debts in full. But George Weber wasn't satisfied. He still figured he owed the Marine Corps something. At 0715 the morning of July 21, Weber and his platoon climbed into their LVT which rolled off the LST ramp and by 0830 was a few yards off the beach at Apra harbor. A Jap 77 millimeter shore gun on Gaan point leveled its muzzle at Weber's wave. The tractor on his right was hit. The one behind him was knocked out. Shells were falling in the water all around. Finally Weber's tractor succumbed to feven hits and stalled 15 yards from the Jap 77. Weber was cut by flying shrapnel but his heart was stouter than the tractor's. He climbed out into knee-deep water, crouched behind a rock while he prepared to fire an anti-tank grenade. The small rifle seemed no match for the big Jap gun. But the man behind it is what counts. George's aim was true and the 77 was silenced. At the beach he employed hand grenades to knock out a machine gun nest in an enemy blockhouse. He was in such bad shape from the shrapnel by then his commanding officer had to order him back to the ship. by SSGT. DICK GORDON USMC Combat Correspondent Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission. Abstract (Document Summary) 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. Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.
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