WWII Marines




Ever so often, a person, when hearing I was in World War II, will say, “Thank you for your service.” I accept the thanks humbly and graciously.  Their thanks indicate they believe I have survived great risks, and suffered wounds on the battlefield.  This is a rather common and appreciated comment to warriors.


But each time I hear it, I feel guilt. I am an impostor.  The nearly four years I spent in the Marines during World War II were the best years of my life.  Not to say other periods of my life were, or are, not great.  My working years in the logging camp, public accounting, oil exploration, envelope manufacturing, food distributions, lawyers’ office and construction were all- consuming, but not without their worries and frustrations. And I would never give up memories of my marriages and children, but these came later, with great pleasures and large responsibilities.


I signed up for The Corps, when I found out I could bypass the draft and become an officer. At the time I thought little of what might be entailled, or where I might be sent, since we were not yet in a war. I gave little thought to the chances of being killed, until  a few months later when I was on my way to Quantico, Virginia for officer’s training. I began to get conflicting feelings: one, that I was invincible, and the other; I would not return.  Perhaps this is a feeling within all warriors.


Up to this time of departure, I had not travelled outside California, had lived a repetitive life, and was coddled in the arms of education.  Now I was headed on an exciting train trip across the country, never to forget the luxury of the dining car, and a stopover in the great windy city of Chicago, before landing in Washington D.C. and continuing to Quantico.


Yes, training began in boot camp, but this, I expected, and respected.  No soldier can pass up the chance to complain about boot camp.  Was it easier on officer candidates than enlisted men?  I don’t know, but, at least, I can brag about going through those rough ten weeks.  Next, was ten weeks of Reserve Officer’s Class, then ten weeks of Base Defense School.  All this was just more education, like college. Evenings were free, with but little homework, and weekends were spent travelling to Washington, New York, or some nearby towns.  And if I stayed on base, there was entertainment there. And now I was being paid, plus there was a clothing allowance, so I had new greens, blues and whites.  Life was good.


I did well enough in Base Defense School to be assigned as an instructor in Seacoast Artillery.  This was right in my ball park. I had lots of math in high school, and surveying in college. I had worked around machinery, and the 155 millimeter gun was like a toy to me.  More complex was the fire control, which at first challenged my lectures, but became easier at later classes.  Two other instructors, both from the Naval Academy, and I, lived off post, but enjoyed all the facilities of the base.  There was a bit of prestige attached to our positions, and I felt it was similar to teaching at a university.


As students, we drove to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina for live firing practice off the coast, visited Savannah, Georgia by boat and bus on a weekend, and leisurely drove back through the Blue Ridge Mountains to Quantico. The Base Defense School moved to Camp Lejeune, New River, North Carolina that winter, and I took up quarters in the Bachelor Officers Quarters on the beautiful new base.  I set up a practice gun and base-end stations on Onslow beach and instruction continued.


Does it sound like I was suffering?


Friends and I spent Christmas Weekend, 1943, at Southern Pines in central North Carolina, where I rose early Christmas morning, went to the stables and rode through the quiet woods in light snow fall.  There, also riding was a woman Marine, who rode back to camp with us.  She was the only girl friend I wrote to during the rest of the war, though I knew her only a week.


Right after New Years, I was on a troop train for San Diego.  We sat there a couple of weeks, then embarked on a troop ship for Honolulu.  A few days later we were on Kauai, setting up camp for continuing the school.  Unfortunately, while playing golf there, I met a resident, a Japanese gentleman who had studied dentistry at UCLA, who persisted in showing me around the island, and hosting a dinner for me and some of my friends at a restaurant in the rear of a small Japanese store. It was a delightful evening, and my first taste of frog legs.


A month later I was on a small freighter, sailing out of Nawiliwili harbor for the Big Island.  We were no longer Seacoast Defense, we were now Field Artillery assigned to 5th Corps Artillery.  We studied our new chores with the 2nd Division at Camp Tarawa, located at Kamuela.  Here we were independent from the 20,000 men division, and I had freedom to travel every weekend: Hilo, Kona Inn, and Volcano House.  Here, also, I was Commander of Battery “A” of the 10th Gun Battalion, with four officers and about one-hundred men, training for “where we knew not”.


Then, I was on an exciting invasion voyage to Saipan.  It could have been deadly, but I emerged with out harm and only a couple of scares.  This was followed by a week in Honolulu, to remove any psychological (?) damage.  We travelled, then, to Guam where we prepared for the invasion of Japan.  I was moved to Headquarters Battery as Assistant Operations Officer and helped on plans for landing our artillery. But there was a sort of recess – nothing happening, no decisions, which was explained by the dropping of the atom bomb a few months later.


So, you see, my life was very interesting.  I saw a lot, I learned a lot, and lived a lot.  I did my part, but don’t thank me.  I got my thanks.




George W. Parker

February 2011



This entry was posted on Sunday, January 26th, 2014 at 4:59 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “WWII Marines”

  1. Ed & Lina Harrington

    Hello George,

    Hope all goes well with you and your wife. Haven’t heard from you in many years. Our last contact occurred when Lina and I visited Yosemite. We are in relatively good shape. I had a triple bypass last Fall.

    warmest regards,
    Ed & Lina

  2. George

    Ed and Lina,

    Ed, don’t let that bypass trip(le) you. I had a bypass about 20 years ago, and am still going, albeit quite a bit slower.
    Cari (17 years younger than I) is also quite alive, and still doing lots eight-hand piano playing. I’ve ben going to a memoirs class
    for ten years, and have just about run out of memories. I still participate in Marine Corps activities, but ride, rather than march, in parades. For the fifth
    year I will be the oldest Marine celebrating the Marine Corps birthday in November at the Marine’s Memorial club in San Francisco.
    We still have the pillow you gave us, though it is now a bit frayed. And Stanford Hospital sends me a few pence for being on four of their Institutional Review Boards

    So nice to hear from you.

    Cari and George

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