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Marine Corps Legends: Private First Class Frank Witek

Private First Class Frank Witek was killed in action on 3 August 1944, in the battle of Finegayan, Guam. He was the 28th Marine to receive the Medal of Honor during World War II.

Frank Peter Witek was born 10 December 1921, in Derby, Connecticut. He was of Polish ancestry. When he was 9, the family moved to Chicago. It was there he finished his student days at Crane Technical High School and went to work at the Standard Transformer Company.

On 20 January 1942, he left for recruit training after enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps. He left almost immediately for Pearl Harbor and in January 1943, his family heard from him while he was in New Zealand. From there he went to Bougainville where he fought in three major battles. Then he went to Guadalcanal for a rest. On 21 July 1944, the 3d Division Marines invaded Guam. PFC Witek was a Browning automatic rifleman and scout behind the Japanese lines.

On 8 September 1944, his mother received a telegram from Washington informing her that her son had been killed on 3 August. According to a combat correspondent’s release, he was slain at the battle of the Mount Santa Rosa road block. He had only eight cartridges left on an original 240 rounds when he was found.

On Sunday, 20 May 1945, 50,000 persons, including his mother and Gen Alexander A. Vandegrift, Commandant of the Marine Corps, met in Soldier’s Field, Chicago, to do honor to his memory. PFC Frank Peter Witek, 23 years old, had earned the highest military award his country could give him – the Medal of Honor.
Initially buried in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps Cemetery on Guam, PFC Witek’s remains were reinterred in the Rock Island National Cemetery, Rock Island, Illinois, in 1949.

Reprinted with the authorization of the United States Marine Corps History Division

Marine Corps News From World War Two: Marines In New Attack

Japs Imperiled By Operation On New Britain

Marines using leap-frog tactics have advanced to within 170 miles of the Jap stronghold at Rabaul with a new landing near Talasea on mountainous Willaumez peninsula where light opposition was quickly overpowered. The new landing represented an advance of 110 miles and tightened the Allied squeeze on Rabaul.
Japanese on the peninsula were reported Thursday to be resisting bitterly. Marine shock troops were fighting to hold their beachhead against fanatical Jap counter assaults.

NEW ATOLL FALLS IN MARSHALL ISLES

Adm. Chester W. Nimitz reported Tuesday that American forces have occupied Majuro atoll in the Marshall Islands without opposition. The newly won island of Majuro, a German supply base before World War I, will provide a good anchorage and advance position in the mid-Pacific, Nimitz announced. No Japanese were found on the island. While Marines moved closer to Rabaul, South Pacific headquarters announced, the reinforced dismounted Ist Cavalry smashed a Jap counter-attack to establish firm control over Los Negros island in the Admiralty group, about 300 miles northwest.
On northeast New Guinea, troops which made an amphibious landing Tuesday within 20 miles of Japan’s Bogadjim fortress, advanced both east and west to capture the villages of Bibi and Ganglau.

10,000 ENEMY TROOPS ISOLATED IN MARSHALLS

The 10,000 enemy troops still in the Marshalls were cut off by fleet units, submarines and planes from possible reinforcement or supplies. Japanese in the Southwest Pacific are in the same fix, Tokyo radio admitted. And in the Solomons, Japanese troops once estimated at 30,000 wait for little ships that never come. The Marine landing on Willaumez peninsula, New Britain, was five miles northwest of Talasea.
Hitting the beach without benefit of naval bombardment, but well covered by fighter planes, the Leathernecks pushed forward toward Talasea, where there is an airfield. Aerial attacks on Cape Hoskins, where 32 tons of bombs were dropped on an enemy airdrome, and on Japanese targets on Riebeck of Willaumez peninsula, aided the Marine thrust.

In Washington, where he has returned for a series of conferences, Adm. Nimitz said, “Our submarines are taking such a heavy toll of Jap shipping that lack of shipping may soon be the controlling factor in what Japan is able to do. “Our submarines are increasing in number and not decreasing in efficiency, even though the number of targets is slowly decreasing.”

From the 11March1944 issue of the Marine Corps Chevron

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Marine Corps News From World War Two: Explosives Found Hidden On Bodies

CAPE GLOUCESTER, New Britain (Delayed)

Marines have been heard to observe that the only “good” Jap is a dead Jap, but even that isn’t true any longer.
Marine burial parties here have discovered hand grenades hidden under the arms of corpses, armed and ready to explode the minute pressure was removed from the striker pin.

Sgt. Arthur E. Mielke, combat correspondent.

From the 11March1944 issue of the Marine Corps Chevron

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Marine Corps News From World War Two: Wisecracking Jap Refuses Surrender

ROI ISLAND, Kwajalein (Delayed)

Marines who splashed ashore here to snuff out Jap sniper opposition, ran into an American-educated enemy with a flair for wisecracks and a desire to end it all the hard way.
Sgt. Bob Cooke of Metuchen, N. J,, a combat correspondent, reports the Leathernecks got this reply from a pillbox entenched Jap they called upon to surrender:

“Come in and get me, you damn souvenir-hunting Marine tourists.”


From the 18March1944 issue of the Marine Corps Chevron

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General Robert H. Barrow

General Robert H. Barrow, 27th Commandant of the Marine Corps, was born 5 February 1922 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After attending Louisiana State University, he enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1942 and was commissioned a second lieutenant 19 May 1943.

Lieutenant Barrow subsequently served as Officer-in-Charge of an American team attached to a group of Chinese Nationalist guerrillas. He entered China via India and after many months of operations along the periphery of the area held by the Japanese in central China, his team entered Japanese occupied territory and conducted intensive guerrilla operations for the last seven months of World War II. For this service, he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V”. After the war, Lieutenant Barrow remained in China for another year, six months of which was spent in Shanghai and six months in the Tientsin-Peking area.

He returned to the United States in October 1946, and served as Aide-de-Camp to the Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force (FMF), Atlantic, until September 1948. Captain Barrow then completed the Amphibious Warfare School, Junior Course, Quantico, Virginia.

From 1949 until 1950, he served as Commanding Officer of Company A, 1st Battalion, 2d Marines, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

During the Korean War, he led Company A, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, in the Inchon-Seoul operation and the Chosin Reservoir campaign. For the latter he was awarded the Navy Cross for holding a pass near Koto-ri on 9-10 December 1950.

In February 1956, he commenced an eighteen month tour with the 2d Battalion, 6th Marines, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. From the summer of 1957 to the summer of 1960, he served as the Marine Officer Instructor, NROTC Unit at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana. In September 1959, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel.

Colonel Barrow graduated from the National War College in June 1968. He then served in the Republic of Vietnam, as Commanding Officer, 9th Marines, 3d Marine Division (Rein), and as Deputy G-3, III Marine Amphibious Force. During the nine months he served as Commanding Officer of the 9th Marines, his regiment participated in numerous combat actions in the vicinity of the DMZ, Khe Sanh, Da Krong Valley, and A Shau Valley. For extraordinary heroism in Operation Dewey Canyon, he was awarded the Army Distinguished Service Cross.

After promotion to brigadier general, he served as Commanding General at Camp Butler, Okinawa. On further promotion to major general, he became Commanding General, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island. He was promoted to lieutenant general in 1975 and assigned to Headquarters Marine Corps as Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower. In 1976, he was named Commanding General, FMF, Atlantic, at Norfolk.

General Barrow became the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps in July 1978, so serving until appointed the Corps’ Commandant on 1 July 1979.

General Barrow was the first Commandant to serve, by law, a regular four-year tour as a full member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was instrumental in acquiring approval of production for the Marine Corps of the American-modified Harrier aircraft, in awakening interest in new and improved naval gunfire support, in getting amphibious ships included in the Navy’s new construction programs, and in returning hospital ships to the fleet, especially on station with Marine Corps amphibious task forces.

General Barrow retired as Commandant on 30 June 1983 and returned to his native state of Louisiana. Upon retirement he was presented with the Distinguished Service Medal.

General Barrow died in his sleep on 30 October 2008 and was laid to rest at Grace Episcopal Church Cemetery in Saint Francisville, Louisiana.

In addition to the Distinguished Service Medal, a complete list of his medals and decorations include: the Navy Cross; the Army Distinguished Service Cross; the Silver Star Medal; three Legions of Merit; the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” and Gold Star in lieu of a second award; the Presidential Unit Citation with one bronze star; the American Campaign Medal; the World War II Victory Medal; the China Service Medal; the National Defense Service Medal with one bronze star; the Korean Service Medal with three bronze stars; the Vietnamese Service Medal with one bronze star; four Vietnamese Crosses of Gallantry with Palm; the Republic of Vietnam National Order, Fifth Class with Gold Star in lieu of a second award; the United Nations Service Medal; and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.

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Marine Corps News From World War Two: Mortars Blast Enemy On Namur

NAMUR, Kwajalein Atoll (Delayed)

“Our assault elements pushed the Japs back so fast on this small island that we were unable to bring up heavy concentrations of infantry supporting weapons for fear of hitting our own troops,” said 2dLt. William Capers James Jr., a mortar platoon leader in the Marine unit that took this island in 27 hours of bloody fighting.
Lt. James was able to register some telling fire on Jap pillboxes on the morning of the second day of fighting when troops called for mortar concentrations on the three remaining Jap pillboxes on the northeast shore of the island. Mortars softened up cornered Japs preliminary to the final assault by lumbering tanks.

From the 11March1944 issue of the Marine Corps Chevron

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Marine Corps News From World War Two: Japs Hauled From Holes By Marines On Eniwetok Atoll

ENIWETOK ATOLL, Feb. 21 (Delayed)

When Corporal Robert H. Thompson of Detroit landed on the beach at Engebi, some four hours after the assault wave, he couldn’t wait to get at the enemy. He joined a mopping up party and stayed with them to rout the Japs from their holes. Every time the party saw a movement under some debris or in the bush they would go after it with entrenching tools, rifles ready. “Some we had to blast out of their tin lined boxes and others we could drag out,” said Corp. Thompson. “One time after we threw a hand grenade in what appeared to be one of their positions, four Japs ran from the hole and into the water.

JAPS EVERYWHERE

The island was honeycombed with these two, three, and four man nests and it seemed every place the men looked, they found Japanese. Corp. Thompson believes that some of the Japanese they found are either brave or crazy. “We found one,” he says, “who kept wanting us to bayonet him and indicating the place on his chest. Another turned back as he ran and laughed when a Marine swore over a jammed rifle. We threw a grenade in one position and watched as a Jap jumped out of his hole, the grenade going off, and then jumped right back in again.”

Sgt. Benjamin J. Masselink, combat correspondent.

From the 11March1944 issue of the Marine Corps Chevron

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Marine Corps News From World War Two: Miramar Depot Gets WR Group

MCAD MIRAMAR

New assignments of 48 WRs to this depot were announced this week. Of the total, 18 were assigned to the communications office, 11 to WR PX, seven to the post office, four to the garage, two to the Depot sergeant major’s office, one each to the personnel office, auditor’s office, QM Dept., “Log” office, personnel group and to the Depot mess officer.

Recent arrival of 29 enlisted women from MCAS, Cherry Point, N. C. increased the total serving here to 226 enlisted and 14 officers.

From the 18March1944 issue of the Marine Corps Chevron

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USMC News From WWII: American Flag Flown In Hail Of Enemy Lead

ENGEBI ISLAND, Eniwetok Atoll, Feb. 19 (Delayed)

Less than 24 hours after landing on this island, the American flag was raised by a of Marines who were among the attacking troops. Using a palm tree whose foliage had been knocked off in the furious naval bombardment which preceded the landing of the American forces, for a flagpole, Marines ran up Old Glory at 0800, with “To the Colors” being sounded on a captured Jap bugle. Snipers made the flag-raising a risky business, but PFC. David B. Whitehurst of Birmingham, Ala., a communications man, climbed the pole and attached the lanyards with Japanese sniper bullets flying all around his head.

BLOWS JAP BUGLE

Corp. Arthur P. Wright of Culver City, Calif., sounded the colors on the Japanese bugle. He also had the satisfaction of knocking off four of the enemy the previous day. SgtMaj. Bernard R. Dumas of South Paris, Me., and StfSgt. Joseph L. (Larry) Bennett of Adrian, Mich., were color bearers. As “To the Colors” sounded this morning Leathernecks, oblivious of the cracking sniper fire, stood at attention and saluted. They then continued their work of cleaning out the holes where the enemy was dug in.

Sgt. Thomas A. Fisher, combat correspondent.


From the 11March1944 issue of the Marine Corps Chevron

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Marine Corps News From World War Two: Air Aces ‘Gripe’ For More Action

SAN FRANCISCO

Famous as “Last Man Off Wake Island,” Col. Walter Bayler of Lebanon, Pa., recently returned here after two months’ official tour of air stations in the Central and South Pacific and conveyed only one gripe—that from men with outstanding combat records who, since rests in the U.S., have been placed in charge of overseas air units.

Among those he met were Lt.Col. John L. Smith, 19 Zeros; Lt.Col. Robert Galer, who shot down 13 at Guadalcanal and was downed three times himself, and Maj. Marion Carl, 18.
All of them, he said, are eager for more action against the Japs than they are getting.


From the 18March1944 issue of the Marine Corps Chevron

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Marine Corps News From World War Two: First Marine Raider Dog Killed On Bougainville

BOUGAINVILLE (Delayed)—

Rollo, a brave-hearted Doberman-Pinscher attached to a Raider unit, became the first dog to be killed in action on the battlefield when it was machine gunned to death by Japs here.

The dog’s handler, PFC. Russell* T. Friedrich of Andover, Conn., was wounded in the same skirmish. Another handler, PFC. James H. White of New York City related:
“We were assigned to an army patrol which wanted Rollo to point Jap positions in dense jungle along the Torokina River. When we got near the Japs, Rollo alerted and pointed. Then the dog attacked and threw the Japs into an uproar. We were on the ground up near a Jap pillbox.

JAPS CALL DOG
“We could hear the Japs hollering, ‘Doggie, doggie. Fredericks whistled and Rollo came back unharmed. He was just about to send Rollo back out of danger when the Japs began firing at him and he sent Rollo over to me. “The Japs were intent on getting the dog. I don’t think they knew I was down there in the grass, too. The Jap fire grew intense. The bullets as they crossfired kept coming closer to me. “I was debating how to get out. Friedrich was only eight feet from me but behind a tree. I sent Rollo to him as the bullets came closer. I thought I was a goner. Just as Rollo got to Friedrich he was hit. Rollo whined for a minute and then died.”

JAP FIRE CONTINUES

Friedrich was shot again a few seconds later. White narrowly escaped death when a Jap bullet tore through his helmet and grazed his scalp. Rollo, who celebrated his second birthday Dec. 7, was regarded as the best “point” dog in the Raider unit. Caesar, a shepherd, once wounded, is the best messenger dog, according to the Marines.

By TSgt. Theodore C. Link, Combat Correspondent

From the 18March1944 issue of the Marine Corps Chevron

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