The Fourth Marine Division was on the active duty rolls for just over 27 months during the World War II era and its combat commitment was limited to a 13-month span. During this time there were 63 days of engagements.
To select "giants" from the Fourth Marine Division requires considering 81,000 men who saw action with the "Fighting Fourth." All had a hand in the division being awarded two Presidential Unit Citations and a Navy Unit Commendation.
Beginning at the top, the Fourth was blessed with nearly a score of "giant" leaders. Major General Harry Schmidt led the division in the Kwajalein engagement involving the Roi-Namur landings and on to Saipan. He then was assigned as Commanding General of the multi-division forces of the V Amphibious Corps (which included the Fourth Division).
The division's other combat CG was Major General Clifton B. Cates, who led the unit in the Tinian and Iwo Jima assaults. General Cates, later to become the Marine Corps' 19th Commandant and first to revert to three stars in order to continue on active duty after a CMC tour, had previously led the First Marines on Guadalcanal.
Brigadier General James L. Underhill was Acting Commanding General at Camp Pendleton when the Fourth was activated. He stayed on as ADC through the Roi-Namur landings and also led Regimental Combat Team (RCT)-25 during the Phase I landings by the Mellu Landing Group. Brigadier General Samuel C. Cumming served as ADC during the Saipan and Tinian operations after being CO of the 25th RCT, which was the division reserve for Roi-Namur. Brigadier General Franklin A. Hart, who had led the 24th RCT during the first three engagements, was ADC during the Iwo campaign.
The Fourth Division's leadership represented a close-knit, "in-house" progression.
Col Merton J. Batchelder had headed the 25th RCT on Saipan and Tinian before becoming Chief of Staff during Iwo. Col William W. Rogers had been the "Chief" during the first three engagements before moving up to the Northern Troops and Landing Force (another of General Schmidt's new "hats").
Col Louis R. Jones had led the 23rd Marines since September 1942 (back at Camp Lejeune, N.C.) and was regimental commander for Roi-Namur, Saipan and Tinian before being assigned to Lieutenant General H. M. Smith's Headquarters, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific. Col Walter W. Wensinger, who had been the '3 for the first three engagements, headed the 23rd Marines on Iwo.
Also on Iwo, Col Walter I. Jordan, formerly XO of the 25th Marines, was in charge of the Division Reserve (RCT-24) which was soon committed. Col John R. Lanigan, formerly XO for the 23rd Marines, had RCT-25 for the Iwo landing.
The 14th Marines (Division Artillery) had Col Louis G. DeHaven as regimental commander throughout the four campaigns. The 20th Marines (an engineer group) was listed for the first three landings before being split into a variety of division support battalions. Col Lucian W. Burnham was the 20th Marines' CO for Kwajalein before LtCol Nelson K. Brown led the Division Engineers on Saipan and Tinian. He was CO of the 4th Engineer Battalion for Iwo. Col E. W. Skinner was in charge of the Support Group for Roi-Namur. Col O. H. Wheeler was CO for Saipan and Tinian, with LtCol Melvin L. Krulewitch taking over on Iwo Jima.
Other Fourth Division staff or battalion officers later became well-known Marine leaders. Col Edwin A. Pollock was the D-3 Operations Officer for Iwo. The list also included Brunelli, Drake, Duchein, Garretson, Karch, Victory and Youngdale.
All of these leaders, the 17,222 casualties, and the 81,000 Fourth Division Marines who saw WW II combat, should be considered as "Giants of the Corps." Within the ranks of those elite Marines were 12 Medal of Honor winners, ranging in grade from private to lieutenant colonel, including a pharmacist's mate.
Their home states spanned the northern U.S. from Massachusetts to Washington, and dipped into the Deep South to Alabama and Georgia. Two were from New York and two from Illinois. Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and West Virginia were also represented.
Two of the Marines were battalion commanders. Three hurled themselves upon grenades to save others (including one private who lived). Assault charges by a machine gun section leader, company commander, platoon leader and a Marine who assumed duties as a bazooka man were also recorded. A platoon sergeant who led the way through minefields and another who grabbed a machine gun off a tank to lead an assault were two others who distinguished themselves in combat. The pharmacist's mate inspired his battalion by repeatedly drawing fire, evacuating wounded and holding off the enemy.
Medals of Honor were awarded World War II Fourth Division Marines for all four major engagements, with six recorded for heroics on Iwo. (Asterisks denote posthumous awards.) The citations, in part, are as follows:
*PFC Richard Beatty Anderson entered a shell crater on Roi Island, Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands, 1 February 1944, which was occupied by three other Marines. PFC Anderson was preparing to throw a grenade at an enemy position when it slipped from his hands and rolled toward the men at the bottom of the hole.
With insufficient time to retrieve the armed weapon and throw it, PFC Anderson fearlessly chose to sacrifice himself and save his companions by hurling his body upon the grenade and taking the full impact of the explosion. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
LtCol Justice M. Chambers, CO, 3/25, served "beyond the call of duty" on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, from 19 to 22 February 1945. Under a furious barrage of enemy machine gun and small-arms fire from the commanding cliffs on the right, LtCol Chambers landed immediately after the initial assault waves of his battalion on D-day to find the momentum of the assault threatened by heavy casualties from withering Japanese artillery, mortar, rocket, machine gun and rifle fire.
Exposed to relentless hostile fire, he coolly reorganized his battle-weary men, inspiring them to heroic efforts by his own valor and leading them in an attack on the critical, impregnable high ground from which the enemy was pouring an increasing volume of fire directly onto troops ashore as well as amphibious craft in succeeding waves. Constantly in the front lines encouraging his men to push forward against the enemy's savage resistance, LtCol Chambers led the 8-hour battle to carry the flanking ridge top and reduce the enemy's fields of aimed fire, thus protecting the vital foothold gained.
In constant defiance of hostile fire while reconnoitering the entire regimental combat team zone of action, he maintained contact with adjacent units and forwarded vital information to the regimental commander. His zealous fighting spirit undiminished despite terrific casualties and the loss of most of his key officers, he again reorganized his troops for renewed attack against the enemy's main line of resistance and was directing the fire of the rocket platoon when he fell, critically wounded.
Evacuated under heavy Japanese fire, LtCol Chambers, by forceful leadership, courage, and fortitude in the face of staggering odds, was directly instrumental in insuring the success of subsequent operations of the 5th Amphibious Corps on Iwo Jima.
*Sgt Darrell Samuel Cole was a leader of a machine gun section of "B"/1/23 on Iwo Jima on 19 February 1945. Assailed by a tremendous volume of small-arms, mortar and artillery fire as he advanced with one squad of his section in the initial assault wave, Sgt Cole boldly led his men up the sloping beach toward Airfield No. 1 despite the blanketing curtain of flying shrapnel and, personally destroying with hand grenades two hostile emplacements which menaced the progress of his unit, continued to move forward until a merciless barrage of fire emanating from three Japanese pillboxes halted the advance.
Instantly placing his one remaining machine gun in action, he delivered a shattering fusillade and succeeded in silencing the nearest and most threatening emplacement before his weapon jammed and the enemy, reopening fire with knee mortars and grenades, pinned down his unit for the second time.
Shrewdly gauging the tactical situation and evolving a daring plan of counterattack, Sgt Cole, armed solely with a pistol and one grenade, coolly advanced alone to the hostile pillboxes. Hurling his one grenade at the enemy in sudden, swift attack, he quickly withdrew, returned to his own lines for additional grenades and again advanced, attacked, and withdrew.
With enemy guns still active, he ran the gauntlet of slashing fire a third time to complete the total destruction of the Japanese strong point and the annihilation of the defending garrison in this final assault.
Although instantly killed by an enemy grenade as he returned to his squad, Sgt Cole had eliminated a formidable Japanese position, thereby enabling his company to storm the remaining fortifications, continue the advance, and seize the objective. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
*LtCol Aquilla James Dyess was CO, 1/24, against Japanese forces during the assault on Namur Island, Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands, 1-2 February 1944. Undaunted by severe fire from automatic Japanese weapons, LtCol Dyess launched a powerful final attack on the second day of the assault, unhesitatingly posting himself between the opposing lines to point out objectives and avenues of approach and personally leading the advancing troops.
Alert, and determined to quicken the pace of the offensive against increased enemy fire, he was constantly at the head of advance units, inspiring his men to push forward until the Japanese had been driven back to a small center of resistance and victory assured.
While standing on the parapet of an anti-tank trench directing a group of infantry in a flanking attack against the last enemy position, LtCol Dyess was killed by a burst of enemy machine gun fire. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
Sgt Ross Franklin Gray was a platoon sergeant with "A"/1/25 on Iwo Jima, 21 February 1945. Shrewdly gauging the tactical situation when his platoon was held up by a sudden barrage of hostile grenades while advancing toward the high ground northeast of Airfield No. 1, Sgt Gray promptly organized the withdrawal of his men from enemy grenade range, quickly moved forward alone to reconnoiter and discovered a heavily mined area extending along the front of a strong network of emplacements joined by covered trenches.
Although assailed by furious gunfire, he cleared a path leading through the minefield to one of the fortifications, then returned to the platoon position and, informing his leader of the serious situation, volunteered to initiate an attack under cover of three fellow Marines.
Alone and unarmed, but carrying a huge satchel charge, he crept up on the Japanese emplacement, boldly hurled the short-fused explosive and sealed the entrance. Instantly taken under machine gun fire from a second entrance to the same position, he unhesitatingly braved the increasingly vicious fusillades to crawl back for another charge, returned to his objective and blasted the second opening, thereby demolishing the position.
Repeatedly covering the ground between the savagely defended enemy fortifications and his platoon area, he systematically approached, attacked and withdrew under blanketing fire to destroy a total of six Japanese positions, more than 25 troops and a quantity of vital ordnance gear and ammunition.
PFC Douglas Thomas Jacobson assumed the duties of a bazooka man in 3/25 during the seizure of Iwo Jima, 26 February 1945. Promptly destroying a stubborn 20-mm. antiaircraft gun and its crew after assuming the duties of a bazooka man who had been killed, PFC Jacobson waged a relentless battle as his unit fought desperately toward the summit of Hill 382 in an effort to penetrate the heart of Japanese cross-island defense.
Employing his weapon with ready accuracy when his platoon was halted by overwhelming enemy fire, he first destroyed two hostile machine gun positions, then attacked a large blockhouse, completely neutralizing the fortification before dispatching the five-man crew of a second pillbox and exploding the installation with a terrific demolitions blast.
Moving steadily forward, he wiped out an earth-covered rifle emplacement and, confronted by a cluster of similar emplacements which constituted the perimeter of enemy defenses in his assigned sector, fearlessly advanced, quickly reduced all 6 positions to a shambles, killed 10 of the enemy, and enabled our forces to occupy the strong point.
Determined to widen the breach thus forced, he volunteered his services to an adjacent assault company, neutralized a pillbox holding up its advance, opened fire on a Japanese tank pouring a steady stream of bullets on one of our supporting tanks, and smashed the enemy tank's gun turret in a brief but furious action culminating in a single-handed assault against still another blockhouse and the subsequent neutralization of its firepower.
By his dauntless skill and valor, PFC Jacobson destroyed a total of 16 enemy positions and annihilated approximately 75 Japanese.
*GySgt Robert Howard McCard was a platoon sergeant with "A" Co., 4th Tank Bn., during the battle for Japanese-held Saipan, Marianas Islands, on 16 June 1944. Cut off from the other units of his platoon when his tank was put out of action by a battery of enemy 77-mm. guns, McCard carried on resolutely, bringing all the tank's weapons to bear on the enemy, until the severity of hostile fire caused him to order his crew out of the escape hatch while he courageously exposed himself to enemy guns by hurling hand grenades in order to cover the evacuation of his men.
Seriously wounded during this action and with his supply of grenades exhausted, GySgt McCard then dismantled one of the tank's machine guns and faced the Japanese for the second time to deliver vigorous fire into their positions, destroying 16 of the enemy but sacrificing himself to insure the safety of his crew. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
Capt Joseph Jeremiah McCarthy was a rifle company commander with 2/24 on Iwo Jima, 21 February 1945. Determined to break through the enemy's cross-island defenses, Capt McCarthy acted on his own initiative when his company advance was held up by uninterrupted Japanese rifle, machine gun, and high-velocity 47-mm. fire during the approach to Motoyama Airfield No. 2.
Quickly organizing a demolitions and flame thrower team to accompany his picked rifle squad, he fearlessly led the way across 75 yards of fire-swept ground, charged a heavily fortified pillbox on the ridge of the front and, personally hurling hand grenades into the emplacement as he directed the combined operations of his small assault group, completely destroyed the hostile installation.
Spotting two Japanese soldiers attempting an escape from the shattered pillbox, he boldly stood upright in full view of the enemy and dispatched both troops before advancing to a second emplacement under greatly intensified fire and then blasted the strong fortifications with a well-planned demolitions attack.
Subsequently entering the ruins, he found a Japanese taking aim at one of our men and, with alert presence of mind, jumped the enemy, disarmed and shot him with his own weapon. Then, intent on smashing through the narrow breach, he rallied the remainder of his company and pressed a full attack with furious aggressiveness until he had neutralized all resistance and captured the ridge.
*Pvt Joseph William Ozbourn was a BAR man with 1/23 on Tinian Island, Marianas Islands, 30 July 1944. As a member of a platoon assigned the mission of clearing the remaining Japanese troops from dugouts and pillboxes along a tree line, Pvt Ozbourn, flanked by two men on either side, was moving forward to throw an armed hand grenade into a dugout when a terrific blast from the entrance severely wounded the four men and himself.
Unable to throw the grenade into the dugout and with no place to hurl it without endangering the other men, Pvt Ozbourn unhesitatingly grasped it close to his body and fell upon it, sacrificing his own life to absorb the full impact of the explosion, but saving his comrades. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
Pharmacist's Mate First Class, Francis Pierce, USN, served with 2/24 on Iwo Jima, 15-16 March 1945. Almost continuously under fire while carrying out the most dangerous volunteer assignments. Pierce gained valuable knowledge of the terrain and disposition of troops. Caught in heavy enemy rifle and machine gun fire which wounded a corpsman and two of the eight stretcher bearers who were carrying two wounded Marines to a forward aid station, Pierce quickly took charge of the party, carried the newly wounded men to a sheltered position, and rendered first aid.
After directing the evacuation of three of the casualties, he stood in the open to draw the enemy's fire and, with his weapon blasting, enabled the litter bearers to reach cover.
Turning his attention to the other two casualties, he was attempting to stop the profuse bleeding of one man when a Japanese fired from a cave less than 20 yards away and wounded his patient again. Risking his own life to save his patient, Pierce deliberately exposed himself to draw the attacker from the cave and destroyed him with the last of his ammunition. Then lifting the wounded man to his back, he advanced unarmed through deadly rifle fire across 200 feet of open terrain.
Despite exhaustion and in the face of warnings against such a suicidal mission, he again traversed the same fireswept path to rescue the remaining Marine.
On the following morning, he led a combat patrol to the sniper nest and, while aiding a stricken Marine, was seriously wounded. Refusing aid for himself, he directed treatment for the casualty, at the same time maintaining protective fire for his comrades.
*1stLt John Vincent Power was a platoon leader attached to the Fourth Marine Division during the landing and battle of Namur Island, 1 February 1944. Severely wounded in the stomach while setting a demolition charge on a Japanese pillbox, 1stLt Power was steadfast in his determination to remain in action.
Protecting his wound with his left hand and firing with his right, he courageously advanced as another hostile position was taken under attack, fiercely charging the opening made by the explosion and emptying his carbine into the pillbox.
While attempting to reload and continue the attack, 1stLt Power was shot again in the stomach and head and collapsed in the doorway. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
Pvt Richard Keith Sorenson was with an assault battalion attached to the Fourth Marine Division during the battle of Namur Island, 1-2 February 1944. Putting up a brave defense against a particularly violent counterattack by the enemy during invasion operations, Pvt Sorenson and five other Marines occupying a shellhole were endangered by a Japanese grenade thrown into their midst.
Unhesitatingly, and with complete disregard for his own safety, Pvt Sorenson hurled himself upon the deadly weapon, heroically taking the full impact of the explosion. As a result of his gallant action, he was severely wounded, but the lives of his comrades were saved.
Seven of the 11 Fourth Division Medal of Honor winners were Marine reservists. When the Marine Corps reached its maximum strength of 485,000 during World War II, 70 percent were reservists.
Today's all-Reserve Fourth Marine Division force was not activated during Vietnam, but 2ndLt John P. Bobo and Sgt Paul Foster are listed as members of the USMCR and were awarded post-humous Medals of Honor.
The impact of the call-up of 33,527 Organized Marine Corps reservists and the 52,305 Volunteer reservists on active duty during the Korean War was tremendous. Marine reservists were awarded 13 Medals of Honor, 50 Navy Crosses and 400 Silver Stars during the Korean fighting.
General O. P. Smith, First Marine Division commander in Korea, later said, "When I was detached from the division in April 1951, 51 percent of the division was composed of Reserves, and in my opinion it was a better division than the one I brought to Korea...."
Further evidence of the famous tradition which is being carried on by today's "New Breed" Fourth Division are the 37 U. S. Navy ships which have been named after Marine Corps reservists.
The "Fighting Fourth" Marine Division was the first to leave the United States and go directly into combat. On November 10, 1944, the late Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz traced the Corps' buildup with a 169th Anniversary message to FMFPac Marines "...the Marines in the Pacific have reached the ultimate in amphibious warfare....The 4th Division scored a one-two punch on Roi and Namur in the Marshalls to win a 26-hour battle. It then smashed and bulled its way across Saipan and Tinian."
Then came Iwo Jima and the Fourth Division's share of "Uncommon Valor..."
Those World War II Fourth Marine Division veterans were "Giants of the Corps" and they left a tremendous legacy for those who follow. Reserve Marines since then, and today's Total Force "New Breed" Fourth members, have-and are ready again-to step forward when called.