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Posts Tagged ‘Edson’s Raiders’

My boys. Thanks to my friend Chris Carola at the AP and Senator Little’s office for recognizing them while they were still with us.

2 NY vets of Edson’s Raiders recall WWII battles

By CHRIS CAROLA

— May. 26 3:38 PM EDT

In this Wednesday, May 22, 2013 photo, World War II veterans Bob Addison, left, and Jerry West pose for a photo, in Glens Falls, N.Y. Addison and West share more than a longtime friendship. They share some of the same memories of bloody battles fought on Pacific islands while serving with an elite Marine Corps unit that was the forerunnner of today's U.S. Special Forces. Living just miles apart, the two men are among the last surviving members of the original Marine Raider battalions that were the first American ground troops to attack Japanese-held territory. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

In this Wednesday, May 22, 2013 photo, World War II veterans Bob Addison, left, and Jerry West pose for a photo, in Glens Falls, N.Y. Addison and West share more than a longtime friendship. They share some of the same memories of bloody battles fought on Pacific islands while serving with an elite Marine Corps unit that was the forerunnner of today’s U.S. Special Forces. Living just miles apart, the two men are among the last surviving members of the original Marine Raider battalions that were the first American ground troops to attack Japanese-held territory. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

Gerald West held the laminated sheet of paper fellow World War II combat veteran Robert Addison pulled from an old briefcase and perused the 300-plus names listed under the words, “Lest We Forget.”

“I knew quite a few of those guys,” said West, 93, who made the short drive to Addison’s home 45 miles north of Albany recently to reminisce about their wartime service with the legendary Edson’s Raiders, an elite Marine Corps unit that was the forerunnner of today’s U.S. Special Forces.

The document Addison keeps among his wartime mementos and literature lists the names of members of the 1st Marine Raider Battalion who died while fighting the Japanese in the South Pacific. Addison and West are among the dwindling number of Edson’s Raiders still alive. Out of an original roster of about 900 men, fewer than 150 are believed to survive, according to Bruce Burlingham, historian for U.S. Marine Raider Association.

Dubbed Edson’s Raiders after their colorful, red-haired commander, Col. Merritt “Red Mike” Edson, the unit was the first U.S. ground force to attack Japan-held territory after Pearl Harbor. Landing on Tulagi in the Solomon Islands in August 1942, they beat the larger 1st Marine Division’s arrival on nearby Guadalcanal by an hour.

https://i1.wp.com/tsealey.net/thegunny/gfx/raiders.jpgThe 1st and 2nd Raider battalions, formed just days apart in February 1942, were the first commando-style units in the American military, predating the creation of the U.S. Army Rangers by four months. Trained in jungle warfare and hand-to-hand combat, the Raiders’ leatherneck pride paired with a pirate’s attitude was reflected in their distinctive battalion patch: a white death’s head skull in a red diamond, set against a blue background with five white stars representing the Southern Cross constellation.

Addison, an Alliance, Ohio, native, and West, who grew up outside Glens Falls, both fought at Tulagi and later on Guadalcanal, where Edson’s Raiders earned their vaunted place in American military lore for anchoring the thinly stretched Marine defenses that decimated Japanese forces during successive nighttime assaults in September 1942.

Fighting from positions separated by a few hundred yards along high ground near the island’s airfield, Addison and West helped defend what became known as Bloody Ridge _ but that the Marines called “Edson’s Ridge.” They wouldn’t learn until much later that the fight was considered a turning point that started the U.S. on its island-hopping road to victory in the Pacific.

“In combat, you only know what’s going on in your little world,” West said.

Edson was awarded the Medal of Honor for his front-line leadership during the battle, during which his Raiders suffered more than 250 killed and wounded. Bigger, bloodier battles awaited, but Edson’s Ridge and the Raiders hold a special place among leathernecks of all generations, according to Beth Crumley, a historian with the U.S. Marine Corps History Division.

“Anybody who has taken an interest in the history of the corps, they’re going to know the story about Edson and they’re going to know about the Raiders and know about the Battle of Edson’s Ridge,” she said.

After the Raiders’ next campaign on the island of New Georgia in the summer of 1943, Addison and West were sent back to the U.S. Addison was attending college as part of an officers program, and West was in Guam preparing for the invasion of Japan when the war ended.

They went their separate ways and didn’t get reacquainted until the early 1960s, when Addison moved to Glens Falls to become athletic director at a new community college. He ran into West at a Sears store where West was working, and they’ve remained close friends ever since.

“They were America’s first elite force unit and showed future units like the U.S. Army Special Forces what could be done with a handful of determined, well-trained, well-armed troops against a determined enemy,” said Robert A. Buerlein, co-author of “Our Kind of War: Illustrated Saga of the U.S. Marine Raiders of World War II.

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/2-ny-vets-edsons-raiders-recall-wwii-battles

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Gerry West and Bob Addison, U.S. Marine “Edson’s Raiders” World War II veterans, honored in Albany

By Betty Little
Posted by Betty Little on Tuesday, May 21st, 2013
Gerry West and Bob Addison, World War II veterans who served in the same elite U.S. Marines unit and have remained lifelong friends, were inducted into the New York State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Albany today.

Gerry West and Bob Addison, World War II veterans who served in the same elite U.S. Marines unit and have remained lifelong friends, were inducted into the New York State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Albany today.

Senator Betty Little nominated Addison of Glens Falls and West of Fort Edward.

“These two soldiers were among the first Americans to engage the Japanese in combat less than a year after Pearl Harbor,” said Senator Little.  “They were specially selected and trained to serve in the First Marine Raider Battalion, called Edson’s Raiders, and fought in critical and victorious battles on Guadalcanal.

“After the war, they returned home, started families and careers, but never lost touch and remained lifelong friends.  They are among the few remaining Edson’s Raiders and their bond is unique.  It was a wonderful honor for me to have them here today, along with their family and friends, to share their story and see them receive this well-deserved recognition.”

West and Addison were suggested to Senator Little by Hudson Falls history teacher Matthew Rozell.  Rozell is in the process of writing a series of articles on World War II, based on class archives of interviews, for the Washington County Historical Society Journal.  The following are excerpts from a part of the series entitled “Recording the Voices of World War II – From Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay”:

On September 14th, 1942, first light at Guadalcanal revealed over a thousand Japanese dead on the ridge.  Outnumbered five to one, for two nights the Raiders held on against Japanese shelling by sea and Imperial troops, and the battle became legendary in Marine Corps history.

            West recalls: “Most of us just refer to it as Bloody Ridge.  We had 50% casualties that night…two men in our battalion received the Congressional Medal of Honor and there were thirteen Navy Crosses awarded to men in our battalion just for that one battle, which is unheard of.”

            Suppressed from the public at the time, more than 7,000 U.S. Marines, soldiers and sailors would die in the six month Guadalcanal campaign.  Japanese losses were much higher.

            Bob Addison: “They called it Hell Island, the Japanese, because they had to live out in the jungles…They had lost over 26,000 men.”

            Only a handful of the original Marine Raiders are left.  Addison and West survived to return home, marry, and raise children.  Seventy one years later, their friendship endures.

The New York State Veterans’ Hall of Fame was created to honor and recognize outstanding veterans from the Empire State who have distinguished themselves both in military and civilian life.  The Hall of Fame can be accessed online at www.nysenate.gov/honoring-our-veterans .

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Gerald West
Born: 1919
Served: U.S. Marines 1940-1957
U.S. Army 1957-1962
Residence: Fort Edward, New York
Nominated by Matthew Rozell, History teacher

Robert Addison
Born: 1922
Served: U.S. Marines 1942-1946; 1950-51
Residence: Glens Falls, New York
Nominated by Matthew Rozell, History teacher

Photo Credit: Robert H. Miller Gerry West and Bob Addison, Spring, 2011.

Photo Credit: Robert H. Miller
Gerry West and Bob Addison, Spring, 2011.

On May 21, 2013, local World War II veterans Gerald West and Robert Addison will be honored in a ceremony for the New York State Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame. They were nominated by Senator Betty Little at the suggestion of Hudson Falls history teacher Matthew Rozell, whose students had interviewed these men several times.

Mr. Rozell is in the process of writing a series of articles on World War II for the Washington County Historical Society Journal utilizing the class archives of interviews. The following narrative is condensed from the upcoming Fall release of the Journal, which will publish Part II  (of 4) in the Pacific series entitled “Recording the Voices of World War II-From Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay.”

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 In this installment of an ongoing series, my students and I have pieced together narrative voices of local residents and their friends that show the enthusiasm for the war effort.  Maybe more importantly, their recollections amplify other points essential to an understanding of World War II, but often overlooked.  In the study of this war, we are tempted to both teach and learn the history as if the way things turned out was somehow preordained − as if, from the outset, it was a foregone conclusion the Allies would win the war.  Because we know how events turned out, we read the history with a sense of inevitability (as several historians have pointed out[1]).  Nothing could be further from the truth.

By talking to persons who lived through these troubled times, my students and I gained insight into the urgent, uncertain, confused way many events actually unfolded.   We confronted particularly – through the stories of local men and women − the nation’s unpreparedness in the first years of the Pacific War, beginning with the initial limited response to the Japanese attacks at Pearl Harbor, Wake Island, Guam, and the Philippines.  While military planners in Washington debated, numbers of local men would fight to survive in vicious jungle fighting.  Indeed, it was the incredible actions of these men, against overwhelming odds, which would shape events and force policymakers in Washington, D. C., to take notice.

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 Six months after Pearl Harbor, American naval forces won a decisive engagement at the Battle of Midway (June 4−7, 1942) At this time, advance elements of General Alexander Vandegrift’s 1st Marine Division were gathering in New Zealand, with no American offensive action planned until early 1943.  However, soon after Midway, intelligence showed a Japanese air base under construction at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.  If finished, the Japanese noose encircling Australia would be complete and any Allied counteroffensive very difficult.  A U. S. amphibious landing was needed immediately, and on a scale not attempted since the World War I Allied debacle at Gallipoli (1915) − and with much less time to plan.  “I could not believe it,” General Vandegrift would later say of this plan.[2]

Vandegrift had within his command a special unit, under formation only since February 1942, the “1st Marine Raider Battalion,” which would play a key role in the ultimate U. S. success at Guadalcanal.  Schooled by veterans of Marine operations of the 1920s and 1930s in Central America and China, 900 specially selected young men formed a lightly-armed, mobile commando unit able to operate in sub-equatorial jungle − the vanguard for larger troop landings to follow.  Named “Edson’s Raiders” after their Colonel “Red Mike” Edson, the unit would earn combat honors unparalleled in Marine Corps history[3] in 18 weeks of violent engagements at Guadalcanal.

Of the 900 original Raiders, two local veterans interviewed by our class belonged to this elite group and currently reside in  Senator Little’s 45th Senate District.

Gerry West (R) shown training with Marine Gunner Angus H. Goss(L). When Japanese holed up in caves, the demolition platoon attached TNT charges to ends of poles and fashioned the techniques needed to root out the remaining defenders on the island of Tulagi in the first American ground offensive against Japanese troops in WW II. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 55268

Gerry West (R) shown training with Marine Gunner Angus H. Goss (L). When Japanese holed up in caves, the demolition platoon attached TNT charges to ends of poles and fashioned the techniques needed to root out the remaining defenders on the island of Tulagi in the first American ground offensive against Japanese troops in WW II. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 55268

Gerry West grew up in Fort Anne, and like many other during the Depression, decided to enlist in the Marine Corps following high school, and would remain in the military until 1962. In fact, he was already a Marine when he heard the news of Pearl Harbor. “I’ll never forget it. I was sitting in a barracks in Quantico, Virginia. I had the duty that weekend, and there were about ten of us there listening to the Washington Redskins football game which had just started…and something like 1:05 they broke in with the announcement saying that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor.” Robert Addison of Glens Falls, originally from Ohio, spent 29 years as Athletic Director of Adirondack Community College.  He also recalls the day: “The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on my nineteenth birthday. A month later I found myself in the Marine Corps in a time compressed boot camp…When I was just about ready to finish boot camp, they were filling up and forming this Raider battalion.”

Addison made the cut and was interviewed by a Marine captain who told him the Raiders would be the cream of the Marine Corps, but also warned their mission would likely be “first in and last out.”[4]  Addison accepted the challenge and was assigned to a mortar squad in the fledgling Raiders.  More training followed.  Some days they marched, fully equipped, dozens of miles in the day, only to turn around and re-navigate the same terrain, in the dark, through swamps and across rivers.

Bob Addison: “When we got into the Raider Battalion, then we really got into the force.  On a Saturday morning, we would go on a 22-mile, full-pack, forced march − you know, in the morning − and then they give us liberty in the afternoon . . . And Edson was known for getting people in good physical condition.  He was the type of guy you would follow him anyplace, because what he would do when we were on these forced marches, he would stop and watch everybody go by, and he would walkie-talkie [to the head of the column], and they would hold up, and he would start [jogging past the men] double-time up [to the head of the column] . . .  When we came in, at the barracks, he would stand there and watch every man go by and give compliments to us − you know, “good job, good job.” That’s the type of leader he was.  Everybody practically worshipped him.  He was quite a leader.”[5]

The Raiders embarked on a cross-country train journey and were then, for two weeks, carried by reconverted World War I destroyers across the South Pacific to Samoa. There, in conditions of hot, muggy weather and frequent rain, training continued with cross-country hikes in a mountain terrain of steep ridges and slippery trails, often at night.  Sometimes pushed from 5:00 A. M. until 10:00 or 12:00 P. M., the men survived on skimpy rations, while also completing a training schedule that included practice landings in inflatable boats, Judo, bayonet combat, first aid, stalking, and demolition.[6]

Eight months after Pearl Harbor to the day, the Marines landed in combat. To secure Guadalcanal, the Raiders were assigned to take the neighboring island of Tulagi, where they would be up against the best of the Japanese combat forces, the Rikusentai  or Japanese “Special Naval Landing Forces.”  Coming in on Higgins Boats in the morning hours of August 7, 1942, the Raiders would clash for three days in vicious fighting, encountering hitherto-unknown Japanese cave bunkers plus their enemies’ sniper actions, night-fighting, and willingness to fight to the death.  The Raiders then conducted raids on Japanese camps on Guadalcanal, as enemy forces ere being reinforced at night, every night, while the US Navy left the scene.

From Addison scrapbook. Bob is at far left. ((Derek Pruitt/Post Star.)

From Addison scrapbook. Bob is at far left. ((Derek Pruitt/Post Star.)

Addison was trained as a mortar man and West was a demotions expert and tapped as a machine-gunner in the critical battles at Guadalcanal, where the Japanese were developing an airfield to support their attack on Australia. The Marines captured the airfield and the Raiders pulled back to high ground overlooking it to defend it. If the Ridge fell, Guadalcanal would fall; and if the ‘Canal fell, Australia might be next. A vicious battle for the high ground would ensue.

West recalls: “They did not get through us, if they had gotten through, they would’ve had the airstrip back. Most of us just refer to it as Bloody Ridge. We had 50% casualties that night…”

On September 14th, 1942, first light at Guadalcanal revealed over a thousand Japanese dead on the ridge.  Outnumbered five to one, for two nights the Raiders held on against Japanese shelling by sea and Imperial troops, and the battle has become legendary in Marine Corps history.

Battle of Edson's Ridge Painting by USMC artist who was at Guadalcanal.

Battle of Edson’s Ridge Painting by USMC artist who was at Guadalcanal.

West continues: “It was probably the decisive battle of the whole campaign. In the Battle of Bloody Ridge, just to give you an idea, two men in our battalion received the Congressional Medal of Honor and there were thirteen Navy Crosses awarded to men in our battalion just for that one battle, which is unheard of.”

Suppressed from the public at the time, more than 7000 U.S. Marines, soldiers and sailors would die in the six month Guadalcanal campaign. Japanese losses were much higher. By the time the last starving and dispirited Japanese troops left in Feb. 1943, further Japanese expansion into the South Pacific was halted.

Bob Addison: “They called it Hell Island, the Japanese, because they had to live out in the jungles… They had lost over 26,000 men. A lot of them died of starvation and diseases… When they left, they left 26,000 behind.”

Only a handful of the original Marine Raiders are left. Addison and West survived to return home, marry, and raise children. Seventy one years later, their friendship endures.

Condensed from the forthcoming Washington County Historical Society Journal.

The Washington County Historical Society Journal is an annual 96 page print publication of the WCHS. The Journal seeks to publish new research into any aspect of the County’s history, and this includes reminiscences and interesting unpublished source materials. All members of the WCHS receive it; for membership information, please visit their website at www.wchs-ny.org.

For more information contact Mr. Rozell at his website, http://teachinghistorymatters.com


[1] William Manchester, Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War (Boston: Little Brown, 1987) p. 167.

[2] Geoffrey C. Ward & Ken Burns, The War: An Intimate History (NYC: Knopf, 2007) pp. 47−49.

[3] Among them, 24 U. S. Navy ships would be named in honor of individual members of the Battalion before the war was over.  See Col. Joseph H. Alexander, Edson’s Raiders: The First Marine Raider Battalion in World War II (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2000) p. 49.

[4] Alexander, op.cit., p. 32.

[5] Merritt “Red Mike” Edson was born just over the border from Washington Co. in Rutland, VT, in 1897. Retiring as a USMC Brigadier General, he returned to Vermont and became the first Commissioner of the Vermont State Police.

[6] Alexander, pp. 60−63.

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From YNN News…

Bob and Jerry 5-21-13. YNN News, Albany, NY

Bob and Jerry 5-21-13. YNN News, Albany, NY

ALBANY, N.Y. — The souls who carry heavy memories from war were thanked in Albany on Tuesday for bearing the burden of our freedom.

World War II Veteran and Newburgh resident Warren Craig described, “We got hit 57 times. And I ended up jumping into the ocean at 12 o’clock at night, swimming with the sharks and the enemy.”

Craig enlisted when he was 17-years-old.

Fifty-four men and women have been added to the New York State Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame for what they’ve done and kept doing over the years.

Senator Greg Ball explained, “Their heart never took the uniform off. And they continue to serve for the rest of their life.”

These men and women’s lives would then never be the same. Among them are Capt. Gerry West and Sgt. Robert Addison, who both served in the United States Marine Corp. during World War II. The two were part of the Edson’s Raiders, the original 900 members of a commando unit, and survived the battles of the Pacific Theater after Pearl Harbor.

“The bloody ridge on Guadalcanal. We were both there. It brings back a lot of memories,” said Addison, who now lives in Glens Falls.

West said, “The bad battles, like Bloody Ridge. You never forget something like that. We still talk about it and things we never forget.”

West resides in Fort Edward now.

“We’ve known each other for 71 years. Since February of ’42, so what would that be? 71 years,” he confirmed.

Now neighbors in the North Country, the two Edson’s Raiders are still right by each others’ side.

“Well, I just live down the road from him, so we’ve kept in touch all the time,” said Addison.

These legacies are once again being remembered and passed onto the younger generation.

“I grab a hold of fellas that don’t know what to do and take them with me, to get them started,” said Craig. “There’s so much opportunity out there.”

Troy native Daniel Honsinger, a veteran of the Vietnam War, said, “God bless America, that’s all.”

For more information on the Veterans’ Hall of Fame, visit www.nysenate.gov .

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