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Posts Tagged ‘Memorial Day’

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://i2.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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By OMAR RICARDO AQUIJE- Glens Falls Post Star

HUDSON FALLS —Fred Spiegel was asked if he felt resentment toward the Nazis.

“Yes, to the Nazis, but not the Germans,” Spiegel said.

The question came from a student at Hudson Falls High School, at which Spiegel was invited Friday to discuss his life during the Holocaust.

On April 13, 1945, a train traveled across Germany, carrying 2,500 Jews en route to a concentration camp.

Spiegel was among them. He was 13.

Holocaust survivor Fred Spiegel sells and autographs copies of his book, "Once the Acacias Bloomed," for students at Hudson Falls High School on Friday, May 24. Spiegel, who was liberated by U.S. troops as a young boy during World War II, spoke about his experiences and answered students' questions. (Jason McKibben -

Holocaust survivor Fred Spiegel sells and autographs copies of his book, “Once the Acacias Bloomed,” for students at Hudson Falls High School on Friday, May 24. Spiegel, who was liberated by U.S. troops as a young boy during World War II, spoke about his experiences and answered students’ questions. (Jason McKibben –

Spiegel, 81, visits schools to talk about how he survived. He brings copies of his book, “Once The Acacias Bloomed,” which explains his life as a Nazi prisoner.

Most of the schools he visits are in New Jersey, where he lives. The farthest he travels is Hudson Falls, a school he visited a few times in recent years, a school he included in his book because it was here an important moment in his life occurred.

“They invited me,” Spiegel said of his reason for returning to Hudson Falls. “How can I say no?”

During Friday’s presentation, Spiegel often said he was lucky to be alive.

Other trains carrying Jewish prisoners made it to their destination. His did not.

His train suddenly stopped near Magdeburg. Spiegel said the train’s engineer and Nazi soldiers fled for fear of capture. U.S. troops was cutting across Germany.

Then, a few U.S. soldiers on tanks found the train and freed the captives. The soldiers included Carroll Walsh, of the 743rd Tank Battalion.

Spiegel was later reunited with his family. It was 65 years later when the unexpected happened: He was invited to Hudson Falls to meet others who were prisoners on the train.

He also got to meet some of the liberators, including Walsh, who was living in Hudson Falls at the time.

Matt Rozell, a Hudson Falls history teacher, organized the reunion. He met Walsh in 2001. He interviewed the former soldier, and learned about the train near Magdeburg.

Walsh died in December. He was 91 and a former state judge.

Spiegel, a native of Germany, said people have shown more interest in the Holocaust over the years.

During Friday’s visit to Hudson Falls, he spoke to about 30 sophomores. Some of them had copies of Spiegel’s book. Others bought the book after the presentation.

Armand Ryther, a student, approached Spiegel to shake his hand.

“I find it very interesting that he could survive what he did,” Ryther said.

Ryther said he read Spiegel’s book.

Jamie Hughes, a fellow sophomore, said it was interesting to hear about Spiegel’s experiences.

“I think it’s really amazing that he would want to share his experiences with everybody,” she said.

Tara Sano, a Hudson Falls history teacher, said the event was planned near Memorial Day so students can reflect on the efforts of veterans.

“My hope is that when you are taking your three-day weekend, you think about why you have a three-day weekend,” she told students at the start of the presentation.

http://poststar.com/news/local/article_00a9219c-c648-11e2-ae69-001a4bcf887a.html

See Fred meet his liberator for the first time.

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In 1986 I traveled to the Soviet Union with a group of teachers. I was pre-service, but wanted the experience of traveling to Russia.
We flew into Moscow, toured a few days, then took the night train to Leningrad. It was April, it was beautiful. People were in a festive mood on the tour bus.
Then they took us to Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery, just outside the city. Mournful music blared from garish loudspeakers.  Conversation ceased. We realized that here lay more people lost in one city’s siege than in all of America’s war dead. In one city. Mass graves. Mostly civilians. Nearly half a million. But just a fraction of Soviet war dead. During the Cold war, our official state tour guides insisted that we see this. I am grateful that they did. Eyes were opened.  Inscribed there in rock:
Here lie Leningraders
Here are citydwellers – men, women, and children
And next to them, Red Army soldiers.
They defended you, Leningrad,
The cradle of the Revolution
With all their lives.
We cannot list their noble names here,
There are so many of them under the eternal protection of granite.
But know this, those who regard these stones:No one is forgotten, nothing is forgotten.
So in the month of May, Remembrance Month in my eyes.

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