Remembering Fathers from the Greatest Generation


by Peter Galuszka

A few days ago, Bacon’s Rebellion featured a tribute to the 75th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy. The critically important invasion opened up a second front against Nazi Germany, leading to its defeat and the end of its terror.

This weekend, I propose another commemoration – that of the 75th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Saipan in the Pacific Ocean. It is also a Father’s Day tribute of sorts that has links to Bacons Rebellion.

Saipan is in the Mariana Islands in the Central Pacific. Admiral Chester Nimitz wanted to seize the islands for air bases from which aircraft could bomb the Japanese mainland and. The Marianas also could serve as a staging ground for the eventual invasion of Japan.

On June 15, 1944, an invasion force led by the U.S. Marine Corps attacked Saipan after days of bombardment. The campaign would run until July 9 and would cost the lives of more than 29,000 troops on both sides.

After seizing Saipan, U.S. forces then stormed the island of Tinian, a short distance from Saipan. There, a gigantic bomber base was build to handle B-29s. A little more than a year later, B-29s based on Tinian flew the two atomic missions against Japan.

First, though, came heavily fortified Saipan. The Marines had learned from previous bloody island invasions that it was vital that landing craft not get hung up on impediments such as coral reefs. Otherwise, troops would be slaughtered by Japanese fire.

They came up with the Landing Vehicle Tracked (LVT), an amphibious tractor that originated in the swamps of Florida. LVTs could clamber over coral and take troops directly onto beaches.

Still, there were heavy losses. So, another weapon was developed. One version was the LVT (A) 4, which was an LVT with a turret housing a 75-millimeter howitzer capable of taking out enemy bunkers. Some versions had flamethrowers. The armed LVTs would usually advance ahead of the troops carrying LVTs to lay down covering fire.

One LVT (A) 4 unit was the 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion that led the 2nd Marine Division’s assault on Saipan. The unit had been formed in California and, after training on Hawaii, went into combat for the first time.

The 2nd Armored succeeded after weeks of bloody fighting. The unit also helped spearhead assaults on Tinian and Iwo Jima, perhaps the most famous battle of the Pacific War.

What’s the connection to Bacon’s Rebellion and Father’s Day?

The father of Reed Fawell who is a real estate expert and regular contributor to Bacon’s Rebellion commanded the 2nd Armored. The Battalion Surgeon, a 28-year-old Navy doctor, was my father.

For more information, check out this Website that Reed helped put together a few years ago.

Peter Galuszka, a Richmond-area writer, is an occasional contributor to Bacon’s Rebellion.

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12 responses to “Remembering Fathers from the Greatest Generation

  1. Peter,

    Thanks—for the history lesson and especially for the tribute to your and Reed’s fathers.

    • Thank you, Peter. Saipan, 75 years ago on June 15, 1944, forged a remarkably close working relation between your father and mine. Your dad, the battalion’s Surgeon, saved many lives under horrendous conditions in the midst of that battlefield. The fellow moving inland in above photo, could well be one of his Corpsmen.

      Work on the website, finishing it to completion, has restarted.

  2. Glad they both made it through to be so honored by their sons. The RTD has this feature where it is reproducing the front pages from 75 years ago, and today’s headline is Saipan, and it has mentioned the Marianas campaign for a couple of days – furious naval and naval air battles around those islands, too. The news from all the fronts – Pacific islands, Normandy, Italy, the Eastern Front was just a daily deluge of major engagements. Could the people at home have taken the news in the detail delivered today? Probably not, and pray we never need to find out.

    • Oh, and I’ve always loved a sign I saw once: “The Marines Have Found Their Few Good Men – Navy Corpsmen.” Nobody has every disputed that. A friend of mine worked in Navy BuMed and showed me that.

      • It is impossible to comprehend the selfless valor of US Navy Corpsmen in WW2. A more noble group, and warriors they were, I cannot imagine.

  3. My uncle Jim was a rifleman with the 24th Marines at Saipan.

  4. They call them the Greatest Generation and there can be no doubt they sacrificed heavily including the ultimate for many to preserve this Country, indeed the world.

    We enjoy our lives today because of these “Fathers”.

  5. One of the best Fathers’ Day tributes I’ve seen.

  6. I have always been impressed by the immense logistical feat of carrying out TWO massive seaborne invasions on OPPOSITE sides of the globe almost SIMULTANEOUSLY.

    • Warrenhollowbooks says:

      “I have always been impressed by the immense logistical feat of carrying out TWO massive seaborne invasions on OPPOSITE sides of the globe almost SIMULTANEOUSLY.”

      Yes, I agree. And the closer one looks at what this singular WW2 generation accomplished the more impressed one becomes. For example, most all these war weapons and their logistics trains were built, indeed many were invented then built, between the years 1939 and 1944, and consider too all the many obstacles overcome before and after 1939. For example,

      “Still, despite its huge loses after the Pearl Harbor attack, the US Naval Services against all odds found remarkable ways to rush their forces into the breach (after picking up the broken pieces left over from the debacle) and against fearsome odds staunch the losses at Guadalcanal after they’d leveled the field at Midway, and then put America’s war on the right track going up the Solomons before driving it through the Central Pacific to achieve the means for an unconditional victory over Japan. In a nutshell that is precisely what the US Navy and Marine Corps did. And most of it was achieved over the vociferous objections of US Army leaders led by Douglas MacArthur. (see Amphibiouslanding.com).

      How did the US Navy and Marine Corps succeed despite all the obstacles erected to America’s defenses in the Pacific. These obstacles dominated US Naval strategic thinking from 1906 to 1945. The road to their solution was long and arduous. It required hard choices, altered political landscapes, and the pursuit of many blind alleys to find transformative solutions and innovations. Many arose only when America was forced to battle its way through a World War. But the quest for solutions before the war by a relatively few Americans gave rise to these accomplishments, including the development and deployment of long range, self sustaining, multi-purpose battle fleets amplified by a startling array of modern technologies and capabilities that included:

      1. Trans-ocean, self sustaining seaborne US airpower that could dominate at will vast swaths of sea and sky most anywhere in the Pacific Basin,

      2. Trans-ocean, self sustaining seaborne assault shock troops fit to win contested ship to shore amphibious landings that, under the cover of the US Naval Air and Battle Fleets, could reach across thousands of miles of open ocean to seize strategic enemy island strongholds that, once secured, vastly expanded the power and reach of the US Naval sea and air power as well as Army Air force land based airpower operating therefrom, and

      3. Long range, land based US Army Air Force strategic air power that, operating from newly seized enemy open ocean island strongholds, could reach across thousands of miles of open water to devastate Japan’s home islands, and ultimately deliver the Pacific Ocean War’s knock-out punch.

      Items 1 and 2 proved essential to overcoming the daunting obstacles that confronted America in its 1942 to 1945 maritime war against Japan. These arms, working in tandem, projected and multiplied US power with devastating results over vast ocean spaces by revolutionary means. Without them, and those who took them into battle, the great hardships of the Pacific War would have at best been far greater, and its results far more speculative.

      How did this immense, unexpected, and world changing achievement of the US Navy and Marine Corps in World War II happen?”

      Today’s younger generations have much to learn from America’s WW2 generation.

      See footnote 1 to Saipan section found at:
      http://2ndarmoredamphibianbattalion.com/

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