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E co., 2nd Marines
2nd USMC Division
Jerry Reed was transferred to the 2nd Marine Division in September, 1943 and went though various training and amphibious maneuvers with the division before being shipped out aboard the USS Zelin (troop ship) on November 13. The destination was a small Atoll in Betio Island called Tarawa, and the assault was set for the 20th of November. The second battalion (2/2) was assigned to red beach 2, with the 7th Marines landing on red beach 1 and the 10th Marines on red beach 3. The first wave went in on Amtracs, which were able to crawl over the coral reefs rimming the lagoon of the landing beaches. The fire was extremely heavy as they hit the shore, with only a small sea wall to hide behind. E company took such heavy casualties that their combat efficiency was severely reduced. Reed was wounded on the second day of the battle and evacuated. The battle took 3 days and over 1000 Marines were killed and more than 2500 wounded. It was called some of the most intense combat of the entire war. E Company was listed as having 64 KIA out of 167 that started the battle. The division was shipped to Hawaii to rest and be refitted.
After the division went through another series of training maneuvers, they were shipped out on the troop ship USS Arthur Middleton on May 30th, 1944.Arriving at Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands on June 9, they continued to Saipan on June 15. On D+1 the 2nd Marine Division hit the beach and once again they meet heavy opposition.
Later on in the battle, Reeds platoon from E company saw a US plane get hit and the pilot bailed out. They sent a patrol to retrieve the pilot, and the Japanese had the same idea and set an ambush. The patrol of 12 marines from E company were captured and tied to trees. Each one was systematically killed by the Japanese soldiers, and left 2 marines with NCO stripes ( Reed and Peterik) alive after beatings and torture.
The company eventually found the 2 Marines. (This excerpt is from the book “5 Feet to the Gates of Hell” by Mark E. Peterik who served in E company with Reed.) Reed was awarded an oak leaf to his Purple Heart.