Our website is setting aside a page to honor our WWII veterans. We have a special interest in items with a direct veteran connection. Research is one of our passions and placing a war trophy with the veteran’s unit and theater of operations is a gratifying way to connect history with these true American heroes. Please contact me for further details.
He enlisted in Feb. 1941 and after basic training entered a new pilot program called “Sergeant Pilots”. After completing pilot and fighter training, he was shipped to Australia were he was assigned to the 49th Fighter Group, 7th squadron. They were equipped with P-40s. As they moved up the coast of New Guinea, the 7th was used primarily for ground support and bomber escort. During this time they had plenty of encounters with Zeros, with many holes in his plane to show for it.
One support mission was to assist Australian ground troops after a call came in from their commander for air support. The Japanese were dug in on an open hill and the Aussies took serious casualties trying to take it. The 7th fighter group came in and straffed and bomb the trenches. My father says he could see the carnage in the trenches when they were diving for more passes. After the mission, the Aussie commander wrote a letter of thanks to the squadron. The Aussies took the hill unopposed and counted almost 700 bodies.
They were flying a routine patrol over their base in Gusap when a flight of Betty bombers was sighted. They attacked and on his first pass he made multiple hits and one of the bombers’ engines started on fire. The crippled bomber fell out of formation and slowly went down, crashing into the jungle beyond the airfield. Making a second pass, he was hit by 20mm cannon fire from the tail gunners of the other bombers. Hit with shrapnel in both legs and his engine overheating, he made a “dead stick” landing at the base. A few days later an Aussie soldier came into the field hospital asking who the Yank was that shot down the bomber. He presented Louie with a Nambu pistol and one thousand stitch cloth belt with a tracer round through it. He recovered them from the bomber.
There was one other aerial victory that he lost in a coin flip. His squadron was in a dog fight with a bunch of Zeros, and one made a fatal mistake of turning into his sights. He made multiple hits and saw the pilot slump in the cockpit. The Zero started to dive straight to the ocean and another P-40 made a pass at it. That pilot claimed the victory and won the coin flip. After 18 months in combat, he flew 188 missions and logged over 600 hours in "Pops Blue Ribbon" #8".
When he rotated back to the States he flew P-63s in Puerto Rico for B-29 gunnery training until he was discharged.
Medals awarded include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with 5 Oak Clusters, Purple Heart and Theater medals.
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 greatly 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.
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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.
The 103rd went into combat in November of 1944 near S. Die, France. Vic was a 30 cal. machine gunner. Once in combat, he was never happy with the tripod so he adapted the “Rambo”style. He used a heavy asbestos mitten to hang onto the barrel and shot from the hip. Combat was sporadic he said, but there were plenty of times when the Germans stood there ground. Artillery shelling and mortar fire was also something that was a common accurance. One particular shelling was very heavy and he was knocked unconscious. He came to, half buried under the side of a jeep with a telephone pole right on top of the vehicle. He stated that if the jeep had not been there, the pole would have crushed him. He also took a piece of shrapnel in the forehead on that occasion, but he insisted on staying with his unit.
Vic won the Silver Star in March, 1945 near Gundershoffen, France when he outflanked an 88 gun crew and captured them. His award document states that it was a machine gun crew, but Vic told me it was an 88 gun crew. After the capture, Vic took a camera one of the gun crew members was carrying. He used it for the next couple of weeks taking pictures along the way of their advance. When he had the pictures developed, there were pictures of the German gun crew that he captured.
Vic told me of another time when he saw an SS officer being marched down the street towards HQ. He said the officer was smug when confronted, and Vic relieved him of his Iron Cross 1st class (which I have) and gave him a boot in the ass to send him on his way.
The 103rd ended up in Innsbruck at the end of the war. When they went into the German HQs when taking the town, Vic captured three more German soldiers. He had them raise their hands, and one of them made a move for a bureau drawer near by. Vic let loose a burst over his head and the German wisely changed his mind. He checked out the drawer and found a P-38 pistol and a Russian Front medal.
Vic passed away May 28, 2009.
Dennis came into the 1st Marines as a replacement after Peleliu where the 1st Marines took heavy casualties. He landed on Okinawa in the second wave on April Fools Day, 1945 as a 17 year old green recruit.
The first 3 days were spent moving across the island to seal off the north end. He said the only thing he shot was a chicken, which he ended up cooking in his helmet! The 1st. Division was held in reserve for the next couple of weeks, moving north and setting up patrols. They could hear the heavy fighting going on in the south end of the island and knew it was only a matter of time before they were in it. The last week in April, they were loaded onto trucks and headed south. They were dropped off at the Machinato airfield north of Naha to relieve the 27th Inf. Division. They moved out on the 2ndof May with a big offensive push by the rest of the forces. While they were crossing a valley with a small river on the southern end of the airport, elements of the Japanese 62 Infantry Division were waiting for them. The opening barrage was heavy with small artillery, mortars, and machine guns. They took heavy casualties and sought cover in the rocks at he base of the hill. They had to maneuver around to outflank the dug in Japanese, and while crawling up a small ridge Dennis reached out for another rock to grab and came back with a severed hand. After 2 days of intense combat the shooting quieted down. They found out later that their platoon had lost all of its officers and noncoms, the majority of them killed. Of the 62 men in his platoon, only 16 came out of their first engagement. Dennis said that was the worst time he had on Okinawa.
Dennis had a buddy in the 29th Marines that was fighting in the next sector south of Naha and decided to try and find him for a visit. With the consent of his NCO and armed with only a 45cal. pistol, he went on a hike and eventually found him. He spent the day in the front lines on an attack with the 29th Marines before going back to his outfit!
The 1st then moved into Wana Ridge with constant fighting along the way. The Japanese were hidden in caves and slit trenches all along the way and had to be dealt with one at a time. Grenades, satchel charges and flame throwers were the only way to deal with them. The men were grouped 2 men to a fox hole so one could sleep while the other was on watch. One night stood out for Dennis when the Japanese were infiltrating their lines at night. The flares were constant and they shot at anything that moved. Dennis woke up to find his foxhole partner had been killed.
They were advancing in an area that was flat and wide open in the Wana Draw area with 3 Sherman tanks. One by one the Shermans were all hit by anti tank guns and he remembers watching the crews bail out. After the attack on Wana Ridge they came off the line on May 15 and were issued new uniforms.
Shuri castle was the next test, and this is where Dennis picked up the sword off of a dead Japanese NCO officer. He had a buddy in the supply system that kept it for him along with the bayonet. Fighting was constant and casualties were high. Dennis recalls seeing a marine running to the rear trying to hold his entrails from falling on the ground as he ran. There were so many unburied bodies (mostly Japanese) that the stench was unbearable. The bloated bodies were bulldozed into mass graves or burned.
Heavy rain and mud was the constant weather to deal with during the later stages of the fighting. They were finally pulled off the line on June 15. After a brief resting period they were trucked to the north end of Okinawa for refitting and replacements in anticipation for the invasion of Japan. After the atomic bombs were dropped and the war was over, they were shipped to China.