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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Why Your Contribution is Vital to the Fundraiser

In order to move forward with publishing a book and doing a documentary on my father's life, it requires funding. So I am respectfully asking from both my loyal readers and new readers to contribute to my fundraising account at:

Corporal Clifford Primus
 Source:  Primus Family

Sometimes in life if you want something, you simply have to ask. 

Your contributions will help with book publishing costs and media equipment. As this is my first attempt at Internet fundraising, I decided to not have an exorbitant amount for this initial campaign. We will see how this goes.

I am also requesting that you share this fundraiser with friends or families that may have an interest in promoting the story about the Montford Point Marines, and anyone that was or currently in the military. Perhaps you might know of an educator or a history expert that enjoys the study of World War II or life in a segregated culture. 

Conceivably, you might be a reader from countries outside of the United States. United Kingdom, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Brazil--you have read about the Montford Point Marines or any of my other stories and were inspired to help. Some themes are universal and demonstrates our commonality as a truly global community.

Voices from underrepresented groups need to heard.  Perspectives from socially marginalized groups brings a unique viewpoint to the table and promotes diversity.

Specifically, I feel that the study of the Montford Point Marines would be a great addition to any school curriculum. Students can learn about these men who made significant sacrifices for our country. Black History Month in the month of February would have additional subject matter, as opposed to the same five people, year after year.

And last but not least, these blog entries take time to research, fact check and edit. Sometimes I wonder to myself why don't I just write about something mundane, or celebrity gossip. Who knows, I might try it. I could write a post about Blue Ivy's hair or "Top Five Fuchsia Lipsticks" in ten minutes, push the publish button and be done with it. But it would be a fleeting, short term experience and not lasting, which brings us back to the purpose of this blog: To educate the world about the Montford Point Marines.

I thank you readers for the journey and your anticipated support! A portion of the proceeds from the book will go to a Veterans organization. You are the person responsible for helping the legacy of these forgotten soldiers.

Montford Point Marines on leave, Harlem, NY,1943.

Without looking at a previous post, can you name the photographer of this picture? Don't forget to share this information. I am hoping that you can donate to and will keep you posted.

See Also:
My Father's Story of the Montford Point Marines and the 51st Defense Battalion
A Matter of Public Discussion and Images

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Battle of Saipan: Beginning of the End

Another memorable battle that the Montford Point Marines were known for was the Battle of Saipan. The Battle of Saipan on June 15, 1944, marked the beginning of the end of World War II in the Pacific Campaign. This pivotal fighting resulted in an Allied victory and heavy casualties. The Battle of Saipan also marked the first time that African American Marines saw combat in WWII. Lamentably, mass suicides among the Japanese occurred in levels never seen before in modern warfare.

Saipan is one of the three largest Marianas Islands located in the Pacific Ocean. The other two are Guam and Tinian. Saipan was considered a prized possession because of its proximity to mainland Japan. Here, the United States forces would have access to the Aslito airfield to launch their sizable B29 bombers. states that over 20,000 Japanese troops were part of a garrison on the island. Japan occupied Saipan since 1920. Without question Saipan was a valuable island; Japanese forces from the south would essentially be cut off from Japan once the US seized the highly desirable island.

Fast Facts*

  • Vice Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner
  • Lieutenant General Holland Smith
  • approx. 71,000 men deployed
  • 3,426 Americans dead
  • 13,000 wounded
  • Lieutenant General Yoshitsugu Saito
  • Admiral Chuichi Nagumo
  • approx. 31,000 men deployed
  • 30,000 Japanese died (action and suicide)
  • 20,000 Japanese civilians (action and suicide)

On the morning of June 14,1944, 8,000 Marines landed on the treacherous beaches of Saipan. The beaches were fortified with barbed wire placed by the Japanese defenders. Lying in wait for the 2nd and 4th Division Marines were trenches and machine gun posts. The Marines successfully established a beachhead with a width of six miles by nightfall. Viewing this, the Japanese Lieutenant General Saito decided to launch a counterattack at sea, called the Battle of the Philippine Sea. The move proved disastrous, as the Japanese lost three aircraft carriers and aircraft, rendering Japanese forces unable to become resupplied and reinforced. (

Montford Point Marines at Saipan

What were the early morning hours of June, 1944, like for a Marine first descending on the beaches of Saipan? 800 African African American Marines participated in combat for the first time in World War II. The first one of the Montford Point Marines to die was Kenneth Tibbs, an orderly to the 20th Depot Battalion commander. He was instantly struck shortly after landing the beach. Kenneth Rollock of Harlem, NY was a member of the 3rd Ammunition Company. According to

 "We got caught in the early part of Saipan in the Japanese counterattack. About a quarter mile from the beach, they came out screaming, and we just opened up. Anything moving we shot at."
 Rollock said later he would never forget the sound and sight of the enemy force closing on him and his comrades. (

Montford Point Marine Private Vincent Long of Hempstead, NY recalled: 

"There was one guy, I think his name was Tibbs, who was no farther from me to you,  All of a sudden, I realized he wasn't talking anymore. He'd been hit. I never saw him again. It was tough going and everything was coming down on us. I picked up a Browning automatic [machine gun] and started shooting like everyone else. Until then, I'd never had any one's blood on me before." (
 Montford Point Marines taking a break during the invasion of  Saipan.

Flamethrowers and Caves
Meanwhile, upon discovering that the Japanese could not be resupplied, General Saito had his men fight in mountainous areas of the island. The terrain of the island was a plethora of caves, which provided easy cover for the Japanese defenders instructed to fight to the end and not surrender. states that the American forces had to use flamethrowers to eliminate the Japanese from the caves. Flamethrowers was a new technology at the time.
. described the intense fighting around Mount Tapotchau, Saipan's highest peak. Battle areas were given names such as "Death Valley" and Purple Heart Ridge."

Japanese Family Holding in Cave

Mass Suicides and Suicide Cliff

With the situation in Saipan basically grim, Japanese General Saito instructed his men to undergo the largest Banzai Attack in World War II. Thousands of soldiers participated in this assault along with Japanese civilians. Banzai attacks or charges make for imminent death. The assault lasted for fifteen hours and American forces were able to regain strength.

As the Americans were making significant progress on the island of Saipan, Japanese officials turned to the civilians and urged them under no circumstances to surrender to the American forces. Civilians were promised an elite status in the afterlife, raising their social class rank. The civilians of Saipan were told that the Americans would do heinous things to them if they surrendered, thus instilling fear. Emperor Hirohito made a direct order to the civilians to commit suicide, and approximately 1,000 Japanese can be seen in Army footage films jumping to their deaths off of cliffs, appropriately named "Suicide Cliff." By battle's end on July 9, 1944, Japanese leaders Saito and Nagumo both committed suicide.

Montford Point Marines Considered Marines
A vital and strategic battle, the Battle of Saipan proved to be monumental. It marked the beginning of the end of the war in the Pacific Theatre. 800 African American Marines, the Montford Point Marines, saw combat for the first time, and the first casualty was Kenneth Tibbs. 
Time's war correspondent in the Central Pacific, Robert Sherrod, wrote: "The Negro Marines, under fire for the first time, have rated a universal 4.0 on Saipan." 4.0 is the Navy's highest ranking. And Commandant of the Marine Corps, Lieutenant General Alexander A. Vandegrift  declared: "The Negro Marines are no longer on trial. They are Marines, period." (The Right to Fight)

 Staff Sgt Timerlate Kirvenand and Cpl. Samuel J. Love, Sr.They received Purple Hearts for wounds received in the Battle of Saipan Source: National Archives

The Battle of Saipan was the first time that flamethrowers were used to eliminate Japanese defenders from caves. Furthermore, the world was mortified to learn that thousands of Japanese civilians took their own lives by jumping off of "Suicide Cliffs." This was after a decree by Japanese Emperor Hirohito.

Japanese soldiers were bound by the honor code to die before surrendering. Many allowed themselves to be killed rather than to face shame. In fact, historylearningsite reports of holdouts who refused to surrender until December 1945--months after the war ended. News of the suicides disappointed the Japanese people. They thought the suicides represented defeat rather than "spiritual enlightenment." The Battle of Saipan indeed signified the beginning of the end of World War II for the Pacific Campaign.
Marines landing on the beaches in the Marianas.

What are your thoughts about the Battle of Saipan? Feel free to leave your comments in the comment section.

See Also: 
The Battle of Peleliu Originated the Thousand Yard Stare


Banzai Attack-a mass attack of troops without concern for casualties; originated by Japanese who accompanied it with yells of `banzai'. Source,

Guy Gabaldon- Also noteworthy at the Battle of Saipan was a Mexican American soldier who was praised for his ability to speak Japanese. Private First Class Guy Gabaldon, of Los Angeles, spent part of his life with a Japanese family growing up, allowing him to have a familiarity with the language. Gabaldon effectively convinced 1,000 Japanese enemy troops to surrender, and he was later awarded a Navy Cross.

Navajo codetalkers were instrumental in directing naval gunfire onto Japanese positions.

Right to Fight

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Battle of Peleliu Originated "The Thousand Yard Stare"

For the longest time, Dorie Miller represented the lone figure when it came to African Americans in WWII history. Miller became a household name because of his heroic deeds at Pearl Harbor. I happened to watch the 1970 seminal film Tora,Tora,Tora with my father several months ago. With the exception of a non-speaking Miller grabbing a machine gun and spraying the Japanese, this was the extent of depictions of African American soldiers with a weapon. "There goes Dorie Miller," My father announced. If I blinked, I would of missed him.

 Montford Point Marines participated in amphibious landings throughout the Pacific. While my father was in the Marshall Islands, a battle that was significant to the Montford Point Marines History was The Battle of Peleliu

D-Day on Peleliu
Montford Point Marines participating in the landing of 1st Marine Division.

From Right to Fight:

When the 1st Marine Division, on 15 September 1944, attacked the heavily defended island of Peleliu in the Palau group, the 16th Field Depot supported the assault troops. The field depot included two African-American units, the 11th Marine Depot Company and the 7th Marine Ammunition Company. The 11th Marine Depot Company responded beyond the call of duty and paid the price, 17 wounded, the highest casualty rate of any company of African-American Marines during the entire war. Major General William H. Rupertus, who commanded the 1st Marine Division, sent identical letters of commendation to the commanders of both companies, praising the black Marines for their "whole hearted cooperation and untiring efforts" which "demonstrated in every respect" that they "appreciate the privilege of wearing a Marine uniform and serving with Marines in combat."- The Right to Fight

Montford Point Marine Lee Douglas, Jr vividly recounted his time there:

"The Third day, we went ashore. We went ashore in the barges to beachhead. Because you must go in. You got to go in the barges and go in with your rifles and everything. The ammunition stuff doesn't take place until after you take the islands and settle. But you got go in to do that. Once you go into the Marines Corps, regardless of the assignment, you must learn the rifle, the pistol, the range, your combat, you have to learn all of that.You may be a mechanic, you may be a cook, but the rifle comes first. You must learn that part of combat. So whenever you get overseas, your second job, that's all becomes second, first becomes the rifle. The invasion is first. My company, when we went in, we went in with our rifles blazing. There is no second hand nothing. We had looked forward to taking the airfield in a day or two. And there was no such thing as that you know they were dug in. The enemy was dug in so strong until everybody was held up at the beach." -Men of Montford Point Marines

Medical Attendants at Rest, Peleliu, October, 1944

Another Montford Pointer Laurence Diggs* climbed caves to eliminate the Japanese defenders. Flamethrowers were used and contained the deadly chemical napalm. Oxygen was then removed from the fortified cave, rendering occupants unable to breathe and dead. Also, the intense, searing heat of napalm sticking to the skin caused its targets unthinkable pain and death. 

Coincidentally, "Thousand Yard Stare" was featured in Tom Lea's painting of Peleliu. Lea's subject was described poignantly:
“He left the States 31 months ago. He was wounded in his first campaign. He has had tropical diseases. He half-sleeps at night and gouges Japs out of holes all day. Two-thirds of his company has been killed or wounded. He will return to attack this morning. How much can a human being endure?”

Tom Lea "Thousand Yard Stare" Painting

From that point on, the term "Thousand Yard Stare" was used to refer to the gaze of someone that had battle fatigue.  It is clearly a symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Tom Lea was a war correspondent and witnessed first hand the carnage. The appearance in the soldiers' eyes prompted Lea to create this work after an assignment in Peleliu. 

Battle of Peleliu Key Points-

  • One of the most fiercely fought battles of the Pacific War
  • Began on September 15,1944 and originally thought to last only three days, ended in November
  • 5,000 Marines wounded, 1,749 Marines Killed
  • Montford Marines participated in the invasion as members of the 11 Marines Depot Company and 7th Marine Ammunition Company
  • They supported the 1st Marine Division
  • Part of the Palau Islands. Peleliu was important because it was needed to recapture to the Philippines
  • The island had over 500 caves which served as forts for the well- dug Japanese. 
  • Some 11,000 Japanese were killed, only 200 survived. The Japanese were taught to die before surrendering. 
  • Included the Army 81st Infantry Division (additional facts from

Story after story emphasized the Montford Point Marines gallant actions. They finally earned the "right to fight" during the fiery battle of Peleliu. In fact, this battle would always be listed in the opening lines of Montford Point Marine history. They entered the brotherhood of United States Marine Corps with their amphibious landing in September, 1944.   

The phrase "Thousand yard stare" was introduced by artist Tom Lea. He painted a war weary Marine who endured unspeakable hell in this lesser known, but important Pacific World War II battle. "Thousand yard stare" marked a crucial intersection of military, art, and psychology and called attention to the effects of war on its combatants.

For a Video of the Battle of Peleliu click here.


Battle of Peleliu-
Men of Montford Point, Melton McLauren*
Right to Fight

See Also:

Capture of Peleliu for Marine Dan Bankhead story of the Montford Points in The Battle of Peleliu. Bankhead was a former pitcher for the Marines Baseball Team. His team played against Montford Point Marines.

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