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Features

  • Author’s Notes: I temporarily suspended the current series in order to mark Veterans Day by depicting the life of Shelbyville hero, Colonel Ben Bollard. I now resume the series with “30 Years in the Marines,” Part 14. This column and the next are practically identical with those I published in The Sentinel-News in June 2008.

    Susanne Van Stockum’s

    innate curiosity

  • On Christmas, 1970, Ben entered a large cell with 45 cellmates. He thought he had “died and gone to heaven!” They didn’t sleep for many hours as they met their new cellmates and swapped stories.

    Hazards of religious services

  • On the eve of Veterans Day it seems entirely fitting to publish a summary of my columns about Col. Ben Pollard that originally appeared in August 2008. Col. Pollard died in San Diego on Veteran’s Day 2016.

    While I had heard of the late Ben Pollard and of his experiences as a prisoner of war in Hanoi during the Vietnam War, it was at an open house at the Shelby County Public Library nearly twenty years ago where I first made his acquaintance. Thus commenced a friendship, which was continued through visits and many e-mail exchanges.

    Early life

  • In the summer of 1952, upon completion of my duty as Senior Marine Officer on the flagship of Rear Admiral Brittain, I had expectations of returning to infantry duty.

    However, fate intervened.

    The Commander of the Marine Barracks at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Illinois, about 40 miles north of Chicago, had been suddenly relieved of his command.

    Nearing the end of my sea duty and considered a suitable replacement available immediately, I was ordered to replace him

  • End of Bachelorhood

    On Flag Day, June 14, 1949, lovely Susanne de Charette and I were married. I adopted her little daughter, Michele Solange Marshall, not yet three. Susanne’s first husband, Charles (Chunky) Marshall, was the son of Judge C. C. Marshall, the longest serving of all Shelby County, Kentucky Circuit Court Judges (1907-1943), a total of 36 years.

  • On April 1, 1945, while flying home, having competed a combat tour in the Pacific of nearly 26 months, I heard on the plane’s radio news of the assault on Okinawa that day.

    This was the beginning of another struggle with a skilled and determined enemy, who augmented his defenses this time with kamikaze pilots who deliberately crashed their bomb-laden planes on naval ships.

    On land and sea a terrible toll was exacted, foretelling a bloody struggle for the home islands of Japan, planned for later that year.

    With my parents

  • At this point in my current series, having completed writing about combat experiences during WW II, it seems timely to write about “Heroes and Heroism.”

    I have thought a great deal about real heroes and their acts of heroism. Certainly my front-line machine gunners on Guam who held their ground and died, while others fell back and survived, were heroes, unrecognized and unsung

  • Captain C. C. “Chipping Charlie” Anderson

    In February 1945, as a 28-year-old lieutenant colonel, commanding an infantry battalion, the 1ST Battalion of the 3RD Marines, I embarked with my troops aboard USS Frederick Funston for the Iwo Jima invasion. My battalion, reinforced by attached units, including an engineering platoon, a pioneer platoon, a medical collecting section, was designated BLT 1-3 (Battalion Landing Team 1 of the 3rd Marine Regiment.)

  • In defeating the all-out Japanese attack of July 25-26, our Marines had broken the enemy’s back.  The day following, the battalion commander moved his command post from the foot of the cliff to the top. Ordinarily it would have been a poor location, for enemy fire directed at our frontlines would also pin down those in the command post and hinder their exercise of command. However, in this case, organized resistance at the front had ceased.

    Liberating ‘Scotch’ whisky

  • Fonte Ridge

    On July 22, the day following our landing, the 1st Battalion, of which I was Executive Officer (second-in command), was taken out of reserve and placed on the front line on Fonte Ridge, between the other two battalions of the 21st Marines.

  •  

    Author’s Note: In 2007, when I wrote my first column for The Shelbyville, Kentucky Sentinel-News, I thought I would run out of years before I ran out of columns. However, after passing Milestone 101 last week, I don’t seem to be running out of either, for this is my 209th column.

    Combat loaded aboard a Naval transport

  •  

    Planning and Training on Guadalcanal

    In January 1944, having returned from a successful Bougainville campaign, we began intense training for our next campaign, planned initially as an invasion of Kavieng, New Ireland, in Papua, New Guinea, 300 miles north of Bougainville.

    However, in February, the outer screen of Japanese island defenses had been penetrated by the seizure of bases in the Marshall Islands, including Kwajalein and Eniwetok. In March and April, landings in the Admiralty Islands and Hollandia established additional shore bases.

  • The First Battalion continued its westward advance beyond the front lines to reach its objective where a stream was in front and the sea on the left flank. It then placed into effect it’s long-practiced SOP (Standing Operating Procedure) for jungle perimeter defense. Each of the three rifle companies, supported by one of my machine gun platoons to form the framework of the defense, occupied a third of the circle. I toured the front lines, tying in the fire plans of all automatic weapons so that continuous bands of grazing fire could be interlocked about the perimeter.

  • Later on Bougainville, while the Executive Officer (second-in-command) of the 1st Battalion, Major Eugene Strayhorn, a former Vanderbilt football star, and I were occupying our rudimentary advanced command post, a small mortar shell, the size of a hand grenade dropped into our hole.

    Fortunately after striking my carbine, and breaking its stock, it did not explode, so my Marine Corps career was not terminated. Strayhorn’s immediate reaction was “Van, they’ve got the range. Let’s get the hell out of here.”

  • The First Battalion continued its westward advance beyond the front lines to reach its objective where a stream was in front and the sea on the left flank. It then placed into effect it’s long-practiced SOP (Standing Operating Procedure) for jungle perimeter defense. Each of the three rifle companies, supported by one of my machine gun platoons to form the framework of the defense, occupied a third of the circle. I toured the front lines, tying in the fire plans of all automatic weapons so that continuous bands of grazing fire could be interlocked about the perimeter.

  • On September 27, 1943, while still based on Guadalcanal, we were informed that the Third Marine Division would land in the vicinity of Cape Torokina, Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville, and seize and defend a beachhead between the Torokina and Laruma rivers. This was a lightly defended area, on the eastern shore, far from the main Japanese forces.

  • Introduction to a new series

    I have just concluded a 31-part series of columns covering my initial five years of service as a commissioned officer in the regular U. S. Marine Corps. It was based upon my Marine Corps Journal, which I kept in long hand from 1937 until journals were prohibited for security reasons in 1942.

    This series had been well received by readers of diverse interests, including a preeminent frontier painter, a senior financial consultant, and a friend who has delivered my daily newspaper for years.

  • July 25, 1942

    M.B. New River, N.C. – I was detached from WASP on 25 June after my request to remain on board was disapproved by headquarters.

  • May 13, 1942

    Two days south of Scapa. This trip has been more gratifying than the last. Over the weekend the Spits we delivered to Malta shot down or destroyed 110 Axis planes [Generally in agreement with historical records of the Siege of Malta], losing only seven themselves.

  • Want to jazz up your workout or even begin a fun new one?

    You might want to pop in at Jazzercise on Main Street and join in the fun.

    Diane Young smiled as she began to warm up.

    “I really like it,” she said. “I had a total knee replacement September 13 and this has really helped me.”

    Nel Grin, instructor and owner of the facility, said that having fun is the key to a successful exercise routine in terms of longevity.