In August 1942 the 2nd Marine “Raider” Battalion raided what was then called Makin Island in the Gilbert Archipelago of the South Pacific. The present name of the island is Butaritari in the island nation of Kiribati.
In 1942 the island had a small, roughly 160 man garrison, and was the site of a Japanese Airfield. The raid was conceived as a way for the Marines to gather intelligence on what and how many Japanese forces were stationed in the Gilbert Islands. The plan was for 211 men from companies A and B of the 2nd Marine “Raider” Battalion led by LTC Evans Carlson to land on the island under cover of darkness, neutralize the small Japanese garrison and ransack the island for anything of intelligence value before destroying the facilities and leaving the island. The Marines would land from two submarines the USS Nautilus and USS Argonaut using small rubber boats equipped with outboard motors.
View of Makin Island from the Periscope of the USS Nautilus Before the Raid
Below is an animated map of the progress of WWII day by day from 1 September, 1939 to October, 1945 when the last major units of the Japanese military surrendered. It provides a fascinating view of the way in which the fortunes of the went back and forth.
In the sixties ‘wheel of life’ folk song The Great Mandala, Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul & Mary sings these lines: “Take your place on the great Mandala— As it moves through your brief moment of time— Win or lose now, you must choose now— And if you lose you’re only losing your life.” With this book, Coleman brings those words full circle, so to speak, delivering a rendition of his own life that, though marked by hardship and judgement, turns always toward a better day. Here’s the story of a man who took his place on that great wheel, and did not lose his life but gained a richer, better one. Even the title of the work evokes the turning wheel metaphor, in addition to other meanings. Continue reading →
This is kind of an amusing story, unless of course you are the guy that got killed. When I was deployed to Iraq in 2004 with C Troop 1/4 Cav we had a platoon of National Guard soldiers assigned to my FOB to assist with Force protection (Guard Duty). The Guardsmen pulled duty in the towers ringing the perimeter of the FOB. Along with the Americans, Iraqi National Guardsmen (ING) pulled duty, supposedly it was some sort of trust building thing I was never certain of the logic behind that decision. That set up the circumstances whereby the murder could occur. I was at FOB Wilson, which is about 5 km south of Ad-Dawr the town where Saddam was captured and about 30 km south of his hometown of Tikrit. The town was a dump but that is another story.
In May of 2004 one of the Guardsmen killed the ING guy he was in the tower with. I was in my billets at the time the murder occurred between 2300 and midnight and all I heard was a flurry of gunfire from the guard tower closest to our building. I quickly threw all my crap on and ran to the sound of gunfire only to find, along with several others, that there was a dead Iraqi on the steps of the tower and a Guardsmen claiming the Iraqi had drawn his weapon on him. The guy had emptied his magazine into the Iraq and hit him several times so the Iraqi was a mess. The body was policed up, three American was relieved and new people were put into the tower and I did not think much about it until a few days later when CID showed up. Even then I did not think much about it.
Several months later, when I was helping to establish an Iraqi basic training center in Tikrit I got the rest of the story. Apparently the American was facing murder charges because there was more to ti than just an Iraqi pulling his weapon on an American. As thew story came out, the American and Iraqi had been pulling Guard together for awhile and lonely being lonely had started having sex with each other. On the night the murder happened rumor has it that the American had been catching and wanted to pitch but the Iraqi did not want to let him. Things got heated up, the American got angry and the Iraqi grabbed his weapon to stop the American from attacking and raping him whereupon the American shot and killed him.
The Guy’s name was SPC Frederico Merida and he was from the 1/113th FA, 30th Armor Brigade North Carolina Army National Guard. He plead guiulty and was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in Leavenworth. Here is a link to some archived stories about the murder. One wrinkle that I cannot confirm is a story that Merida’s wife did not learn he was being Court-Martialed until she read about the trial in the local paper. I heard that from a guy in Merida’s unit.
A special hat tip to my former comrades who were also there from the Veterans of 1-4 Cav Facebook Group who helped me find out the guy’s name and aided my memory of events. Quarterhorse!: It may not have always been fun but what a ride we had in the Cav.