"Charter Member ofAmerica's Greatest Generation
United States Marine
MILITARY SERVICE U.S. MARINE CORPS
Arthur W. Wells
In service from July 5, 1940 until November 2, 1945.
After high school graduation from Waynesville High School, Waynesville, Missouri in 1939, I wasunable to take advantage of an agricultural scholarship at the University of Missouri, due to lackof money.
I worked during the next year, first weaving bottoms in straight back chairs for a store at HookerMissouri for a short while then switched to a service station who offered better pay, $20.00 permonth plus room, board and laundry for 7-days per week and 12-hours daily, switching betweennight and day shifts every other week.
An older brother had enlisted in the Marine Corps early in 1940 and had written good thingsabout his life as a Marine so I decided to become one. After all, I got a dollar raise in pay to$21.00, received free medical care and clothing, and worked shorter hours but I had to do myown laundry. It seemed a step up! It also gave me the chance to further my education becausethe Marine Corps offered correspondence courses.
As St. Louis is west of the Mississippi River, my enlistment there meant that I would go throughboot camp in San Diego, those east of the river went to Parris Island, NC. I was in Platoon 56during boot camp, with marksmanship training at Camp Matthews near San Diego. After bootcamp, ten weeks as I recall, I could now consider myself a Marine and joined my brother in "C"Company, Sixth Marine Regiment, Second Marine Brigade. The Brigade later was the nucleusfor forming the Second Marine Division. The Division was stationed on the Marine Base in SanDiego and moved to Camp Elliott, about 12-miles away and on Kearney Mesa, quite frequentlyfor in-the-field training. The Sixth Regiment was infantry.
Though I had learned close order drill and the rudiments in the use of a bayonet and how to shootthe Marine way in boot camp, knife fighting, bare-hand hand-to-hand combat, compass use andmilitary tactics against an enemy were a part of the 6th. In addition to learning those things, Ialso served as company runner and semaphore signalman. I suppose the commanding officer feltthat a wiry Missouri farm boy could cover a lot of boondocks quickly and without tiring;in-company units didn't have radios at that time.
One of the company platoon sergeants began encouraging me to attend the U.S. Naval Academy,Annapolis, Maryland. A requirement for an enlisted Marine to attend the academy was ninemonths of sea duty in a capital ship of the U.S. Navy; capital ships were battleships, carriers andcruisers. So I transferred to Sea School, located on the Marine Base in San Diego, in earlyMarch, where I learned how to wear and care for Marine dress blues and navy shipboardterminology. In other words, a wall became a bulkhead, a ceiling an overhead, a staircase aladder, a floor turned into a deck and a bed became a bunk. I had already learned in boot campthat breakfast, lunch, dinner or supper now was just "chow". And, oh yes, to the left became portand to the right turned into starboard. "Port wine is red" was a term used to help remember which was which. And I participated in even more close order drill on theSan Diego Marine Base parade ground but this time in Marine blues. During the early part of SeaSchool training, we marched in blue pants, khaki shirt and field scarf (necktie). Of course, alwayswith a highly polished .30 caliber Springfield rifle.
Copious amounts of brass polish was used for various things, including polishing the barracksmetal garbage cans (used as waste baskets) setting in the center of the barracks. Jeweler's rougewas used to polish buttons on the blue blouse (jacket). The uniform was tailored snug fitting andsuspenders replaced a belt to prevent bulging at the waist. Upon graduation from Sea School, asone of the two top students, I had my choice of ships. Though my first choice would normallyhave been a carrier (because I liked to watch planes take off and land), I chose the battleshipUSS PENNSYLVANIA. The Pennsy, as she was most commonly called, was then the Flagshipof the United States Pacific Fleet and I felt it would be a feather in my cap to serve in her, onedidn't serve on but in a ship, when time came for my naval academy application to be filed.
I, and three other Marines, boarded a navy oil tanker, the USS Sabine, for our "cruise" to Oahu,Territory of Hawaii to report to our respective ships. One of the three was also boarding thePennsy with me. The tanker's captain felt we should earn our way so, for the first and only time, Ichipped paint on a navy ship. He had a hold projection, an opening for loading and unloadingcargo, on the main deck that he thought needed another painting.
Upon reaching Pearl Harbor, the ship circled Ford Island, located in the middle of the harbor'smain anchorage and moorings, and tied up at a berth that in old days had been used byships that used coal for fuel to generate the steam necessary to turn the screws (propeller) shaftsto drive the ship forward, or aft as the case might be.
The PENNSYLVANIA was across the harbor channel at her usual 10-10 Dock berth and Ireported aboard her a short time later. The Marine Detachment on the ship provided security invarious ways. In the field training was often held because they were first U.S. Marines and inthose days, every man's responsibility was as a rifleman first and his other duties were secondary.The men in the detachment furnished orderlies for certain officers on board, but not for shiningshoes or making an officer's bunk. Marine orderlies didn't shine shoes or perform other "butler"care of the officer to which he was assigned. An Orderly was at an officer's beck and call todeliver or retrieve written or oral messages. Heading the list was the Commander of the entireU.S. Pacific Fleet, Admiral Husband Kimmel and next were the ship's captain and the ship's executive officer.
MILITARY SERVICE IN UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS,
July 5, 1940 - November 2, 1945
Enlisted: St. Louis, Missouri July 5, 1940.
Boot Camp: Platoon 56, San Diego Marine Base, San Diego, California. July - September 1940.
"C" Company, 6th Marine Regiment, 2d Marine Brigade: It was the nucleus for forming the2nd Marine Division. Marine rifleman, company runner and semaphore signalman. September 1940 -March 1941.
Second Marine Division: February 1941-early March 1941. Sixth Regiment. Same duties aspreceding with the 6th.
Sea School: San Diego Marine Base. Learning care of dress blue uniform, naval terminology andcustoms, advanced close order drill, and shipboard duties of Marines.. March 1941- early April1941.
April 1941- September 1942.
USS PENNSYLVANIA: Battleship. Flagship of the United States Pacific Fleet. Gun DirectorPointer on mainmast for portside 5" .51-Cal. Broadside Guns. Striker for Marine DetachmentClerk. Inherited Detachment Clerk responsibilities after he was killed during the Japanese attackon Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.
September 1942-March 1943.
USS NEW MEXICO: Battleship. Senior Marine non-commissioned officer with Vice-AdmiralWilliam Pye's Flag. The admiral had assumed the duties of Admiral Kimmel after he had beenrelieved of his command of the Pacific Fleet, until Admiral Chester Nimitz arrived to assumecommand. Assigned Flag Detachment Marine orderlies their watches and looked after theirwell-being.
Sergeant. March 1943-May 1943.
Marine Barracks, Pearl Harbor Navy Yard: "C" Company. Censored mail. Acting First
May 1943-July 1943.
Palmyra Island: "C" Battery, 1st Defense Battalion. Acting 5" .51-Cal. gun captain. Senior NCO at battery. Performed duties usually done in a unit by a platoon sergeant, gunnery sergeantand some of a first sergeant's duties.
September 1943-December 1943.
Camp Elliott: Near San Diego. After 30-day furlough, assigned to the camp's HeadquartersCompany. Command of an office night crew in Camp Elliott's main office. Later, assumed dutiesat the camp's Western Union office. Kept office open until midnight then sent out telegrams onteletype. Afterwards, used reams of Western Union's teletype tape in over-the-wire conversationswith girls at its other end in the company's main office in downtown San Diego.
December 1943 - September 1945.
Second Marine Amphibian Truck Company--DUKWs. Platoon sergeant of the company's firstplatoon. A platoon sergeant reminded me of the mother of a large family--in addition tosupervising most of a platoon's daily activities, he listens to the gripes by the men (children) aboutthe officers. He also listens to the officers' (fathers) gripes about the failings of the men in aplatoon.
4th Marine Division: Saipan & Tinian Invasions. March 1944 - August 1944.
2d Marine Division: Saipan. August 1944 - April 1945.
10th Army Corps: Okinawa Invasion. April 1945 - July 1945.
2d Marine Division: Company aided in the occupation of Japan but without his help. July
December 6, 1945 the DUKW company was absorbed into the 2d Motor Transport Battalion,Second Division and ceased to exist as a company.
Guam: Separation Center awaiting transportation to United States. Mid September 1945 - early
USS CROCKETT: At sea enroute to United States for discharge. October 2-31, 1945.
Separation Center San Diego Marine Base: Discharge processing. October 31 to November 2,
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