Pat Peters: With the 2nd Marine Division in the South Pacific

By PAT PETERS

As told to Chace Anderson

Pat Peters just out of boot camp, 1942

Pat Peters after boot camp, 1942

It was a war that took place a long time ago. It’s water under the bridge. I survived. I’m home.

I really don’t want to talk about mud up to here, the smell of stuff, mosquitoes, malaria, crappin’ in your pants…I’m not trying to be a Gary Cooper silent-guy type. I’m only one guy among thousands and thousands of guys who have better stories. And most of the time, I’d just as soon forget the whole damn thing.

But the service was good for me in a lot of ways. I took pride in being a Marine, being part of the Corps. Pride in the Marine Corp emblem. I loved the camaraderie. Oh I was pretty cocky when I went in. Maybe confident is a better word. You had to be a little cocky to be a Marine. But I guess we all got a little of that cockiness beaten out of us when the shooting started.

Going way back

I think I’m fourth-generation Tuolumne County. My dad, George Dewey Peters, was a mechanic, but my grandfather was a stonemason, as was his father before him.

My great-grandfather, William Henry Peters, was English, and about 1850 he found himself in South America working on the British consulate in Argentina. Maybe it was Chile; I can’t remember for sure. When he and some of his friends heard about the gold discovery in California, they bought a boat and sailed it all the way to San Francisco.

They sold the boat when they got there, split up, and my great-grandfather made his way to this area. But William Henry never mined gold…he plied his trade as a stonemason. There may still be some stone walls around this county that he built.
If he is counted as first generation, I guess that would make my kids fifth generation, my grandkids sixth generation, and my great grandkids seventh-generation Tuolumne County.

Early years

My father married Mary McNeill, and they had two kids, a younger sister Barbara and me. I couldn’t tell you if I was born at home or in a hospital. I do know it was in Oct. 1922, and it was here in Sonora. John Patrick Peters, they named me, but everyone called me Pat. Everyone except my Aunt Maggie…to her I was Johnny Pat.

Our house was on Columbia Way just outside the city limits, a little past the Curtin Mansion. Like everybody else in town, I attended Sonora Elementary and then Sonora High School. What I remember most about high school were the sports and the girls.

We all played sports, and we were pretty good. When I look at my yearbooks from that time, I see all kinds of guys—good friends who also served in the war. There were a lot of us.

There’s a yearbook picture of our football team my senior year, and there are four of us next to each other in the middle row who were friends and who all went to war. Joe Huante was in Europe, Lee Meadows I heard survived the attack on the Arizona at Pearl Harbor, then me, then Punny Dambacher, who was all over the Pacific. There are other guys in the same picture that made it back too.

I played four years of basketball and three years of football. We won the Valley Oak League championship in basketball my junior and senior years, and they gave us little gold basketballs for doing that. A few years ago, when my granddaughter Amy Santos began coaching basketball at Sonora High, I gave her one of those gold basketballs. Now she wears it on a chain around her neck whenever she coaches. That’s kind of nice, isn’t it?

I even had a short boxing career. Frank Cavalieri used to promote these fights up the highway at the El Nido, and I was there one night with my buddies to watch. Well, one of the fighters didn’t show, so Frank offered $3.50 if someone would box a guy who was a real fighter. I said what the heck, I’d give it a try.

Five veterans side by side (front row from left:) Lloyd Null, Pat Peters, Joe Huante, Punny Dambacher, Dick Baker

Five vets side by side (front row L-R:) Lloyd Null, Pat Peters, Joe Huante, Punny Dambacher, Dick Baker

Someone loaned me a pair of trunks that were way too big, and I climbed in the ring. The other guy quietly told me we should just spar to give the folks a good show. We sparred, but he would occasionally pop me a good one, and that eventually made me mad. I went after him and ended up knocking him out. You know, Frank never did pay the $3.50 he owed me. And let me tell you, I reminded him quite a few times.

In high school I didn’t have a car, but I knew of a used Model A that was available for $90. Up past the high school, Bill Hasset sold five-gallon bottles of water from his spring on Columbia Way. I told him I wanted a job helping him deliver bottles of water so I could buy that car.

Well, Bill went out, bought the car, and then told me it was mine if I would work for him through the summer. And he kept his word. That was my first car. Of course I didn’t keep it too long. I ended up trading it in for a sedan that had a big enough back seat to carry girls. It was big enough for three girls, maybe four.

It was the shortest line

I graduated in June of 1941. I thought about going to junior college, but said, “The hell with it.” I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I guess I was kind of aimless. I took a job at the dairy in town, the one that had a little bottling shop right on Washington.

On Dec. 7, a friend of mine and I took our girlfriends up to the mountains around Strawberry to find a Christmas tree and have a picnic. Jean Harris was my girlfriend at the time, and when we came down in the evening, I drove over to her house.

Mrs. Harris came running out and said, “Did you kids hear what happened today?” We said no, and then she told us Pearl Harbor had been bombed.

I said, “Where the hell’s Pearl Harbor?”

But soon enough I knew, and everything went crazy then. I thought to myself, “This is crap. The Japs can’t get away with this.”

Maybe it was just right for me. I had been wondering what to do, and I was ripe for it. I wanted to get in the service bad. I had a car so just a couple days after Pearl Harbor I drove down to Stockton, which had the nearest recruiting office I knew about.

I didn’t know which branch of the service I was going to join; I just knew I was going in. When I got to the recruiting office, all the branches were in the same building. I remember walking up the stairs and looking down the hallway.

The Army desk was crowded with a line in front of it, and the Navy desk looked the same. Down past them at the end there was another desk with only a couple guys standing in front of it, so I went down there.

The Marine recruiter at the desk asked, “Do you want to join?”

I said, “Yeah, I want to join.” So that’s how I became a Marine. It was the shortest line. Seventy-one years later, I don’t regret it a bit.

The Marine Corps way of life

I was sworn in at the Federal Building in San Francisco on Dec. 18, 1941, 11 days after the Japanese attack. Right there they gave us tokens to use on the train, and we left for the Marine base in San Diego. We pulled into the base in the evening, and the next morning we were issued our first uniforms and said goodbye to civilian clothes. They told us we could ship them home, but I didn’t even bother to do that.

Boot camp lasted about six weeks, from the middle of Dec. to early Feb., and it was an ordeal. Tough mentally and physically. Our drill instructors were an old salt sergeant and this younger corporal who did most of the work. I can’t remember their names and don’t want to. I learned to hate them in a hurry.

They would wake us up in the middle of the night and yell, “Fall in.” We’d have to get out of bed and go on a march. They tried to take the civilian life right out of you and put the Marine Corps life in. Just tough, tough training. They did everything they could to test you, to get you mad.

In boot camp, you had to learn the serial number of your rifle. After you memorized it, they’d march you out in the boondocks toward Coronado. Maybe 50 guys in a platoon. Then they’d have us all put our rifles in a pile, and we had to stand in a circle around it. When they said, “Go,” we had a short amount of time to dive in and find our own rifles. If you didn’t get your own, you had to stand out there with a bucket on your head in front of your tent and tell everyone you’re a shithead.

You also learned it was your rifle, not your gun. If you called it a gun, you stood there with a bucket on your head, raising your rifle and repeating, “This is my rifle, and I’m a shithead,” over and over again.

I suppose they were making us tough and were doing what their superior officers wanted them to do. I guess if we hated them, they were doing the right thing, and let me tell you we hated them. Then again, that training probably saved a few of us down the road.

After boot camp, we were assigned to Camp Elliott in the hills outside San Diego. We trained there until about July, when I was assigned to the 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Regiment, 2nd Battalion.

Off to war

By the summer of 1942, three former American President liners, the Hayes, the Jackson, and the Adams, were converted to troop ships and assigned to the 2nd Marines for training in Southern California. I was on the USS President Jackson, and we would sail up the coast of California, climb down the rope nets on the side of the ship into Higgins boats, and then go ashore. Then back to the ship. Then do it again. At night we’d return to San Diego but would sleep on the ship in pretty crowded quarters.

Then one day we left the harbor and kept going out to sea. I think it was June 6, about the time of the Battle of Midway. No one had told us, but we figured it out pretty quick that we were headed out.

It seemed we floated around the Pacific for almost two months. I crossed the equator for the first time on that trip. The Navy called anyone who had never crossed before “pollywogs,” and those who had were “shellbacks.”

To initiate us Marines when we crossed the equator on that trip, the shellbacks turned the fire hoses on us. The only problem was the Marine pollywogs outnumbered the Navy shellbacks, so we grabbed the hoses and turned them right back on the Navy guys!
It was hot below decks, hot and crowded, but the Navy was pretty darn good to us. As we moved farther into the tropics and it got hotter, we’d sneak up to the deck with a blanket and sleep up there. They were good about letting us stay there where it was a little cooler. And the food wasn’t too bad either. Lots of navy beans, I remember.

On that crossing we did stop once in Fiji, and they let us go ashore for an hour or two. Then the first week in August, the USS President Jackson joined a convoy with the 1st Marine Division headed for Guadalcanal.

Turning the tide

Now remember that the U.S. had been on the defensive ever since Pearl Harbor. The Battle of Midway in early June kind of slowed the Japanese push. Aug. 7, 1942, marked the beginning of the long slow American campaign to reach Japan. I guess I was among the first Americans to land on that push north, starting there in the Solomon Islands.

On Aug. 7, the 2nd Regiment of the 2nd Division didn’t go to Guadalcanal but headed about 20 miles across the bay to Tulagi, Gavutu, and Tanambogo. The scuttlebutt was that Tulagi would be a cakewalk and Guadalcanal would be a bitch. It turned out the beachhead at Guadalcanal wasn’t so bad that day, but on Tulagi the Marines caught hell for three or four days.

At Tulagi the 3rd Battalion went in first, and the 2nd Battalion went in next. I was assigned to a work detail. We climbed down the nets on the USS President Jackson into Higgins boats and then ferried ammunition and supplies back and forth to the beach. I did that both Aug. 7 and 8. I didn’t stay ashore until the third day. I remember seeing Japanese planes fly over, sometimes 17 or 18 together. I would look up, and I could see the red meatballs under the wings; I could see the pilot.

Casualties

There were lots of casualties on Tulagi. That’s where I saw my first Jap. We were bringing in supplies, and this guy was laying there on the beach. I went over, kind of curious, and stood there looking at him, sort of hesitating. The officer in charge came over and said, “For Christ sakes, Marine, he’s dead. Drag him out the way.”

After only a few days at Tulagi, my unit was pulled off and sent down to Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides. We were to protect the Seabees while they built an airfield on the island. Most of the time we did patrols and work parties. A lot of us liked that because it gave us something to do—handling and storing supplies.

The best part was that these little cases of medicinal booze would come in: “One for them, one for us, one for them…” We stacked a lot of ammunition too. We had piles of ammunition three stories high. But there was a lot of the hurry up and wait, too.

It was the tropics, and there were always these quick thunderstorms. When it would start raining, we’d strip down and soap up, hoping it would last long enough to rinse off.

Yes, I had dysentery. I thought that was a way of life. I didn’t get malaria, although I did have Dengue fever. I never could figure out how it worked. I know damn well the same mosquito that bit me bit the other guy, and he ended up with malaria and I didn’t.

Of course most of us took the Atabrine they gave us to prevent malaria. We didn’t like it because it was so bitter, but most of us took it. They gave us the powder, and we’d put it in a little bit of toilet paper, roll it up, and swallow it that way.

We’d also get a fungus on our feet and even on our hands between the fingers. And that lasted long after the war. It was years before I got rid of it completely.

Mothers back home

In Feb. of 1943, my unit left Espiritu Santo for New Zealand. When we arrived, they gave us a little bit of liberty at first, but then we began more training. Our camp was about 30 miles from Wellington on the North Island. I think Paekakariki was the closest town. The Marines were pretty free with us; not a lot of spit and polish right then, but we knew we were training to go back to the war.

I remember a time in New Zealand when my buddies and I were going north on a train. We were shooting the bull and having a good time when a New Zealand major overheard us there in the train car and joined in. He then asked us, “How’d you guys like to come home with me and have a home cooked meal?”

Well, he took us all to his house, and we had this really nice dinner. But listen to this. Before we left, his wife took the names and home addresses of every one of us. And then she wrote an individual letter to each one of our mothers, telling them how we looked and how we were doing. Such nice people. I mean, that must have been what she hoped would happen if she ever had a son fighting a war far from home.

Seawall after Tarawa invasion

Seawall after Tarawa invasion

Tarawa

In Nov. 1943, we left New Zealand on the USS President Jackson. We didn’t know where we were going, but we knew we were headed north when the weather kept growing warmer. The officers began giving us pep talks, and the scuttlebutt was that we were going to Wake Island.

Eventually we were told we were headed for a small island with a landing strip, a place called Tarawa. We were told it would be a cakewalk because it was going to be bombed by planes and blasted by ships for days before the Marines would land. We were told most of the island would be flattened before anyone went ashore.

Well, it didn’t work out that way. Where the Japs went during all that bombardment I don’t know. Tunnels and underground bunkers, I guess. But there were plenty left when the assault started. You know, more than once during the war I thought, “Jesus Christ, I wish those guys were on our side.” They were fierce fighters…would fight to the death.

There was another snafu before the initial landing at Tarawa. Carrier-born planes were supposed to strafe the island right after the bombing and shelling ended, but for some reason they were a half hour late.

The first wave of Marines not only had no air cover but the unexpected low tide hung up most of the Higgins boats as they tried to cross the shallow coral reef. The amphibious amtracks picked up some of the stranded Marines, but far too many were mowed down by the Japanese on the island.

It was a bloody battle that lasted about 76 hours. On Nov. 20, the first day of the invasion, I was on the USS President Jackson just outside the outer reef. We could hear the bombardment. We could see the first wave going in, and we could see what was happening to them.

My unit didn’t land on Tarawa until the third day, and we were pulled off on the fourth and last day. Just like we practiced, we went down the side of the USS President Jackson on the netting, got into the Higgins boats, and waded the final bit to the beach. When I went in, we didn’t have any trouble with the coral.

I’m a little uncomfortable talking about Tarawa.

Hawaii

Back on the USS President Jackson, my unit headed for Hawaii. On that trip I remember the burials at sea—flag-draped coffins on the deck—soldiers wounded at Tarawa who didn’t make it.

Now some guys might tell you about R&R in Honolulu, but we went to the Big Island, to Camp Tarawa by the Parker ranch near the slopes of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. We had liberty, but it wasn’t anything like Honolulu.

While on the Big Island we did training, and I remember lots of hikes. But just as we had in New Zealand, we knew we were getting ready for a battle, and in June of 1944, we headed to Saipan on a troop ship.

Saipan

For me there’s nothing too exciting to tell about Saipan. The battle lasted about 24 days, and I guess I was there for ten or twelve of them; maybe more. Again we went in on Higgins boats, but it wasn’t at the beginning of the battle. On the island we did a lot of patrols to catch stragglers. Once in awhile you’d run across some. There’s not much more to tell about that.

I was on Saipan when they told us about the points. You got points for time in the service, time overseas, combat time, battles…that stuff. I don’t remember how many points you had to have, but I had enough. Most of the guys with me, we had enough to give away.

Back home

We went back on a doozy of a ship, a real new type of troop carrier. A slick one. From Saipan we went to Peal Harbor and then to a camp up on the slopes out beyond the base. They kept a bunch of us there quarantined. The scuttlebutt was that they didn’t want Marines to go back to the U.S. bringing some disease with us. Oh we had beer halls and kitchens, but no liberty. Just slept in tents at the camp.

After two or three weeks, I guess they decided we were okay because they loaded us back aboard a troop ship headed home. I remember going under the Golden Gate Bridge and just looking up at that baby. I hadn’t been home in three years.

We landed at Treasure Island close to Christmas in 1944. They gave us some liberty, and one of my buddies and I went to the Bay Bridge and hitched a ride. I remember a guy with a flatbed truck picked us up and gave us a lift over to Oakland. We made it to my Uncle Jim’s place in Albany, but only had an overnight pass, so we went back the next day.

At Treasure Island we were processed and then sent south by train to San Diego. And there we were given a 30-day leave.

My Dad

I have to tell you something about my dad. Believe it or not, he was a veteran of World War I and World War II. As I said before, he made his living as a mechanic, and I know at times he worked for the Forest Service and he worked for the State of California.

But after World War II broke out, after I was already in the Marine Corps, my dad volunteered, and they put him in the Seabees. Here he was at 44 or 45 years old going off to fight against Rommel in North Africa. Fortunately, my mom was a nurse and could support my younger sister and herself while my dad and I were away.

He had returned to the states before I did, and he was stationed at Fort McAlester in Oklahoma at the time I was given my 30-day leave. My mom had stayed in Sonora until Dad returned to the States, and then she joined him in Oklahoma. My sister was in school in San Jose.

At the beginning of my leave, I went to Fort McAlester to visit my parents for a while, and then I headed to Sonora. I looked up a few friends and was bought a few drinks. I went to see my old principal, Vernon Dunlavy. He was a pretty good egg, and I always did like him.

Souvenirs

The Marines used to sell the Navy guys all sorts of souvenirs. Swords and flags were the most popular. Of course, some of them the Marines just made up on a sewing machine.

I’ve lost a bunch of souvenirs. I had some helmets and a flag, but I put them all in a sea bag, and the seabag never made it home. Maybe someone on the ship took it.

I did get home with a few things, mostly from Saipan. But they’re gone too. All my photos and papers from the war were in a suitcase in a garage that got flooded. They were ruined, and I eventually tossed them out. Some of my dad’s stuff was in there too. I can’t find my dog tags or medals, either.

I still have my uniform with the ribbons on it. And I do have a knife I’ve kept all these years. I made it from a bigger Marine-issue knife, and it originally had an old leather grip handle. I took the handle off and while on ship, I used to file down the blade to make it a more manageable size. Let me tell you, I had lots of time to file onboard the troop transports.

Then on Espiritu Santo, there was this wrecked B-17 bomber that had crashed at the airfield. I picked up some aluminum from the fuselage and some plexiglass from the windows. I made a new handle for the knife from layers of that aluminum and plexiglass. And between each layer, I’d slip in a thin copper divider. It still looks good after all these years.

I even cast an aluminum tip for the handle of that knife. When I got back to Hawaii, I poked my finger into the sand to make a mold and then melted aluminum into the hole. That aluminum came from a mess kit—someone else’s—and when the knife was done, I carried it with me the rest of the time I spent in the service. I worked a lot of hours on that knife.

The knife Pat made in the South Pacific

The knife Pat made in the South Pacific

San Diego again

After my 30-day leave, I went back to San Diego and did guard duty during the first half of 1945. I was in a unit that moved German prisoners from one place to another, and then we moved Italian prisoners. There was even a time when we had to move American military prisoners by train from the Naval prison at San Pedro to Bremerton, Washington. I hated that duty…guarding Americans.

Those of us who had been rotated back to the States started getting nervous in the summer of 1945. We knew that after so much time back in the States, Marines got rotated back to the war, and that seemed to be where we were heading.

They would put you in what they called “casual companies,” and you would end up going wherever you were needed. My unit was about due to go to one of those casual companies.

2nd Marine Division Patch on his uniform

2nd Marine Division Patch

God bless Harry Truman

I don’t know your politics, but I can tell you this. My family wouldn’t be here right now if it weren’t for Harry Truman.

I’m sure we were about ready to be rotated back overseas when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. The information you would get—again the scuttlebutt—was that the Marines would be in the first wave of the attack on the Japanese mainland. They were writing off as expendable a whole division…you’re talking about over 10,000 U.S. soldiers.

The word was that we would be meeting Japanese soldiers and civilians; we would be meeting children, grandfathers, grandmothers; they would have rifles, swords, pitchforks, broken bottles…the works. You’d have to kill or be killed.

In my opinion what the hell is the difference? B-29s were taking off from Saipan and bombing Japan daily with anti-personnel and firebombs, killing thousands every day.

What’s the difference between doing that all the time and taking one plane over and dropping the atomic bomb? What’s the difference? We might have saved millions of Japanese. I don’t know if people realize it, but Japan wasn’t ready to surrender after Hiroshima. It took the second one at Nagasaki to do it. God bless Harry Truman.

The last months were the hardest

I joined the Marines on Dec. 18, 1941, and they weren’t going to let me out until Dec. 18, 1945. Japan had surrendered after the bombs were dropped, and the war was over. But I couldn’t get out until my four-year hitch was up.

Those were the longest four months. At first I kicked myself for not joining the reserves. I could have gotten out right after the war if I had. But the good thing was, when I eventually finished my four years, I was completely done.

Busted

I was still in the Marines until Dec., and everything was spit and polish again. It was hard for those of us who had been to battle. And that led to another interesting story.

I may be the only one—or perhaps one of few—who ever made Private First Class three different times. During those months in San Diego between the Japanese surrender and the end of my enlistment, I got busted from Corporal to PFC for staying away a couple days too long on one of my leaves. A few of us were just having too good a time to return to base and stayed away.

Yeah we were AWOL, but I have to tell you, we went back voluntarily. It just wasn’t soon enough to satisfy the Marines.

But that wasn’t the only time I went from Corporal down to PFC. Back in New Zealand between Tulagi and Tarawa, there was an occasion when a few of us were having too much fun on a leave and stayed away a couple extra days. Yup, AWOL. Busted from Corporal to PFC.

I finally did get out of the service on Dec. 18, 1945. And I was a PFC for the third time. If they had made me stay a little longer, I know I would have made Corporal. For the third time!

Billy Russell, Pat's cousin, was best man; Pat and Leona; Rita (Waddlow) Batten, maid of honor, in Reno on our wedding day.

Billy Russell, Pat’s cousin, was best man; Pat and Leona; Rita (Waddlow) Batten, maid of honor, in Reno on our wedding day.

Back where I started

Finally discharged just before Christmas in 1945, I went by train to San Francisco, where my dad met me. He and my mom had gone to Portola up in Plumas County when he got out of the service. Mom’s sister lived there, and that’s where he took me.

My uncle got me a job up there on the Western Pacific Railroad. I wanted to come to Sonora in the worst way, but my family talked me into taking the job as a student fireman on the old steam engines. The line ran from Portola to Oroville and out to Winnemucca, Nevada.

I put in my student trips on the railroad, and then one day I got a letter from somebody in Sonora. In the letter I heard about all the guys who were home from the war, about what all my friends back there were doing. I said “Sayonara Portola” and hitchhiked all the way to Sonora.

I stayed with my Aunt Helen for awhile and then moved into a house where I rented a room. The government gave you $25 a week or some damn thing for a certain amount of time. So then I looked for a job.

In April of 1946 I went to work for Beerman and Jones Construction on a paving crew. We were bought out in 1960 by George Reed, and I worked for Reed until I retired in 1982.

I did a lot of paving for George Reed, everything from driveways to roads. There are a lot of roads around here we did. And not just around here. We traveled all over for jobs. We paved up over Sonora Pass and did campgrounds. We did all the paving around the MGM Grand in Reno.

In the 36 years I did that work, I only got hurt a couple times. I put a pick through my foot in 1948. 1948 or ’49, I’m not sure. And a bottom dump ran over my legs one time on a paving job down by Stent. I was the paving superintendent at the time, and I remember I was worried about the bank on the road. I looked away for a minute while the bottom dump driver was backing up. The next thing I knew his wheels were rolling over my legs.

I was pretty lucky. The ground underneath was fairly soft, so the legs weren’t broken. But they were beat up pretty bad, and I think I was off work for a couple months.

My rock

I hadn’t been back in Sonora for very long after the war before I met Leona. It was in Brandi’s Ice Cream Parlor, right there on Washington Street where the old theater used to be, where Bank of America is now.

I think it was early summer in 1946. I was with a bunch of guys, and we decided to go into Brandi’s for a little lunch. There were a bunch of girls sitting at a table, and someone did the introductions. The girls were on a lunch break from J.C. Penney’s, so no one stuck around too long.

But soon after that I saw her walking down the street in front of the Sonora Inn and thought, man, she’s really cute. I asked her if she wanted to go to a basketball game over in San Andreas. Today she’ll tell you she only said yes because she liked basketball. But that’s how it started.
Leona wasn’t from Sonora, so I hadn’t known her before the war. We started dating right away, and then in January, kind of on the spur of the moment, we decided to go to Reno and get married. And we did. January 18, 1947. Pretty soon it will be 66 years.

Our first house was on the bottom of Barretta Street. Then we rented from Nelio Rotelli. The old man was in the garbage business, and he owned all that flat down where the lower Save Mart is. I think it was Linoberg where we rented. Then it seemed a little ways from town.

Our first child, Vonnie, was born in March of 1948, and then came Mike in 1950, Denise in 1954, and Dewey in 1957. Mike lives in Modesto and Dewey is in Florida, but Vonnie and Denise have been in Tuolumne County all along.

Leona is the rock. She’s the steady hand, the glue that holds it all together. There were times when I was away on jobs, and she had to do it all alone. God only knows what would have happened without her.

Reflections

Sometimes people ask if I have any regrets about the war or about the Marine Corps. And I say none. None whatsoever. Oh, I didn’t like the last four months before I finally got out. But the war? No. We went. We all went.

And here’s an irony for you. During the war there was a hatred for the Japs, a real hatred. We were trying to kill them and they were trying to kill us. You know, there was the saying, “the only good Jap is a dead Jap.”

Well after the war, Leona and I met this Japanese couple from Berkeley. Tomei and Ginji Goto. Some of the nicest people we’ve ever met. We’d go down there and visit them, and they would come up here, and we’d show them around this area. Just the nicest people.
They had been interned during the war; put in one of the camps. But they never once criticized being interned. Never would mention it. And they were so respectful. They never would call us by our first names. “Damnit, Tomei, call me Pat.”

“No, no,” he would say. “You’re Mr. and Mrs. Peters.”
It was a matter of respect.

Pat Peters, September 2012

Pat Peters, September 2012

Looking forward

You know, I had a good place to grow up. I played a lot of sports and had some good friends. There was the war and hard work. I’ve had Leona all along and our four kids, and now eight grandkids and 12 great grandkids.

I was 90 on my last birthday. I’ve survived prostate cancer and am looking forward. Sometimes I don’t remember all the details of the stuff that happened so long ago. But the things I have and the things I do remember are pretty darn good. ”

Commendations

Although his medals are lost, the ribbons for the medals remain on Pat Peters’ Marine Corps uniform. Four of them are identifiable.

Good Conduct Medal
Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal (3 stars for Solomons, Tarawa, Saipan)
American Campaign Medal
Presidential Unit Citation (2 stars*)

*The 2nd and 8th Marines (reinforced by other units of the 2nd Marine Division) were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation while attached to the 1st Marine Division from 7 Aug. and 4 Nov. 1942, respectively, for the Guadalcanal operation.

*The 2nd Marine Division was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for Tarawa Atoll, Gilbert Islands, 20-24 Nov. 1943: “For outstanding performance in combat during the seizure and occupation of the Japanese-held Atoll of Tarawa, Gilbert Islands.”

4 thoughts on “Pat Peters: With the 2nd Marine Division in the South Pacific

  1. Hello,
    I know the chance of you meeting my Dad are slim to none, but he served 2nd bin and 3rd bn 6th Marines from march 44 until July 46.
    His name was Delbert Clinton Swanson 11.
    Can you help with what battles he might have been in?
    Also what would he have done after the bombs were dropped?
    Thank you, nelda sue Swanson pippin

  2. Mr. Peters, I enjoyed reading your story. Norval Jones was my grandfather. Fred Beerman was his business partner. Did you know a gentleman named Mr. Stephens. I have a photograph of the Jamestown school site from 1959
    titled Beerman Jones and Stephens. There is no Stephens in the photo, just grandpa and Fred.

  3. Hi, I am from Lake Tegano, Rennell Island, south of Guadalcanal. I am searching for information about Palmateer who work under Lt. Emmett N. Carter with 10 other marines. They stayed in Lake Tegano in Rennell Island for about a month. They were about 12 US marines from the 2nd marines on Espiritu Santo. Some names were Sebby, Stone, Carey, Bridgestine, Lovert,,etc.

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