Cpl. USMC 1940 -1945
father was a Marine Raider on Guadalcanal. He was in the 1st Marine
Division. I know from his records that he started out in the 5th
Marines, 2nd Battalion, but somehow he wound up in the Raiders
notice the Raider patch hes wearing in the picture.
The details of that story, like so many others, I never fully
enlisted in June of 1940, before Pearl Harbor, as he was always
fond of telling me. Somehow that distinction mattered to him
The Old Breed versus all the guys who enlisted after December
7, 1941 a few months seemed to make all the difference,
though in the end they were all called The Old Breed. In fact
Michael had dropped out of school after finishing tenth grade
at Belleville High in New Jersey. He altered his birth date on
his birth certificate and forged his mothers signature on
a parental consent form so he could enlist at 16.
a kid, he always loved the Navy, and I know initially he wanted
to join the Navy, but Im sure the local recruiters took
one look at him and saw Marine written all over him. They told
him his hammertoe disqualified him from joining the Navy; apparently
hed be unstable walking on a ship or something like that.
Of course, marching for miles and miles with a pack on your back
would be fine.
the years he always talked a lot about the Marines and not much
about the war. All I knew about his war experiences, traits that
carried over onto his life with his family, were that he hated
rain, nighttime, and almost anything Japanese.
he loved the Marine Corps, and he was a good fit as a Marine.
He told me he would have made a career out of the Marines had
he not suffered so acutely from Malaria. Recruit training was
easy for him (as a tenth grader he played semi-pro football on
Sundays for the Newark Bears!). The food in the Marines was good
and there was plenty of it, and he got to travel and see places
hed never otherwise have seen all over the United
States, Cuba, New Zealand, Samoa, the South Pacific islands, Australia,
California, the Pacific Northwest and probably many other
places I dont even know about.
brought more than just memories home from the Pacific. He suffered
terribly from PTSD for the rest of his
life after the war and thats a long time when you
go into battle at 17. He died of service-connected disabilities
at 69 his father lived to be 96 so I guess dad hoped
hed live a long life, but it wasnt to be. He lived
longer than a lot of other Guadalcanal vets though.
greatest admiration for my father comes from the fact that in
spite of how terribly the war had damaged him, he still came back
and made something special of his life. Together with a great
deal of sacrifice from my mom, Trudi, they really built a good
life and gave their children opportunities they never had. I think
the guys who came back and lead productive lives all had at least
one thing in common a woman who was willing to give freely
of herself to help heal them I dont know if the sacrifices
of women who married combat veterans have ever been fully documented
or even appreciated, except, of course, by the men themselves.
went on to earn a Masters Degree from Seton Hall College
and then taught history for three decades earning a reputation
among students that few teachers can even dream about. He never
wanted the young people to suffer as he had he never wanted
to pass on all the bad things that had happened to him; instead
he wanted to heal, himself and others. Bad things happen to everyone,
but when someone becomes a better person, and after the experience
decides that they must give even more to others because of the
suffering theyve experienced well, thats a
rare person in my mind. He was that kind of person and everyone
course, he had his faults, his scars, and his pain, but I still
miss him, most every day. Yet, through writing The Tiger is
Dead, creating this web site, and meeting and interviewing
all the Marines Ive encountered, Ive felt much closer
to understanding my father and appreciating his sacrifices. When
I went to the Marine Corps Museum in San Diego and saw the Raider
Room, I really felt close to him. Seeing uniforms they wore, weapons
they carried, and pictures of all the other Raiders stirred something
more I learn of the Guadalcanal campaign, the more amazed I am
by what my dad and so many others like him went through; anyone
who says kids grow up fast today has no concept of history
theres just no comparison most of those guys were
teenagers when they did what they did and simply put, what
they did was to preserve our way of life and pass on that freedom
to subsequent generations. I often wonder if we've lived up to
their sacrifice. Personally, I know I have a long way to go, but
Im moving in the right direction.