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Dan Wegmueller: Amid chaos, order and cooperation
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"The thing that always impressed me was that the Marines went in first with their AmTracs and different landing craft. Then we (the engineers) would go in and there'd be bodies all over the beach - most were all shot up, and the AmTracs were all shot up. I never had problems; I guess some people came home and would dream about that for years, but I never had problems with it bothering me that much. Well, it does when I think about it."

Growing up in the American Midwest, Jerry always had taken a special interest in electrical wiring and radios. He shared a special bond with his brother Ike that could not be broken even by military protocol. As the brothers made their way from Maine to Seattle to Hawaii and the Pacific, they found a way to stick together; they even shared a foxhole in the midst of some of the most vicious fighting of World War II.

"It was bad at first, the first few days on the islands. It was quite a thing to go through. A lot of people don't realize just how many sacrifices were made just landing on an island, even if you weren't in the fighting. It took a while before you got good food and quite a while before a kitchen could be set up. Everyone had to eat K-rations and candy bars and all that junk."

Despite the horrors and lack of basic comforts on such a scene, Jerry was quick to point out, "The morale of all the fellows there was all good - we all worked together and helped each other. It was quite a cooperative situation when we went in on these invasions of these islands."

Indeed, this was not the first time I heard a World War II veteran comment on the order and cooperation that existed in an American combat theatre. In Europe, my friend Ken pointed out that it really did not take long for supplies and medical support to catch up to the front line troops.

Jerry added, "We were well organized too, except for - I guess it was Guam. We had all these reefs, and the boats couldn't get in with supplies. So all us fellows and even some of the infantry guys would go out there and have to push 55-gallon drums of gas, I don't know how many thousands of feet, from where (the ships) would dump 'em off, and push them into the beach. Then we'd have to get the drums into the AmTracs so they'd get to the front lines. We did that with ammo - all of it by hand because the boats couldn't get in there! We did that for days, until the island got more secure."

"The roads - the roads that we ran the DUKWs on, to get ammo up (to the front), got so muddy from the rain, the trails were so muddy that a lot of the supplies had to be carried by hand! But, that was the worst - most of the other islands were better. I have pictures of us guys out there pushing in the drums, with packs on our backs, bringing in supplies. And, as we'd be carrying these things in, we'd have a lot of mortars coming in. Mortars would be coming in on the beach, down on us. The Japs had a lot of these 'Knee Mortars'."

Jerry continued; sometimes a promotion was given out of quick and brutal necessity: "The Japs had all these caves. They'd come out and use their mortars and machine guns. I think it was my first invasion, on Guam, when Ike and I were sergeants. Our master sergeant, who was head of communications, got out of his landing craft and went over and looked down a hole. There was a Jap sitting in there with a rifle, and shot him dead. Died right there. Of course I got promoted up a little more, to help. Then I was a kind of head of communication."

"On Ie Shima, after the fighting was over and the island was more secure, one of our jobs in the 132nd was to investigate all these caves that the Japs had. So my brother would take a radio and a squad of men, and they had all kinds of dynamite and explosive devices. They'd go to one big cave and try to talk the Japs out. They'd holler and talk, but all the (Japs ever did) was shoot back. So (Ike) would call in to me, and I'd ask the captain what they should do - (the Japs) won't come out. Well he says, just seal it off. So we'd blow up the front of the cave, seal it off, and that's all we could do - the Japs wouldn't give up."

I couldn't help but ask Jerry if he ever had to go through the caves, "I never went in any caves! (Laughs) I was too interested in running my radio and helping other people - I didn't want to go in there and get shot! Nobody really HAD to go in the caves - they didn't make us do it. We'd just try to talk the Japs out, and when they didn't come we'd blow them up and seal them off."

Again, Jerry concluded with one of the most incredible facets of his and Ike's wartime experience: "My brother and I were in, I think, six invasions. We lost a lot of buddies around us, but we never got a scratch."

- Dan Wegmueller is a columnist for The Monroe Times. He can be reached at