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Cape Gloucester


Jackson's last night on Peleliu

The Medal of Honor


Arthur Jackson was born in Cleveland and grew up in Canton, Ohio. His father was a watch maker and eventually ended up with his own store. The depression years were tough for watch makers. He would trade watch work for potatoes and bread. Canton is the home of William McKinley and of Hoover vacuum cleaners. They stayed in Canton until 1939 when his dad moved the family to Seattle, Washington. In Seattle he learned of another job offer in Portland and moved the family there in 1940. Jackson worked a couple of different jobs before entering the service, one of which was building Higgins Boats [Annotator's Note: nickname given to landing craft designed by Andrew Jackson Higgins] at an iron works. Jackson took a job with a construction company in Alaska. He boarded a transport in Seattle and one day out of port his ship was rammed by a British oil tanker. They were taken under escort by the Coast Guard, had the ship repaired, and made it to Alaska. Jackson's job was pick and shovel expert. His job was to dig demolition trenches around the buildings and the airstrip in case the Japanese came so they could obliterate everything. They worked day and night. Construction materials were hard to come by at that time. They would move concrete in wheel barrows. He stayed there until early December. When he returned to Portland he made the decision to get into the service. Jackson wanted to get into the service because he knew that he would be drafted. His enlistment number was 81-82-20 SS. The SS stood for Selective Service. The regulars gave him grief because of this.


Arthur Jackson had been influenced by Marine pilots and wanted to fly. At the recruiting office he took the aviation cadet exam but did not do well. He also had some weakness in his right eye. The chief petty officer told him to go down to the Marine Corps recruiter. He did and the first thing he saw was a poster of a girl in a grass skirt. The recruiter told him that when he joined the fleet Marine Force that was where he would go. Jackson's father had served in the peace time navy and was surprised that his son was joining the Marines. His younger brother Bob joined the Coast Guard on the same day he joined the Marines and was assigned to the troop transport Hunter Liggett [Annotator's Note: USS Hunter Liggett (APA-14)]. Bob was out to sea when the Medal of Honor celebration came about and he missed it. Jackson did his basic training in San Diego. He scored expert on the rifle range. He did well physically and could hold his own. When he completed basic training his name was on the list to go to the combat conditioning course at Camp Pendleton. Jackson was assigned as a staff instructor at the infantry school at Fort Benning, Georgia. During the time he was training at the combat conditioning outfit he learned the Colonel Biddle [Annotator's Note: Anthony Joseph Drexel Biddle, Sr.] flat blade bayonet style which was different than the style used by the army. Jackson got pretty good at it. They also took combat swimming, stick, club, and knife fighting, and judo. When that course was concluded, Jackson was assigned to the 17th Replacement Battalion. He left San Diego on 5 June [Annotator's Note: 5 June 1944] and landed in Melbourne, Australia on 30 June. There he was assigned to Company I, 7th Marines [Annotators Note: Company I, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division] and remained with them through the rest of the war. He saw action on Cape Gloucester, New Britain, Peleliu, and Okinawa. Jackson was originally part of a machinegun team. After the Cape Gloucester operation he got himself assigned to a rifle platoon as an automatic rifleman. The automatic rifle [Annotator's Note: Browning Automatic Rifle, or BAR] at that time was a very good weapon. Cape Gloucester was on the opposite side of New Britain from Rabaul where the Japanese had about 200,000 troops. They did not anticipate much resistance but ran into a hornet's nest of sniper, mortar, and machinegun fire and lost 17 men from his company. It was very dense jungle terrain once they cleared the beaches. They had to be very careful because the Japanese had set a lot of trip wires connected to explosives up and down the beach.


[Annotator's Note: Arthur Jackson served in the US Marine Corps as an automatic rifleman in Company I, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division and took part in combat operations on Cape Gloucester, New Britain, Peleliu, and Okinawa. For his actions on Peleliu, Jackson was awarded the Medal of Honor.] The Japanese had had good opportunities to cut fields of fire and build bunkers [Annotator's Note: on Cape Gloucester in December 1943]. The rain was terrible. They often had to bivouac in kunai grass. It was easier for a man to get lost in that grass than in a corn field. Because of the muck and mud they were not able to move around with tracked vehicles. Jackson landed in an LCVP [Annotator's Note: Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel, also known as a Higgins Boat] but they did have amtracks [Annotator's Note: amphibious tractors or Landing Vehicle, Tracked (LVT)]. The rain did not fall straight down. It fell horizontally. Jackson thought the rain would never abate. There were mosquitoes, snakes, and other crawly creatures. Typhus was a problem. It was carried by the mites that lived in the kunai grass. Typhus would cause a fever of 105 or 106 and required the person to lie flat on his back for ten days. A sergeant in Jackson's outfit contracted typhus and lost so much weight he was unrecognizable except for his tattoo. There was no cure. All they could do was wait it out. They got ulcers around their waists where they carried their equipment. They also got ulcers on their legs. It was the worst weather Jackson could think of. There was not much resistance during the landing but when they moved off the beach they had to be very careful. Jackson's first contact with the Japanese was at Hill 660. The Japanese had a stiff defense built up around the hill. There was also a small river that went inland that was full of crocodiles and snakes. The forest was very think. They were not prepared for it. There were wild boars that crashed through the jungle at night. There were few Japanese there but a lot of critters. Hill 660 was the highest piece of ground around there. On a lane running parallel to the beach there were 17 dead men from Jackson's company laid in a row. They were the first deceased he had seen and it made an impression on him.


Most of the combat they [Annotators Note: Arthur Jackson and his fellow Marines of Company I, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division] took part in was patrols [Annotator's Note: on Cape Gloucester in December 1943]. On Hill 660 they [Annotator's Note: the Japanese] opened up on them. That kind of place was not meant for human beings. They were repelled twice before they were able to secure it. Chesty Puller [Annotator's Note: US Marine Corps Lieutenant General Lewis B. Puller, also known as Chesty Puller] was with the division at that time and he rousted up a patrol toward Gasmata. They took LCMs [Annotator's Note: Landing Craft, Mechanized] up the Itni River. The bamboo was so thick and it was so dark they would sometimes use white phosphorus leaves placed on the packs of the men in front so they could see to follow them. They had to be resupplied from the air. Chesty would raise hell with the troops to keep them from being out in the open. On one patrol they were gone about ten days. They were in constant contact with enemy elements but there was not much they could do. They were a small element against a larger one. They were always looking for a place to wash off. They were able to get some of their automatic weapons up the slope. They also had rocket launchers that they could use to bring fire down on the Japanese. The Japanese realized that they could not hold the hill forever so they withdrew. They also had amtracks and a tank or two that came ashore and helped save the day. For the most part it was just jungle warfare from there. Jackson is surprised that as many of them survived that did. They buried quite a few good men. The Japanese lost a good many too. Of the three operations Jackson was involved in [Annotators Note: Peleliu, Okinawa, and Cape Gloucester] Cape Gloucester was the worst. They landed on Cape Gloucester the day after Christmas 1943. Some of them were on navy destroyers and the navy fed them very well on Christmas day. It was not easy for them to leave those ships and go ashore. The rain, the heat, the typhus, and the malaria were terrible. Jackson suffered from malaria there. Dysentery was also a problem. They could not get fresh water. They had to use the burners because the cooks had to boil their water. Jackson was only on the island of Peleliu for a week when he was hit. He then went aboard the hospital ship Solace [Annotator's Note: USS Solace (AH-5)] and was evacuated to New Caledonia. He was hit in the neck with a .45 caliber slug. On Okinawa he was hit in the neck again but on the other side. The jarheads [Annotator's Note: military slang term for Marines] teased him that he was the only legitimate leatherneck in the outfit.


Arthur Jackson was in the hospital in Noumea, New Caledonia for three or four weeks before being shipped back to the Russell Islands for training. The terrain was terrible for training. The weather was rainy and hot. He thought that they would have the opportunity to go back to Australia to train for Peleliu but they did not. He blames that on General MacArthur. On Cape Gloucester, Jackson went through a monsoon that lasted for five days. There was a driving rain that just would not let up. He believes that the rain saved some of their lives because they were not out moving around. The nights were very dark. Cape Gloucester is where they developed the scope that allowed them to see at night. The Japanese bombed them pretty well there. They could count the bombs as they hit. One night they visited with the first colored [Annotators Note: African American] Marines who were from a transport company. When the Japanese raided them at night the transport guys would all jump into one big hole. A Corsair [Annotators Note: Vought F4U Corsair fighter aircraft] dropped a bomb right where Jackson and other guys were sitting eating their beans and franks. Fortunately, the force of the blast went downhill and none of them were hurt. After leaving Cape Gloucester they went to the Russell Islands which were about 65 miles west of Guadalcanal. They moved onto the island of Pavuvu where they lived in pup tents at first, then got larger tents later. On Pavuvu the coconuts would fall and would come right down through the tent. Some Marines were hit. There were also big land crabs that would get into your shoes or under your helmet. It was strange to see your helmet moving across the floor. It was a terrible place to train. After Peleliu they went back there to train for Okinawa. General Rupertus [Annotator's Note: US Marine Corps Major General William H. Rupertus] was their commanding general at the time. He believed that they could clean up Peleliu in two or three days at the outside. That proved to be far short of the mark. Jackson feels that they did not have enough intelligence. On Peleliu they killed 10,000 Japanese. It was a small island. Jackson used to get calls [Annotator's Note: from men he served with] but not so much anymore. For Peleliu they watched the bombardment. They saw the bombing and ship bombardment and thought that they would have an easy time ashore. On their way to the beach they passed the rocket ships firing their rockets. Jackson tried to watch but his platoon leader told him to get down. They were supposed to transfer to tractors but they did not show up. The landing craft driver dropped Jackson and the others in about seven feet of water. They all had to tippy toe and push themselves up to take a breath until they could get out of the water.


The Japanese had done a real job of planting all kinds of explosives [Annotators Note: on Peleliu]. Arthur Jackson told his assistant AR gunner [Annotators Note: assistant automatic rifleman] that they would start running and not stop until they could not run anymore. Jackson ran off to his left and did not realize how far off to his left he had run. He hollered to a group of Marines asking what unit they were with. When they replied that they were with the 5th Marines [Annotators Note: 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division] Jackson knew that he was out of his regimental area. On the beach it was a mass of carnage. Everything was on fire. When the tractors came ashore they ran into the Japanese bunkers. The bunkers were all connected. The Japanese had been on the island for years and had plenty of time to build them. At night it was forbidden for the men to be out of their foxholes and moving around. Jackson's platoon leader, Bill Bailey, went up and down the line checking on the 44 people in the platoon. Bailey was challenged and forgot the password and ended up being shot at before they identified him. After about three days they were relieved and sent up on a ridge to replace a platoon from the 1st Marines [Annotators Note: 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division] that had been shot up. One night Jackson saw what looked like a head come out from behind a tree stump. Moments later a head came out from the other side. There was someone behind the tree. Jackson tapped his assistant AR gunner, Heard [Annotators Note: unsure of spelling], to wake him up. The man saw the look on Jackson's face and dove out of the hole and rolled all the way down the hill. Jackson did not see him again after that and it was some 40 years later when the man called him out of the blue. The two Japanese approached. Their arms were full of canteens. The Japanese had a good supply of water at first but when they ran out most of the wells were down at the beach level. They had poisoned most of the wells anyway. Jackson heard the Japanese soldier arm the grenade then saw the man throw it into his hole. Jackson grabbed the grenade and threw it back. The grenade killed both of those guys [Annotator's Note: both of the Japanese soldiers]. The exploding grenade also broke the stock of Jackson's automatic rifle. His squad leader called him over and as Jackson ran to him he was shot in the neck with a .45 slug. His squad leader took care of him. He was placed on a litter and put on a ship. He still has the slug. His father made a watch fob out of it.


The platoon leader, company commander, and the battalion weapons officer approached Arthur Jackson [Annotators Note: on Peleliu]. His company had run into a line of bunkers that was holding them up. A number of men were hit. He was told that if he could get out to a shallow trench that they could do some damage and stop the fire coming at them. Jackson took off his helmet, pack, and leggings. He grabbed a couple of bandoliers of ammo and some grenades, fragmentation and white phosphorus. Jackson made a beeline for the shallow trench. He crawled along and came across a huge bunker. Inside he could hear Nip [Annotators Note: 1940s ethnic slur for Japanese] chatter. There were two guys outside who Jackson got with his automatic rifle. Moments later his squad leader arrived with a pack loaded with about 40 pounds of composition C2 and a box of some number four size caps. They placed a cap in the plastic explosive and about a 30 second time fuse. Jackson went to the other side of the bunker where the firing aperture was. He struck the fuse and pushed to charge into the bunker. He ran to a shell crater and as he dove in the charge exploded. Jackson later went into the bunker and saw that many of the Japanese dead inside had been killed by the concussion. As he continued down the line the troops were firing in his direction. He thought that he would be hit but his men knew where he was. Jackson continued down the lines knocking out one and two man positions. Prior to placing the charge in the aperture on the bunker, he had thrown his white phosphorus grenade into it. The bunker filled with smoke and Jackson, to this day, does not know why no one came out. He was credited with taking out 12 Japanese positions. At one position two men came out and Jackson got them with his automatic rifle. When he got to the end of the line he was exhausted. The men ran up and picked him up and told him that he had done it.


Arthur Jackson had his squad leader bring up some explosives and ammo but he was alone for the most part [Annotators Note: during his actions on Peleliu for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor]. Of the 12 pill boxes he took out, the one where the two men came running out stands out to him the most. It is possible that some of the pill boxes Jackson attacked may have been knocked out before he got there. When he is asked how he knew he got 50, it is because the bodies were counted. There were 35 in the bunker and an additional 15 in the other 12 positions. At the end of the trench line Jackson ran out of steam and ran out of ammunition and collapsed on the ground. It was a lucky day for Jackson. After the action was over Jackson went up on the ridge to relieve the men from the 1st Regiment [Annotators Note: 1st Marine Regiment]. He never heard anything else about what he had done. He went to the hospital then back to the Russell Islands. There promotions came fast. He was promoted to corporal, then buck sergeant, then platoon sergeant. He had the 2nd Platoon when he landed on Okinawa. He was in New Caledonia rehabbing for about three or three and a half weeks. Jackson was looking at the Nip [Annotators Note: 1940s ethnic slur for Japanese] that shot him in the neck. The man fired and Jackson jumped. The bullet just creased his neck. Jackson was one of 21 men selected to go to OCS [Annotators Note: Officer Candidate School]. It was a happy day for Jackson. They flew out of Okinawa and stopped at Kwajalein for fuel. While running to the chow truck Jackson's knee gave out. He had been overseas for 27 months and did not need knee problems now. Okinawa was a big operation. They stopped at Ulithi Island after leaving the Russell islands. They studied sand tables of Okinawa. It was a larger amphibious landing than Normandy. The armada of ships and planes was unbelievable. They landed on 1 April [Annotators Note: 1 April 1945] and walked clear across the island on the first night. They did not have any contact with the enemy that first night. Okinawa is mountainous and full of trails and villages. As a platoon sergeant Jackson had his hands full taking care of those 43 or 44 other people. They just knew that they were going to Japan and Jackson suspects that that was the reason he and the others were rounded for the trip to Quantico.


Arthur Jackson believes that his first contact with the enemy on Okinawa was during a patrol action. He volunteered for everything. He was once given a lieutenant colonel from the Japanese Army to deliver to division headquarters. They did not make it. They were going over a pass on a trail. When Jackson said in Japanese for the man to halt the enemy officer jumped off the trail down the ridge. Jackson fired a couple of magazines from his carbine but would not go down in the ravine to look for him. Back at division they were mad at Jackson. He feels that another person should have been sent along. Jackson's memory is not very clear. It was too long ago. They did a fair amount of shooting and a fair amount of chasing the enemy and they lost a lot of good men. On one occasion one of their tanks came up and fired directly at a bunker that a lot of their own men had taken refuge in. Fortunately they were able to get them on the radio and stop them. They lost a lieutenant on a patrol. They had to leave him over night and went back the next day to pull him out there. It was different than a whole army fighting in Europe. The Marines were working with army troops. Sometimes they would lose contact with each other. There were a lot of night attacks. Every once in a while the pyrotechnics would go off. It was creepy. Jackson does not remember much from Okinawa. Half the time they did not know where they were. Some of the units like those that seized Naha and some of the coastal villages had a lot more action that they did. The natives were quite supportive of them. They would share their fruits and vegetables with them and would keep them posted on what they had seen and where the Nips [Annotators Note: 1940s ethnic slur for Japanese] were. They did not have many interpreters and it would have been nice if they could have been able to talk to them more. The natives helped them move. The natives lived in grass covered shacks and the Japanese would set fire to them if they could. Jackson was on Okinawa from 1 April [Annotator's Note: 1 April 1945] until 21 May. He was there a little over a month and a half. When he was injured he was sent to Aiea Heights Naval Hospital and that is when he got the call from a major at Camp Catlin who told him that he did not have to go to OCS [Annotator's Note: Officer Candidate School]. The field commission he had been put in for after the Cape Gloucester operation had gone through. Jackson and Ted Williams had a lovely cruise back to San Diego. Williams did not know Jackson but they ate together in the officer's mess and spent a lot of time on the flying bridge looking for land.


Arthur Jackson was awarded the Medal of Honor on 5 October 1945 during the Nimitz Day celebration in Washington D.C. There was a ticker tape parade for them. They stayed in the Mayflower Hotel. The admiral invited the whole group to New York city for a parade. They flew aboard Admiral King's [Annotators Note: Admiral Ernest J. King] C-54 aircraft. In New York, Mayor LaGuardia gave them the key to the city. They were put up for a week in the Waldorf Astoria with the admiral and his family. There they met a lot of the people who ran the war in the Pacific like Admiral Halsey, Admiral Mitscher, Hap Arnold, Admiral King, and Admiral Spruance. Jackson got a kick out his father who had been in the peace time navy. He was put at a table with about 10 admirals and he never forgot that. In their group was Pappy Boyington of the Black Sheep, Louie Wilson who later became Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Captain McCarthy, the Fire Marshall of Chicago. Receiving the Medal was very rewarding but he could not help but think of all of the people who should have been there but were not. He is proud to wear it on behalf of those who could not be there. It was an eye opener seeing all of the brass. General Vandegrift asked each of the Marines where they wanted to be stationed and was surprised when Jackson replied that he wanted to go to China. By the time Jackson got home his orders for FMF Western Pacific [Annotator's Note: Fleet Marine Force Western Pacific] were there waiting for him. He went to China and was there for most of 1946, all of 1947, and some of 1948. There he gave up his second lieutenant's commission and was made a master sergeant with a 1st Sergeant MOS [Annotator's Note: Military Occupational Specialty] assigned as 1st Sergeant of a guard company in Tsingtao, China.The Chinese were very good to them. They were restricted to about a 14 mile radius. The communists were in the south and the Nationalists were in the north and they would butt heads. Jackson decided that he should go back home and go to school. He did not think he would do well in the Marine Corps without a college education. He went home and began classes at Portland State. The army came around and offered him a regular commission through the competitive tour program where he was assigned to four different units for three months each. At the end of the year he went before a board that decided he was qualified for a commission. He went to Fort Benning for jump training then on to Fort Bragg where he joined the 82nd Airborne Division. Jackson commanded a weapons company in the 325th Regiment [Annotators Note: 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment]. He was there for two years. The army was good to Jackson. He put in for a transfer from the infantry branch to the adjutant general's branch to work in personnel administration. Jackson was given a short tour in Korea as the administrative officer for the 7th Infantry Division. He ran into some of the men he served with in the 1st Marine Division and they could not figure out what he was doing. He sent a letter to General Shoup requesting to be reinstated in the Marine Corps. Within a month he got orders to go to Yokohama, Japan to draw his Marine equipment and turn in his army stuff. Jackson was sent to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He was assigned to command an infantry company in the 6th Marine Regiment. That was about the time of the Bay of Pigs and all the hassle with Cuba. Jackson found himself in Puerto Rico. He eventually returned to the States. He had a spouse who did not like the service. He left the Marine Corps and joined the Army Reserve and stayed with them until his retirement. He spent 35 years in the military.


After Arthur Jackson got back to the United States [Annotators Note: after being wounded in the Pacific] he was sent to the Marine barracks at Klamath Falls [Annotators Note: Klamath Falls, Oregon] where they were conducting malarial studies. Jackson was there for two months and then went home on rehab leave. While at home he got the telegram inviting him to the ceremony in Washington D.C. Jackson brought his mother, father, and sister to Washington D.C. His brother was at sea with the Coast Guard and could not be recalled. Jackson had saved 2500 dollars during his time with the 1st Marine Division. He spent it all on the trip. He stopped in Wendover [Annotators Note: Wendover, Nevada] where he drank and gambled for the first time. Jackson was interviewed previously and when the video was made some of the facts were incorrect. It is hard to describe to someone what combat is like if they have not been through it. Jackson knows of a few people who suffered from psychological distress. He feels that events taking place today are different. He believes that there are more cases of psychological problems now than when he was in the service. He would not want to fight an enemy in the climate that is being fought in today. Jackson has had some nightmares but he feels that it is from the medications he has been prescribed. He never had too much respect for the Japanese. They would do just about anything. Their allegiance was solely to their emperor. From Pearl Harbor on he had no good thoughts about them. The war changed Jackson a lot. He was associated with the military for about 35 years. He felt that he did not have the schooling and was not prepared to face the real world. When he got into the Marine Corps he liked the discipline and the way of life.


America is the only country and society in the world, in Arthur Jackson's opinion, equipped to take on the dictators of the world. We can be very proud of what we [Annotator's Note: as Americans] have done. When America ceases to stand up for freedom as we should, we will not last long. As Jackson approaches his final days he has good thoughts about the country. He feels that we are the only place for people who have had their freedom yanked out from underneath them. The majority of Iraqis are happy to see us. He discusses his view of the world and country today. The more people who are educated about the war the better off we will be. The National WWII Museum shows what can happen when a world conflict breaks out.

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