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That's when I realized that I could be killed!

I felt helpless

Victims of their own propaganada

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Gravois was born in Saint Gabriel, Louisiana and grew up in Edgard, Louisiana until he was 17.Pearl Harbor was on 7 December 1941. On 2 January 1942 Gravois got his father's permission and enlisted in the Marine Corps. He was 17.The Marine Corps attracted Gravois. His father had been in the Army. Gravois was sent to boot camp in San Diego. At the age of 17 he was the youngest fellow in the outfit. He was the youngest fellow in every outfit he was in until he got out.Boot camp was kind of rough and that is where he got the name "Gravy" because no one could pronounce Gravois. He missed roll call 3 times before he was nicknamed Gravy and that was straightened out.Boot camp was rough but the guys looked out for each other. He was teased a lot about his Cajun accent and after a while he decided that he'd better learn to pronounce English correctly.In addition to being trained as a rifleman, Gravois was trained as a signalman. He learned to use semaphore flags and after he was assigned to M Company he became instrument corporal. He used his semaphore flags 1 time but got shot at so he quit. He also worked as a runner and carried messages back and forth between the platoon leaders and company commanders.While Gravois was in boot camp his outfit went up to an Army fort in Santa Barbara [Annotator's Note: probably Camp Cook] to use the rifle range. This was in February of 1942. While they were there a Japanese submarine [Annotator's Note: the Japanese submarine I-17] surfaced off Santa Barbara and shelled some oil fields and oil tanks. Gravois' unit was put on the beach and spent 3 days manning machine guns in preparation for a Japanese invasion which never came. Even though it was only 1 submarine it caused a commotion all up and down the west coast. After this they went back to San Diego and finished boot camp. After boot camp he was sent to Camp Elliot {Annotator's Note: Camp Elliot, California] and that is where he joined M Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division.The 2nd Marine Regiment was organized at Camp Elliott. Gravois doesn't recall where the other components of the Division were at that time. The 2nd Marine Division never assembled as a complete unit until around October 1942. By that time Gravois had been on Guadalcanal for quite a while.Gravois went through the Panama Canal as part of a reinforced element of the 1st Marine Division which landed almost unopposed on Guadalcanal. His unit was part of the division reserve and was landed on Gavutu on 7 August [Annotator's Note: Gravois says 7 August 1942 but outfit actually landed on 8 August 1942] to bail out the paratroopers [Annotator's Note: 1st Marine Parachute Battalion] that were pinned down [Annotator's Note: 3 Battalion, 2nd Marines was landed on Gavutu as reinforcements, not to bail out the 1st Marine Parachute Battalion]. When they landed on Gavutu the parachute battalion was still down on the beach when Gravois' unit landed behind them. They then captured the islands of Gavutu and Tanambogo. The parachute battalion landed on the 6th and Gravois' unit landed on the 7th [Annotator's Note: Gravois is a day off. The 1st Marine Parachute Battalion landed on Gavutu on 7 August 1942 and the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment landed on 8 August 1942].Before going overseas Gravois' unit had undergone amphibious training. Once a week they would go aboard a transport at the Broadway Pier in San Diego and would be taken to La Jolla. They would make a complete amphibious landing with all of their gear and equipment then they would walk back to San Diego. They did this 5 or 6 times.On 1 July 1942 they shipped out for what they thought would be another practice run. It was 37 days before they saw land. When they got to the Fiji Islands they conducted an amphibious landing there. Then they took part in another landing on Tongatabu. They were being prepared for another landing but they didn't know where it was going to be. It was announced on 4 or 5 January [Annotator's Note: this date cannot be accurate] that they would be reinforcing the 1st Marine Division for the invasion of Guadalcanal in the British Solomon Islands. They were told that Guadalcanal was the closest the Japanese got to New Zealand and it was decided to try to stop them there.

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Gravois had had plenty of amphibious landing training. He also had a lot of combat training in boot camp. He did a lot of hiking even when they landed on various islands. They would leave the ship and go hiking.Gravois was ready for anything. He carried a 1903 Springfield rifle. He was part of the machine gun team which manned a World War I era water cooled machine gun. The gun was broken down into 3 pieces. 1 guy carried the tripod, 1 guy carried the machine gun, and the other 2 men in the section carried the water cans and ammo.On 7 August [Annotator's Note: it was actually 8 August 1942] Gravois' unit was loaded onto Higgins Boats [Annotator's Note: nickname given to a number of landing craft designed by Andrew J. Higgins] and went ashore on Gavutu. The Higgins Boats they landed in were the old type [Annotator's Note: they went ashore on LCP(l)s, landing craft personnel, large] not LCVPs [Annotator's Note: landing craft vehicle, personnel].He recalls being lost for a while because of the large number of dead that were still on the beach. Because of Japanese snipers they were unable to bury the bodies. Everyone got diarrhea, dysentery, and malaria. He guesses that his battalion was 98 percent combat ineffective due to sickness and wounds. They were left on the island to recuperate which took about a month. The fighting on the island had only lasted about 3 days. They had to deal with enemy snipers in the palm trees on a little island that they called Palm Island. The sniper fire was an issue until a destroyer was notified of what was happening and came in and blew the tops off of all of the palm trees. That took care of the sniper problem and they were able to bury the dead and clean up the place. Gravois had never seen so many green bottle flies. There were so many of them the guys couldn't eat without almost getting 1 in their mouths.Gravois was in a machine gun outfit and their job was to provide supporting fire for the infantry. On Tanambogo they set up 2 machine guns on the causeway that connected the islands [Annotator's Note: Gavutu and Tanambogo]. I Company and K Company went across and M Company, Gravois' unit, set up the 2 machine guns and raked the whole area to keep it clear for the infantry. The other machine guns were further back strafing the main part of the island. When the infantry got across the causeway and onto the island, Gravois' group crossed and joined them. The Japanese had moved to the back side of the island. The whole island of Tanambogo was honeycombed with caves so it took them about 3 or 4 days to secure it. There was a lot of close action and that is where they learned to use satchel charges. At first when they threw a satchel charge in a cave, the Japanese would throw it back out. Then they started taping the satchel charges to bamboo poles, pouring gasoline all over it, and lighting the whole thing on fire before they stuck them in the tunnels. They would blow the tunnels to cave in on them. Gravois never got that involved with this.When Gravois left the Solomons he weighed 112 pounds. He was about 154 or 155 when he had arrived there. It wasn't until they got back to New Zealand that he was able to get his weight back up.The fighting on both islands had lasted about 5 days but the battalion was so sick that they had to get well before they left the island. A lot of the guys didn't even wear pants because of the dysentery. This led to sunburn [Annotator's Note: Gravois jokes].For the diarrhea they were given bismuth and they got quinine in powdered form. The quinine had a serious effect on the guys, but at least it killed the malaria bug for a while.

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Another problem they had was when they 1st arrived on the island they ran out of food. When they landed they had the food they were carrying and emergency rations for about 7 days. Before they could unload the supply ships the Japanese Navy chased off the whole supply force. It was a month or so before they got food.When Gravois was on Gavutu and Tanambogo, an old 4-stack destroyer came in with cases of Australian bully beef [Annotator's Note: Canned corned beef] stacked on it's deck. When it got into the harbor the men aboard cut the riggings securing it and the ship turned hard so the cases fell off into the water. The vessel never even slowed down. The Marines had to go out in boats and haul the cases back in. They ate Australian bully beef for 3 or 4 weeks before they got rations. It was 25 years before Gravois ate corned beef again.After they had eaten all of the rice the Japanese had left, they ate canned fish heads and even ate monkey and iguanas.Gravois was on Tulagi when they were taken off in January 1943 to go to New Zealand.When Gravois landed on Gavutu they were under fire. To him it was like fireworks on the 4th of July. He did not realize the seriousness of the situation until he was being fired on by a Japanese soldier. That was the first time it occured to him that he could be killed. That was the first time it dawned on him that he could be killed. He had seen other people get killed, but that was them.The war became personal for Gravois. He learned what it was like to be scared. He grew up fast on that island. This was in August. In September, Gravois spent his 18th birthday on Guadalcanal.Gravois' unit was moved over to Guadalcanal as reinforcements. They were put along the Lunga River and tasked with extending the perimeter along the river and denying the Japanese access to it. They not participate in the Tenaru River battle, but did see the effects of it.They did have big fights where they were.1 of the jobs they had to do was to put in double-apron barbed wire fences and create lines of fire in case the Japanese attacked. As a a machine gun team they were to keep the Japanese from crossing the wire.The men were spread out along the line with the machine guns on the ends. The Marines also hung cans with rocks in them so they would shake if anything hit them. 1 night they shot 6 pigs in the wire. For security they dug foxholes and stayed in them after the sun went down. They shot anything that moved after the sun went down and identified it the next morning. Another tactic they used was to tie a string to 1 of their thumbs then throw the string to the guys in the next hole and 1 of them would do the same so if anything moved between the holes they'd feel it when they hit the string.They also posted guards but even that was not foolproof. They did find Marines in their foxholes with their throats cut. They [Annotator's Note: the Japanese] were good at sneaking.When heavy rains came and the Lunga River flooded the Marines had heard that the Japanese would hang onto logs floating in the current so they made sure to shoot up every log that floated past them.The only problem they had was when the 7th Marines moved in on the other side of the river and they started shooting at each other. They had to be careful not to shoot the other Marines.At the time of the fighting on the 5th Marines Ridge [Annotator's Note: Bloody Ridge] Gravois was an instrument corporal and 1 of his jobs was to to lay machine guns for indirect fire. Gravois' unit provided indirect fire at a range of about 4,000 yards to assist the Raiders [Annotator's Note: 1st Marine Raider Battalion] who were fighting on it. Gravois later heard that there was a Japanese unit moving down a trail and when Gravois' unit fired the Japanese soldiers hit the ground and laid which made them even better targets. Gravois' group raked them and decimated a good portion of that Japanese outfit.

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Another frightening experience Gravois had was during the Battle of the Matanikau River. For the battle they [Annotator's Note: the Marines] took all of the infantrymen out of the front lines so they could take part in the battle and only kept the machine guns to cover what was left. Gravois was scared shitless that someone [Annotator's Note: the Japanese] would find out and come through there.Gravois' outfit landed in August and were moved over to Guadalcanal in September and October when the 1st elements of the Americal Division, an army division, landed as reinforcements. Guadalcanal was actually 2 campaigns. They got 2 battle stars for it. The 1st was the capture and defense of Henderson Field. Later on when the reinforcements came in there was the battle to the secure the entire island which was the 2nd campaign. That didn't start until the Americal Division was there and the 8th Marine Regiment, and 6th Marine Regiment. When they arrived they were all fresh. By that time Gravois had had it. The most Gravois had seen of Guadalcanal was the 15 mile perimeter that they had around Henderson Field. That was all they held until the reinforcements came in.To Gravois being shelled by naval gun fire was like having a Volkswagen dropped on you, then the whole thing explodes. It was interesting to Gravois that they [Annotator's Note: the Japanese vessels] were so far offshore that they [Annotator's Note: the Marines] couldn't even see the ships. Every round was a tracer. They could see the flash from the gun being fired then they watched the red ball that came out of it come flying right at them. They were scared shitless. Gravois learned that the way to survive was not to lay flat on the ground but to lean on their knees and elbows to protect them from the shockwave. Gravois was in a foxhole during a daytime shelling and could see the shockwave from the rounds and could feel it when it got to him. On the island was the only time Gravois experienced naval gunfire.The Marines were also harrassed by 'Washing Machine Charlie" [Annotator's note: GI slang for Japanese aircraft operating over American lines alone at night to keep them awake]. The Japanese pilot would fly over and drop 1, 2, or 3 bombs. He was very good at keeping them awake at night. None of the bombs ever hit close to Gravois.They [Annotator's Note: the US forces] ran out of aviation gas at 1 time and were unable to get their fighters off the ground. The Japanese came over with their fighters and chased them all over the island. That was the only time Gravois ever saw Marines volunteer for a work detail. When they learned that there was a supply ship off shore with a load of aviation gas almost everyone in Gravois' unit volunteered to go unload it.The worst thing about Guadalcanal was the living conditions. They only had 1 change of clothes and that was the set they were wearing. They lost all of their other stuff because the ships with all of their gear got run off. Their gear was all worn out. They were only eating 1 meal a day. When they were finally given 2 meals a day they were in tall cotton [Annotator's Note: doing well] Gravois was sick. When he left the island he weighed 112 pounds. Gravois had friends who were over 200 pounds that only weighed 112 pounds when they left. 1 of his friends looked like a skeleton with skin on it. They were all sick. Gravois had malaria which kept recurring for several years. He took atabrine throughout the entire war and for 5 or 6 years after he got out of the service to control the malaria.Having malaria was a miserable feeling. First he had chills and fever then came nausea and throwing up.

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The Americal [Annotator's Note: the US Army Americal Division] came in in October [Annotator's Note: October 1942] and the 6th [Annotator's Note: US 6th Marine Regiment] and 8th [Annotator's Note: 8th Marine Regiment] came in shortly thereafter. In late October Gravois' unit was taken off of Guadalcanal and moved to Tulagi where they acted as garrison troops and set up to defend the island in case of attack.There were several naval battles while Gravois was on Tulagi. The 1 he remembers is the Battle of Savo Island [Annotator's Note: 8-9 Agust 1942]. Gravois was able to watch the battle. The next day after the battle Gravois and some other Marines had to go out in landing barges to see if they could find any casualties. They did find a few. That was when they found out that the sharks were well-fed there.Gravois remembers the sinking of the Australian cruiser Canberra. He was also there when the ship with the 5 Sullivan boys on it, the Juneau [the light cruiser, the USS Juneau, CL-52], was sunk. The Japanese ships didn't bother them too much. Gravois remembers his Battalion Commander on Gavutu, a man named Hunt. When the Japanese cruisers passed by the island it aggravated Hunt. Hunt threatened to fire their 3-inch anti-aircraft gun at the cruiser the next time it passed.While on Tulagi their [Annotator's Note: Gravois' unit] machine guns were down on the far end of the island where the PT boats were stationed. Kennedy [Annotator's Note: US Navy Lieutenant and 35th President of the United States, John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy] was there with PT-109, but they didn't know anything about him at the time. The PT boats would go out at night and the guys would bum rides on them up to the headquarters area of Tulagi because movies were being shown up there. A bunch of them would pile up on the back of a PT boat and it would drop them off at the government wharf. Some of the boats got hit and had lost crewmen so they were short-handed and needed machine gunners. Sometimes the skipper of the PT boat would tell the Marines that they would be machine gunners and would just take off. The Marines would jump off and swim back to shore.The PT boats were made of 5-eighths plywood so machine gun fire would tear the hell out of it.Gravois saw a PT boat get chased by a destroyer that got away and saw another boat get the bottom ripped off of it in the shallow water of the "Slot" [Annotator's Note: the stretch of water running down the center of the Solomon Islands. The proper name for the waterway is New Georgia Sound] and that was the end of him.By that time they were beginning to get a little bit of food. The cruiser Pensacola [Annotator's Note: USS Pensacola, CL/CA-24] was damaged during 1 of the sea battles. It had been fully provisioned for a sea voyage at New Caledonia. After it was damaged it pulled into Tulagi Harbor where a temporary bow of coconut logs was installed so the ship could return to Noumea [Annotator's Note: Noumea, New Caledonia]. The refrigeration on the ship was damaged so it offloaded all of its supplies on the island. The Marines had no way to refrigerate the food so they ate it all in about 4 days. They had a feast for about a week.When other ships were there they [Annotator's Note: the Marines] would get a meal or 2 off of them because the sailors felt sorry for them.When he [Annotator's Note: the damaged cruiser] left he didn't want the waves to hit the front end of the boat so he backed all of the way to New Caledonia [Annotator's Note: There were several damaged cruisers which docked at Tulagi. The only cruiser to travel in reverse to its destination is CA32, USS New Orleans. None of the damaged cruisers went from Tulagi back to New Caledonia for repairs. Gravois more than likely saw a number of these ships and his memories of them are running together.].Tulagi was a beautiful harbor. The water was deep and a cruiser could pull up to the shore and tie up to a palm tree. It was the best deep water harbor in the Solomon Islands.Gravois was in the Solomon Islands for the better part of 6 months and was then sent to Wellington, New Zealand. There they recuperated and got replacements. 1 of the replacement officers was Lieutenant Theodore "Teddy" Keller. Gravois and Keller were both wounded on Saipan and were sent home at the same time. While they were in the hospital Gravois met Keller's sister and married her.Back in the States, Gravois made a date with 1 of Keller's sisters. He asked Keller for the telephone number for his small brunette sister. Instead, Keller gave him the number for his tall blonde-haired sister. They met at the Saenger Theater [Annotator's Note: in New Orleans, Louisiana] and watched a movie. Later on he married her. It was the only practical joke that Gravois ever profited from. ]

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Teddy [Annotator's Note: Lieutenant Theodore "Teddy" Keller, Gravois' future brother-in-law] and Gravois trained in New Zealand then from New Zealand they went to Tarawa.They conducted a couple of amphibious operations for training before landing on Tarawa. The fighting on Tarawa only lasted 94 hours. The worst thing about the fighting on Tarawa was the tide. They landed on Tarawa at about 8:30 in the morning. Gravois was in the first wave. The 1st and 2nd waves went ashore on amphibious tractors [Annotator's Note: LVTs, Landing Vehicle, Tracked].Tarawa had been heavily bombed by the Air Force but they didn't kill enough of the people there. There were still plenty of them to have a fight.Gravois landed on Red Beach 1. The next beach over was Red Beach 2. The Japanese denied them half of Red Beach 1 and all of Red Beach 2. All of the units which were supposed to land to the right of Gravois ended up coming in behind him.When they got ashore most of the people in his track were killed. He and a few other survivors waited between the wall and waited while the others came ashore.The boats hung up 400 to 600 yards off shore and had to wade to shore. The Japanese fired machine guns and anti-aircraft guns at the men wading in. The worst feeling that he felt was being helpless. He felt that he could not do anything to help the men wading in.A lieutenant came by and ordered Gravois and the others to go over the wall or around it. They replied that they are essentially pinned down and had lost two-thirds of their group. They told the lieutenant he could go ahead or join them behind the wall. They had landed at about 8:30 in the morning. Between 9:30 and 10:00 a sergeant from M Company came by and gathered them up and bunched them in with men from the 2nd Regiment and they were able to move all of the way down the entire island to the far beach on the 1st day. They didn't have enough troops to hold their position so they decided to pull back at the end of that 1st day. They were able to hold on to a small triangle shaped piece of land. Their battalion executive officer was the ranking officer. The colonel was still off shore somewhere and hadn't landed yet. The next morning they had reinforcements and were able to move back down the island. They secured a couple of tank traps then moved to clean out the pillboxes that were behind them. They used satchel charges and flamethrowers to clean out the pill boxes. They destroyed a Japanese tank with a rifle grenade. They secured the whole right flank of the island which was called Green Beach. Late that night and early the next day the 6th Marines landed on Green Beach and made their way through their lines and were able to continue the attack down the island. The 8th Marines were down on the other side of the pier.Gravois never got his feet wet at Tarawa. He rode in on an amtrack [Annotator's Note: variation of spelling for amphibious tractor or LVT] and left the island on an amtrack.When they hit the beach they were under such heavy fire that they had to hang out in the amtrack until reinforcements came ashore. They tried to climb the seawall but when the nose of the track went up, the gunner, the assistant gunner, and the driver were all killed by a burst of 13-milimeter gunfire. They were the last amtrack on the right side of the island where Red and Green Beaches met. Anyone who tried to go down Green Beach was killed and anyone who tried to go over the seawall was killed. Only about 7 men from Gravois' track were left. There were about 9 or 10 of them pinned down behind the seawall. Over time a number of guys came in and they ended up with about a platoon of men there.Once the pill box that was giving Gravois' group fits was knocked out they were able to move out of their position. They moved down the tank trap which was about 100 yards in from Green Beach and took the piece of land between the tank trap and Green Beach. In addition to the Marines there were 2 naval gunfire spotters who were able to call in fire from the battleship Maryland [Annotator's Note: USS Maryland, BB-46] and from destroyers in the area. 1 destroyer got in so close that sailors aboard were able to lay on the deck and fire at the island with rifles.They also had air support. They had fluorescent panels that they used to mark their front lines so the pilots could see them. When they moved up someone forgot the panels and some of the Marines were shot including Gravois' friend Roberts from Reserve, Louisiana, who was killed.The left part of Red Beach 1 contained the big bunker which was the enemy headquarters. That was the last part of the island to be secured. After they took the island Gravois' battalion and another battalion surrounded the bunker and knocked it out.Some of the bunkers were built with a frame of coconut logs covered with sand and a steel plate on top. Then another layer of coconut logs, sand, and steel plates were placed over the first. They were so tough that if the bunker was hit it would only knock the sand off of it.They did get the 2 big guns from Singapore [Annotator's Note: the Japanese actually had 4 British made 8-inch naval guns that they installed on the island. They were not, however, captured in Singapore. They had been purchased by the Japanese in 1909 during the war Japan was fighting against Russia] and destroyed them so that they couldn't be used but they didn't get all of the guns.

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Gravois didn't get any sleep during the 2 nights he was on Tarawa. The Japanese tried to infiltrate their lines, but Gravois' group had backed up and were pretty tight. They shot some of them.There was a banzai attack which they were able to stop. The Japanese even sent a little tank after them, but it was knocked out by a rifle grenade or a bazooka. Gravois' most vivid memory of Tarawa is of his company. M Company had about 280 men in it when they landed, but only 31 of them walked off the island under their own power. Gravois didn't have a scratch on him. He never even got his feet wet.Gravois saw a couple of Japanese soldiers in pill boxes who had killed themselves. He attributes the suicides of the Japanese to them being victims of thier own training and propaganda. Gravois read later that the Japanese on Tarawa were special naval landing force which is similar to the Marines. They had been trained and taught that the Americans did not take any prisoners. To the Japanese any of them who gave up were committing a mortal sin. Gravois' unit took no prisoners on Guadalcanal and they took no prisoners on Tarawa. The few prisoners they did take were Korean laborers who surrendered to them.Gravois tried to commit suicide on Guadalcanal. He was sick with malaria and was miserable but he couldn't bring himself to do it.On the 1st day on Tarawa they were in the triangle. On the 2nd day they were in the trap. On the 3rd day they swung around and were among the troops going after that headquarters [Annotator's Note: Japanese headquarters] pill box. That was the end of the fighting. By the 4th day it was all work details like pulling out the dead for Graves Registration. The guys would make themselves scarce because that was a job nobody wanted. They didn't want to pick up bodies for Graves Registration.On the morning of the next day [Annotator's Note: 25 November 1943] the landing craft were able to pull right up to the seawall. They went aboard the landing craft and were taken out to ships. The ship Gravois went aboard had the remnants of 4 or 5 battalions on it and it was a 1 battalion troop ship. On this ship Eddie Albert was the mess officer and he fed the troop well when they got aboard.When they got the ship they had to climb cargo nets to get aboard. A lot of the guys didn't have the strength to get up and Gravois was 1 of them. Fortunately there were men available to help them get aboard.Gravois was scared on Tarawa. During the landings on Gavutu and Tanambogo he was having a ball, but after Tarawa there were no more balls; he was scared every time he got into an amphibious tractor. Each additional assault he was more and more afraid because he knew the law of averages would catch up with him.Anyone who says they are not afraid in combat is either a liar or a fool. Most fools get killed. To Gravois, bravery is being scared to death and doing a job anyway. When the action got hectic enough they would forget about being scared, but that came back when they relaxed.Tarawa was the most intense fighting in such a short time that Gravois ever saw. For 3 days the fighting was constant.Gravois was still an instrument corporal with the machine gun outfit when he went ashore on Tarawa. All of the instruments he went ashore with, he left of the beach and just went on with his gun. The fighting was so close that they didn't need any equipment to do their job.

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On Tarawa there were Japanese bunkers everywhere. They were right on the other side of the wall. They had firing ports they could fire out of. They would block up the firing ports, but to get the men inside they used flamethrowers. Some of the flamethrowers used napalm. It used a special igniter and allowed them to shoot the napalm out of the nozzle into an opening in a pillbox and after shooting for a moment they would ignite it. The flamethrowers they had on Guadalcanal were gasoline and kerosene. They had to be very careful not to fire those flamethrowers into the wind.Gravois carried a napalm flamethrower on Tarawa when the man carrying it was killed. Gravois picked it up and used it on a few pillboxes. The riflemen would fire into the ports and when the enemy soldiers inside moved back to keep from being shot the guy with the flamethrower could get in front of the position and lit it up. Gravois used the flamethrower on 2 pillboxes then ran out of napalm, so he dropped it and went on with the machine gun outfit. Gravois carried a 30-caliber Carbine which is the weapon that all of the machine gunners were armed with.After leaving Tarawa, Gravois was shipped to the big island of Hawaii to the Parker Ranch [Annotator's Note: during World War 2 portions of the Parker Ranch were leased to the US Marine Corps who set up Camp Tarawa to billet and train Marines]. That area was about 7,000 feet above sea level and it looked like west Texas desert up there. Gravois saw the replacements his unit received as "fresh meat". They helped train them and tell the new guys what combat would be like and hope they listened to them.Sometimes the new guys didn't believe them. 2 of the men in Gravois' section didn't even make it off of the beach when they landed on Saipan. They were being shelled and Gravois yelled for them to hit the deck. They didn't move fast enough and the next shell that hit killed them both. Their 1st taste of combat was fatal.Gravois was 18 when he landed on Saipan. He spent his 19th birthday back home in Louisiana in 1944.On Saipan, Gravois was Corporal and a section leader in charge of 2 machine gun squads. When they lost a sergeant, Gravois was promoted to Senior Corporal by his brother-in-law. Gravois was still very young but he was experienced.For Gravois, Saipan lasted 22 hours. His unit was in reserve and landed on the same day the invasion troops went ashore but he doesn't recall what day that was [Annotator's Note: 15 June 1944]. The reserves were committed late in the afternoon after a banzai charge hit the front line on left flank. The attack had been pretty severe, so Gravois' unit was moved over to reinforce the outfit that had been shot up. Gravois got up there on the morning of the 2nd day. There were a bunch of bodies and the Japanese had left behind a bunch of machine guns. Gravois was sent out with a patrol to pick up all of the machine guns and ammo so they could be used the next time there was a banzai attack which they expected. On his way back Gravois walked past a bonfire with a dead Jap in it. The dead man had some knee mortar [Annotator's Note: Type 89 Grenade Launcher] shells in his shirt and just as Gravois walked past it it went off.Gravois was peppered from his head down to his knees as if he had been shot with birdshot. 2 big pieces busted his left arm and took a half-inch out of the bone.It was a magic wound that took him out of combat. He had been on the island for 22 hours. Gravois had been pulling up the rear of the patrol and was the only person hit. He was able to walk back with the patrol.He was bleeding. He was put on a stretcher and cleaned up. The Corpsman told him that his arm was busted.Teddy [Annotator's Note: Theodore "Teddy" Keller, Gravois' future brother-in-law] came by and saw him with his arm busted.Gravois was shipped home and got back in time to celebrate his 19th birthday.

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When Gravois landed on Saipan they were being shelled. Gravois lost 2 men when they landed. They were put into the line after a banzai attack and to shore up the lines in case of another attack. They set up all the machine guns they had, no matter if they were Japanese or American because that is the best way to repel a banzai charge.The most frightening part of a banzai attack is the guidon bearer. The 2 guys that always got shot first during a banzai charge were the guidon bearer and the first man to show a samurai sword. Gravois never saw any hand-to-hand combat. He saw a guy [Annotator's Note: a Japanese NCO or officer] get shot trying to use his sword on the fellow right next to him. He picked the sword up and brought it home as a souvenier.Gravois knew when he left Saipan that he was coming home. He felt relieved. He had done his share and now it was time for someone else to have fun . He knew it would be 7 or 8 months before he could be sent back into combat.Gravois was taken to Aiea Naval Hospital on Oahu. Then he was bundled up and shipped to Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland, California. After a couple of weeks he was given 30 days leave and told to go home and report to the naval hospital closest to his house. Gravois had his father wire him money so he could get home.Gravois was kicked out because there was another shipload of casualties coming in and they needed his bed.Gravois was back home in Louisiana when the atomic bombs were dropped.Gravois was in a hospital on the lakefront in New Orleans, Louisiana for his 20th birthday. That was where he was when he asked Teddy [Annotator's Note: Theodore "Teddy" Keller, Gravois' future brother-in-law] for his sister's phone number. They were both in the hospital recuperating. Gravois was discharged from the hospital in February 1945 and sent to Belle Chase to the MBNAD, Marine Barracks Naval Ammunition Depot, Belle Chase, Louisiana. Gravois was there when he was given a Congressional Appointment to West Point.Gravois didn't want the appointment at 1st. He didn't plan to stay in the service. After he read the regulation stating that if a person had a Congressional Appointment they could not be transferred out of the Continental United States he changed his mind. His arm was healed and he was back on full duty and could have made it back in time for the landings on Iwo Jima.Gravois took the appointment and planned to attend the prep school set up for soldiers to brush up on thier schooling before taking the entrance exams for the academy. He applied to have the Marine Corps give him temporary duty and send him to the prep school. The Marine Corps responded by authorizing his immediate discharge from the Marine Corps so he could enlist in the Army since he had to be in the Army to go the prep school.Gravois was discharged from the Marine Corps in February and enlisted the Army in February. Gravois was in the Army for 5 months and 4 days.When he got to Little Rock and took the exams, he flunked them. He failed the Math part and was also told that the arches in his feet were too high. He was told that he would not survive in the Infantry. He told the doctor that he had been in combat for 2 years, but the doctor said that that was part of the exam.There were about 250 of them in line for the physical exam, buck naked. 1 of the doctors was a Psychiatrist. He had Gravois sit in a chair and once he was comfortable the doctor rank a bell. Gravois jumped 10 feet out of his chair. The doctor told him that was the damnedest reaction for someone who didn't consider himself unduly nervous. They didn't consider themselves unduly nervous, only that they had been in combat. and that this was a normal reaction to having been in combat.Gravois was discharged at Camp Shelby in July 1945.Gravois was enrolled in LSU before his 21st birthday. He took ROTC while he was there and was given the Distinguished Military Graduate award which entitled him to a regular Army commission.In 1950, the Army payed more than the civilian world, so Gravois took a commission as a Second Lieutenant. He retired in 1969. He was told that his next assignment would be Vietnam and since he had over 20 years of service, he decided to retire. He didn't keep in contact with anyone from M Company. He mentions a picture of him and M Company in the NWWIIM after Tarawa when 2 of them are sitting on a winch house watching a burial at sea.

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Another problem they had was when they 1st arrived on the island they ran out of food. When they landed they had the food they were carrying and emergency rations for about 7 days. Before they could unload the supply ships the Japanese Navy chased off the whole supply force. It was a month or so before they got food.When Gravois was on Gavutu and Tanambogo, an old 4-stack destroyer came in with cases of Australian bully beef [Annotator's Note: Canned corned beef] stacked on it's deck. When it got into the harbor the men aboard cut the riggings securing it and the ship turned hard so the cases fell off into the water. The vessel never even slowed down. The Marines had to go out in boats and haul the cases back in. They ate Australian bully beef for 3 or 4 weeks before they got rations. It was 25 years before Gravois ate corned beef again.After they had eaten all of the rice the Japanese had left, they ate canned fish heads and even ate monkey and iguanas.Gravois was on Tulagi when they were taken off in January 1943 to go to New Zealand.When Gravois landed on Gavutu they were under fire. To him it was like fireworks on the 4th of July. He did not realize the seriousness of the situation until he was being fired on by a Japanese soldier. That was the first time it occured to him that he could be killed. That was the first time it dawned on him that he could be killed. He had seen other people get killed, but that was them.The war became personal for Gravois. He learned what it was like to be scared. He grew up fast on that island. This was in August. In September, Gravois spent his 18th birthday on Guadalcanal.Gravois' unit was moved over to Guadalcanal as reinforcements. They were put along the Lunga River and tasked with extending the perimeter along the river and denying the Japanese access to it. They not participate in the Tenaru River battle, but did see the effects of it.They did have big fights where they were.1 of the jobs they had to do was to put in double-apron barbed wire fences and create lines of fire in case the Japanese attacked. As a a machine gun team they were to keep the Japanese from crossing the wire.The men were spread out along the line with the machine guns on the ends. The Marines also hung cans with rocks in them so they would shake if anything hit them. 1 night they shot 6 pigs in the wire. For security they dug foxholes and stayed in them after the sun went down. They shot anything that moved after the sun went down and identified it the next morning. Another tactic they used was to tie a string to 1 of their thumbs then throw the string to the guys in the next hole and 1 of them would do the same so if anything moved between the holes they'd feel it when they hit the string.They also posted guards but even that was not foolproof. They did find Marines in their foxholes with their throats cut. They [Annotator's Note: the Japanese] were good at sneaking.When heavy rains came and the Lunga River flooded the Marines had heard that the Japanese would hang onto logs floating in the current so they made sure to shoot up every log that floated past them.The only problem they had was when the 7th Marines moved in on the other side of the river and they started shooting at each other. They had to be careful not to shoot the other Marines.At the time of the fighting on the 5th Marines Ridge [Annotator's Note: Bloody Ridge] Gravois was an instrument corporal and 1 of his jobs was to to lay machine guns for indirect fire. Gravois' unit provided indirect fire at a range of about 4,000 yards to assist the Raiders [Annotator's Note: 1st Marine Raider Battalion] who were fighting on it. Gravois later heard that there was a Japanese unit moving down a trail and when Gravois' unit fired the Japanese soldiers hit the ground and laid which made them even better targets. Gravois' group raked them and decimated a good portion of that Japanese outfit.

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Teddy [Annotator's Note: Lieutenant Theodore "Teddy" Keller, Gravois' future brother-in-law] and Gravois trained in New Zealand then from New Zealand they went to Tarawa.They conducted a couple of amphibious operations for training before landing on Tarawa. The fighting on Tarawa only lasted 94 hours. The worst thing about the fighting on Tarawa was the tide. They landed on Tarawa at about 8:30 in the morning. Gravois was in the first wave. The 1st and 2nd waves went ashore on amphibious tractors [Annotator's Note: LVTs, Landing Vehicle, Tracked].Tarawa had been heavily bombed by the Air Force but they didn't kill enough of the people there. There were still plenty of them to have a fight.Gravois landed on Red Beach 1. The next beach over was Red Beach 2. The Japanese denied them half of Red Beach 1 and all of Red Beach 2. All of the units which were supposed to land to the right of Gravois ended up coming in behind him.When they got ashore most of the people in his track were killed. He and a few other survivors waited between the wall and waited while the others came ashore.The boats hung up 400 to 600 yards off shore and had to wade to shore. The Japanese fired machine guns and anti-aircraft guns at the men wading in. The worst feeling that he felt was being helpless. He felt that he could not do anything to help the men wading in.A lieutenant came by and ordered Gravois and the others to go over the wall or around it. They replied that they are essentially pinned down and had lost two-thirds of their group. They told the lieutenant he could go ahead or join them behind the wall. They had landed at about 8:30 in the morning. Between 9:30 and 10:00 a sergeant from M Company came by and gathered them up and bunched them in with men from the 2nd Regiment and they were able to move all of the way down the entire island to the far beach on the 1st day. They didn't have enough troops to hold their position so they decided to pull back at the end of that 1st day. They were able to hold on to a small triangle shaped piece of land. Their battalion executive officer was the ranking officer. The colonel was still off shore somewhere and hadn't landed yet. The next morning they had reinforcements and were able to move back down the island. They secured a couple of tank traps then moved to clean out the pillboxes that were behind them. They used satchel charges and flamethrowers to clean out the pill boxes. They destroyed a Japanese tank with a rifle grenade. They secured the whole right flank of the island which was called Green Beach. Late that night and early the next day the 6th Marines landed on Green Beach and made their way through their lines and were able to continue the attack down the island. The 8th Marines were down on the other side of the pier.Gravois never got his feet wet at Tarawa. He rode in on an amtrack [Annotator's Note: variation of spelling for amphibious tractor or LVT] and left the island on an amtrack.When they hit the beach they were under such heavy fire that they had to hang out in the amtrack until reinforcements came ashore. They tried to climb the seawall but when the nose of the track went up, the gunner, the assistant gunner, and the driver were all killed by a burst of 13-milimeter gunfire. They were the last amtrack on the right side of the island where Red and Green Beaches met. Anyone who tried to go down Green Beach was killed and anyone who tried to go over the seawall was killed. Only about 7 men from Gravois' track were left. There were about 9 or 10 of them pinned down behind the seawall. Over time a number of guys came in and they ended up with about a platoon of men there.Once the pill box that was giving Gravois' group fits was knocked out they were able to move out of their position. They moved down the tank trap which was about 100 yards in from Green Beach and took the piece of land between the tank trap and Green Beach. In addition to the Marines there were 2 naval gunfire spotters who were able to call in fire from the battleship Maryland [Annotator's Note: USS Maryland, BB-46] and from destroyers in the area. 1 destroyer got in so close that sailors aboard were able to lay on the deck and fire at the island with rifles.They also had air support. They had fluorescent panels that they used to mark their front lines so the pilots could see them. When they moved up someone forgot the panels and some of the Marines were shot including Gravois' friend Roberts from Reserve, Louisiana, who was killed.The left part of Red Beach 1 contained the big bunker which was the enemy headquarters. That was the last part of the island to be secured. After they took the island Gravois' battalion and another battalion surrounded the bunker and knocked it out.Some of the bunkers were built with a frame of coconut logs covered with sand and a steel plate on top. Then another layer of coconut logs, sand, and steel plates were placed over the first. They were so tough that if the bunker was hit it would only knock the sand off of it.They did get the 2 big guns from Singapore [Annotator's Note: the Japanese actually had 4 British made 8-inch naval guns that they installed on the island. They were not, however, captured in Singapore. They had been purchased by the Japanese in 1909 during the war Japan was fighting against Russia] and destroyed them so that they couldn't be used but they didn't get all of the guns.

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Gravois didn't get any sleep during the 2 nights he was on Tarawa. The Japanese tried to infiltrate their lines, but Gravois' group had backed up and were pretty tight. They shot some of them.There was a banzai attack which they were able to stop. The Japanese even sent a little tank after them, but it was knocked out by a rifle grenade or a bazooka. Gravois' most vivid memory of Tarawa is of his company. M Company had about 280 men in it when they landed, but only 31 of them walked off the island under their own power. Gravois didn't have a scratch on him. He never even got his feet wet.Gravois saw a couple of Japanese soldiers in pill boxes who had killed themselves. He attributes the suicides of the Japanese to them being victims of thier own training and propaganda. Gravois read later that the Japanese on Tarawa were special naval landing force which is similar to the Marines. They had been trained and taught that the Americans did not take any prisoners. To the Japanese any of them who gave up were committing a mortal sin. Gravois' unit took no prisoners on Guadalcanal and they took no prisoners on Tarawa. The few prisoners they did take were Korean laborers who surrendered to them.Gravois tried to commit suicide on Guadalcanal. He was sick with malaria and was miserable but he couldn't bring himself to do it.On the 1st day on Tarawa they were in the triangle. On the 2nd day they were in the trap. On the 3rd day they swung around and were among the troops going after that headquarters [Annotator's Note: Japanese headquarters] pill box. That was the end of the fighting. By the 4th day it was all work details like pulling out the dead for Graves Registration. The guys would make themselves scarce because that was a job nobody wanted. They didn't want to pick up bodies for Graves Registration.On the morning of the next day [Annotator's Note: 25 November 1943] the landing craft were able to pull right up to the seawall. They went aboard the landing craft and were taken out to ships. The ship Gravois went aboard had the remnants of 4 or 5 battalions on it and it was a 1 battalion troop ship. On this ship Eddie Albert was the mess officer and he fed the troop well when they got aboard.When they got the ship they had to climb cargo nets to get aboard. A lot of the guys didn't have the strength to get up and Gravois was 1 of them. Fortunately there were men available to help them get aboard.Gravois was scared on Tarawa. During the landings on Gavutu and Tanambogo he was having a ball, but after Tarawa there were no more balls; he was scared every time he got into an amphibious tractor. Each additional assault he was more and more afraid because he knew the law of averages would catch up with him.Anyone who says they are not afraid in combat is either a liar or a fool. Most fools get killed. To Gravois, bravery is being scared to death and doing a job anyway. When the action got hectic enough they would forget about being scared, but that came back when they relaxed.Tarawa was the most intense fighting in such a short time that Gravois ever saw. For 3 days the fighting was constant.Gravois was still an instrument corporal with the machine gun outfit when he went ashore on Tarawa. All of the instruments he went ashore with, he left of the beach and just went on with his gun. The fighting was so close that they didn't need any equipment to do their job.

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