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Liberty in New Zealand

Basilone's Boys

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William Douglas Lansford was born in July 1922 in Los Angeles. His father was an Anglo from Texas and his mother was a Mexican from Juarez. His parents split up when he was a very small child and he was raised by his mother in a traditional Mexican household. He was in his teens before he learned to speak English and this gave him some trouble at school. Lansford was raised by his grandmother. His mother was in show business and his father was a policeman. From the time he was a child Lansford had a fascination with the military. His father was a veteran of two wars, World War 1 and the campaign in the Philippines. Life was good for Lansford as a child until the depression hit. His father remained fairly well off but he was not around. Lansford lived with his mother in a five dollar per month garage. Lansford’s mother later married a musician. They would take jobs whenever they could to provide for Lansford and his brother. When he was about 16 years old Lansford dropped out of school and joined the CC camps [Annotators Note: Civilian Conservation Corps or CCC]. He became a lumber jack and over time put on weight and got into better physical shape. He eventually ended up in the US Marine Corps. Lansford hung out in front of the post office where the recruiters were located for over a year. He kept trying to join the navy but he was continually rejected because he was underweight. By this time Lansford was 17 going on 18. He had been felling trees with a double bladed axe and was in pretty good shape. In the camps there were a lot of fights between the Mexicans and the caucasians from the dust bowl. After the CCC camps Lansford again tried to join the navy but joined the Marine Corps Reserve instead. Two weeks after he enlisted in the reserves the reserves were called up and he was sent to San Diego. From there he was offered his choice of weapon and he chose to be a machine gunner. Lansford joined the 8th Marines [Annotators Note: 8th Marine Regiment]. He had seen a notice on a bulletin board asking for volunteers for exotic foreign duty. Everybody thought it was Shanghai so he volunteered. It turns out that he was sent to Iceland and stayed there for ten months. He was in Iceland when the war started. Lansford had enlisted in October 1940. Lansford compares the Marine presence in Iceland to their presence in El Salvador and Nicaragua. In Iceland they worked 16 hours a day since it was always daylight. The Germans flew missions over the Marine positions all the time so the Marines were familiar with the Germans. The British were also in Iceland. The British kept the American Marines informed of what was going on. In Iceland they set up observation posts and watched the Germans. That was the only duty they had except for working parties. Ten months after Lansford arrived in Iceland Pearl Harbor was attacked. After the start of the war with Japan, Drew Middleton, a famous war correspondent, gave a talk to the Marines telling them that he had just come back from campaigning with the Germans. He told them that the Germans were great soldiers and they should be glad that they were not fighting them. He told the Marines that they were lucky to be sleeping on mattresses while the Germans slept on the ground. Six months later Lansford was on Guadalcanal sleeping on the ground with the rain pounding on him. The Marines booed Middleton. They were not concerned with the Germans. They were ready to prove themselves.

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When William Lansford was in Iceland he and the other Marines spent their time building their own Quonset huts and stacking ammunition. At night they pulled a lot of guard duty to protect those stacks of ammunition. They fully expected the Germans to attack them. They were also warned about German sympathizers. Lansford and some of the other Marines started dating local girls when they were in Iceland. The parents of the girls were generally not receptive to the Marines and were not pro American at all. As the Germans invaded deeper and deeper into Europe military age males from a number of countries like Sweden, Finland, and Norway, arrived in Iceland looking to join the fight against the Germans. Just before the Americans got into the war President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill met in Iceland to talk over strategy. After the conference Roosevelt returned to the United States but Churchill remained in Iceland for a short time to visit with British troops stationed there. During his stay he reviewed the British troops and reviewed the Marines as well. Right after the attack on Pearl Harbor the Marines turned their camp over to units of the US Army. The Marines knew that they would be going into combat. Lansford credits the CCC [Annotators Note: Civilian Conservation Corps or CCC] camps with being physically fit and ready to go to war. When the Marines arrived in New York they learned that the stevedores were on strike. The Marines had to unload their own ship. The Marines all wanted to punch out the stevedores. The Marines were sent by train to San Diego. and debriefed. While they were in San Diego they heard about a crazy guy named Carlson [Annotators Note: US Marine Corps Brigadier general Evans Fordyce Carlson] who was recruiting Marines for a suicide battalion. Lansford and another Marine requested permission to go and volunteer but the First Sergeant refused to let them leave the compound. Lansford and his buddy snuck out and went to see Major Carlson and Captain Roosevelt [Annotators Note: US Marine Corps Reserve Brigadier General James Roosevelt II]. They were told that two additional companies were being formed. Carlson asked Lansford a series of questions and when he was done he asked him what unit he was with. By that time Lansford was with the 6th Marines. Then Lansford and his friend returned to their unit. The next day a Marine called out to Lansford and the other Marine to fall out with their sea bags. They boarded a truck and left for their new assignment to the Raiders.

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William Lansford and the other Marine Raider recruits were taken to Jacques Farm where they began their training. The property was originally a farm that was taken over by the Marine Corps as a Marine tank training base and was now being used as the Raider training base. The training was terrific. Carlson [Annotators Note: US Marine Corps Brigadier general Evans Fordyce Carlson] had implemented the gung ho system. Gung ho was Chinese for work together. On the first day of training Carlson went up a small stage along with Jimmy Roosevelt [Annotators Note: US Marine Corps Reserve Brigadier General James Roosevelt II] and spoke with his men about the Chinese Army. Much of Carlson’s experience was with the Chinese Army and he brought these tactics back to the United States and taught them to his Raiders. During their training the Raiders had to go out and find their own food one day a week. They lived in the rain. They learned to be totally self sufficient. They also learned to avoid being road bound. Carlson was also a great motivator. He allowed the Raiders to speak their mind. There was no saluting and there were no special privileges for the officers. The enlisted men called the officers by their first name which was unheard of in the naval service. Carlson told his officers that the only privilege they had was serving with their men. Carlson and Roosevelt held motivational sessions once or twice a week where Carlson and Roosevelt would talk to the men about geopolitical events. Lansford and the other Raiders got to know about a lot of things that other enlisted men did not. Lansford was just a PFC at the time. The Raiders laughed at the newspaper reports they read about themselves. Some reporters depicted them as being huge, bearded, ferocious, super Marines and they had been trained by having blood thrown in their faces. They learned Raider tactics then shipped out to Hawaii where they practiced rubber boat tactics. They also learned to operate with and aboard submarines. They got close with the submarine crews. The Raiders were even allowed to grow moustaches and could wear ear rings. They learned a lot about working closely with the sailors and about night tactics and landings. They were stationed at Barber’s Point. They were expecting a Japanese attack on the Hawaiian Islands. Lansford was given a pistol and a hand grenade and that was all he had to defend against the Japanese with. When the troopship entered Pearl Harbor Lansford clearly remembers passing Battleship Row. They arrived about six months after the attack. Lansford and the other Marines were appalled and that gave them the determination to do what they had to do. The Raiders were determined to go to Japan as fast as possible and get to it. Carlson continued the gung ho sessions and continued to motivate his Raiders while they waited for their chance to go.

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The first chance William Lansford and the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion had [Annotators Note: to fight the Japanese] was after the 1st Marine Raider Battalion landed on Guadalcanal. There was a difference between the two battalions. Edson [Annotators Note: US Marine Corps Major General Merritt A. Edson], the 1st Raider Battalion commander, used his raiders in conjunction with regular troops. He used them more as shock troops. He used them this way on Tulagi and did a magnificent job. Carlson [Annotators Note: US Marine Corps Brigadier general Evans Fordyce Carlson] used his 2nd Raider Battalion as guerilla troops. Edson and Carlson did not like each other at all but they were both marvelous leaders and courageous to a fault. They landed there and started learning to use rubber boats. When the 1st Raider Battalion landed on Tulagi some people thought that they did not stand a chance but Lansford and the other Raiders knew that they would succeed. The idea of the Makin Island raid came from Naval Headquarters in Hawaii. Nimitz thought that a diversion at Makin would cause the Japanese to panic and would relieve pressure on the Marines on Guadalcanal. The raid was a success. When the Raiders landed on Makin Island they wiped out the Japanese garrison to the last man. The Raiders landed on Makin Island from two old submarines, the Nautilus and the Argonaut, which had been rigged up as troop carriers. Carlson wanted six submarines because he had six companies. With only two submarines he could only transport two companies. Lansford does not know exactly what the figures were but guesses that there were between 200 and 400 Japanese soldiers on Makin Island when the Raiders landed. The commander of the Japanese Makin Island garrison was a Sergeant Major with a lot of experience and he had taught his men to set up defensive positions. Carlson had recruited the companies in order. Lansford was in Company E which was one of the last two companies. Carlson felt that the first two companies should be allowed to be the first two companies to go into action so he selected Companies A and B for the Makin Island mission. While the Raiders were on their way to Makin Island the Marines fighting desperately on Guadalcanal. At the time the Japanese Navy and Japanese air power were far superior to the Americans on Guadalcanal and the southern islands. The reason Guadalcanal was captured was because it was one step before New Guinea which was the last step before Australia. The largest Marine formation up until this time was a regiment. There had never been a Marine division before. When the Marines were landing on Guadalcanal they got word that the Japanese Navy was on its way. The US Navy was in bad shape so supplies were just dumped on the beach and the ships left. At the time the Marines were angry because they felt like they had been abandoned but Lansford now understands why the navy did what it did. The Marines on Guadalcanal were isolated and all they could do was fight. After the Makin Island raid the Japanese began fortifying other islands with men and weapons. If they loaded up the other islands they could not load up Guadalcanal. When the Raiders landed on Makin Carlson had them land on the side of the island where the Japanese least expected a landing. That part of the island was unprotected because the waves were so bad that the Japanese thought nobody could land there. The first Marine to be awarded the Medal of Honor, Sergeant Thomason [Annotators Note: US Marine Corps Sergeant Clyde A. Thomason], was with the 2nd Raider Battalion on Makin and was killed in action there. The Raiders wiped out just about every Japanese on the island including the commander. Some were mopped up later. When the Raiders tried to get off the island the next day the waves that convinced the Japanese that nobody could land on those beaches kept the Raiders from being able to get off. One problem they had with their landing tactics was the Evinrude motors they used on their boats. The Evinrude motors were not covered so if it was hit by a wave the motor would die. Carlson wanted to get Johnson motors for the boats but the brass refused his request. Lansford believes that not having the Johnson motors was the cause of the loss of 18 Raiders. When they realized that they had wiped out all of the Japanese they left the island and returned to the submarines which took them back to the remainder of the Raider battalion [Annotators Note: which was back in Hawaii].

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William Lansford continued training while he was in Hawaii waiting for the Raiders who had carried out the raid on Makin Island to return. They were very anxious about the guys who had gone on the raid. The Honolulu Hotel [Annotators Note: The Royal Hawaiian Hotel] was expressly used for the recreation of submarine sailors. The Raiders were invited to join the submariners at the hotel. The navy brass was horrified at the fraternization between the submariners and the Raiders but they did not care. When they came back the success of the raid was considered a huge victory for the Americans and for the Marine Corps. It was the first complete victory over the Japanese. It was something the press could publicize. Carlson wanted to take his Raiders to Guadalcanal but the brass wanted to save them for raiding jobs. There were a lot of brave men fighting on Guadalcanal like John Basilone and Mitchell Paige. There were a lot of good officers there as well. The Raiders were moved to New Caledonia where the most exciting thing they got into was beating up French sailors. They also visited the Pink House. In October 1942 Admiral Turner [Annotators Note: US Navy Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner] decided that he wanted to build another airfield at Aola Bay on the western end of Guadalcanal. Turner considered himself a general as well as an admiral. General Vandegrift protested that he did not have the manpower to guard the airfield they already had, Henderson Field. Turner then turned to Carlson and asked for his Raiders. Carlson accepted. On 4 November [Annotators Note: 4 November 1942] the Raiders landed at Aola Bay and hit the beaches and ran in like they were going to attack something but all they ran into was a wall of jungle. They discovered that the area was all swamp and that an airfield could not be built there. The Raiders were ashore for one or two days before being told to prepare to return to the destroyers, APDs that they had landed from. The APDs were fast World War 1 destroyers that had been converted into troop carriers. Lansford liked working with the Tin Can Sailors [Annotators Note: slang name given to sailors serving aboard destroyers]. While they were preparing to return to where they had come from a plane flew over and dropped a message to Carlson from General Vandegrift. The message told Carlson that he was to report to the general right away which he did. Vandegrift told Carlson that the Japanese had landed a fresh force of 1,500 well armed reinforcement troops that were going to attack the perimeter of the airfield. The Japanese had hit the field two times before and almost succeeded in breaking through if not for the efforts of Marines like John Basilone and Edson [Annotators Note: Major General Merritt A. Edson] and the 1st Raiders [Annotators Note: 1st Marine Raider Battalion]. In addition to the Japanese troops that were landing was a group of Japanese troops who had retreated from the attack on the airfield into the jungle was planning to link up with them.

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William Lansford served as a machine gunner in the weapons platoon of Company E, 2nd Marine Raider Battalion on Guadalcanal. One of the great Marines was a man named Hanneken [Annotators Note: US Marine Corps Brigadier General Hermann Henry Hanneken] who had been awarded the Medal of Honor as a sergeant during the Banana Wars and was now a colonel. Hanneken engaged 1,500 Japanese troops out in the jungle. Another 1,500 Japanese troops were heading to meet them. That meant that there were 3,000 fresh Japanese troops preparing to attack the airfield. Carlson told his Raiders that they were going to engage the Japanese troops that had just landed. The force that Hanneken had engaged pushed his forces back across the river during a tough all night battle. The Japanese had artillery. Hanneken told Carlson and his Raiders were to move out, locate, and engage the enemy force. At the time Lansford was a machine gunner. He had been in water cooled machineguns [Annotators Note: M1917 .30 caliber water cooled machine gun] but to lighten the load the Raiders switched to the light air cooled machine guns [Annotators Note: M1919 .30 caliber air cooled machine gun]. Carlson redesigned the squad. The weapons he used were the M1 Garand rifle, the BAR [Annotators Note: Browning Automatic Rifle], and the Tommy gun [Annotators Note: Thompson submachine gun] for each three man fire team. Two Raider squads were like an entire platoon of regular troops. They possessed enormous fire power. The Raiders were also trained to go without food and water. Lansford and his friend Al Florez [Annotators Note: unsure of spelling] were a team. Florez was a runner and Lansford was a number one gunner. Carlson used an ambush system to engage the Japanese. When the Japanese would turn to fight they would pull back into the jungle. At this time the press back in the United States made a big deal about the Japanese being the supreme jungle fighters. Carlson specifically trained his Raiders to defeat these jungle fighters. Their first encounter was at a deserted native village called Asamano. The Japanese had a habit of abusing the Guadalcanal natives. There was a native of Guadalcanal named Vouza [Annotators Note: Sir Jacob Charles Vouza, Sergeant Major of the Solomon Islands Protectorate Armed Constabulary] who became a knight. Vouza was in charge of the natives in the whole district. There was also Captain, later Major, Clemens [Annotators Note: Warren Frederick Martin Clemens, also known as Martin Clemens] who had been a coast watcher, and another man. These men dealt with the natives. Vouza was highly respected among the natives and in effect raised a native army. The natives acted as carriers, guides, and guards. The Japanese had been very hard on the islanders and the natives were happy to go with the Raiders and have a chance to get back at the Japanese. If it had not been for Vouza, Clemens, and the other guy Lansford does not believe the Raiders would have made it. They did not know the island like the natives did. Others told the Raiders that the natives would betray them to the Japanese but that was a chance they had to take. Instead the natives supported them 100 percent. The Japanese forces were under the command of Colonel Shoji [Annotators Note: Toshinari Shoji] who was a very capable and deadly soldier. By that time there were 3,000 Japanese troops and there were a little over 400 Raiders in six companies. The Raiders fought the Japanese for 30 days all through November. The Raiders engaged the Japanese many times and defeated them every time. The Raiders would hit the Japanese, kill a bunch of them, and then disappear back into the jungle. They would hit the Japanese at places they never expected. They would hit them while they were eating or sleeping or resting or cleaning their weapons. The Raiders went in shooting. There were three notable battles, one of which Lansford took part in. After engagements the Raiders would get together in the native villages to resupply. The Raiders would fill one of their socks with rice and the other with tea and that is what they lived on. Sometimes the natives would bring them bananas or papaya.

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The first of the three battles that stands out to William Lansford was at Asamana on 11 November [Annotators Note: 11 November 1942], Armistice Day. The village was deserted. Lansford was in the weapons platoon. Lieutenant Early was their platoon leader and Lieutenant Burnett was the weapons unit leader. The weapons platoon consisted of four machineguns and two light 60 millimeter mortars. Carlson had redesigned the weapons outfit so it could act as a separate unit. When they arrived at Asamana the lead elements of 1st Platoon, Company E came upon Japanese troops crossing the river [Annotators Note: the Metapona River] into Asamana. Lansford estimates that about a company of enemy soldiers had already gotten into the village. The 1st Platoon opened fire on the Japanese soldiers still in the water. The Japanese soldiers were wearing only their loin clothes and carrying their belongings above their heads. The Raiders caught them with their pants down. They killed quite a few enemy soldiers. The Japanese immediately cut their landing and set up positions on the far side of the river. Then they started raining mortars rounds down on the Raiders. The Japanese were marvelous mortar men. Then they opened fire on them with machineguns. The Japanese used the Hotchkiss and Nambu machine guns. The 1st Platoon, under Carlson’s son, pulled back into the jungle. The Japanese immediately crossed the river and occupied the village. Lieutenant Early volunteered to engage the Japanese. He set his platoon up and they engaged the Japanese catching a lot of them in the river again. They killed a bunch of Japanese in the river. The Japanese got into the tree line surrounding the village and began trying to flank the Raider positions. The enemy machinegun positions on the far side of the river were still causing problems so Early called for Burnett to bring up his machineguns. Lansford and the other machine gunners set their guns up right on the river bank. Lansford set his gun to fire about two feet off the ground. The Raiders could not see the Japanese but they knew where they were by the sound of their mortars. By the time it was starting to get dark they had been fighting for eight hours. They were out of water and almost out of ammunition. The company commander ordered his men to withdraw. The fell back into the jungle. In the darkness they could see the Japanese moving into the village and surrounding area. When they pulled back there were a couple of wounded men left behind. One of those was a friend of Lansford’s named Anamonte [Annotators Note: unsure of spelling]. Anamonte was also on a machinegun team. When the gunner was killed Anamonte took over the gun. He fired it until the gun jammed. Then, following procedure, he took off the back plate and threw it away then pushed the gun into the river. Two Raiders volunteered to go get Anamonte and did. The Raiders lost three men that day and killed an estimated 200 enemy soldiers. The other two battles that stand out to Lansford were Yancy’s [Annotators Note: US Marine Corps Captain John H. Yancy] Attack and Bill Shurine's [Annotators Note: may mean US Marine Corps Captain John Harvey Slusser]. Yancy was a corporal in charge of a squad and Shurine was a captain in charge of Company F. A native had discovered that the Japanese were hidden in a large depression. Shurine led his men in and attacked the Japanese and killed all of them within about three minutes. For the action Shurine was awarded the Navy Cross. Yancy’s Attack took place near the end of the 30 days [Annotators Note: The 30 days Lansford is referring to was an action known as the Long Patrol during which the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion operated in the jungles of Guadalcanal for roughly 30 days with little or no support]. They were up in the mountains and it was raining. In several areas they had to use ropes to get down. Yancy discovered a Japanese bivouac with about 100 enemy soldiers trying to keep out of the rain. In moments Yancy and his squad killed killed 75 of the enemy troops. For his actions that day Yancy was awarded the Navy Cross. He was later awarded a second Navy Cross for his actions on Iwo Jima. At the end of the 30 days they were like skeletons. Some of them went straight to the hospital. Many of the men had jungle rot. It took years for Lansford to get over that. The Raiders had marched 150 miles and killed over 500 of the enemy. They effectively destroyed that enemy force. The Japanese were very tough and very good soldiers. The big mistake they made was not changing their tactics. That helped the Raiders a great deal. That patrol was called the Long Patrol and as far as Lansford knows it was the most successful patrol in the history of the Marine Corps.

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William Lansford took part in the Long Patrol with the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion on Guadalcanal. Most of the time he and his friends thought about food. In one village Lansford and his friends Florez [Annotators Note: unsure of spelling] and John Stone [Annotators Note: unsure of spelling] stopped to take a rest. They noticed a rotten papaya on the ground that was covered with ants. Florez wanted to eat it and convinced Lansford to take a bite. He did and almost vomited. To this day Lansford cannot eat papaya. Florez ate the papaya. At another time during the patrol some of the Raiders found a stray cow and shot it. They shared the meat with the other Raiders. When the patrol was done they crossed the line manned by the regular troops. The guys manning the lines were starving but the Raiders were in worse shape. They had each lost an average of ten to 15 pounds. They had survived on a diet of rice and raisins which Carlson [Annotators Note: US Marine Corps Brigadier general Evans Fordyce Carlson] suspected they would. On practically the last day up in the mountains they lost one of their most popular officers, Jack Miller, who was shot through the head. After the patrol they went down to the beach to wait for the ship to take them back to New Caledonia. Instead, they went to New Zealand and had a great time. They were supposed to get a month’s rest but only stayed for about a week. They had not been paid in months and were paid all of their back pay when they got to New Zealand. Flush with their wealth Lansford, Florez, John Stone, and a number of other Raiders went to the King Edward Hotel which had been reserved for majors and above. The English officers tolerated the Marines but got impatient with them. The officers put up with a lot. Looking back now Lansford acknowledges that they were a bunch of arrogant little shits but they felt that they had earned that right. About a week later they were pulled out and started training again. Being in the Marine Corps was not like being in the army. They had very little down time. In New Zealand they were based at a place called Camp Paekakariki. They continued training even though they were in rotten shape. Carlson took them back to New Caledonia. Some of the men never saw combat again. Lansford’s friend Al Florez never saw combat again. Florez was great in combat. He was totally fearless. Florez was a runner. Sometimes the Japanese would stop firing altogether. During those lulls they could get up and walk around but they never knew when the Japanese would start shooting again. The main things on the march were the jungle, the lack of food, and the fact that they were all rotting. When they got to the hospital the doctors wanted to cut off Lansford’s legs. When Lansford went into the hospital he turned in his machinegun but kept his pistol and a hand grenade fearing that the Japanese would attack the hospital one night. At the hospital a navy doctor told him that his legs would have to come off because they were putrid. The hospital was in terrible condition. The sheets were all covered with crusted blood and smelled terrible. The tents had holes in them and the rain came through them. The number of wounds suffered by the Raiders was remarkably small as was the number of Raiders killed. They credit this to Carlson’s ability to maneuver. The Raiders killed 25 enemy troops for every Raider killed.

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When William Lansford and the other members of the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion were in New Zealand he was walking down the street one day when he saw a taxi cab. He thought it was strange because the cabs ran on coal because they did not have any gasoline. The cabs backfired frequently and when that happened one day Lansford looked back and noticed that all of his friends had disappeared. The civilians present looked at them like they were crazy. After returning to New Caledonia Carlson [Annotators Note: US Marine Corps Brigadier general Evans Fordyce Carlson] was relieved. The Raider battalions were united into a Raider regiment. A GI colonel, Shapley [Annotators Note: USMC Lt. General Alan Shapley], who thought Raiders were a waste of time took over after Carlson was sent up to a non combat staff job. Carlson was a brilliant strategist. Carlson was wounded when he ran out under enemy fire to help a wounded radio operator. That wound never healed properly and eventually killed him. Lansford made corporal after the battle of Guadalcanal. He feels like he was just a small cog in a big war. He feels insignificant compared with guys like Carlson, Jimmy Roosevelt [Annotators Note: US Marine Corps Reserve Brigadier General James Roosevelt II], Yancy [Annotators Note: US Marine Corps Captain John H. Yancy], and others. There was a lot of anger when Shapley took over. When he told the Raiders that they were now going to have a chance to be real Marines they were ready to throw a boot at him. Lansford is still very bitter and has bad feelings toward him. At that time Lansford started looking for a way to get out of the outfit but ended up staying. Eventually the Raiders became the new 4th Marine Regiment, the old China Marines. They had one campaign under Shapley’s command, Bougainville. To Lansford, Bougainville was a very dull campaign. By that time they had received a lot of replacements because the Raiders had really been worn out. Lansford’s number two guy was a replacement from New Jersey named Sal Giamanco [Annotators Note: unsure of spelling]. He was later shot through the lung on Okinawa. The fighting on Bougainville was more costly than many people think. Lansford has never seen an uglier place. It was smelly, swampy, and just all around horrible. They would push the Japanese back a ways then the Japanese would stop and fight. At night Washing Machine Charlie [Annotators Note: Washing Machine Charlie was the nickname given to any lone Japanese aircraft that would fly over the Marines' positions at night and drop a single bomb which usually did little more than keep the Marines awake at night] came by. Lansford lost a friend on Bougainville. The man had been shot in the stomach and it took him all night to die. He was an 18 year old kid.

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After Bougainville William Lansford went back to the United States. He was a high point guy. Back in the United States he got a 30 day furlough but Lansford came back to a United States that was different than the United States he left. People constantly asked him what his decorations were for. He finally got tired of it and, 20 days into his 30 day furlough, he took a bus back to Camp Pendleton. At Camp Pendleton Lansford reported to his new unit, the 5th Division [Annotators Note: 5th Marine Division]. They were about to start training for their next campaign, Iwo [Annotators Note: Iwo Jima]. At Camp Pendleton Lansford met John Basilone. Lansford was Basilone's new corporal. After meeting Basilone Lansford realized who he was. It was hard for him to tell at first because Basilone was such an easy going guy and was not a huge figure. Every weekend Basilone and Lansford would go to Los Angeles and take over a whole floor of the Biltmore Hotel and would spend the weekend getting drunk. That is what they did until they went to Iwo and that was the end of John Basilone. When Lansford returned to Pendleton he was a section leader. Training with Basilone was an honor to Lansford. Basilone treated Lansford like an equal. When Basilone died one of the guys who was a witness to his death had been a cook at Pendleton. He had watched the guys training around the barracks and wanted to be a machine gunner. Marines always rehearse the landings they were about to make. They would even go so far as to chalk off the fields they would be landing on. When Lansford was a child and trying to get acquainted with the English language he would check out adventure books. He also played games with his brother and other kids where they would track little rabbits through empty fields. When he got to Guadalcanal he volunteered to be a scout. By that time he had learned to determine the age of a track and the type of track. It was fun for him to work with the natives. He learned a lot from them. Eventually it got to the point where the company commander began relying on him. This went into his record and he was eventually called up and told that he was being transferred to field intelligence but he remained a machine gunner. When he got back to Pendleton he was told that he had been transferred to regimental headquarters. Lansford liked the idea but missed the guys. Eventually someone took his place and he was no longer one of Basilone’s boys, which had been a big honor in the camp.

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William Lansford was attached to the 27th Regiment [Annotators Note: Headquarters, 27th Marine Regiment, 5th Marine Division] Field Intelligence as a gopher for Col. Wornham [Annotators Note: US Marine Corps Colonel Thomas Andrews Wornham], the regimental commander. Lansford’s main job was to go out to the front lines with a map and plot out where they were on that day. He would then go back and confer with the colonel. Colonel Wornham was a marvelous man. Lansford was also responsible for protecting the regimental command post with his machinegun section. Lansford would sometimes go out on reconnaissance with his men, looking for snipers. The Japanese would hide in holes then pop up and shoot at the Marines after they passed by. Another of Lansford’s jobs was to take out patrols. Sometimes he would act as a scout for patrols from other units and sometimes he would take out his own guys. One time the colonel told Lansford to go to the other side of the island to see what was out there and bring him back a canteen full of water from the other side. Lansford went out and saw a very tall Marine who was about 20 years old. The other Marine had a bunch of guys with him and they were out doing the same thing Lansford was doing, looking for snipers. The Marine told Lansford that he and his guys were going to move up ahead and that Lansford should join him. Each of them had ten men so they now had a 20 man patrol. Nothing happened during the patrol. They each got a canteen of water from the other side and brought it back to the colonel. On another occasion Lansford led his guys to as place where enemy activity had been reported. As they were moving through a ditch to avoid land mines a Japanese soldier jumped up and threw a hand grenade at Lansford and his guys. Lansford and his men hit the deck and waited but nothing happened. Suddenly the Japanese soldier jumped up again, this time with two grenades. Lansford’s second in command, Corporal Marshall, who they called Nose, told him that the next time that Japanese soldier jumped up he was going to shoot him. Lansford did not wait. He charged the enemy soldier with his carbine. When Lansford tried to switch his carbine to automatic he accidentally hit the magazine release. The clip from Lansford’s carbine fell out right in front of the enemy soldier and Lansford men who laughed heartily. Lansford then pulled his pistol and fired several rounds at the Japanese soldier but missed. That was Lansford’s most embarrassing war experience.

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Basilone [Annotators Note: Medal of Honor recipient John Basilone] and his guys went ashore in the third wave. William Lansford landed on Iwo Jima in the fifth wave with regimental headquarters. Since there were not enough tractors they had to transfer to an LST [Annotators Note: Landing Ship, Tank]. When the tractors became available they transferred to them and went ashore. Lansford clearly recalls hearing the battleships firing their 14 inch guns. The island was smoking but to Lansford everything seemed peaceful. Lansford and his guys found ways to entertain themselves while they were in the tractors. At one point they were able to see the 14 inch shells passing over them. From the tractors it appeared as if not much was going on but when Lansford hit the beach he saw how chaotic things actually were. Everybody was mixed up. Lansford only had a pistol and a tripod when he landed. He did not know where his men were. He did manage to gather one or two and then started climbing the sand tiers off the beach. Lansford could see jeeps stalling and some turning over trying to get up the tier and off the beach. When Lansford got off the beach he was glad to be out of the sand. Lansford saw a lot of guys lying on the ground and realized that it was the new guys. Some of the veterans including Lansford went up and down the line kicking these kids in the ass and getting them up and moving. The kids had been trained well and responded to the actions of the veterans. After kicking these kids in the butt, Lansford started moving toward Motoyama Field. Motoyama Field was raised and there were machinegun holes just below the level of the field. There were dead Japanese in the machine gun holes. At about this time it started raining. It had been raining off and on. Lansford ran into a bunch of guys covered with powder burns [Annotators Note: Lansford had encountered a group of Marines who had been killed by an artillery or mortar round]. Another Marine told him that one of the bodies was John Basilone. Lansford had not recognized him. Basilone and his machine gunners had all shaved their heads before they landed on Iwo Jima. Since he did not have any hair his helmet did not fit him anymore. Lansford could not see Basilone’s pack although some guys did see it. Basilone was lying on his back and his body was hunched over the pack. His head was back and his helmet was off. Basilone was not killed the way people say he was. He was hit in the groin by a mortar shell. A cook who had watched the machinegun team train and wanted to join them [Annotators Note: during their training back at Camp Pendleton] was the guy who picked John up the next day. Lansford went to visit Basilone in the cemetery. Basilone’s grave was number 42 or 41. That was the last time he saw John. He [Annotators Note: the cook who picked up Basilone’s body] told Lansford that he had seen John from a distance moving around signaling to his guys to assemble on him. If Lansford had not been transferred he would have been with Basilone. He had just finished clearing out a cave. Lansford later went into the cave and saw the bodies of two dead Japanese in there. When Basilone came out of the cave he signaled for his guys to come to him and that is when a shell landed and killed a bunch of them.

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To William Lansford all campaigns had goofy things happen. The first time he went out by himself he had been warned of snipers. He turned a corner and saw a Marine Corps shoe and a legging. When he took a closer look he saw that there was a severed leg in it. Lansford was on Iwo Jima for the whole campaign. He was wounded on 15 March by fragments from a Japanese mortar round. After being hit he walked back to the aid station which was a couple thousand yards away. At the aid station the corpsman got his name then took a look at his hands and back. He then cleaned Lansford’s wounds. His wounds were light so after the corpsman cleaned and dressed his wounds, Lansford returned to his unit. A couple months later a parade was held in Hawaii on an old football field. A First Sergeant told Lansford to get his uniform on and get down on the field. He went down and had a Purple Heart Medal pinned on him by a general. Lansford felt bad about getting the Purple Heart. He did not feel that he should have gotten it. Lansford and the First Sergeant did not like each other. They were both bucking for a field commission. The First Sergeant got the commission. Later they went to Sasebo, Japan. The sergeant told him that the company commander wanted him to take a patrol out to recon a specific area. The sergeant told him to take a weasel [Annotators Note: M-29 amphibious cargo carrier, known as the weasel, was a tracked transport vehicle] to transport his men on the patrol. Lansford was told that if he floated the weasel he would be in trouble. They saw a Japanese battleship that had been left over from the Russian war [Annotators Note: the Russo-Japanese War] from 1904 in an inlet. They also found about 1,000 suicide torpedo boats and some big caves lined with copper that were full of ammunition and bombs. Lansford kept a log of everything he found. When they entered a small inlet they were approached by a navy patrol boat. The sailors aboard asked the Marines if they wanted some ice cream. Lansford’s men talked him into floating the weasel out to the navy patrol boat. They made it there fine and got their ice cream but on the way back Lansford saw the First Sergeant standing onshore staring at him. The sergeant’s face was bright red. He shook his head and motioned for Lansford to come to him. He told Lansford that he was going to be court marshaled the following day and was going to lose his stripes. The next morning Lansford put on his uniform and packed his sea bag. He was waiting to be called for the court martial when he heard an announcement stating that those Marines named were to report to the street in front of the company commander’s tent. The first name called was Lansford’s. He thought that this was it. When Lansford got there he was told that he was the high point man in the battalion and that he and the other Marines whose names had been called were going back to the United States. Lansford had 184 or so points. Lansford got on a duck [Annotators Note: DUKW amphibious truck, also known as a duck]. This was the second time Lansford had been saved from a court martial by being called out. That was the end of the war for Lansford. He went home.
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