Early Life and Joining the Marines



Return to New Caledonia

Bougainville then Back to the US

Family and Postwar Life


Joining the Raiders and Trip to New Zealand

Some Bad Times


Bad Memories from Guadalcanal


Landing on Tulagi

Patrol on Guadalcanal

Guard Duty in Norfolk, Virginia


Claude Shannahan was named for three of his dad's brothers who had died of pneumonia in Canada. Shannahan was born in August 1921. He is a naturalized American citizen through his parents who were both Canadian. Shannahan was born in Halifax, Canada and moved to the United States in 1922. He went to school at McKenzie High School in Detroit but left school in 10th Grade and moved to Ferndale, Michigan. He was living in Ferndale when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Shannahan joined the Marines with two of his buddies. They ended up at Parris Island for boot camp training. He was shipped to Quantico and came across the Marine Raider Battalion. Shannahan's unit was shipped out to San Diego in April 1942 by train. He spent three days in San Diego before sailing for Samoa. Shannahan never had a problem with seasickness but many others did. They set up shop on the main island of Tutuila. The Samoan natives provided a bit of a culture shock for Shannahan as he expected to see people that looked like Dorothy Lamour [Annotator's Note: Dorothy Lamour was a well known actress of the 1940s who often played exotic roles]. Shanahan remembers Samoan children greeting the arriving Marines by singing the song You Are My Sunshine. Shannahan had never left the country before arriving on Samoa. He ended up in a boxing match on Samoa and was hurt in the first round.


Claude Shannahan left Samoa for New Caledonia and from there shipped out to Tulagi aboard the USS Little (APD-4), an old destroyer. He went over the side on a rope ladder into a Higgins boat. Shannahan was an assistant BAR [Annotator's note: Browning Automatic Rifle] operator at the time. Hank de Boer was the main operator. Shannahan and his squad headed to the beach. The Higgins boat gunner would toss used shells over his shoulder. One of the used shells landed on Hank and burned him on the belly. This humorous moment helped to calm Shannahan down. They hit a reef and everyone jumped out. Shannahan sunk ten feet after jumping over and it took all of his energy just making it to the surface. Shannahan staggered to the beach and found Hank. Shannahan started feeling something biting him and realized that he had run into a banana tree and that numerous ants had gotten in his clothes. He tried to get the ants off while under fire. On the second day they were up on the highest point of Tulagi and saw a submarine breaching just off shore. They started shooting mortars at the Japanese submarine and the Japanese were so confused by the fire that they immediately surrendered. They had to burn the dead bodies to get rid of the smell.


Claude Shannahan left Tulagi and boarded the USS Colhoun (APD-2) on the way to Guadalcanal. They had just gotten into the Higgins boat when a Japanese bomber sank the Colhoun. The first thing Shannahan saw upon landing were two planes shooting at one another above Guadalcanal. The bullets started hitting the sand and Shannahan and his unit [Annotator's Note: Company A, 1st Marine Raider Battalion] quickly got off the beach. They went on a patrol towards the Matanikau River. His patrol followed Major Bailey [Annotator's Note: USMC Major Kenneth D. Bailey]. The patrol was stopped by some snipers and Major Bailey was killed during this attack. Several days later Shannahan's platoon, under the command of Sgt. Frank Guidone [Annotator's Note: Frank Guidone's oral history interview is also present on this website], was sent to try and make contact with the Japanese. The patrol found the Japanese but avoided contact. On the way back, Japanese bombers started attacking Henderson Airfield. The Japanese pilots panicked in the face of fire from the airfield and some dropped their bombs early, nearly on top of Shannahan's patrol. The patrol returned to base and found out that the man who had earlier flipped a coin with Guidone on who would lead the patrol and lost, a man named Floder, was killed by the bombing. Shannahan met Lou Diamond [Annotator's Note: Master Gunnery Sergeant Leland Diamond] of the 3rd Marines [Annotator's Note: 3rd Marine Regiment]. Shannahan’s unit went to the Matanikau and lost their heavy weapons squad. Shannahan was between the two engagements and missed the two scenes of fighting. He never got hurt on Guadalcanal but knew many guys who were killed or wounded on the island. Several days later Shannahan's Company A was on the side of a ridge. The Japanese attacked from the river and the shooting began. Shannahan couldn't see anything from his position but the men of Company D faced heavy fire. Shannahan credits Colonel Edson [Annotator's Note: Colonel Merritt A. Edson, also known as Red Mike, commanded the 1st Marine Raider Battalion] with saving Henderson Field as necessary to saving the ridge.


Claude Shannahan’s unit [Annotator's Note: Company A, 1st Marine Raider Battalion] was relieved and shipped to New Caledonia [Annotator's Note: after combat operations on Guadalcanal]. A feud with a sergeant gave Shannahan galley duty. He spent several days cleaning pots before a cook asked him if he would rather be a cook. Shannahan agreed and trained for about a week. In New Caledonia the battalion had a show one night and some movie stars were there. On the way back from the show some Marines gave the cooks some beers. Early the next morning Shannahan and the cooks try to get some more beer. They got three cases from the supply dump but the supply officer found it and put Shannahan's friend Elbe [Annotator's Note: unsure of spelling] up for a court martial. Shannahan was asked to be a witness. His friend asked him to talk to Lieutenant Herring and ask him to be his lawyer. Shannahan lied throughout the court martial proceedings and eventually it worked. The court martial was dropped. After the case was dropped, the supply officer was livid and promised that he would nail Shannahan to the wall. Several days later, however, the supply officer was caught engaging in homosexual activity and was quickly removed from the regiment, sparing Shannahan. Later on, while making coffee Shannahan was trying to take the massive 50 gallon pot off the fire. He got another guy to help him carry it but the other guy let go of the handle when some steam burned his hand. All the boiling water hit Shannahan, essentially boiling his feet and lower legs. Shannahan spent six or eight weeks on a hospital ship. While recovering, Shannahan's battalion was shipped out to New Georgia. Once he recovered, Shannahan was sent to join a replacement battalion in New Zealand.


Claude Shannahan joined the 3rd Marines [Annotator's Note: 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division]. He went with the 3rd Marines to Bougainville. He met an officer there named Captain Schmuck who was widely disliked by his men. They had difficulty obtaining supplies while on Bougainville. A supply error had given Shannahan's platoon more clothes than they were supposed to receive and Shannahan was called back to the supply depot to return the excess. Shannahan had already passed out the clothes. He refused to return the clothes saying he had already passed them out. The supply officer told him that he would get Shannahan for it eventually. The next day, Shannahan told Captain Schmuck about the problem and Schmuck took care of it. Shanahan also tried to teach the still green 3rd Marines about his experiences but didn't get very far. Shannahan asked Captain Schmuck for a promotion to Corporal and Schmuck made it happen. The 3rd Marines didn't see much combat on Bougainville. One time, however, a shell detonated quite close to some Marines and one of them ended up shell shocked. Shannahan was forced to slap some sense into the replacement to get him to move. Shannahan recalled getting the idea from watching another Marine while on the way to Guadalcanal. While at general quarters, Shannahan witnessed a Marine start to lose it who was knocked out by a fellow Marine to keep the rest of the ship calm. After leaving Bougainville, the 3rd Marines were sent back to Guadalcanal. Shannahan recalls several Marines complaining because they had contracted elephantitis [Annotator's Note: Shannahan means elephantiasis]. The doctors decided to send those displaying symptoms home for treatment and Shannahan lied to the doctors in order to be sent home too. Shannahan was sent back to Camp Lejeune. He then spent a year doing guard duty in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Veterans replaced noncombat guards. The Pacific veterans didn't know how to keep their uniforms neat and their cockiness wore on the stateside guards. Shannahan was sent to Norfolk, Virginia to work guard duty. He had to parade eight guys to the galley. He was once locked up with his own prisoners. He got caught with his girlfriend and was arrested. The arresting officer accidentally shot Shannahan's girlfriend in the foot. Shannahan tried to punch the MP and was arrested for resisting arrest. He was transferred back to Camp Lejeune. While at Camp Lejeune the Marines were preparing to land on Iwo Jima. The Marine brass wanted to send Shannahan to Iwo Jima but his false diagnosis of filariasis saved him [Annotator's Note: Filariasis is another name of Elephantiasis]. He knew some of the Raiders that landed on Iwo Jima and ended up going all the way to Japan. Shannahan counts himself as fortunate.


Claude Shannahan got out of the Marine Corps and returned to Mount Clemens, Michigan. His father owned a bar and Shanahan went to work in it. Shannahan figured that bartending was the best career for him because it allowed him to get drunk for free. Shannahan also spent several years in sales. He started a business but it went bust within a year. He worked for Chrysler for 32 years and has been retired for 27 years. Shannahan married a lady from Mount Clemens and had five children, three boys and two girls. One son was killed in action aboard the USS Saint Paul (CA-73) during the Vietnam War. Another son was drafted into Vietnam and was awarded a Silver Star. His third son manages a CVS. The two girls are married with children. Shannahan now pitches horseshoes to keep himself busy. He started when he was 65. He quit drinking, joined Alcoholics Anonymous, and met a guy who introduced him to horseshoes. Had played horseshoes before as a kid, but became quite good at it later in life. Shannahan has gone to 12 world horseshoe tournaments and competed against the best in the world. He competed in Greenville, Ohio in 1999 against Walter Ray Williams who was ranked number one in the world. Shannahan's first match was against Williams. He had already lost to him once in Columbus, Ohio. Shannahan entered the tournament for a rematch. Shannahan knocked off Williams in the preliminaries. Once the finals began, Shannahan had to play Williams again. Shannahan beat Williams but couldn't get by the other competitors. Shannahan is still very proud about facing off with the best horseshoe pitcher in the world and beating him. Shannahan has stopped playing horseshoes but remains active by playing golf and bowling. Shannahan considers himself to be something of a gigolo at age 87. He went into Tulagi on his 21st birthday. He remains spiritual to this day and still thanks God for help getting through the war and for staying sober for 42 years. Shannahan's wife died five years prior to this oral history interview.


Claude Shannahan lives in Harrison Township. He draws a pension from Chrysler but worries how long that will last with the current state of Chrysler. He fears that a depression will come about if the auto industry doesn't rebound. Shannahan likes to brag that the Automotive Worker's Union [Annotator's Note: United Autoworker's Union] has raised the standard of living of the entire country by getting people retirement benefits. Shannahan sees the rich as trying to break the union. Shannahan is staunchly pro union. He remembers living through the Great Depression. His family lost their brand new home and moved into a small cottage.


Claude Shannahan joined the Raiders because he wasn't tall enough to be a paratrooper and because he liked the name. He shipped out to Quantico to join the Raiders and never saw his friends again. Shannahan went to a meeting commemorating the Marine Corps and ran into a Marine vet who spent the entire war in Ireland. This vet knew both of Shannahan's friends who spent the entire war without raising a gun. There was animosity between the two Raider battalions. The California battalion was commanded by Jimmy Roosevelt [Annotator's Note: James Roosevelt II, the oldest son of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was second in command of the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion] and the Quantico battalion by Red Mike [Annotator's Note: USMC Colonel Merritt A. Edson, also known as Red Mike, commanded the 1st Marine Raider Battalion]. Shannahan thought Edson was a very private man but he was a very good leader. They headed into Tasimboko. Shannahan was given a message to give to Edson. Edson told Shannahan to stay low and a moment later a bullet knocked Edson's medical pack off. Shannahan greatly admired Major Bailey [Annotator's Note: USMC Major Kenneth D. Bailey commanded Company C, 1st Marine Raider Battalion]. Tom Mullahy was Shannahan's platoon leader who was a newscaster after the end of the war but died a drunk. They went to New Zealand after Guadalcanal. Edson made a deal with a Navy captain named MacCauley [Annotator's Note: unsure of spelling]. MacCauley took the Raiders to shore and the Raiders scraped the barnacles off of his ship. The Raiders spent two weeks in Wellington, New Zealand doing the cleanup work. Shannahan got a one day pass while in Wellington and went to a small town called Palmerston North and met a girl who had never seen an American. She was babysitting and Shannahan tried to chat her up. He talked with her for a while but never saw her again. In Wilmington, Shannahan went to the USO [Annotator's Note: United Service Organizations] and met a girl named Betty. Later, while recovering from his injuries, he met another guy on the ship who had also dated Betty. They decide to write her a letter with each using half of the page.


In Norfolk, Claude Shannahan met a WAVE [Annotator's Note: Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service] girl during a Marine Corps Birthday party. Shannahan got drunk around three o'clock in the afternoon. He was black out drunk and arranged a date with the girl for the following day. He was on duty for that time and went down out of uniform. He spent an hour or so at the watering hole across the street. He had to be back in by ten o'clock that evening and it was 9:30 when they headed back. The train was crossing in front of the gate. [Annotator's Note: At this point the phone rings and when the recording begins again the previous conversation ends abruptly. The interviewer then asks an entirely new question about Tulagi.] Tulagi was only about a mile in diameter. Shannahan was given a message to give to his company commander, York. He had to crawl on his belly for 30 yards. [Annotator's Note: Shannahan talks to his cat for a second.] The three worst moments for Shannahan were when he hit the shore, when the Japanese submarine came into the harbor and when the seamen of the supply ship went on strike. This forced the Marines to offload the supply ship. While they were unloading the ship someone spotted a case of figs. Shannahan and a friend stole a can. Shannahan missed most of the action on Tulagi but saw a lot of action on Guadalcanal at Lunga Point and Henderson Field. He witnessed some dogfights while he was on Guadalcanal. Shannahan had two buddies named Fornier and Hunt and the three decided to write a poem which had to be censored by the company commander. Shannahan has had little contact with the other Raiders outside of reunions and Marine Corps birthdays.


Claude Shannahan and his unit went to Vallejo, California while waiting for transfer papers to go on furlough. Shanahan and a guy named Ferguson went ashore to buy a bottle of booze and met a couple of girls. The four went to a show and when Shannahan reached for his wallet the bottle fell out and broke. Shanahan went around looking for place to buy another bottle of liquor. It took an hour before he could get back to the show. By the time he got back he couldn't find his friends so he just sat down with a group of strangers and spent the rest of the night with them. The next day he went back to the base and made a date with a girl for the following day. Shannahan spent a week with this girl in Vallejo before his transfer papers to Pennsylvania came through. Shanahan got sick and went to see a doctor in Chicago. The doctor told Shanahan that he had gonorrhea. Shannahan had to lay off the alcohol and the women. The doctor in Pennsylvania tested him and concluded that he didn't have gonorrhea but Shannahan had already written an angry letter to the woman in Vallejo blaming her for giving him the clap. After being given a clean bill of health Shannahan went to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and continued doing what he had been doing since landed back on American shores.


Claude Shannahan's worst memories from Guadalcanal were largely from Bloody Ridge. With the Japanese approaching from the rear and Japanese ships pounding the ridge it was hard to know what was happening. Shannahan didn't see very much but could hear everything. His company [Annotator's Note: Company A, 1st Marine Raider Battalion] was sent to relieve Company D but by the time they arrived the action was over. Another bad experience on Guadalcanal was the patrol that Frank Guidone [Annotator's Note: Frank Guidone's oral history interview is also available on this website] led, with the bombs falling around them. Digging into the ridge wasn't too bad but the shovels were very small. Another bad memory was the engagement along the Matanikau River where Major Bailey [Annotator's Note: USMC Major Kenneth D. Bailey commanded Company C, 1st Marine Raider Battalion] was killed by a sniper. One of Shannahan's platoon mates was slashed with a sword. The Matanikau River engagement was set in a horseshoe shape. The Japanese got in behind the Raiders and Company A bore the brunt of the Japanese attack. Shannahan can't really remember the second battle of the Matanikau. There was not as much action as there had been during the first trip down. [Annotator's Note: Several minutes of footage between the 1:45 minute mark and the 1:48 minute mark are heavily corrupted and impossible to understand.] Edson [Annotator's Note: USMC Colonel Merritt A. Edson, also known as Red Mike, commanded the 1st Marine Raider Battalion] got the other companies to help out during the Battle of Bloody Ridge. [Annotator's Note: Shannahan talks to his son Mike who just walked in.]


Claude Shannahan didn't meet any Paramarines at Bloody Ridge. They got beat up landing on Guadalcanal. The rations on Samoa for the Raiders were C rations from World War 1. The Raiders supplemented the rations with sardines bought from a grocery store on Samoa. After the war, in the 1980s during a horseshoe tournament in Michigan, Shannahan ran into a guy named Bob Hitt [Annotator's Note: unsure of spelling] who had once pitched on Shannahan's little league baseball team in 1935. Hitt had skipped the championship game in order to compete in a horseshoe tournament. Shannahan's team lost the game. After meeting him again in the 1980s Shannahan realized that Hitt had also been in the Marine Raiders, albeit in a different company. Hitt never had to fire a weapon, however, because his commanding officer used to bet on him playing horseshoes for money. Shannahan isn't certain how important studying World War 2 will be in the future. War has changed a great deal since he fought. Shannahan doubts that armies will be as important in the future. Shannahan does appreciate museums showing reverence as he sometimes resents it when no one but veterans show up to Marine Corps Birthday celebrations. Shannahan believes in continuing memorial celebrations for the veterans of World War 2, at least until they are all dead. Shannahan resents people who have never been in combat assuming they know anything about what war is like. Shannahan also resents President George W. Bush for getting the country into a war without ever experiencing what it is like to be shot at. Shannahan equates sitting for this oral history with sitting for confession in the Catholic Church. Shannahan sometimes wonders why God has allowed him to live so long.

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