Growing Up and Joining the Marines

Comrades

Preparing for Okinawa

Doing What You Were Trained To Do

Civilians Casualties and the Front Lines

Light Wounds and Bad Decisions

After the War

First Time Under Fire

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Dale LeBlanc was born in Lafayette, Louisiana and grew up like most every other American boy during the depression. They were fortunate in that his father was a mechanic who worked for the State and was able to keep his job throughout the depression years. They did not have much but they were better off than some. Some of his family members who were farmers, like his father's sister, had it bad. She and her husband lost their farm and had to move into Lafayette where he went to work as a janitor at Southwestern University there. It was not only his family who had hard times. LeBlanc did not realize until later how hard the times had been. When he was a kid they did not eat lunch at school. They went home to eat. The kids who worked on farms outside of town would have to bring their lunch with them. LeBlanc remembers seeing some of the farm boys bringing a baked sweet potato for lunch. LeBlanc was an only child. LeBlanc remembers the day the war started. He and a friend were out hunting and when he returned home his folks told him that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. He did not know where Pearl Harbor was. LeBlanc has never seen this country come together as one like it did then. LeBlanc was 15 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and still had a year or two left of high school. He wanted to join the Marine Corps but his father refused to sign for him until he had taken a semester or two of college. After his first semester he enlisted in the Marine Corps. He enlisted in December 1943 and started boot camp in the early part of 1944. LeBlanc does not know why he chose the Marine Corps. He had older members of his family who served. One of them was a paratrooper who jumped the night before D-Day in Normandy. Others went into the Army and Navy. His friend went into the Marine Corps. LeBlanc's parents hated to see him go.

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Dale LeBlanc went to boot camp in San Diego. Marines who went to boot camp in San Diego were referred to as Hollywood Marines. After boot camp LeBlanc got a leave. He was in communications working with radios and telephones. LeBlanc met a guy named Rick Fredrickson [Annotator's Note: unsure of spelling] from Marshalltown, Iowa which was a completely different culture than that of southern Louisiana. LeBlanc and Fredrickson ended up at Camp Pendleton together and became very good friends. They did everything together while they were in the United States but were split up when they shipped out. LeBlanc went to the 6th Marine Division and Fredrickson went to the 1st Marine Division. After that, LeBlanc lost touch with him. Then, during the floods in Iowa in the late 1980s or early 1990s, LeBlanc saw a map of Iowa on the television and remembered that his friend was from Marshalltown. He contacted the local operator in Marshalltown and told her his problem and she agreed to get his friend's telephone number for him. LeBlanc called the number the operator gave him and got in touch with his old friend. They had both ended up on Okinawa. Fredrickson had been wounded and while he was in the hospital he asked a guy from LeBlanc's unit about him and the man told him that LeBlanc had been killed at Naha. Fredrickson looked for LeBlanc's grave at the 6th Marine Division cemetery but could not find it. Leblanc and Fredrickson stayed in touch and visited each other after reconnecting. LeBlanc joined the 22nd Marine Regiment on Guadalcanal. That was part of the 6th Marine Division. His unit was made up of a bunch of older guys who had been in combat before. LeBlanc was as green as could be. He was only 17 or 18 years old at the time. LeBlanc got close with about six other Marines from his platoon. Three of the group got killed on Okinawa. The other four made it home and stayed in touch with each other after the war. The other three have died since then. LeBlanc is the only one left. LeBlanc was fortunate being with guys who had been in combat before. Some of them had been in two campaigns already. They had been in the Marshalls and on Guam. Okinawa was the worst one. It took them 82 or 83 days to take it. When LeBlanc joined the veteran Marines he had to prove himself. They trained together. One of them, Frank Remus, handled the fear better than a lot of the others. Combat was not a fraternity party.

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Dale LeBlanc joined his unit [Annotator's Note: 22nd Marine Regiment, 6th Marine Division] on Guadalcanal in August 1944. They invaded Okinawa on 1 April 1945. The months between were spent training. When they left Guadalcanal they went straight to Okinawa. The 6th Marine Division was the only Marine division to be formed overseas and be disbanded overseas. After Okinawa they went to Guam to prepare for the invasion of Japan but the war ended before that happened. LeBlanc ended up in Tsingtao, China after the war. Every line company and platoon officer had a radioman with him. There was also a telephone man who laid wire between companies and platoons. In combat, LeBlanc was a runner and spent much of his time at the observation post with Company B. He was up front during many firefights but was not on the line constantly. The guys on the line really had it bad. On the voyage to Okinawa they were warned that it would be a terrible landing and that they would lose a lot of people during the landings. They were surprised when they landed and there was almost no resistance. The real surprise came when they went inland. That was when all hell broke loose. There were 110,000 to 115,000 Japanese troops on Okinawa who had been preparing a defensive line. LeBlanc was not on Sugarloaf Hill. He was to the west of it. The guys who hit Sugarloaf lost a lot of men because it was so heavily defended. During the ride to the beach LeBlanc was very scared. One of the guys made a comment to lighten things up. They hit the beach and quickly moved inland. They captured an airfield on the first day then continued to move inland.

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The first day Dale LeBlanc was ashore on Okinawa [Annotator's Note: LeBlanc landed on Okinawa on 1 April 1945] they only had a few little skirmishes but nothing serious. The first time LeBlanc came under fire was at night. Fortunately, he was with Frank Remus. They were on the northern end of the island and had entered a little farming village. Before it got dark they spotted 15 or 20 Japanese soldiers. LeBlanc and Remus were ordered to dig in on the road. At night only one man slept, or tried to sleep, at a time. That night was very dark. There was no moon. It was LeBlanc's turn to sleep and he was lying down when Remus spotted the enemy soldiers. They were only a few feet away from their position. Remus opened fire and was soon joined by fire from the Marines in the position next to theirs. The Japanese soldiers moved back. LeBlanc was scared. The Japanese had to smack their grenades on their helmet, rock or other hard surface to arm them. LeBlanc and Remus could hear the enemy soldiers arming grenades and throwing them at them. After 20 or 30 minutes, Remus told LeBlanc that they had to get out of their position because the Japanese knew where they were. They ran to a little grove of trees and stayed there. Throughout the night the Marines and Japanese threw grenades at each other. When the sun came up, LeBlanc could see four or five guys lying in the grove of threes. Remus told LeBlanc that they were going to go around them but after going only a few feet the enemy soldiers in the grove fired at them. They hit the ground for a moment then went into the grove and killed the Japanese soldiers in there. During the event LeBlanc was scared to death but acted on his instinct and training. Boot camp had taught him discipline. LeBlanc got to the base [Annotator's Note: Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego] at night and a bus picked him and the others up and brought them to a barracks where they were told to pick a bunk and rack out. The DIs [Annotator's Note: drill instructors] ran them through the paces and were very tough on the recruits. Discipline was drilled into them. One thing they had to contend with in boot camp was little sand flies. One recruit slapped a sand fly while they were standing in formation. A DI saw him and decided to hold a funeral service for the dead sand fly.

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[Annotator's Note: Dale LeBlanc served in the USMC as a runner in the 22nd Marine Regiment, 6th Marine Division. He took part in the Battle of Okinawa and served occupation duty in Tsingtao, China after the war.] On Okinawa, they ran into more civilians than they had ever encountered before. The civilians had been told that the Marines raped women and that they would eat them. The civilians were frightened of the Marines. Instead of coming out during the day, the civilians came out and night and tried to move from place to place. Unfortunately, anything that moved at night was fired on by the Marines in their fighting positions. Many of the civilians were killed that way. It was terrible. After the Marines realized what was happening, they made more of an effort to provide a place for the civilians to sleep and eat. By the time they got to the end of the island, civilian men and women would commit suicide with their children because they were afraid of what the Marines would do to them. The real fighting was on the south side of Okinawa. LeBlanc's unit had gone north and cleaned out that end of the island then went south where they replaced an Army division. When they got to the front lines in the southern part of the island the fighting got very bad. The problem with Sugarloaf Hill was that there were hills surrounding it and there were Japanese troops on all of them. LeBlanc believes that the unit that took Sugarloaf Hill suffered 2,000 to 2,400 casualties, including lieutenant colonels and colonels being killed which usually did not happen. Being a runner, LeBlanc was not always on the front lines. That bothered him. He would have preferred to be on the line where he had other Marines around him. When he would move around on his own he was always being fired on by Japanese snipers. One time, he had gone up to Company B and was on his way back when a Nambu light machine gun opened fire on him. LeBlanc ran as fast as he could and dove into a shell hole. He stayed in the hole for 15 or 20 minutes then made a run for a grove of trees nearby. It was scary. The other people around LeBlanc helped him handle the almost constant fear. The Marines with him never let him down and he had no intentions of letting them down either. They were all in the same boat. In May [Annotator's Note: May 1945] it rained for 11 or 12 days straight. Jeeps and tanks could not move. When they dug a hole, they would be lying in a pool of water. In addition to the rain, Okinawa was much cooler than Guadalcanal had been. To make matters worse, they were constantly wet. LeBlanc was not on Sugarloaf Hill but knew several guys who were and they had it bad.

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Dale LeBlanc had been through Naha many times as a runner. Every time he went through there snipers would shoot at him. One night they dug in there. When John Kerry was running for president, LeBlanc got a call from his friend Frank Remus. LeBlanc and Remus talked about the elections and about one night while they were in Naha. They were dug in that night when the Japanese started dropping mortars on them. On guy was hit in the back. Remus and LeBlanc both got some scratches. When LeBlanc was hit he did not even realize it because his adrenaline was pumping so much. LeBlanc did not go to the aid station but later he wished he had. He would have had more points toward going home if he had a Purple Heart Medal. As they got closer to the southern end of the island things began to quiet down. In the Pacific there was more Japanese artillery on Okinawa than on any other island. One day, at an observation post, the battalion commander, three company commanders, LeBlanc's good friend who was a radio operator and several other Marines were going over their plans for the next attack. A Japanese forward artillery observer spotted them and called in an artillery strike on the position and killed them all.

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When Dale LeBlanc heard the news that the battle [Annotator's Note: Battle of Okinawa] was over he was relieved. One day, near the end of the battle, LeBlanc looked down the road and saw a Marine walking toward them. It turned out to be a guy LeBlanc knew from high school. The man had a pint of whiskey with him so they all had a few drinks. After the war, whenever LeBlanc's friend saw him in Lafayette he would ask him if he remembered that day. After Okinawa, Leblanc went to Guam to begin training for the invasion of Japan. One night he was in his tent when he heard a noise that steadily got louder. When the noise got close to him he realized what it was. The war was over. Someone had gotten the word and they were outside shooting their rifles in the air. The next day or so, all of the older guys were shipped back home. LeBlanc had only been overseas for about 20 months and had only fought in one operation and did not have enough points to go home. Within a couple weeks they were shipped to Tsingtao, China. The weather went from hot to cold. There were women in Tsingtao which was something that the LeBlanc and his fellow Marines had not seen in a long time. They visited many of the brothels and restaurants. None of them had had fresh eggs, milk or salad in a long time. Some of it they stayed away from in China because the Chinese farmers used human feces to fertilize their crops. Still, it was nice for the Marines to be able to sit in a restaurant and eat steak and eggs and drink a cup of coffee. China was also where LeBlanc learned to drink vodka. There were a lot of White Russians in Tsingtao. After the revolution in Russia a lot of White Russians moved to China. One White Russian family owned a bar and restaurant. LeBlanc became friends with them and would eat and drink there frequently. LeBlanc had arrived in Tsingtao in September [Annotator's Note: September 1945] and returned to the United States around March [Annotator's Note: 1946]. When LeBlanc got off the boat the Red Cross cross was there giving out donuts and fresh milk. It was the first time LeBlanc had had milk in two years. When it was time for them to be discharged they were asked to sign up for the Marine Reserves. LeBlanc declined and was glad he did. Many of the guys he knew were called up for the Korean War. LeBlanc was only 19 years old when he got home from the war. He loves the Marine Corps but does not want to carry an M1 [Annotator's Note: .30 caliber M1 rifle, also referred to as the M1 Garrand] again. LeBlanc was initially unsure about being interviewed but the interviewer made him feel at ease.

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