From a Boy to a Marine

New Zealand

To Guadalcanal

Combat on Guadalcanal

Leaving Guadalcanal

Invasion of Tarawa

Combat on Tarawa

West Loch Disaster

Invasion of Saipan

Experience on Saipan

Securing Saipan

Tinian

A Very Dangerous Enemy

End of the War

Postwar Military Service

Conclusion

Deadly Patrol

Clearing Caves on Saipan

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Ira Schilling was born in June 1924 in Saratoga, Texas. His parents separated when he was very young and he moved to Shreveport, Louisiana with his mom. Like parents in most families, Schilling's mother worked various jobs in Shreveport when and where she could. Schilling's sister worked at a drug store and Schilling began working when he was about 12 years old. He worked a paper route, delivered packages to stores and performed other jobs during a time when almost everyone had to work. He was still a kid during the Great Depression and his family was on the poorer end of the economic spectrum, so his family worked for most everything they had. Schilling attended grammar school in Cedar Grove [Annotator's Note: a neighborhood in Shreveport] and worked as a delivery boy during his time outside of lessons. He delivered newspapers in the morning, journals in the afternoon and packages for the local drug store at night. Schilling was 16 years old when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor [Annotator's Note: on 7 December 1941], but had joined the US Marine Corps two months prior. He was on the Marine base in San Diego, California when the attack occurred that Sunday morning. He had graduated from boot camp the previous Friday. Schilling was about to leave the base and board a train for home when the initial reports of the attack sounded over the loudspeakers. The attack on Pearl Harbor immediately cancelled Schilling's leave and he would not return home to Shreveport for another three years. Schilling had joined the Marine Corps in October 1941, in pursuit of a long time dream to be a Marine. He also joined up knowing that the military could help him support his mother and siblings back home who were struggling financially. Schilling's mother had signed the paperwork that allowed him to join and Schilling told recruiters that he was 17 years old, the minimum age required to join. Schilling graduated from the last boot camp before the war. His uniform for boot camp was a World War 1 era uniform. Boot camp was difficult despite its peacetime setting. Schilling drilled, trained and marched in the soft San Diego sand. They trained until the recruits physically could not train any longer. The Marine DIs [Annotator's Note: Drill Instructors] were very hard on the recruits and did not hesitate to discipline the men even over the most insignificant things. Boot camp taught Schilling what true discipline was and taught him never to question orders. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Schilling's leave was cancelled and he reported back to the casual battalion headquarters. From there, Schilling and his fellow recruits gathered weapons and dug foxholes around San Diego Bay to guard against any possible Japanese attacks. The men remained in their foxholes for a few days before they were recalled and the individual Marines were divided up and deployed to various units.

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In the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Ira Schilling was sent to Camp Elliot, California where he joined Company L, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. After the attack, however, Schilling remained on base at the Marine Recruit Depot for a month or two before he received his orders. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, the 6th Marine Regiment was stationed in Iceland and was considered one of the most experienced regiments in the US Marine Corps. When the regiment returned to the United States, its experienced men were split up and shipped out to provide experience to other units. Then the 6th Marine Regiment was rebuilt with new recruits. Schilling joined the regiment as a rifleman and was shipped out to New Zealand with a forward platoon. The forward platoon went to New Zealand in order to set up tent camps and other facilities before the rest of the regiment arrived some two months later. The journey to New Zealand was Schilling's first time ever aboard a ship, which provided a whole new experience from anything he had done before. Schilling journeyed to New Zealand aboard the USS Matsonia. The ship went through an intense storm somewhere in the Pacific which exacerbated Schilling's seasickness. The ship was incredibly crowded with Marines, so much so that some men had to sleep on cots out on the deck. The ship was still fitted as a passenger ship from its prewar service, but no amenities of a passenger ship countered the bad weather. The men thoroughly liked New Zealand and New Zealand fell in love with the 2nd Marine Division. The New Zealanders were very friendly to the Americans since they saw them almost as defenders of their homes against the expanding Japanese Empire. Most of New Zealand's young men were in North Africa fighting the Germans, which built a sense of empathy between New Zealand's people and the young Marines. Schilling had just turned 17 when he arrived in New Zealand. His unit was sent to Wellington. It took a little while for the Americans to become accustomed to the New Zealand currency, language and society. The Marines trained rigorously in New Zealand and used the country's thick wooded areas to simulate the jungles of Guadalcanal. The Marines also marched up some of New Zealand's mountains and often were encouraged to go out in small groups and practice with their compasses to simulate some of the patrols that the men later did in combat. Schilling was first issued a Springfield 03 rifle in boot camp, and he carried that weapon all the way through Guadalcanal.

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Ira Schilling and the 6th Marine Regiment travelled from New Zealand to Guadalcanal on a hot and crowded military troopship. The ship stopped in a few harbors along the way, but the men were never allowed off the ship at any of the stops. By the time Schilling reached Guadalcanal, the battle had raged for some time. Schilling and his unit [Annotator's Note: Company L, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division] hit the beach unopposed near Henderson Field, the main airfield on the island. After landing, 6th Marines took the day to unload, but were sent to the front lines the very next day to relieve the 8th Marine Regiment. Guadalcanal was a beautiful place upon first sight. The beach was pristine and the area around Henderson Field was covered by dense jungle, but was open and pleasant. Once Schilling and his unit moved inland up to the front lines, however they became enveloped in thick jungle. Maneuvering through the jungle was very difficult and it was important that the men stay close together in order to keep contact. The density of the jungle seemed to condense the area around the Marines and engagements with the enemy were often close quarters affairs. Fighting along the beach was more open than in the jungle, but the landscape along the beach was dominated by jagged coral rock. The coral landscape near the beach made it very difficult for the Marines to dig foxholes near the beach. Sometimes, foxholes along the beach were dug so shallow due to the difficult terrain, that they did not sufficiently protect the two men lying in each foxhole from grenade shrapnel. Many of the trees on Guadalcanal were mahogany trees with roots that grew high up out of the ground. The Marines often found the best cover in foxholes dug in and around these tree roots. Schilling and his unit trained specifically to deal with situations in combat, so even Marines untested in combat had some idea about combat tactics and situations. When the Marines entered combat, however, they had to learn from experiences that no amount of training could have prepared them for. Schilling landed on Guadalcanal with full confidence in his training, supplies and weapons and the men quickly learned which weapons were most effective in jungle combat as opposed to other combat situations. Still, during the Battle for Guadalcanal, the 6th Marine Regiment was outfitted with weapons from an earlier era, as were the first regiments to land on Guadalcanal, and not outfitted with many of the weapons, vehicles and artillery that came to define World War 2. Schilling carried a shotgun initially on Guadalcanal. It was the weapon he used to kill his first enemy soldier. The shotgun used paper cartridges, however, which were less than ideal for the wet jungle conditions. If a shell cartridge became wet, it would not chamber upon pumping the weapon, thus the shotgun was not long employed.

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Ira Schilling killed a Japanese soldier on Guadalcanal with a shotgun. In the morning, before the Marines moved out along the front lines, all the American lines fired a three or four minute small arms barrage directly in front of them before advancing in order to clear the area of enemy troops. Once the barrage was completed, the American lines began advancing forward from the positions they had occupied the night before. Schilling's unit [Annotator's Note: Company L, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division] was confronted by a rock filled ditch ahead of its position that snaked its way across the battlefield. Unbeknownst to the Americans, Japanese soldiers had hidden in the ditch behind the rocks. As Schilling and his comrades moved out, he came up right alongside the ditch. In his peripheral vision, Schilling spotted some movement and turned in that direction. He saw a Japanese soldier in the ditch, a smirk on his face, and his gun raised. Schilling jerked up his shotgun and blasted a shell at the enemy. The round hit the Japanese soldier squarely in the chest, killing him. Schilling did not feel any emotion after he dispatched the enemy soldier since combat was a constant kill or be killed situation. Schilling could not remember how long he was on Guadalcanal. The invasion of the island began in early August 1942, but Schilling and his regiment did not arrive on Guadalcanal until early 1943, after most of the heavy fighting had subsided [Annotator's Note: the 6th Marine Regiment was on Guadalcanal from 4 January to 19 February 1943]. Schilling's platoon engaged in mostly mop up combat operations after landing on Guadalcanal, unlike the full scale operations that took place earlier in the battle. The largest combat skirmishes Schilling faced involved a single platoon or a few squads engaging the Japanese. Schilling's platoon went on a patrol one day and accidentally stumbled on the Japanese lines, which brought the entire patrol into a 12 hour combat engagement with the enemy. Schilling and his comrades were pinned down on a grassy knoll outside the jungle and sustained multiple casualties. Schilling's lieutenant was hit multiple times in the stomach, but the Japanese fire was so intense that Schilling and his comrades could not get the lieutenant back to cover. After another man was hit attempting to get the lieutenant, Schilling and his comrades pulled the lieutenant out of the line of fire. Under heavy mortar fire, the men fashioned a stretcher out of their dungaree jackets and rifles and carried the lieutenant into the jungle. Schilling's lieutenant died the next day and the company left two men dead on the grassy knoll. Combat on Guadalcanal was often limited to smaller skirmishes and did not involve entire battalions or regiments. Combat often took place in tight areas with the enemy in close proximity. On the deadly patrol, combat began when Schilling's squad leader confronted a Japanese soldier who sat on a fallen tree in front of the Americans. Schilling's squad leader reached for his rifle to shoot, but it jammed. The enemy soldier then slung up his weapon, shot the squad leader in the hip, killed another man, and wounded a third. The Americans and the Japanese often exchanged taunts on the battle field, both sides yelled back and forth. The taunts generally did not affect Schilling and his comrades, but the Japanese did manage to scare the Marines at night by sneaking up to the lines and making noise with their rifles. The Americans never stuck their heads up out of their foxholes as pale American skin was more easily spotted in the moonlight. Perhaps the most psychologically unnerving occurrence in combat, however, was the death threats from Japanese soldiers spoken in broken English during the night, in the pitch darkness.

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On Guadalcanal, Ira Schilling and Company L, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment faced some enemy air raids and naval shore bombardments. When the 6th Marines arrived on Guadalcanal, however, they were more protected from enemy air and naval attacks than the Marines who fought in the earlier stages of the battle. As had happened earlier in the battle, US naval vessels were sometimes pulled away from Guadalcanal, which left only a few occasional supply ships landing on the island for a time. By that time, however, American control and use of Henderson Field was very secure, thus Schilling and his comrades had plenty of air support while on Guadalcanal. Occasionally, Japanese naval vessels came in and shelled the American positions, but the US Navy often intercepted those enemy vessels after they shelled the island and engaged them. In one instance, Schilling and his comrades saw a Japanese bomber flying low over the island in search of Japanese troops that the plane could drop supplies and rations to. The Americans did not engage the aircraft from the ground despite its low altitude. As the fighting on Guadalcanal concluded, Schilling and his unit were relieved by a US Army unit, but Schilling is unsure exactly which units occupied Guadalcanal after organized Japanese resistance ended. Schilling and the 6th Marines fought the last vestiges of organized enemy resistance on the island. The 6th Marine Regiment then returned to New Zealand to refit, incorporate replacement troops and begin training for further action. The Battle for Guadalcanal cost the 6th Marines a lot of men and malaria or other jungle diseases also lessened the regiment's strength. Schilling himself battled malaria throughout his time in the Pacific and also contracted Dengue Fever. Once back in New Zealand, the men of the 6th Marine Regiment were issued M1 Garand rifles for the first time. Schilling, however, had swiped an M1 Garand from the Army while on Guadalcanal, but fired it so many times that the gun burned up. The men had been acquainted with the M1 even before being deployed to the Pacific, but were more comfortable using the Springfield 03 rifle. The men appreciated the increased clip capacity, firepower and firing rate of the semi automatic M1 Garand despite their familiarity with the Springfield. The Springfield held a five round clip and the Japanese quickly learned that the Marines had to reload after firing the weapon five times. However, a clever Marine figured out a way to load a Browning Automatic Rifle's [Annotator’s Note: BAR] 20 round clip in a Springfield rifle, which gave the Marines an edge once again in combat.

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Ira Schilling and most of his comrades in Company L, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment changed a great deal after the battle on Guadalcanal. The men began to realize the seriousness of combat and seemed to grow up. Various instances on Guadalcanal reminded Schilling how close he was to death on numerous occasions. Had Schilling and his fellow Marines not dove behind the right cover at the right time, they all might have been killed in almost any given instance. Schilling's experiences in combat on Guadalcanal caused him to take his life more seriously. He had made PFC [Annotator's Note: Private First Class] before he shipped out from the states and maintained that rank after Guadalcanal and through the rest of his time in the service. Schilling had been placed on the list for a promotion to corporal numerous times, but each time an untimely event like a hospital stay, transfer to a new regiment or rotation back to the United States kept him from receiving that promotion. Schilling and 6th Marine Regiment boarded troop ships again in New Zealand and set off for Tarawa. The journey lasted a brutally long and hot 30 days and by the time the ships arrived at Tarawa, the men were ready to hit the beach regardless of what awaited them there. Schilling's company did not land with the first assault wave. His company spent the first night of the battle in landing craft and did not actually hit the beach until the second day of the battle. Schilling and his comrades watched the early parts of the battle on the first day from their troop ship. Most of the men assumed that the capture of the island would be a fairly straight forward deal. After the naval and aerial bombardment of the island, many men figured that they would walk right up on shore and deal with only remnants of the Japanese force defending the island. Tarawa's coral sand was very absorbent of the impact of shells and bombs, which greatly lessened the effectiveness of the American bombardment. Also, the low tide during the landings greatly slowed the speed with which American ground forces could get ashore and move inland. When the early waves of the American invasion headed for the beaches at Tarawa, most of the men unloaded their landing craft at the reef and waded ashore from there. Only a few amtracks [Annotator's Note: Landing Vehicle, Tracked or LVT] made it over the coral reef and even fewer survived the intense Japanese fire to make it up the beach. As the men of the first wave waded closer to shore, the American bombardment of the island ceased and the Japanese defenders came out of cover and began firing on the Americans. Schilling watched helplessly from the ship deck as the invasion unfolded in front of him and continued throughout the night. Nearly the entire island where the Marines landed was covered by a single airstrip which was protected on all sides by gun emplacements and pill boxes. Prominent among the Japanese defenses was a large concrete blockhouse with thick walls and coconut log reinforcements, which served as a command post. The block house was strong enough to withstand bombings and naval bombardment. On the second day of the battle, Schilling's unit was ordered ashore and started in for the beach, but the landing craft could not make it past the coral reef. Schilling and his comrades spent that night aboard their landing craft and endured brutal seasickness all night long. The next morning, Schilling and his comrades waded ashore and, despite going into combat, the men were glad to stand on firm ground again.

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After Ira Schilling and Company L, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment hit the beach at Tarawa, Company L split up and Schilling's platoon moved toward the large blockhouse which the Japanese had used as a command post. Schilling went inside the blockhouse after it had been cleared out by other units, but the thick concrete of the structure made Schilling wonder how the Marines cleared it out in the first place. Schilling's platoon then moved across the airstrip to the other side of the island and moved down the edge of the island. Company K preceded Company L in the advance, but when the Japanese launched a counterattack against Company K, Schilling and his comrades pushed their lines through Company K's position and pushed the Japanese back down toward the end of the island. Combat on Tarawa was different than combat on Guadalcanal since the previous two days of fighting on Tarawa had dampened most stiff Japanese resistance. The counterattack on Company K was the last organized Japanese assault that Schilling faced. There was no jungle on Tarawa and Japanese soldiers rarely snuck up on the American lines as the enemy did on Guadalcanal. Schilling and his platoon faced sporadic enemy fire from across the airstrip as they advanced up the edge of the island, but Schilling learned to watch for tracer rounds to avoid the enemy fire. Combat on Tarawa largely came down to flushing the enemy out of their fortified positions, which was typically accomplished by throwing hand grenades in them to force the Japanese out. Then they would shoot the enemy as they fled their positions. Inspecting an enemy dugout after it had been cleared was frightening and clearing the dead bodies out was brutal work. The island was littered with dead and dying Japanese soldiers by the end of the battle. The surf on the beaches of Tarawa was stained with blood and Schilling had never seen so many American bodies lying unattended as he did while he waded ashore at Tarawa. Schilling's unit was always careful to get dead or wounded Marines out of combat, but the amount of American bodies which lay strewn across Tarawa's beaches indicated to Schilling how bad the fighting had been earlier in the battle. The amount of American bodies that Schilling and his comrades saw on Tarawa had a tremendously sobering effect on them.

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After the battle ended, Ira Schilling and his unit [Annotator's Note: Company L, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division] were pulled off Tarawa and sent to a Marine camp in Hawaii on the big island. At the camp, Schilling was transferred to Company B, 1st Battalion, 18th Marine Regiment which became the first organized team of assault combat engineers. The 18th Marine Regiment was part of the 2nd Marine Division, but was outfitted with flamethrowers and explosives for demolition purposes and was not used for construction. The companies of the 18th Marine Regiment were formed with men from various rifle companies of other regiments in the division and Schilling was selected due to his previous demolition training. After the Marines captured Tinian, Schilling's assault engineer team was transferred back to the 6th Marine Regiment and assigned to Headquarters Company. During combat on Tinian and Saipan, Schilling's assault engineer team worked with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, but did not take up a portion of the line. Rather, the team was sent out as needed to sectors of the line that required the team's assistance. Schilling landed in the third wave on Saipan. Before shipping out for Saipan, however, Schilling and his unit went from the Marine camp on the big island of Hawaii to Pearl Harbor on LSTs [Annotator's Note: Landing Ship, Tank]. While in Pearl Harbor, the LST that Schilling and his outfit were aboard accidentally blew up which caused subsequent explosions. The incident became known as the West Loch disaster. After the first explosion, Schilling moved to the back of the ship and descended a rope down into the water, but as he swam away from the burning LST, another explosion occurred and Schilling received a shrapnel wound in the forehead while in the water. There was initial suspicion that the disaster resulted from Japanese sabotage, but the exact cause of the accident was never discovered. Schilling swam over to the bank and climbed up over barnacle covered logs to dry land, scraping his chest and arms in the process, then crossed a pineapple field until he reached some US Navy corpsmen, who tended to him. Schilling then spent three or four days in the hospital where his wound was stitched up. He did not have the stitches removed until just before the invasion of Saipan.

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Ira Schilling and his outfit of assault engineers landed in the third wave during the invasion of Saipan. They landed pretty much according to plan and in the right area. Usually, the third wave took the worst beating during a landing since the first two waves approached the beaches under the cover of a naval barrage, but after the first wave hit the beach, the naval barrage stopped and the Japanese began their resistance. As Schilling approached the beach, he began to see the initial wreckage from the assault. Company L lost two amtracks [Annotator's Note: Landing Vehicle, Tracked or LVT] during the assault, one of which had taken a direct hit from a Japanese shell, that killed all of the men in the vehicle. When Schilling's amtrack went over the coral reef, the driver almost tipped it over, but Schilling and his comrades made it out of their vehicle on the beach just before the amtrack was knocked out by the Japanese. Schilling landed on the extreme left flank of the landing beaches right as the Japanese began shelling the right end of the beach with mortar and artillery fire. Schilling watched as the shelling progressed along the beach closer and closer to him. He sought cover behind a disabled amtrack on the beach just as enemy shells began to fall on his position. Schilling could not move off the beach in the face of the intense enemy fire. He found a row of small trees along the edge of the beach and decided to follow the trees. He waited for a break in the enemy fire then dove through the trees and into a ditch alongside a road. Schilling followed the ditch until he found a place where American units were charging forward and began moving inland. Schilling had a demolition pack with him and he knew full well that his demolition capabilities would be needed as the Americans advanced inland. About 300 feet beyond the road, the Marines confronted what appeared to be an irrigation ditch which was used by the Japanese as a defensive trench. By the time the Marines arrived at the trench, the Japanese had dispatched a group of tanks to the area to beat back the American advance. Schilling and his fellow Marines began using his demolition packs to eliminate the enemy tanks by throwing a charge underneath a tank, or placing one on the rear of a tank and detonating them. A few blocks of TNT could successfully disable an enemy tank, so the Marines hid as the tanks advanced passed them then jumped out to swiftly place the charges.

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When Ira Schilling and his unit [Annotator's Note: Company B, 1st Battalion, 18th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division] advanced further inland from the beach on Saipan, he watched as a heavier Japanese tank was disabled with a flamethrower, but the flamethrower was a risky weapon for a Marine to carry. The fuel tanks that were worn on the back of a flame thrower carrier were heavy and prevented him from hiding in a foxhole or quickly hitting the ground. It also made that Marine an obvious target for the enemy. Flame throwers, however devastating for the enemy, were constantly unreliable for the Marines on Saipan and required two Marines to operate. The air needed to pressurize the stream of the flamethrower often leaked out of its tank and a flamethrower was incapable of shooting into the wind. Despite these flaws, flamethrowers became invaluable in clearing out the enemy from the caves in which they hid. From the surface, it was impossible for Schilling and his fellow Marines to judge how large or deep a cave was. Some were very large with multiple hallways and rooms. Others were very small. The Marines often threw a demolition charge into the cave openings and the Japanese responded by throwing a hand grenade out at the Americans. In one instance, Schilling and a fellow Marine had battled their way across a small flat area in Saipan's coral rock and had chased a number of enemy soldiers down into a cave imbedded in the side of a small cliff. Schilling's comrade had been shot in the back and could not move, so Schilling laid him down then threw a demolition charge into the mouth of the cave. A Japanese soldier threw a hand grenade back out of the cave and, once it exploded, the soldier came charging out of the cave firing his weapon as he advanced. Once the enemy soldier advanced out of the cave, Schilling jumped up from behind his cover and shot the enemy. Schilling repeated this process over and over until some 15 Japanese soldiers emerged right into his deadly path. The last enemy to charge at Schilling took a series of bullets to the chest before he fell down and stopped charging. As Schilling approached his fallen enemy to make sure he was dead, he noticed smoke rising from the body, at which point he realized that the Japanese soldier had an explosive charge strapped to his body and that the enemy had tried to reach Schilling and his wounded comrade to explode the charge. Schilling retreated, but the charge never exploded. He never knew if he lured all of the Japanese soldiers out of that cave and he never dared to enter the cave to find out. Cave combat was a frequent occurrence on Saipan. Unfortunately for the Marines, since they did not enter the perilous caves, it was impossible to tell if a cave was full of enemy soldiers or innocent civilians. Schilling frequently thought about the possibility that civilians might have inhabited some of the caves he cleared on Saipan. He thought about it after the war, especially after he learned the fate of many civilians on Saipan during the battle. Civilians on Saipan were accidentally burned by flamethrowers while others were accidentally killed, but many committed suicide by hurling themselves off cliffs. Schilling never went far enough up the island to see the cliffs commonly used by civilians to commit suicide [Annotator's Note: Schilling is referring to Marpi Point], but he did have an encounter with a civilian man after the battle while on a mop up patrol. The man told the Marines that his wife had been killed in the US naval shore bombardment, which accidentally fired on his house. Schilling and his comrades apologized to the man for his loss and regretted the tragedy. Other Marines, however, did encounter women and children civilians and tried to be as warm and caring as possible.

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During and after the Battle of Saipan, Ira Schilling and his fellow Marines willingly accepted enemy troops who surrendered and did not kill them. The Marines were wary of taking enemy prisoners, however, after the Japanese on Guadalcanal made false attempts to surrender in order to lure the Marines in and allow them to let their guard down before the Japanese would open up on the unsuspecting Americans with machine guns and grenades. Therefore, after Guadalcanal, the Marines made all Japanese soldiers who wished to surrender strip down to their undergarments to be sure that the would-be prisoners did not conceal any tricks from their captors. Schilling could not remember a time on Saipan when a Marine shot a Japanese soldier out of hate after he surrendered. Generally, once a Japanese soldier indicated that he wished to surrender, the Marines accepted and treated their former enemy to water and cigarettes. Sick or wounded prisoners were also accepted and medical treatment was provided by Navy corpsmen until they were transported to the rear. One time, Schilling had to guard a Japanese prisoner by himself until a vehicle arrived to take the prisoner to the rear. Schilling took the prisoner near a bombed out house and sat the Japanese prisoner on a slab of concrete then sat down near him. Despite the insurmountable language barrier between Schilling and his prisoner, the Japanese soldier certainly understood the authority of Schilling's rifle. Schilling used his weapon to dissuade the prisoner from any ideas of escape when Schilling's eyes met the Japanese soldier's over a metal fork sitting near the prisoner, which might otherwise have been used as a weapon. The prisoner suffered from dysentery and needed to relieve himself a few times, so when the jeep arrived that evening to retrieve the prisoner, Schilling instructed the nervous driver that the prisoner presented no danger, but that if he needed to relieve himself, he best be allowed to do so. As the fighting on Saipan subsided, Schilling and his unit [Annotator's Note: Company B, 1st Battalion, 18th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division] moved all the way to the end of the mountain with the greater American advance. The highest point of the island fell under Schilling's sector after the battle, so he and his comrades made the difficult climb up to the town of Garapan, but arrived there to find only ruble, destroyed tin and a demolished town. Schilling and his unit then descended back down to the beach where they were instructed to clear out a Japanese sea plane base in a small bay on the coast. Schilling’s unit cleared the base and was instructed to look for clues regarding the possibility that Amelia Earhart had been held by the Japanese there [Annotator's Note: Earhart was a famous American aviator who disappeared on 2 July 1937 over the Pacific Ocean in an attempt to fly around the world]. Soon thereafter, the island was declared secure.

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After the island of Saipan was secured, Ira Schilling and his assault engineer squad of 2nd Marine Division remained on the island for only a few days before shipping off to join the assault on Tinian. Schilling's squad went from Saipan to Tinian in a Higgins Boat [Annotator's Note: Landing Craft Vehicle, Personnel or LCVP] with a wooden ramp and landed on a muddy bank near a grassy area of the island. The grassy area gave way to rice paddies and ponds as the Americans pushed inland. Japanese resistance was pretty light on the first day, but as Schilling and his fellow Marines moved inland, the enemy resistance grew stiffer. At the time, Schilling never saw a map of the island and never really knew his exact geographic location on it, but he went inland as his unit advanced. As the Americans advanced, Schilling and his squad came across a farm house and cautiously moved around it despite leaving a suspicious looking water tank unchecked. Schilling and his fellow Marines continued on into a field which served as a cattle grazing pasture. As the Americans advanced up a road next to the field, the Japanese began dropping mortar rounds on them. One round landed very close to Schilling, but, luckily, there was a cow in between him and the blast, so Schilling remained unscathed. At the end of the field area sat a Japanese heavy gun, which the enemy used to shell the Americans as they advanced. Schilling's squad advanced across the area to the base of the coral hill upon which the gun sat. It was not an easy climb up the coral hill as there was very little cover or protection from enemy fire. Schilling and his demolition team got together on a road and made plans to eliminate the gun, which continued to fire on them. Schilling was ready to charge the gun, followed by a flame thrower carrier, when the Japanese fired their last shell and immediately vacated the gun. Schilling and his squad captured the gun without any further resistance and disabled it. In Schilling's estimation, the gun was most likely a standard Japanese 4.7 inch gun, which even had the range to lob shells at American ships off the island. Schilling’s squad was often tasked with finding and clearing land mines and other hidden obstacles placed by the Japanese. In one instance, Schilling's squad came across a barracks for a company of Japanese paratroopers and had to mark with signs any booby traps and obstacles that they could not safely remove. The men also looted the barracks and other buildings for valuables such as cameras, watches and other trinkets. When Schilling's unit came across land mines, they had to use their bayonets to dig around and locate the land mine and then explode it in a controlled and safe manner since disarming a landmine was extremely difficult and dangerous. Japanese planes also dropped numerous explosive cylinders on Tinian with parachutes attached. Japanese soldiers would take the cylinder and conceal it, but left the parachute exposed so the unsuspecting American soldier would pull on the parachute, which would detonate the explosive cylinder. Schilling saw one man get his whole hand blown off by one of the devices. Schilling's unit also came across hidden explosives that were detonated by tripwires, and vehicles rigged to explode with gasoline cans should an American try to start the vehicle. Schilling and his fellow Marines became extremely well aware of all sorts of booby traps and hidden obstacles on Tinian. Such traps were plentiful.

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As the American advance through the Pacific moved closer and closer to the Japanese mainland, enemy resistance grew heavier and more desperate. From the beginning of Ira Schilling's time in combat, Japanese soldiers had not been afraid to commit suicide in the face of defeat, but in Schilling's experiences on Saipan and Tinian, suicide became an attacking option in the form of kamikaze suicide bombers. The Japanese also began to launch suicidal counterattacks preceded by a long night of heavy drinking and crazed cheers or chants. The Japanese soldiers rushed forward with utter disregard for their lives. When an enemy soldier made it close enough to the American lines, he pulled the pin of a hand grenade and ran with it in his hands in hopes that the explosion would kill a few Americans. At first, the Americans expected the Japanese soldiers to surrender, but were surprised to see the suicidal fanaticism with which the enemy came. The Japanese also used knee mortars [Annotator's Note: Type 89 grenade discharger, a Japanese light mortar] to accurately drop small explosive rounds on the American lines, and sometimes beat their helmets with a stick to simulate the sound of another round being fired in order to keep the Americans in cover, anticipating an ultimately fictitious incoming round. Both sides used numerous tricks and ploys in combat in order to confuse the enemy and gain an advantage. Schilling considered himself lucky not to have had a wife and children during the war since it allowed him to enjoy the adventure that the war took him on, during those times that he was not in heavy combat. The war sent Schilling to exotic places that he had only read about in books before and brought him face to face with an enemy that he had only known in folklore and history before the war. A student of Japanese history had some intuition regarding the fighting methods and ferocity of the Japanese soldier. A Marine interested in global affairs leading up to the war understood the cruelty of the Japanese soldiers on Guadalcanal who had previously been involved in the Rape of Nanking in China. Since Schilling had been a student of history and global affairs before the war, he felt that he had a pretty solid understanding of his enemy before he ever met that enemy in combat. The Japanese notion of an honorable death in battle allowed many Japanese soldiers to fight with suicidal abandon and made the Japanese a very dangerous enemy.

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After combat on Tinian ended and the island was secured, Ira Schilling was sent to Hawaii. First, however, he reported to a camp back on Saipan where his points were evaluated. In order to be sent home, a Marine needed a certain number of points accumulated in combat, two full years of overseas service or three plus positive smears of malaria. Schilling offered a dentist a Japanese watch that he acquired in combat in exchange for a knife with brass knuckles on the handle, which he then offered to a US Navy corpsman in order for the corpsman to pull his medical records. The corpsman agreed, retrieved Schilling's records and noted that Schilling had more than enough positive malaria smears to be rotated home. Schilling then flew from Saipan to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii where he went to a hospital for evaluation. Schilling left combat a full year before the war in the Pacific ended, but he had already spent two years in the Pacific. Had he not been rotated home, Schilling probably would have gone to Okinawa with the 2nd Marine Division, but the division only made a faint landing during the battle and did not get into heavy combat. The concept of engineer assault teams was a new one in warfare, but the concept was proven effective by the use of such outfits on Saipan and Tinian. Assault engineer teams were, therefore, also to be used on Okinawa so the Marines had to either import demolition men and flamethrower carriers into the units that were to land on Okinawa, or train new teams. Demolition experts and flamethrower carriers required special training and were not easily replaced. On Tinian, assault engineers were not allowed to stay on the front lines at night, since the teams were sustaining heavy casualties and those casualties were not being replaced. Every night, Schilling and his fellow assault engineers went back to a command post to sleep. One night, a group of Japanese soldiers snuck through the lines earlier that day and hid until late that night when they ambushed the command post where Schilling and his men slept. The enemy killed several Americans, including five men from Schilling's platoon as well as the 6th Marine Regiment's commander who was there. The battle raged on into the next morning when an American tank finally came to the command post to assist in the battle. As the Americans advanced behind the tank through numerous Japanese corpses, Schilling saw a Japanese soldier lying on his side with a sword in his hand. Schilling wanted the sword, but when he reached down to grab it, the Japanese soldier grabbed Schilling and tried to kill him. It took a scuffle of hand to hand combat for Schilling to beat the Japanese soldier back down to the ground before a fellow Marine shot the enemy soldier in the head. Schilling kept the sword. The entire encounter was a sobering one for Schilling. He lost some close friends during the ambush. From Hawaii, Schilling shipped off for the United States. He was disqualified for further duty in the Pacific due to his repeated bouts with malaria. Malaria and Dengue Fever both took men out of action in the Pacific and the men were told that if they caught Dengue Fever a third time, the disease would kill them, but Schilling battled Dengue Fever three times and survived on a few pills from a corpsman. Schilling was officially discharged in October 1945, when his enlistment ended. Once Schilling arrived back in the United States, he spent some time in the hospital in San Diego before the US Marine Corps sent him to the naval yard in Norfolk, Virginia where he served guard duty. Soon after, however, Schilling was sent to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina to retrain and join a new combat unit. While he was at Camp Lejeune, he first learned of the atomic bombing of Japan and the destruction that the bombing brought. The war ended while Schilling was stationed at Camp Lejeune. Schilling understands the ethical debate regarding the use of two atomic bombs against Japan and its citizens, but Schilling maintains that those who experienced combat against the Japanese knew how high a price would have been paid in a prolonged fight.

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In some ways, Ira Schilling felt he grew up very quickly due to his experience serving in the US Marine Corps during World War 2, but in other ways he still felt like a kid when it ended. The war gave Schilling a greater sense of the value of human life. Over his postwar years, Schilling continued to derive lessons from his wartime experiences. During the war, there was not a time when Schilling was concerned by killing an enemy. This worried Schilling in his postwar years as he felt that ending another person's life warranted some personal reaction. Schilling did not grow up in a religious family and did not fully commit to his Christian faith until he was 30 years old, but he prayed for protection in combat. The war made Schilling more serious about his life in many ways, but he feels that war is unnecessary and cannot understand why some wars are started. When Schilling was on Saipan after the battle had ended, word went around that new recruit Marines were on the way to relieve him and his unit and that the veterans would be sent home. Schilling and his fellow veterans, however, did not want new Marines to come into combat as they did not want any new men to have to experience the horrors of what they had been through. Schilling's wartime service did not really impact his postwar career in his view. Schilling married a girl who he met in Norfolk, Virginia shortly before he was discharged, but the marriage got off to a rough start after his wife moved with him to his hometown with his family and Schilling went to work for the post office. Schilling wanted to stay in the Marine Corps after the war, but his discharge was inevitable so he was told to take a break from the service and reenlist later. When Schilling went to reenlist in the US Marine Corps, however, he was rejected since he was married. Schilling wanted to make a career out of the military so he joined the US Navy with hopes of reenlisting in the Marines after his service with the Navy ended. Schilling worked in naval aviation ordinance and liked it, but he was offered an early discharge due to his service in World War 2. He took it because he did not like how the military operated during peacetime. After his second discharge, Schilling went to work in Oregon in a lumber mill for a few years before moving back to Shreveport, Louisiana and returning to his job with the US Postal Service. It was around that time that Schilling felt God's call to become a preacher, so he became a preacher alongside his job at the post office and has been preaching for over 55 years. Schilling never went back into the Marine Corps, but he regrets not pushing harder to stay in the Marines or reenlist. Schilling was discharged from the US Navy just one month after the Korean War began, despite the wishes of his chief petty officer who urged him to remain in the service and move up the ranks. Postwar military service lacked the discipline and rigor of his time in the Marines, which Schilling did not appreciate. Schilling's life in the Navy was otherwise very good and relatively easy.

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Ira Schilling is a proud American and a proud veteran of World War 2 and thinks that the existence of The National WWII Museum in New Orleans is extremely important today. Schilling grew up in the difficult economic times of the Great Depression. He learned the value of hard work and achievement through both the Depression and World War 2 and thinks that those lessons must be preserved and taught today. Schilling fears the revision of history or the denial of certain aspects of the war such as the Holocaust. As a minister and a veteran, Schilling feels that society in the United States today is slipping away from the strong, patriotic American spirit that once prevailed and is concerned with the divisions in the American identity along racial and social lines, as opposed to a single American identity. Schilling is proud to be part of a great American generation, but is distraught at the loss of that generation's values in the United States today. Schilling thinks that it is important to have a museum dedicated to World War 2 and wishes to travel to New Orleans to see the museum soon. The museum provides new and future generations a chance to see and hear what occurred during World War 2.

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