I don't know why (probably growing up with too many episodes of McHale's Navy and Hogan's Heroes), but I always pictured him as being stationed on a pretty tropical island. Of course, I knew it was hard and there was action, but to my young and inexperienced mind, it almost seemed as if his was an accidental death.
I think I could not reconcile a harsh and terrible combat scene with my mother's sweet kid brother. He had such a great smile and always looked so happy. So carefree.
The following information about Walter comes from a website for Marines by Marines. My thanks to their research, loyalty, and generosity.The site can be found at.
Cpl Walter Paul brown service in wwii
Walter enlisted in 1942, and entered Boot Camp in San Diego. Later he was assigned to MCRD, San Diego Weapons Training. When he left, he had achieved the rank of PFC and his MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) was 8530 Range Coach.
He was then assigned to the Marines' 6th Marine Regiment, Infantry Unit, a part of the Second Division. He was a Corporal by then with an MOS of 0311, Rifleman.
The 6th was detailed to the Pacific theater of operations where he was part the "island hopping" campaigns. These involved the retaking of the deeply entrenched Japanese occupied islands, establishing footholds, reinforcing beachheads, then moving inland to regain and establish control.
The Japanese were losing ground, but they were determined to fight to the last man.
In all this madness, Walter would earn the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign, the American Campaign, Combat Action, and Purple Heart medals for service at New Guinea, Guadalcanal, Tarawa, the Marshall Gilbert Campaign and finally at Saipan.
These assignments did not involve pretty beaches or the comedic GI antics as I had seen on television. They were all terrible and ferocious fields of action. The Marines had to fight by inches to take the islands. The retaking of every strip of land took place under entrenched machine guns and sniper fire from an enemy, firmly dug in all over the islands.
In researching the action in the pacific, I found several Youtube, National Archive, and History Channel videos for the battles at Tarawa and Saipan.
I always thought it strange that he would choose to be buried in the Pacific rather than come home. After watching the videos, however, it no longer seems a mystery to me, as much as an obvious choice, made by a good man under unimaginable circumstances to stay with his brothers.
From the front:
This video and the ones below, are taken from actual footage, newsreels, and some reconstructed film moments. They will give you an idea of what Walter and his buddies faced.
This is the first time I have tried to embed links, so just in case, I will write the link below, in case the buttons don't work.
You may want to watch them before showing to anyone. I have seen a lot of war footage over my lifetime, but was surprised to find out how much more powerful they are when you are watching every frame to catch a glance of a certain easy grin, a particular pair of ears, or a familiar, lanky farm boy stance. The footage, realistic enough as is, is somehow so very much more real.
Another quick warning: expect a good deal of "politically incorrectness". These films are from another time, and we were at war. Everyone will just have to deal.
I thought a lot about including these videos or leaving them out. I am a peace-nik from the sixties and am opposed to war on nearly every level. However, I kept coming back to the same conclusion. Memorial Day is for remembering the sacrifices and Walter's was the greatest he could have made. If you are adverse to violence and choose not to watch, I am sure Walter would be fine with it. However, for me, the memory of Walter has gotten me through a couple of bad times. I just felt I owed him.
Marshall and gilbert campaign
Considered by the National Archives as a valuable historic document, the film showed more realistic and harrowing scenes of battle than had previously been shown to the American public. "Since the pictures were far too graphic to meet the standards of Hollywood producers and distributors, only the President could grant permission for its release to the general public. President Roosevelt consulted the only man who was present at the Battle of Tarawa that he personally knew and trusted, Time-Life photographer Robert Sherrod. Quoting Sherrod, 'I tell the President the truth. Our soldiers on the front want people back home to know that they don't knock the hell out of them every day of every battle. They want people to understand that war is a horrible, nasty business, and to say otherwise is to do a disservice to those who died.' Based on Sherrod's prompting, FDR agreed to release the film, uncensored."
The film won the 1945 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject---From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The battle for saipan June 1944
The information I was able to find indicates that he was killed by small arms fire. We will never know if he was killed trying to take the landing strip, clearing a machine gun nest, or if he even made it onto the beach that morning. We do know that he was one of 2000 Marines who died or were wounded June 15, 1944, nine days after the Battle of Normandy took place in Europe.
Saipan is a island of cliffs and reef. For Japan, the island represented the last line of defense and they were determined to hold the island accordingly.The Japanese had been in control of Saipan since the around 1920, but starting in 1930, the Japanese military had been heavily fortifying the island with numerous artillery batteries, shore defenses, underground fortifications and an airstrip.
This airstrip, under American control, would make it possible to stage B-29 air raids directly on the island of Japan itself. The Japanese were aware that they were facing insurmountable odds, but their culture and their leaders made the idea of surrender impossible. Of the estimated 30,000 Japanese defenders on Saipan at the beginning of the battle, only the 921 were taken prisoner.
The battle for Saipan began June 15, 1944 and lasted through 25 days.
The campaign, one of the most important in the war, was a joint Marine and Army operation that cost the Americans 3,426 killed and 10,364 wounded.
Civilian casualties were very high as well, with many forced by Japanese soldiers to commit suicide by jumping to their death from the cliffs, or choosing the death rather than face the war atrocities they had been told would follow an American victory.