The machine-gun fire came out of nowhere, the way it is supposed to in war.
Or so it seemed to the Marines who were caught in an open field next to a presumably abandoned farmhouse. Incorrectly presumed empty, as it turned out.
The carelessness cost the platoon one soldier. He lay on the ground about 10 yards away from the stone wall behind which his comrades took refuge.
He was still alive. They could hear his agonizing cries for help. They could see him, lying there out in the open.
The squad’s 19-year-old medical corpsman had already seen his share of death and savage injuries since their battalion had waded ashore on the island of Saipan. And now, more of the same on the neighboring island of Tinian.
During the initial bloody assault on Saipan, the corpsman was encountering a dead or wounded Marine every 10 yards or so, by his estimate. This made his progress slower than the other Marines. They relentlessly pushed the enemy to the other side of the island and the sea, leaving a trail of dead and wounded for the corpsman to sort out.
He’d already taken grenade fragments in his hand, leg, and shoulder — for which he’d eventually get the Purple Heart.Continue reading