By Jennifer Martin - email
Webb Shivers was 23 years-old, working in Missouri, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He joined the Marines before he could be drafted.
"My typical job was heavy equipment, draglines, bulldozers, what have you. I enjoyed getting my hands dirty and greasy."
He was part of the 2nd Aviation, Engineer Battalion. Their primary job: "to build airstrips, roads, bridges, docks, what have you.
We practiced in California and put it into action on Guadalcanal and New Caledonia."
He was in New Caledonia for 5 months.
"Went to Guadalcanal in the later part of December '42. Stayed there until '43 and went to Bouganville. Didn't need us, sent us back to Guadalcanal. And we went to the Marianas, along Siapan and Tinian.
In Guam, we landed on two sides, one was on the red beach and one was on the blue beach. I went in on the blue beach with heavy equipment. The red beach was where the foot soldiers went in."
The company lost 37 men in the landing.
"Ships was firing, mortars was going off. Flamethrowers were blowing. Machine guns were firing. Rifles were firing. Hand grenades were going off. Well it was pretty rough, hon. You saw a lot of dead people. It was rough. You couldn't grieve over it. You couldn't.. You felt sorry for 'em. In a way, and in a way you didn't. Cause you might be the next one you know.
My unit was backing up the 22nd marines on the Orote Peninsula which was the airstrip on Guam. We put it back into operation.
The most intense thing I encountered was on the airstrip, they had three men with the geiger counters trying to find booby traps. Coconut tree with three Japs got to firing at us. I was on the overheadloader; all that iron and bullets burning off from it.
Anywhere we went, we didn't think we'd make it out of. You didn't really think about it. You thought about moving ahead. Don't stop. If you stopped and hesitated, the Japs would bullseye you."
Shivers contracted jaundice in early 1945. He spent seven months in a naval hospital in Seattle. Then he was discharged. After he left the military he worked, laying down pipelines across the us. Then he owned and operated two telephone companies in Mississippi. He got married and now runs a small ranch in Florence.
He still meets with other veterans.
"It gives you a sense of nobility to be with those old boys. They went through the same thing I did, maybe rougher. I'm lucky to be sitting here. You're looking at a miracle."
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