By Jennifer Martin - email
JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - "Red" Womak enlisted in the Marines when he was 17 years-old.
"Went overseas as a replacement unit and joined the 1st Marine Division at Guadalcanal. That was in later stages of the battle there. Fact of the business, they was getting ready to leave Guadalcanal and go to Australia. Anyhow, I wound up in the machine gun section. Then I was in the machine gun section at New Guinea and New Britain.
The worst thing about Guadalcanal, New Guinea and New Britain was the weather, rain. They have a rainy season and being wet all the time. Actually sometimes that's the worst part of it, being wet 24 hours a day. With their feet constantly wet, they'd get trench foot, where they couldn't hardly walk. That was one of the main casualty makers there, besides the Japanese.
Only time you really saw the Japanese: at the first part of the war, they had the Banzai attacks, which basically amounted to a suicide attack. And they finally quit doing that, later they was in caves or dugouts.
After the Cape Gloster campaign, they come up with flamethrowers. They assigned so many to every battalion and I wound up in the flamethrower section."
The troops would use the flamethrowers to flush the Japanese out of their hideouts. Womack's next major campaign would be at Pelilu.
"It was a whole lot of mortar fire and occasionally automatic weapons fire on the beach. And that's the worst place to be. Our Amtrack got hit after we come ashore. We got inland and I don't know what happened to it or the people on it, but several of them got hit and was burning there. We were already out and right beside it when it got hit.
There was so much going on and people hollering 'get off the beach, get off the beach.' And you have to get off because there's another wave right behind you. It's a whole lot better if you could get inland and take some cover. It was about a 28 day battle before it was over. We went on across the island.
They had a banzai attack later that day --none of them I think were ever successful. It was 28 miserable days before we finally got the island secure and we got out of there and went to the island of Pevivu."
They refitted and gathered replacements.
"Then got ready to go to Okinowa."
They were in Okinowa about 6 weeks before they got word the war was over. Womack went to work as a fireman for Illinois Central Railroad then worked as an engineer until he retired.
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