2nd Battalion, 9th Marines Network
Information and Current Affairs Page
This page has been created to provide information and current items of interest. This has been done to provide our members with the most recent news occurring during the intervals between issuance of new Battalion Runner Newsletters. Entries here will be listed by date, with the most recent items being listed first. Older items will be removed upon issuance of the next Battalion Runner. I hope this new page will serve to improve the service the Network provides to our members. As always, anyone can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions, concerns, information, etc. at any time.
Danny Schuster - Network Administrator
12 March 2017
Passing of Matthew Febbi, HQMS Comm Section and Golf Radioman, passed away last night, March 11th. Matt was a patient in a VA extended care facility in NJ for several years. Matt has moved to the Last Patrol. Thanks to Tim DeWolf, HQMS, 67-68, for the notification. Semper Fi Matthew!
I received communication from Cliff Stanich concerning a garment bag owned at one time by W. M. Bridges. Cliff purchased the garment bag at an auction in California. The back of the bag contains the following information: W. M. Bridges, the Marine Corps Eagle, Globe and Anchor about 8 inches high, U.S. Marines BLT 2/9, the last line states Hawaii, Japan, Okinawa, Philippines, Hong Kong, Vietnam. It is a green silk garment bag with lettering all in gold. Cliff wants to return the bag to Bridges if he is still alive. He is not on the 2/9 Network nor do I have anything concerning him in the Microsoft Access database of 2/9 members. He is not listed on The Wall either. If anyone knows or knew Bridges please contact me at email@example.com or Cliff Stanich directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 530-812-6448. Cliff lives in Yuba City, CA.
05 March 2017
I received an email from Jack Lowe's daughter Jessie. Her dad, "Big Jack" Lowe, passed in April 2015 of a heart attack. At his request there was no funeral service nor a formal announcement of his passing. Jessie is hoping to hear from anyone who may have memories or stories to tell about her Dad. She can be reached at Jack's email address email@example.com.
27 January 2017
Received the following from Robert L. Smith inquiring about Paul John Speelman. Robert's contact information is included.
NAME: robert l. smith
Does anyone remember Paul John Speelman from Harrisburg Pa.? I believe he was in H&S Co. in 1966 and was possibly on a 106 crew. He was subsequently killed in a car accident after returning home and being stationed at Pendleton in 1968. I was a high school friend and am a fellow Marine and Viet Nam vet having served with 1st MP's in Da Nang as a guard on the I Corps bridge.
27 January 2017
More on Cushman's Pocket during the Battle of Iwo Jima, from our own Echo Company member, Larry Kirby, who was there, and a letter from David R. Smith who has since passed but was also a 2/9 Member.
From Larry Kirby to Chris Smith, David Smith's son:
I am Larry Kirby, a 92 year-old former Marine who was on Iwo Jima and I heard about you via email from Danny Schuster.
I was a platoon sergeant attached to "E" company, 2nd Bn., 9th Marines. My MOS was 0321 and my designation was recon/scout sniper. Although not actually a member of the 9th I was permanently detached from the 2nd Scout Company to the 2/9 for Bougainville, Guam and Iwo Jima.
I never met you dad but probably saw him during training exercises when our home base was on Guam. He was Platoon Leader of 1st platoon, "E" Company.
Since very little scouting was involved on Iwo I was the platoon Sergeant for 2nd Platoon in "E" Company. I worked closely with Capt. Schmidt and went out front with him a few mornings locating landmarks to guide us on our next move.
The initial assault by the 4th and 5th Divisions occurred on February 19th. The 3rd Division was floating reserve and we landed later. The 21st Marines came in on D plus 2. The 9th landed on the 22nd and 23rd. (The Third Marines never landed and instead went back to Guam. This is another event in the war that is a scary story. Later perhaps.)
We took casualties every day all day and by March 6th our company, E, was reduced from 230 Marines to just 74 men. "F" Company also took casualties and now numbered about 72 to 75 men.
We were ordered to prepare for an early morning jump off on March 7th
As for Cushman's Pocket, the event began long before sunrise on the 7th when four companies moved out in a collaborative effort to take Hill 362C which was General Kurubiashi's observation post and in taking it the enemy defenders would be blinded. Taking 362C was the tipping point of the battle.
Early in the morning the four companies fell in stripped of all unnecessary equipment and completely silent moved out under cover of darkness. A company from the 21st Marines and a company from the 3/9 took off toward 362C. Both E and F of the 2/9 were sent in a different direction as a diversion to draw fire and to allow the other two companies to get a better shot at taking 362C. We, E and F, went directly to what turned out to be the most fortified Japanese position on the island. When the sun came up we were trapped in a slight defilade with enemy machine guns, mortars and small arms fire surrounding us. We were trapped in Cushman's Pocket!
I can only guess, but we were in there about 30 or 35 hours just struggling to stay alive. It was fire, move, fire, move - no time to stop, eat, urinate - just keep moving or die. The ordeal ended when the sun came up in the morning and some M4 Sherman tanks fought their way into our position and rescued the few survivors. A tank rode over our position, a track on either side ,and opened a hatch in the bottom of the tank and took three or four men in at a time, brought
them back to safe haven then went back and save a few more Marines.
Of our 74 men who jumped off on the 7th only 7 of us survived. Captain Schmidt was one of the seven. I don't know how many men from "F" company made it out but it was only a very few lucky guys. I've heard the just 1st Lt. O'Bannon and four or five of his men survived. Others have said that there were eleven saved from "F" company.
The Division history book says four or five from "F" and seven from "E"
Letter from David Smith describing the battle of Cushman's Pocket:
Jack Bradford mentioned George Todd, and as I was with him when he died in Cushman's Pocket on Iwo, I thought his friends might like to know about it. George didn't have to go, by the way. He had been hit in the chest by a hard line drive in a game of baseball that caused one of his breasts to swell up like a melon. He was in the divisional hospital and instructed to stay in bed, but he sneaked out, made the trek over the highest peak on Guam (per the Big E's orders -- the Big E was Graves B. Erskine, commanding general of the 3rd). George and I came ashore together out of that part of the 28th Replacement draft that had been attached to the 3rd Division, who by then were being held in reserve for Okinawa. We were met on the beach by Ray Folks, who was the exec, and, given orders to join the 2nd Bn, 9th Marines, Lt. Col. Robert L. Cushman commanding. Ray and George and I had all gone through Oxy V-12, the same boot camp, and, of course, SOCS. And George and I were from Glendale. We were assigned to Easy Co., given some replacements and a couple of days to get ready. Fully replaced, Easy Co. consisted of some 46 men and officers divided into two platoons each of which was made up of two rifle squads of two fire groups plus a miscellaneous squad, machine guns, etc. After two days of getting acquainted and bombarded (those lousy rockets), we were sent to the lines (Easy was on the extreme left flank of the 3rd Mar Div, touching the 3rd airfield). Col. Cushman then called George and me back to explain that the next morning early, two hours before the first light, we would attack up the hill which 3 or 4 previous assaults had failed to take. The idea was to surprise the enemy. The point was to get past the end of the third airfield. That way we could join up with the 5th Division, whose right flank touched the airfield. That way we could stop some of the infiltration that had been coming down the airstrip. We went right up the hill without a shot being fired, though of course, we traversed several hundred yards of sleeping or amazed Japanese (we were not known as night fighters) who later, it turned out, were determined not to let us back down the hill. Col. Cushman had warned us, rightly enough, that the men would want to bunch up and not stay out on a line and that they would drift to their right and away from that empty flank. The trip up the hill turned out to be an ongoing effort on George's and my part to push men back to the left, to keep them strung out and not bunched up. We were even partially successful which was amazing, given the handicap of near silence that we had to impose on ourselves. Once there, we had about an hour left to try and settle in, hard to do in the pitch dark. George and I were busy as heck stumbling around in the dark. At one point he and I started to climb up on a mound of dirt in order to get a look toward the flank, but the mound began to throb and then to move. They had nearly perfectly disguised one of their tanks, but when we started scraping around on it, we must have scared the hell out of them, a favor they returned. We found shell holes, trenches, cisterns, what have you, but because of the precipitous ground we couldn't prepare protection over the full 360 degrees. Because of the extreme pitch of the land, protection from the rear and the flanks was the hardest. And we paid the price, particularly as they were mostly behind us; and one son-of-a-bitch amongst them was a first-rate sharpshooter. Within minutes of the first light he had killed my favorite amongst the men, a kid of 18, my sergeant, and George, a bullet between the eyes. It was instantaneous. And he got me in the solar plexus. The ironies abound, for if my rifleman was a kid of 18, George and I were kids of 22, though acting like men, and my sergeant was a kid of 25. The bullet that hit me turned out not to have gone through, though I didn't know it at the time as there was an exit wound on the rear quarter of my left side. It hit a button on my jacket, which broke it up and caused the core to go around my chest cage outside my chest cage outside the ribs but inside the skin.
Then came the mortars, which chewed up what was left of us. We finally were able, thanks to George's sergeant, Thomas Barrow, to withdraw to a small point that the ten of us who remained could defend. I nominated him for a medal, and he was awarded the Navy Cross. We wouldn't have made it without him. He took over when I was still out under morphine, and later, when he was wounded again, I could take over. We were obliged by what you might call circumstances to stay out there for nearly twenty four hours, there being no way that we could get out in daylight hours. Col. Cushman sent tanks up to evacuate us, but he ended losing them and the men in them at a rate that didn't calculate. I think that I have never heard a voice so forlorn as when he told us we were on our own. We finally made it out after several disastrous attempts -- at night, as we had come. We took a terrible pasting just trying to get out the Japanese strong point that we held, but we finally made it down to within proximity of our lines, where we met and killed a Japanese soldier (the only one we met once we had made it out of our little fortress) who might have done us a great deal of harm by setting off the alarm. We had all been wounded for nearly twenty-four hours and had lost a good deal of blood. We were tired and getting slow. I was able to crawl on my back (couldn't crawl on my gut) along those deep tracks the tanks left in the volcanic sand (which is where all the men were stashed), and that way I was able to get down to our lines unseen and in. The lieutenant in charge of the platoon that had taken up our places was Aime Hourcade, also of the SOCS. He was enormously helpful - got stretchers out immediately, covering riflemen, and got the seven others (all wounded, all that was left of the 46) in for me, I haven't seen Aime since. We were all in the same V-12, same boot camp platoon, and then SOCS. Does anybody know where he is?
I read somewhere, perhaps in the History of the Third Marine Division, that General H.M. Smith said that of all the battles of the Pacific, Iwo was the worst, and of all the engagements on Iwo, that at Cushman's Pocket was the worst. I don't want to take away from anyone else's, and "worst" is hard to measure anyway (as my surgeon said to me, major and minor surgery is determined by whether it's happening to me or to you); but it was grim. I should like to add that being an officer in the Marine Corps, serving under Col Robert L. Cushman, and, for that matter, serving in Cushman's Pocket have all been elements in a central core of pride that has governed my life these past forty five years.
18 January 2017
I received the following information from Chris Smith describing his actions to remember the heroes of Echo Company's actions during the Battle of Iwo Jima, particularly the action known as "Cushman's Pocket". I have already given Chris some contact information for one of our members, Larry Kirby, who is the sole surviving member of Echo from Iwo Jima actions, and Doug Goodin, our unofficial 2/9 Network historian. Hopefully they will both contract Chris to provide him information. Anyone else with knowledge of the information Chris has requested should feel free to contact him at the email or phone number shown below his note.
NAME: Chris Smith
STREET: 3522 Quail Crest St
COMMENTS: Hello, I don't know if you can help me or not. My father, David R. Smith, was a 2nd Lt who went ashore at Iwo Jima on D-Day +2 or +3 (the records conflict a bit on that detail). He was assigned command of 1st Platoon, E/2/9, Cpt. Maynard Schmidt was E company commander, and Lt Col Robert E. Cushman in Btn command. Dad was one of the 10 survivors of Cushman's Pocket - the better part of 1st and 2nd platoons of E Co, and two platoons from F Co having been KIA in the Pocket. Anyway, I started a website to commemorate the men who served in Cushman's Pocket, and the domain is cushmanspocket.com. If you look at it, you will see that the logo contains a 3rd Div shoulder patch, and what I HOPE is the period correct shoulder patch for 2/9. I have my father's actual 3rd Div shoulder patch, so I know that image to be the correct one, but I have had a fair amount of difficulty trying to determine what the period correct patch for 2/9 would look like for early 1945, at the time of the assault on Iwo Jima. If you could either let me know where I can download a copy of the period correct image, or better yet, could send me a digital copy of that image, I would be very grateful for it. If you are unable to do either of those, I would also be grateful if you could at least point me in the right direction to try and find a copy. Very best regards, and thank you for everything you do. Chris Smith Grapevine, Texas
13 January 2017
I received the sad word on 9 January from J. Aaron Matiia that his Dad, 2/9 Marine Michael A. Mattia, Locust, North Carolina, passed away on that day. Mike was a radioman with HQHS in 1969-70. Mike is now with our Last Patrol. Semper Fi, Mike.
09 January 2017
I received word from Gerald Clemmer via email that Fox Company member Craig A. Slaughter passed away on 23 December 2016. Semper Fi, Craig!!
21 December 2016
Added LCPL Raymond Blanchette to the list of names on the "Our Men on The Wall" page for Golf. In several email conversations with Barry Yeakle it became apparent that Ray Blanchette was a new member of Golf Company and must have rotated in from 2/7 just before being KIA on 4 March 1966. I'm not going to screw around with any official USMC stuff here and made the decision to add Ray to our list of Marines remembered.