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Shooting the Pacific War

Shooting the Pacific War: Marine Corps Combat Photography in WWII

Thayer Soule
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Shooting the Pacific War
    Book Description:

    Thayer Soule couldn't believe his orders. As a junior officer with no military training or indoctrination and less than ten weeks of active duty behind him, he had been assigned to be photographic officer for the First Marine Division. The Corps had never had a photographic division before, much less a field photographic unit. But Soule accepted the challenge, created the unit from scratch, established policies for photography, and led his men into combat.

    Soule and his unit produced films and photos of training, combat action pictures, and later, terrain studies and photographs for intelligence purposes. Though he had never heard of a photo-litho set, he was in charge of using it for map production, which would prove vital to the division.Shooting the Pacific Waris based on Soule's detailed wartime journals. Soule was in the unique position to interact with men at all levels of the military, and he provides intriguing closeups of generals, admirals, sergeants, and privates -everyone he met and worked with along the way. Though he witnessed the horror of war firsthand, he also writes of the vitality and intense comradeship that he and his fellow Marines experienced.

    Soule recounts the heat of battle as well as the intense training before and rebuilding after each campaign. He saw New Zealand in the desperate days of 1942. His division was rebuilt in Australia following Guadalcanal. After a stint back in Quantico training more combat photographers, he went to Guam and then to the crucible of Iwo Jima. At war's end he was serving as Photographic Officer, Fleet Marine Force Pacific, at Pearl Harbor.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5730-6
    Subjects: History, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. viii-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. 1 I Become a Marine
    (pp. 1-13)

    On 7 August 1942, aboardHunter Liggett,general quarters awakened us at 0430. Outside, it was dark and cool. Guadalcanal was on our right. Savo Island, black and mysterious, was on our left. A curtain of mist was rising on the greatest spectacle the Solomon Islands would ever see.

    By 0600 we were off Lunga Point. At least, the Australian planters who were with us said that it was Lunga Point. It didn’t look the way we expected it to look. At 0615Quincy’s eight-inch guns fired a crashing salvo. The shells streaked in long, luminous arcs across the sky...

  6. 2 Quantico, New River, and the First Division
    (pp. 14-36)

    Until my official arrival in Quantico, my introduction to military life had been unusual, to say the least. It had started with a pleasant visit to the post and had ended with a talk with a general at Headquarters Marine Corps. Now came the real thing.

    A young sergeant looked through my orders. After noting that I was assigned to Marine Corps Schools, he asked if I was ROC. What was ROC? I hadn’t the faintest idea.

    “No,” I said, “I think not.”

    “He thinks not,” muttered the sergeant to the man behind him. “What the hellishe in?...

  7. 3 Overseas to New Zealand and North to Combat
    (pp. 37-58)

    Our trip across the country was roundabout, but we rode in style in Pullman cars and diners, stopping only in major cities. South of New River, we rolled through slash pine and swamps. Road signs and station names were our only ways of knowing where we were. The land faded into darkness that only the countryside knows. As the wheels clicked on, activity in the car died. The moon rose, but still there were only the pines, a light here and there, a crossing bell, headlights of a car, then darkness again.

    Next morning, we picked up a diner in...

  8. 4 The Early Days on Guadalcanal
    (pp. 59-81)

    Our landing on Guadalcanal was unopposed, as related in chapter 1. The operation on Tulagi, Gavutu, and Tanambogo, however, was a desperate fight from start to finish. H-Hour on Tulagi was 0800 on 7 August. The Raider Battalion landed on Blue Beach, the far end of the island from main Japanese positions. Our naval bombardment surprised the garrison: They thought it was merely a shelling and rushed to their dugouts only to discover—too late—that we were landing. They rallied in defense, but by then the Raiders were ashore in force. The heaviest fighting raged near King George Playing...

  9. 5 Tenaru, the Tokyo Express, and Bloody Ridge
    (pp. 82-94)

    At 0200 on 21 August, things began to pop. I had just entered the Intelligence Section tent for my watch when heavy small-arms fire erupted in the east. Outposts of the First Marines on the far side of the Tenaru River heard people advancing toward them and had withdrawn to our lines on the west bank. Now rifle and machine-gun fire were coming from the east bank, and our troops were replying.

    Two days before, Capt. Charles Brush had led a patrol down the beach to the east. Near Koli Point he encountered a large Japanese patrol of thirty-one men...

  10. 6 Lunga Life, the Air Raids, and Naval Bombardment
    (pp. 96-115)

    After the Battle of Bloody Ridge (Edson’s Ridge), the battered Japanese withdrew into the jungle, and life settled down for a while. Patrols reported no land activity. Air raids were sporadic for weeks, none at all for twelve days. The Japanese were preparing their next thrust.

    Headquarters began to dig in. Regiments and smaller units had done so long before, but now, at last, division got to work. The Engineers cut into the coral ridge with pneumatic drills to construct an operations dugout twenty feet square and ten feet high, the first on the island in which a man could...

  11. 7 The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal
    (pp. 117-123)

    Ever since the first day of the campaign, I had been eager to see my four men on Tulagi. They were only twenty miles away, but I hadn’t heard from them in more than two months. On 22 October our work suddenly cleared up. The same daySeminole,a large seagoing Navy tug, arrived at Red Beach with supplies from Tulagi. She was going directly back. I took advantage of the opportunity.

    Japanese artillery had just hit Red Beach. Two men were dead. More shells were expected at any moment.Seminole,hit by shell splinters, had moved east, out of...

  12. 8 Australia
    (pp. 124-141)

    Our convoy arrived in Brisbane on 14 December 1942. The city was low and ugly, but it was Australia, with no shooting, plenty of women, and few men. Units formed on the dock and boarded trucks for the trip to camp. As one rifle company completed Inspection Arms, there was a loud report. A bullet tore through the galvanized iron roof.

    “All right,” bawled the sergeant, “unload ’em, and I mean empty. Our war’s over!”

    Camp Cable was thirty-two miles away, thirty-two miles of narrow, winding road through flat, empty country. Discontent grew as the miles rolled by.

    “Christ,” said...

  13. 9 Home Leave
    (pp. 142-145)

    On 4 June 1943, I left Melbourne inHermitage,a transport that had stopped on her way from India to the States. Old and rusty, she was loaded with civilians, mostly missionaries and refugees. I shared a large cabin with a young lieutenant of the Royal Australian Navy.

    In spite of her run-down condition,Hermitagewas fast and steady. We headed southeast toward Tasmania, traveling alone, with only minor zigzagging. Radio silence. Long lines for meals. Poor food. The captain, taking no chances on blackout regulations, ordered all decks cleared from 1600 of one day to 0800 the next. In...

  14. 10 The Golden Days at Quantico
    (pp. 146-166)

    On 3 August 1943, I reported in to Quantico. New buildings had gone up, but it was still the small post that I had come to love. The Photo Section occupied the entire top floor of Building 2009, and had grown to eighteen officers and a hundred men, far beyond our dreams of two years before. A still-picture section had been added, along with an animation department and production facilities. I didn’t know anyone. Maj. Franklin P. Adreon Jr., officer-in-charge, was older than I, with thinning hair, a mustache, and a twinkle in his eye. He was what Marines call...

  15. 11 Guam and the Third Division
    (pp. 167-182)

    In 1944, flying was still a rather primitive business. Most commercial flights were on Douglas DC-3s. From Rochester, my plane stopped in Buffalo and Detroit on the way to Chicago. Between there and San Francisco were stops in Omaha, Denver, Salt Lake City, and Reno. It was an all-day project, sixteen hours, but still a marvel, four times faster than the best train.

    San Francisco is alone among cities, a white city of wooden houses and tall buildings, a steep city of sharp hills. It’s a sentimental city that clings to its cable cars and memories of “The Fire.” It’s...

  16. 12 Iwo Jima
    (pp. 183-201)

    The departure of the Third Division for Iwo Jima was like the start of a big training exercise. We were in reserve, a well-earned change from the last two operations. “We may not even get ashore,” Dave Jones said hopefully. “With the Fourth and Fifth on that tiny damn island, there won’t even be room for us.”

    We rolled up our blankets, closed our footlockers, and walked out of our tents. We would be back, simple as that. But it wasn’t that simple. We were on a deadly journey into hell. For the replacements it was a thrill, the big...

  17. 13 Great Orders
    (pp. 202-211)

    Maj. Robert Mansfield, division adjutant, stuck his head in our dugout. “Karl,” he said, “get your gear. I have orders to send you to Washington.”

    He handed me the papers and left. The commanding general, Fifth Amphibious Corps, had “contemplated” this, I suddenly remembered. It was in that letter Colonel Turton showed me in Guam. I said then that I didn’t want to go, that it wasn’t necessary, that there was urgent work here. It was all true, but this was different. This was my ticket home, all expenses paid, unasked for but so welcome. And here was the perfect...

  18. 14 War’s End at Pearl Harbor
    (pp. 212-225)

    Everyone in the Pacific dreamed of duty at Pearl Harbor: Honolulu, Waikiki, women, whiskey, no bombs, no bugs, a laundry, ice, sheets, even some air-conditioning. Work was done on paper, and nights were for liberty.

    My office was Quonset hut 12, the last of a long row on the parade ground of the Marine barracks. The building was hot during the day, noisy as a subway when it rained, and the whole place shook when anyone walked across the floor. Its one redeeming feature was its proximity to the pool. Our projection room became a dressing room. All day, it...

  19. Glossary
    (pp. 226-227)
  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 228-230)
  21. Index
    (pp. 231-244)