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PERSONAL ACCOUNTS OF WORLD WAR II



IVAN COLLIER


The following account is about Ivan Collier, on the island of Tarawa. Ivan Collier began his military career as a sailor. He enlisted before the war and was stationed at Pearl Harbor. He was on the docks when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and was blown into the water by an exploding bomb. He said that being blown into the water probably saved his life, as some of his buddies were killed on their ship. Wounded, he was shipped back stateside, where he spent six months in the hospital. During his hospital stay, he was retrained as a Pharmacist's Mate. On his return to the Pacific, he was sent in with the Marines on their island hopping campaign. He told me that first thing he did before landing with the Marines, was to get rid of his helmet with a red cross painted on the front. He said all that it did was make you a more visible target. When he landed on Tarawa, he said the Japanese were very well dug in. They had a rough time with the Japanese in their pill boxes. He recalled that if they couldn't defeat one with grenades and rifles, they would call in a guy with a flame thrower. On one such occasion, after the flame thrower had done its job, his squad blew open the pill box door and looked inside. Amid the dead Japanese, they found a wooden crate full of sake. Having been heated by the flame thrower just moments earlier, it was ready to be consumed. He and his five buddies drank the entire case of sake. He said they laughed about getting into trouble for being drunk, but what the Hell? What are they going to do to us, put us on the front lines? He recalled being pretty fatalistic at the time. "We didn't think we'd make it back," he recalled. "I'm no Hero, the Heroes are all the guys that got killed." Ivan Collier died in 1989 and he is greatly missed by family and friends.

By Andy "The Bear" Johnston

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