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Thank you for your Service James E McIlrath

He Served in the Pacific, Tarawa, Saipan and Tinian and more.

Our glimpse of his story begins in 1943 when he joined the United States Marine Corp in the midst of World War II seeing combat in Saipan and Tinian in the Pacific Theatre.

The following contains excerpts from Jim’s own journals graciously shared by his family. They are graphic and sadly torturing to endure so keep that in mind if you proceed into his memoirs.

“Day 1 Smitty, a vet of Canal and Tarawa says I should take Miles Bar- I give Miles my M1 (serial 1444423) my pal My Rifle- everything is chaos. We do not know where the rest of the platoon is. We’re still on thee beachy area. Smitty and I are trying to decide which direction to take. I crouch by a small pine tree.

Two or three other Marines join us. The one kneels down close to me and gestures to me to push his machete in to the scabbard.

The sound was a sharp “shaaa” then a loud “crack” concussion. I felt a large blow to my right thigh (I later believe it to be the Marine’s arm jerk) I look down into a pink bowl with blonde jair sticking out around it, the top of his head is gone. The other Marine is standin , trying to breathe, his jaw is gone. There is blood and gore all over. 

The next I remember I’m walking around, without a weapon, I come across a disabled Marine tank, a headless Marine body, I pick up a Thompson machine gun.

I find him (Blondy) lying there, on his back, he’s young like me -17 or 18-naked waist up, stomach ripped open, guts spilled out-eyes open but glazed a sheen of dust from the explosion. Dust on open blue eyes.”

Another entry:

June 14, 1944  “ On board LST I notice a Veteran of Jarawa putting his watch in a rubber condom and tying the end. I guess I looked curious so he explained- salt water ruins a good watch.

We board in the belly of LST, the odor of diesel exhaust will remind me forever. The jaws of the LST open and we go down the ramp into the sea. I thought we’d go straight to the bottom. We circle until everyone is out then line up and head for the beach. Ships are shelling the island continually, lots of smoke and noise; we are in the first wave, JAP artillery shell are hitting the water and throwing up large plumes of water, one is so close we are drenched- an LVT to our right is suddenly gone in a cloud of debris- all those men died at once.

Small arms fire is hitting our LVT as we run up in the narrow sandy beach. I roll over the side and drop to the sand. The noise is terrific. Almost immediately I come upon Miles and Wilson lying side by side, yelling and gesturing to my left- they are both wounded. The JAPS have been throwing grenades from the other side of a sand hill thrown up by a previous bomber shell. I can’t see them so I crawl up the side of the hill. At the top I see three Japanese, two are pointing at me; one is preparing to throw a grenade when II shoot him in the heart, then the one on his right-the one on his left runs and I shoot his hand, he stumbles and falls.

Owens killed by machine gun fire the first day in the swamp. Miles and Wilson wounded by grenades the first day I do not know whether Smitty, Miles, Wilson or Aurit survived the war of not.”

The following photo of another handwritten timeline for his family history is shown below. A life full of memories from a hero who survived, whose life was allowed to continue, a chance to return to a level of normal when discharged in 1946, but obviously with memories of unpleasant times of war.

 Jim married in 1947, went to Art School in Florida then eventually returned home to Huntington, where he worked at Caswell-Runion, General Electric, and Wayne Paper Co. His final employ where his graphic art career spanned 18 years was Our Sunday Visitor in Huntington IN where he and his wife Jean had settled and raised their three sons Jim, Mike and Kevin ,then later welcomed six grandchildren to his family.

Retired Corporal James E McIlrath, 88, United States Marine, decorated Purple Heart died May 20, 2014 leaving a treasury of art, photos, and shared memories for his family and friends.


Permission granted for diary excepts from son Kevin McIlrath, Huntington

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