Parris Island was a revolving door.
They churned you out just as fast as they could, because each day ships loaded with more recruits arrived.
Next thing you knew, you were being inoculated, classified and put back on a ship. This one was headed to the Panama Canal and then, the South Pacific.
You got a life belt. You climbed down an iron ladder into a cargo hold. There you stayed for two days while non-coms rushed around winching on food stores and cargo slings stuffed with equipment.
On the first day out, the Liberty ships tested their guns. Everyone smiled at the dull boom.
You ate two meals a day. The drinking water came on twice a day for one hour. You got deck time in two-hour shifts. Every third day, you got a shower in lukewarm seawater.
You had boat drills.
The bunks were pipe-frame canvas and rope, stacked five high. For 12 hours of every 24, you had a bunk to call your own. An alternate took it for the other half of the day.
This is how you lived for two months. The smells of urine and vomit stopped bothering you after a while.
They said six months of specialized training awaited you in the South Pacific before you would ship out for combat.
They were wrong.
The transport pulled within swimming distance of New Zealand. The docks of Wellington were frantic with ships loading and unloading.
But your transport sat in the harbor, and sat and sat.
July and the mid-winter rains didnÃt stop.
The food stores got wet. Soggy boxes of mushy breakfast cereal and smashed cartons of cigarettes are tossed overboard. Some of the meat in the mess hall went south and a quarter of the men on board got diarrhea.
Colds and flu spread throughout the ship.
Then, word came down.
The Pacific Invasion was going to begin. They called it Operation Watchtower.
The Liberty ship pulled into dock. Every Marine, SIS or not, is put on eight-hour shifts in a human chain moving cargo from one ship to the next.
Ã¬Operation Watchtower, my ass,Ã® said one Marine. Ã¬This joint is run on a shoestring.Ã®
Operation Shoestring became the unofficial name.
They split up the DevilÃs Own.
Most of them go with McArthur to the Solomon Islands.
Six of you are assigned to Admiral Chester W. Nimitz.
Your objective: Guadalcanal.
Ã¬Who the hellÃs ever hearda Guadalcanal anyhow,Ã® one Marine said.
For a week, Task Force 61 steamed though the blue waters. More than 80 ships in all.
This ship is better than the last one. You play poker in the head. They play records once in a while, Ã¬Blues in the NightÃ® and Ã¬Chattanooga Choo Choo.Ã® You attend Ã¬Know Your EnemyÃ® lectures taught by people who donÃt know the Japanese any better than you.
The Marines sharpen their bayonets and blacken the sights on their rifles.
The night of Aug. 6, 1942.
The loudspeaker aboard ship came to life.
Ã¬All troops below deck,Ã® said the calm voice. Ã¬All troops below deck.Ã®
This was it. The only time theyÃve sent everyone below that meant D-Day. Invasion tomorrow morning.
The Marines filed below without the usual banter. They checked their packs one last time: mess gear, clean socks, underwear, shaving gear, and rations. Some read the Bible, others, letters from home or a beat-up comic book.
Men pulled their bunks down from the bunkheads and crawled in fully dressed. Few were sleeping.
The bombarding of the beach began with the dull thudding sounds of the naval guns firing.
Suddenly everyone was up and moving, forming lines.
On the deck the guns were much louder as were the planes shrieking overhead on bombing runs. Everyone packed like sardines along the rails to watch. The planes dove. The cruisers flashed as they fired another arc of red fire. Black smoke billowed from a distant beach.
The loudspeaker came to life again.
Ã¬Land the force!Ã® it said.
Marines streamed over the sides of the ship like ants. They climbed down rope nets to the landing craft below. The bobbing boat below looked so small from the top of the net. It rose and fell in the swell -- one moment clanging against the side of the ship, the next four feet away.
Hollywood jogs up to the rail, cutting ahead of a couple of others, places one hand on the edge and vaults over. The star spangled banner starts to sing out of thin air as he lands on the prow of the landing craft. "Alright lads, this is it, this is what we've all trained for, no more drills! Are you with me (Fist thrust up into the air)?!
Rock snorts at the bravado of the kook who just leapt over the rail without looking to see where the boat was. As he double checks his pack for the 4th time, there's some jostling behind him, and he gets shoved into the rail, he scambles to maintain balance, and slips on a greasy spot on deck. The Corpsman goes ass over teakettle off of the boat. He thinks he might have sprained his left wrist a little.
Headfirst he goes over the rail tangling limbs in the netting. A bottleneck forms behind him, sergeants get upset at the holdup, and Hollywood ends up having to untangle him.
Marines cheer at Hollywood's actions.
Fix: "Well, lads, it looks as if we 'ave a bit of a showoff, eh? Who wants to start the bettin' pool? 5 bucks say he won' make it past the first day..."
Carson: " Oh hell Irish, I don't know about that, I kinda like the guy's style. Tell you what, put me down for a week."
The pilot of the boat piped up: "In case we end up using these MGs, it would be nice if we would have to shoot THROUGH you private Franklin."
After jostling himself into position further back, Abramovich starts to unpack his meticulously packed kit to get some tape to wrap up his wrist. He wonders what the odds are of him delivering on the promise to Lenny to take him to this great beerhall back in Krakow.
The devil's own set off for the beach, Hollywood having just crawled down to a spot right at the front ramp.
The boat fills with men, the Devil's Own and a couple of Marine Raider units.
Everyone crouches beneath the gunwales while the boat churned into the assembly area.
It and other landing craft circle there for a while.
A Sgt. Major with the Raiders comes up to the Devil's. A soggy cigar stub sticks out of the corner of his mouth. "Where's your C.O. Devils?"
The group explains that MacArthur didn't happen to leave you one of those when he split everyone up.
"Great." said the Sgt. Major. "Alright listen up." He pulls out a map of the beach. "Our objective is the airstip that the Japs are building just inland. We are coming in about here a click, from it."
The boat circles. Others join in and form rings.
"Sgt. Collins," said the Sgt. Major. "Looks like you are the ranking officer for the time being."
"I want you to get your men up that beach as quickly as you can and grab some cover. Dig in and get that mortar and machinegun ready to fire into the jungle."
"Meanwhile, you radio back here and let them know what kind of resistance we are seeing."
"After you get that done, well, that's when you Devil's can start doing your fancy shit."
The Sgt. Major then turns his back on the Devil's Own and begins instructing his own men.
The landing boats break from their rings and finally fan out into a broad line. It looks like there are about a dozen or so craft in the first wave.
Once pointed towards the shore, the speed of the craft picks up. The craft lurches forward, a frothing wake forms behind as the craft heads to the shore of the enemy.
"Gentlemen!" the Sgt. Major yells to everyone. "Today is 7th August 1942, and America's first offensive in World War II is now underway! Welcome to the history books!"
As the ramp splashes down into the water, the soldiers get the briefest of glimpses of the beach. The hundred yards of clear beach seems to stretch out to much, MUCH more before the relative safety of the treeline.
The two inch thick wall of sand leaps up out of the water, flapping in midair like a cotton sheet hanging from a clotheline, completely ignoring the fact that it's 500 pounds of sand. A private who bears a striking resemblance to charlie brown asks "What happens if this margic carpet of your hits a land mine?"
Bogdin's very determined look snaps into a very blank one.
Carl, overhearing this, shrugs and takes his first step into the surfing, "... the rockets red glaaaare..."
Lenny takes a short drag on his cigarette and mumbles to nobody in particular, "God I hope I brought enough smokes."
He pats down his gear for the 17th time in the last 18 seconds, touching the grenades to make sure they haven't moved.
"Let's get this show on the road, ladies!" he yells as he moves into position behind Carson.
Dimwiddle peers over the top of the earthen burm that has suddenly appeared in front of him. "Now that's exactly what I wanted to see! Excellent show Bogger ol' boy." He looks out at the beach scanning for enemies and occasionally glancing around at his comrades to make sure they see him looking confident.
Willie is right at the gate as it drops, murmuring to himself "Yer bulletproof, yer bulletproof, yer bulletproof" Then he pauses "Shit, wonder if they have flamethrowers. Didn't think of that..."
Fix checks his gear, again, hitches up his pants, and looks at lenny. "Don't worry about the smokes buddy, I fixed a shitload of radios and other shit on the boat, that's all the guys had to trade, I got extras for ya..."
The gate drops.
Rebound takes one step forward and then something flies past him into the surf, spraying up water like a rooster's tail.
The "Star Spangled Banner" is blaring as Hollywood steps forward and the cool waters soak into his pants above his boots.
Men rush forward dogding around curtain of sand floating in the air like wet sheets on a clothes line. Their eyes squint toward the treeline up the sandy beach. But they see nothing.
Suddenly, a cloud of sand kicks up. A blur moves through a coconut grove and up the to the line of the jungle. The speeding Marines green uniform is about all that can be made out as it rounds the treeline and heads back into the surf.
Lenny hits the water and skips three times like a stone before splashing into the knee deep water and going under. Marines are there to pull him up.
Spitting up sea water and with a damp cigarette still dangling from his lip, Lenny stands.
"There's nobody here," he says.