Looking back on USMC thanksgivings, reminding us of things for which we should be grateful

Summary:  a guest post by Beth Crumley, a Marine Corp retrospective about Thanksgivings past.  This reminds of how much we have to be grateful before, and the price paid for our liberty and prosperity. This was originally run here in 2011.  {First of two posts today}

US Marine Corps

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Thanksgiving in the Marine Corps

by Beth Crumley at the website of the Marine Corps Association

22 November 2011

Reposted with their generous permission

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I love this time of year.  I love walking outside on a crisp, autumn morning and hearing the leaves crunch under my feet, and the smell of a wood fire in the air. It’s a reflective time…a time to take stock of what’s important in our lives. This weekend I was happily engaged in some pre-Thanksgiving tasks. I put a large pot of poultry stock on to cook, made pastry dough and even roasted off some pumpkins for pie. Later, while sitting at my desk, I looked at the calendar and realized that 68 years ago the battle for Tarawa raged.  I started to think about those who have served, and those who serve today, and how difficult it must be to be separated from family and friends on the holidays we hold most dear.

The Marine Corps has long taken particular care to ensure that those who cannot be with their families still celebrate Thanksgiving. In times of war, that has proven challenging.

On 26 November 1942, Thanksgiving Day, Marines were battling the Japanese on Guadalcanal. The diary of one veteran noted, “Thanksgiving…air raid siren at 3:30 A.M….very little sleep.”  A history of the 1st Battalion, 11th Marines noted:

“Thursday, November 26, 1942 … a complete Thanksgiving day dinner was served to all hands on Guadalcanal. R4Ds loaded with all kinds of holiday food were flown into Henderson Field and distributed immediately to all units. Batteries of the 1st Battalion, 11th Marines, built ovens and roasted turkeys in them. Every Marine got a cold bottle of Pepsi Cola.”

A year later, on 20 November, 1943, Marines assaulted the bloody beaches of Tarawa.

Thirty hours after the Marines went ashore came a message which relayed the news from Colonel David M. Shoup, shore commander, reporting: “Casualties many; percentage of dead not known; combat efficiency: We are winning.” On the afternoon of 23 November, Major General Holland “Howlin Mad” Smith received the news that organized resistance on Tarawa had ceased. The island was declared secure on the morning of 24 November. The next day  was Thanksgiving Day.  For many families there would be little to be thankful for.  Some 3,407 Marines were casualties of the battle for Tarawa. 997 Marines and sailors, mostly Navy corpsmen were dead, another 88 were listed as missing and presumed dead.

This drawing by combat artist Kerr Eby captures the death and destruction that marked the battle for Tarawa:

Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection

Smith later wrote:

{click here to read the full post}