Guarino fought for ‘greatest country in the world'|
Saturday, September 15, 2012
By Dianne Byers Staff Writer
CURWENSVILLE - As a young man of age 21, Fred Guarino of Curwensville, just as many other young men around his age had, joined the military following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
The shock of the surprise military attack by Japanese military forces Dec. 7, 1941, prompted Guarino to action. "I went to Pittsburgh and enlisted (in the U.S. Marines) just like a lot of other young Americans."
He said his father, who immigrated from Italy and served in World War I, always said the United States "was the best country in the world" and because he didn't like what had been done at Pearl Harbor were some of the reasons behind why he signed up.
"I wanted to fight America's war not Europe's war," he added.
Fight he did as he was assigned to the Marine Corps First Division after completing basic training at Paris Island, S.C., and then being stationed for a time at New River, N.C., now Camp LeJune. Guarino was a machine gunner, and because of the danger associated with the position, received an additional $6 per month to his monthly pay of $21.
Guarino said during the summer 1942, the original plan was for his unit to go by ship to New Zealand to train and help that country with its national defense, if needed. But, during the trip new information surfaced about the Japanese building an airfield at Guadalcanal and the soldiers were sent there to conduct an amphibious assault.
Guarino said while the ship was en route there was a storm in the Coral Seas that prevented the Japanese military from flying missions and spotting the Marines and the weather-related break helped in the unit's attack.
On Aug. 7, 1942, the Marines landed. "We were at their door and ready to go," Guarino said, noting the soldiers landed in wooden boats, with many of them carrying weapons leftover from World War I and knives the soldiers had purchased at a hardware store.
According to information found on Wikipedia, the Marine division as a whole would fight the Battle of Guadalcanal until they were relieved Dec. 9, 1942. The battle ended in February 1943 when the last of the Japanese military was vacated from the island. The operation, the first American ground offensive in the Pacific, marked the end of Japanese land acquisitions and won the division its first of three World War II presidential citations.
Guarino said at the beginning of the conflict, the Japanese had control of the land, sea and air and the unit was bombed daily.
Information on Wikipedia notes 650 U.S. soldiers were killed in action; 31 were listed as missing in action; 1,278, wounded; and more than 8,500 contracted malaria.
Guarino said he contracted malaria but, as many of his fellow soldiers did, continued to carry out the battle. He said only those with a high fever on the verge of collapse were pulled from the defensive line. He said the soldiers would try to keep their spirits up even though at times that was difficult.
"We tried to joke and laugh whenever we could find something to laugh at."
The war raged on and Guarino was part of the battle on the island of Peleliu, where he was wounded in the leg by shrapnel in 1944. He said after he recovered he was decommissioned in 1945.
Guarino said while he was serving he never met up with any soldiers from the area, but about 20 years ago met with John Barac of Treasure Lake at a Marine Corps League ball and the two found they shared a similar experience.
Since that time he has been remembering his military days by periodically attending reunions of Marine veterans who served in World War II. Recently, accompanied by his son, Charles "Chuck" Guarino, he traveled to Arlington, Va., for the 70th anniversary reunion of the Guadalcanal veterans Aug. 7.
Fred Guarino said there were about 100 people in attendance and only a fourth of those were veterans who had seen combat. Guarino said he didn't know a soul attending the reunion.
The majority of those attending were family and friends of veterans. Fred Guarino said he was "very impressed" with the number of sons and daughters who attended the gathering out of respect for their deceased fathers.
He said even though 70 years have passed, it was important to him to be among those gathered to recall the battle of Guadalcanal and the sacrifices made by many soldiers.
"I'm 91 years old and I was getting concerned the time was growing short and I really wanted to make this reunion. It's important to remember," he explained.
Chuck Guarino said, "Having served in the Navy Seabees myself I really enjoyed hanging out with these warriors from our country's "Greatest Generat- ion." It was personally very interesting for me learning how the Navy Seabees worked closely with the Marines and were an integral part of our success in the Pacific in World War II. There aren't many of these World War II veterans left and we can never forget that over 400,000 American lives were lost in that war alone just to protect the freedom that we sometimes take for granted today.
"It is generally accepted that the Battle for Guadalcanal, which started Aug. 7, 1942, was the turning point in the Pacific war against an enemy who had attacked us at Pearl Harbor barely eight months earlier. At the time our country was not fully prepared for war and with the military technology of today it is almost unimaginable that my father and his Marine comrades landed on Guadalcanal in wooden boats with some Marines carrying weapons from World War I and even knives that they bought themselves at a hardware store in San Francisco before they left the United States. However, with great determination these Marines went ashore and were isolated and abandoned with scarce supplies of food and even ammunition. Through steadfast determination our military somehow achieved complete victory on Guadalcanal in early 1943 when the last enemy soldier was evacuated from the island ... ."
"After spending a few days with these old veterans, almost all of them were in their late 80s or early 90s, I was inspired by the pride and passion they still have for our country and the sacrifices they made to protect our way of life. I have no doubt if they could these guys would don the uniform again to battle anyone who threatened our country's freedom. Proud of this country, my father still flies the flag every day outside his home in Curwensville and I have no doubt many of his Word War II buddies do the same. The motto of the Guadalcanal Campaign Veterans, the organization that sponsored the reunion, says it all. It reads ‘It isn't the cost of belonging - It's the price you paid to be eligible.'"