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A 5 minute history lesson

NCO battled Japanese during 4 island assaults leatherneck.com October 4, 2004

  Al Perry carried his Browning Automatic Rifle through four Pacific island invasions, earned a Silver Star and killed dozens of Japanese soldiers. Perry, 79, of Clearwater, Fla., is a former corporal who speaks matter-of-factly about pulling thev trigger often, at close range, in close-quarters battles. Perry was with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 24th Marines. He was 17 when he entered the Corps, and he joined the division when it formed at Camp Pendleton, Calif., in 1943. The Feb. 1, 1944, landing at Roi-Namur in Kwajalein Atoll left 313 Marines and corpsmen killed and 502 wounded. As a scout armed with a BAR, Perry frequently found himself toe-to-toe with Japanese troops. His next invasion, on June 15, 1944, was Saipan, where some 2,000 Marines died the first day alone. The citation for Perry’s Silver Star award describes how he “fearlessly rose to his feet and walked forward firing his automatic rifle, personally accounting for 27 Japanese soldiers and setting heroic examples for the balance of his platoon.” In that battle, Perry said, “the others fixed bayonets, but of course the BAR doesn’t have a bayonet, so I fought without one.” Today, Perry takes no pleasure in remembering that, as a teenage Marine, he made a notch in the stock of his BAR for each Japanese he believed he killed, a total that reached about 135. Perry was part of the July 24, 1944, assault on Tinian, where a Japanese sniper killed one of his best friends, Sgt. Michael Frihauf, as they were talking to each other. The first night on Tinian, Perry was caught up in a furious battle. “There was a horrendous artillery barrage,” he said. “There were dead Marines everywhere. I personally burned up a BAR that night. I used all 30 of my magazines, and the Japanese were still coming.” His fourth invasion was the Feb. 19, 1945, assault on Iwo Jima. “The only way we could take this island was to kill the [enemy] in their caves,” Perry wrote on a Web site about his experiences. “We did that with flame throwers, satchel charges and hand grenades. We literally buried them alive. This lasted 36 days. Every day it was as if we were on a big beachhead and the whole island was like landing and the enemy was in a perfect position to kill you.” Perry left the Corps at war’s end in 1945 and returned from 1946 to 1948.

Robert F. Dorr, an Air Force veteran, lives in Oakton, Va. He is the author of numerous books on Air Force topics, including “Air Force One.” His e-mail address isrobert.f.dorr@cox.net.

Japanese Flag take from sniper
Japanese flag found on the sniper who killed Eddie Bookwalter (Al Perry's closest friend) at the end of the Iwo Jima campaign.

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