Weatherford Democrat

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May 26, 2013

A time to remember

At the age of 90, former North Side Baptist Church’s Joe Ray Griffin finally retires, and looks back on service to his country and his God


Because of his draft notice, Joe left Baylor University in January of 1943. It was then that he and six or seven friends decided to join the Marines.

Joe was sent to boot camp at San Diego, Calif. After boot camp he was assigned to Camp Pendleton Marine Base in Oceanside, Calif., for four months of combat training. The Fourth Marine Division was formed. (Early in January 1944, the Fourth Marine Division boarded ship at San Diego, combat loaded, and “Operation Flintlock” was under way.)

The Fourth Marine Division set three new records on its first operation: It became the first division to go directly into combat from the United States; and it was the first to capture Japanese territory in the Pacific, and it secured its objective in just 16 hours. On Feb. 1, 1944, the first wave of Marines hit the beach of the Roi-Namur islands. The Fourth Marine had 190 casualties and 547 wounded while they captured 264 prisoners and 3,472 enemy troops lay buried on Roi-Namur.

“Operation Flintrock” was now history.

(As a personal bit of this writer’s history, Roi-Namur was the first island our ship visited in early 1945. I was on the USS Kitty Hawk AKV-1. We never became involved in combat.)

On Feb. 13, 1944, Fourth Division returned to Maui. The victory of The Marshall Islands became the stepping stone for future battles.

R&R comes to an end.

Saipan invasion

On May 29, 1944, the Fourth Division sailed for Saipan, capitol and stronghold of the Marianas Islands. Saipan was 3,715 miles from Pearl Harbor and just 1,485 miles from Tokyo – within range of the B-29 bombers.

The stage was set to land on Saipan on June 15, 1944. This would be the largest amphibious landing in warfare history, a fleet of seven battleships, 21 cruisers, 69 destroyers, 15 aircraft carriers carrying 956 aircraft protecting troop ships carrying 130,000 troops. More than 800 ships took part in this landing.

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