The Greatest Generation loses another great one.
My oldest brother, Vivian Harvey Laughter age 86, died Friday January 4, 2008, in the Shiloh community of Rutherford County, North Carolina, where he had lived for his entire adult life and most of his childhood.
Vivian served in WW II with the 1st Marine Division in the Pacific, leaving home later than most young men his age because he and his wife had suffered the death of their first born child in November, 1941.
He was married 5 days after his 18th birthday in March 1940 and his first child was born July 30, 1941. Tragically, on November 2 the baby was found dead in her crib. The family was still in mourning when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, so he was not one of the millions that hurried to enlist. However, later, when the situation allowed, he volunteered for the Marine Corps, an interesting choice for a farmer from the foothills of NC.
He returned home December 2, 1945.
During his service his unit established a magnificent combat record but he never used it for personal gain or to impress others. Because of his intrinsical modesty he didn't preserve or accumulate relics, mementos or other souvenirs of his service. He brought home a Japanese rifle captured from a sniper (we think Okinawa) but he later sold it without forewarning the family of his intent to let it go.
He had answered his country's call and when the job was done he came home to a normal life as a mill worker in the Stonecutter Mill in Spindale, NC, and as a shade-tree mechanic and part-time farmer. Everything we learned over the ensuing years about his war service was dragged from him one word at a time.
The Guadalcanal campaign in 1942 was the first major American Pacific campaign in World War II and the first time the 1st Marine Division conducted combat operations as a division. The Division's actions during this operation won it the first of three World War II Presidential Unit Citations [PUCs]. The 1st Marine Division also won PUCs for the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa.
More 1st Marine Division history...
One story we were able to elicit from him was about the battle of Peleliu. The vividness of his memory, however, was not on the vicious fighting but how fatiguing it was to recover dead bodies and carry wounded Marines back in the tropical heat from where they fell to where they could safely receive medical aid. The routine was to rotate Marines out of their fighting positions to take turns helping overburdened Corpsmen. Here's a blurb about that bloody battle from Military History Online:
The American assault on Peleliu, in the Palau Islands, had the highest casualty rate of any amphibious invasion in terms of men and material in the entire war in the Pacific. Peleliu was viewed as a potential threat to General Douglas MacArthur's invasion of the Philippines; its airfield would enable Japanese planes to strike at American landing and support ships and menace troops once on the ground in the Philippines. Clearly, from MacArthur's perspective, the almost 11,000-man garrison there had to be eliminated before his forces could move, unhindered, on his primary target...
More » Bloody Peleliu
. . . . . Frank Laughter
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