Two in the air, one on the ground
|Rex Guymon when he was in the Marine Corp.|
There are many stories about siblings all being active during World War II. Probably the most famous group of those were the Sullivans, a group of young men from Waterloo, Iowa. While two of them were already in the Navy at the time of the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, three younger ones immediately joined after the attack and the five of them petitioned the Navy to allow them to all serve on the same ship.
Eventually they all ended up on the USS Juneau, a light cruiser that was one of the first ships commissioned after the United States entered the war. However, the new ship, with all it's technology didn't prevent a tragedy when all five were lost at once when the ship went down after being torpedoed near the Solomon Islands.
Before that most branches of the military would not let brothers serve together in units or on the same ship. The Sullivans had asked for a variance from that as terms of their enlistments, and the Navy had granted it. After the Sullivans went down, it wasn't allowed again.
However the fate of the Sullivans didn't stop brothers from going into the service.
Brothers Kenneth, Orson and Rex Guymon grew up in Carbon County, the sons of a strong father, who was politically active and community driven. In that they had a drive to serve their county as well. During the war Orson served as a Marine pilot of a B-25 bomber, Kenneth served as a radioman/gunner in a B-24 and younger brother Guymon came into the Marines in 1942 as a regular Leatherneck. But he wasn't in the service long when he became part of a special unit, the first special forces the United States military had ever developed: the Marine Raiders.
|Souvenirs collected by Marine Raiders during one of the battles of World War II.|
Guymon, who still lives in Carbon County, remembers his brothers and their father well. Now the other three have passed away, but he still can recall some of what happened just before the war, as well as his own military service.
"My brother Orson had to bring his plane from the south to the northwest and was flying right over Price," stated Guymon in a recent interview. "He knew he had to fly right over Price so he came in very low and buzzed the town, particularly our house (located where McDonald's is now standing). He flew so low that the vibration knocked pictures off the walls of homes, including those of the police chief."
Guymon also remembers that his older brother was the first student to register at the new Carbon College in 1938.
"My dad (who was president of the school board at the time) told him to go down there and register for school as soon as he heard it was open for students. That benefited my brother in later years."
Both brothers also experienced air warfare. Air combat is one thing, but what Guymon experienced was another. There was no safe and soft bed to fly home to every night after the fighting was done. His war life was in the swamps and jungles of the south Pacific.
Guymon went into the Marine Corp in 1942. He went to basic training in San Diego and on graduation day a special speaker came to talk to the new Marines. His name was Jimmy Roosevelt, the son of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and a captain in the Marine Corp. During that time Roosevelt was involved with a man named Colonel Evans Carlson, who along with Merritt Edson, had convinced the Marine Corp that the way to fight the Japanese on their occupied islands was to use guerilla warfare. Roosevelt told the graduates that they could become part of that new unit to be called the Marine Raiders.
Only a few volunteered out of that graduating class because the chances of survival were much less for men in that unit than they were for regular Marines. Guymon was one of those.
Starting a new unit is not an easy thing, especially when resources are stretched thin in times of war. Guymon says that after graduation from boot camp he was sent north just a few miles from San Diego to begin training as a Raider. He and the men with him were the first to open what is today known as the most famous Marine base of all, Camp Pendleton.
"It was very primitive on that new base," he said giving one example. "The shower we used was a pipe that came right out of a cold spring."
|Jimmy Roosevelt next to his father.|
The Raider units were led by Lieutenant Colonels Joseph S. McCaffery and Fred S. Beans. There were four original battalions that were made up entirely of volunteers. Most were either hand chosen or were the few that dared to take on the challenge. Guymon was one of three that volunteered from his graduating class of 61.
Specialized training in warfare was what the men learned at Camp Pendleton. Some of what they learned was similar to the tactics the Chinese Army had used against the Japanese, particularly how to kill silently and quickly.
Guymon remembers that one small guy from the battalion had been trained in judo and was supposed to train the rest of the group he was with in the skill. His name was "Little Johnson."
In the first session he picked out a big guy who happened to be from Provo and who Guymon knew.
"He told that big guy to punch him in the gut as hard as he could, but the big guy said he didn't want to hurt him," said Guymon. "But Little Johnson kept egging him on and finally the big guy went to hit him and the little guy threw him on his back. No matter how many times he tried he couldn't touch him."
After that the pair became the best for friends.
Guymon found himself part of Carlson's Raiders (the 2nd Raider Battalion) which was commanded by Carlson himself. His second in command was Roosevelt. Battalion strengths varied from 600 to 950 Marines.
Besides using the killing tactics of the Red Chinese, he also abolished the traditional privileges that officers in the military normally enjoy.
In the field the officers carried the same equipment, wore the same clothes and even ate all the same food as the troops they were leading.
The 2nd Raider Battalion (designated so on Feb. 19, 1942) fought in various campaigns and guerilla actions. These included Midway Island (June 4-6, 1942), Butaritari Island, Makin Atoll (Aug. 17-18, 1942), Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands (Nov. 4-Dec. 17, 1942) and Bougainville, Solomon Islands (Nov. 1, 1943-Jan. 12,1944).
One of the thing Guymon remembers best is the illness that the Marines experienced fighting in hot, steamy, jungle settings.
"We went to New Herbertis Island and the swamps there were the worst," he said. "A lot of people came down with malaria and other things."
One of his friends, the big guy from Provo who had fallen prey to the little judo expert was one of the worst hit. He eventually became so bad they needed to send him back to San Francisco. The story he tells is one of the unfortunate fates of war that seem to crop up all too often.
"He got married just before we had shipped out and his wife was pregnant with their first child," said Guymon. "It took him a long time to get better in a hospital in California and when they released him he headed home. He never made it. He was killed in a car accident in Northern California on his way back to Provo."
Guymon can talk extensively about his experiences in the war. In one case 200 Raiders invaded a small island where they blew up all the enemies ammunition and chow dumps, only to find themselves somewhat stranded on the island after they had killed all the enemy soldiers off.
"We ran out of food and had to scrounge at the dumps we had destroyed for anything that was left," he said. "Finally an Army regiment was brought in to relieve us."
Guymon spent 31 months in the Pacific combat zone, much of the time spent slogging around swamps. His unit helped to take New Georgia and other key islands.
Unlike the Sullivans, all three brothers returned from the service, with Guymon's two older siblings becoming physicians and moving to the Wasatch Front.
Guymon, however, remains in Carbon County, proud of the job he and the Raiders did during World War II and proud too to have been part of the first special forces of the United States.