A close friend of mine and I decided to join the US Marines. We joined in July 1942 and were sent to “boot camp” at Parris Island, SC. After graduating from Parris Island, I was sent to New River Tent Camp, known today as Camp Lejeune, Near Jacksonville, NC.
A short time later, my four brothers also joined the military. Two joined the Marines, one joined the Navy and the other joined the Army.
I was assigned to L Company, 3rd Battalion, 23rd Regiment of the 4th Marine Division and was given the assignment of Squad Leader of a Rifle Squad in an Infantry Regiment. I was promoted to Private First Class in November 1942.
After many training maneuvers and ship-to-shore landings, the Regiment was sent by train to Camp Pendleton, CA and joined the rest of the Division there for training as a Division. We then practiced beach landings on the California coast.
By January 1944 the Division was ready for combat and sailed from San Diego for the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific. On February 1 the Division landed on the islands of Roi-Namur and several other small islands in this atoll. The Division established three ‘firsts’ in this operation.
We were the first unit to go directly into combat from the US;
We were the first unit to capture Japanese mandated territory; and
We were the first unit to capture their objective in the shortest period of time. We captured these islands in two days.
Upon securing these islands, the Division sailed for Maui and established our advanced base there.
In April 1944 I was promoted to the rank of Corporal, and in May 1944 I was promoted to Sergeant.
On June 15, 1944 the Division landed on the Island of Saipan. My Company and the Regiment was to land in the first wave in ‘AMTRAK’s’ and proceed inland for 1000 yards, disembark and hold this line. My tractor/Amtrak lost a track at the beach and I had to take my squad, fight our way through the town of Charan Kanoa and reach the Company on the O-1 Line.
We were able to do this without any casualties. However, when we reached the Company there were many casualties on this line because of the heavy fire from artillery, mortar and machine guns that the Japanese were bringing on this area. The company finally had to withdraw back to the beach area due to the heavy fire received and the fact that other units did not reach the O-1 line to provide support on our flanks. My platoon lost our leader on the second day. This operation lasted about 36 days. On several occasions, I was directed to take a reconnaissance/combat patrol and advance about 500 yards to our front. My patrol found several caves full of natives or civilians. This was the island where many civilians took their own lives by jumping off high cliffs. The Japanese had brainwashed the civilians into thinking that they would be raped/killed by the Marines.
Upon securing this island I was ordered to report to my company commander Captain Sullivan. To my great surprise, I was asked if I would accept a ‘Battlefield Commission’ to Second Lieutenant. It took me a few moments to realize what this request meant, but I told Captain Sullivan that I would be honored to accept this promotion.
I was then ordered to report to the Aid Station for a physical. As I remember, the only question that I was asked was ‘Hampton, have you been on this island since D-day?’ My answer was ‘yes.’ He then stated that I had passed my physical.
The Davison rested for about a week and then landed on the island of Tinian on July 9, 1944. This operation lasted about ten days and then the Division returned to Maui.
My promotion was approved by the Commandant of the Corps and I was asked if I wanted a transfer or if I wished to remain with the Company. I requested to remain and did so.
In January 1945 the Division sailed for the island of Iwo Jima. Since our Battalion was the first wave at Saipan and Tinian, we were to land in reserve on Iwo Jima.
The Japanese had everything underground on this island. There were many caves with several openings for each. One cave on Mt. Suribachi was seven stories deep. General Kuribayashi had this island zeroed in for every square yard and had ordered every man to stay in his position and to kill ten enemy before dying. It took 36 days for the Marines to take this 8 square mile island. There were over 22,000 casualties.
My company landed with ten officers at about 1:00 pm on D-Day, 19 February 1945. One of the first remarks that I remember hearing from one of our troops was ‘This place looks like hell, so why don’t we give it back to the devil?’
Movement on this island was very limited. One day we might advance 25 yards and the next day maybe nothing. After about eight days, I was the only officer left and I had been wounded once. I was the Company Commander for two days before a captain joined the Company.
On the 11th day, while in a reserve position, I was ordered to take a reinforced platoon to the front and fill in a gap on the front lines. I started forward after dark with our guide, and after advancing about halfway to the front, we encountered troops moving toward us. Not knowing if they were friendly or not we asked for the password. Upon hearing our request, the Japanese started firing and throwing hand grenades at our patrol. We were able to return fire and force the enemy back into their caves and continue our mission. I was the only one receiving injuries and received hand grenade shrapnel wounds in my hip and on my left leg. After turning over the patrol to the front line unit, I was taken to the first aid station and then sent to a hospital on Guam.
From Guam I was transferred to a hospital in Hawaii, then to California, and finally to the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, VA.
I was released from active duty in April 1946. In September my brother and I started classes at UNC. We could not find a room at UNC so we stayed in our car for several days. We finally found a place over the 5 and 10- cent store in Carrboro. After several weeks we moved into Miller Dorm (the same as a military barracks). The second year we moved into Mangum dorm and I joined the Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity.
In June 1948 I sold my car and bought a wedding ring for Frances “Tommie” Thompson. We were married 4 June, 1948 in the Methodist Church in downtown Chapel Hill. After a brief honeymoon in Washington, DC we returned to UNC and lived in Everett Dorm for a semester. We later were able to sublet in Victory Village several times before buying a trailer in the big trailer park located where the Pharmacy School is now located. All the trailers did not have bath facilities so we used the big bath house located in the middle of the trailer park.
Upon graduating in June 1950 I accepted a job as Physical Director of a new YMCA in Greenwood, AC. During the brief time there, I took a little league football team and played a game in the Georgia stadium before the college team played.
In January 1951 I received a letter stating that the Marines wanted me in Korea. I was sent to Korea and assumed command of a rifle company in the First Marine Division. I was later sent to Korea for a second tour.
In May 1953 I flew a rifle company to Winston Salem, NC for the Memorial Day parade. In 1962 my battalion was aboard ship off the coast of Corsica. One day the authors of “The Longest Day” C. Ryan and D. F. Zanuck came aboard ship and asked if the Battalion would be willing to make some landing scenes for the movie. I was the Executive Officer of the 3rd Battalion, 6th Regiment at this time. We agreed to do so and spent five days making landings for the movie. After we finished the landings I asked Mr. Zanuck for his director’s chair and he gave it to me.
After we left Corsica, I took a rifle and pistol team and flew to Malta for competition with the British Royal Marines. My team won both matches.
In 1963-1964 I attended East Carolina University and received my Master’s degree. I would drive to Greenville on Friday night, attend class from 6-9 pm, stay in a motel, attend class on Saturday am from 9-12 and then drive back to Camp Lejeune. I was appointed Educational Officer for the Base in 1963-1964. I requested from the General to conduct a survey of the Marines to determine the number that needed to complete their high school education. From that information, and with the help from Onslow County and East Carolina University, we established a school for the Marines to complete their education.
While stationed in Atlanta in 1956, we adopted our son Mark Steven Hampton. He attended ECU and became a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon. In 1959 while stationed at Camp LeJeune we adopted our daughter Debra Sue Hampton.
In June 1965 I retired from the Marines as a Major. My individual awards were two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts. My Division received two Presidential Citations. I started to work for the University of North Carolina 1 July 1965 as the University Loan Officer. My office made loans to all students, Medical, Dental and all others. In 1970 I moved over to become the Business Manager of the Department of Surgery and retired from the in June 1988.
In 1984 I was given/conferred to “The Order of the Long Leaf Pine” by Governor Jim Hunt.
During my retirement I have spent many months doing family research and keeping up with the troops that I served with during WWII. My Company still meets every year for our reunion. I also attended my 66th High School reunion 29 September 2007.
– This interview, by Jim Stallings, was done on Aug 5, 2005, and appeared in the American Legion Post 6, Chapel Hill, NC, Newsletter. for October-December 2007. It is used with permission of the author.