Freedom Fighters: Ed Hammond - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Freedom Fighters: Ed Hammond

TITUS COUNTY, TX (KLTV) -

Ed Hammond was 18 when he joined the First Marine Regiment in November of 1943 and shipped out for the Pacific Island on Pelilu.

"The Battle of Pelilu was considered one of the most vicious battles, bloodiest battles fought in World War II," says Hammond.

Pelilu was a small island only a mile wide and seven miles long, but strategic for winning the Pacific back from the Japanese. Hammond was in the third wave of marines sent to shore, but his Amtrak, or Amphibious tractor, never made it to the beach.

"Our Amtrak came under direct machine-gun fire and for some reason the Coxwain stopped," says Hammond.

The marines knew they'd be shot out of the water if they didn't head for the beach immediately.

"We rolled out of the Amtrak into the water. It was just total confusion all the way," says Hammond.

But the beach was no refuge. A famous photograph published in American magazines and newspapers shows Hammond dug into the shallow sand beach, as fellow marines died all around him.

"I saw two men die the first five minutes I was ashore. I saw one in the water. He was blown completely out and up in the air," says Hammond.

The hard coral beach prevented digging foxholes, leaving the marines exposed to heavy Japanese mortar fire.

"It was close fighting. Some fought hand to hand," says Hammond.

After the initial invasion, American ships pulled out leaving the marines without heavy backup.

"Fortunately, we had one lieutenant who insisted on bringing an anti-tank weapon," says Hammond.

The anti-tank weapon and one fighter bomber from an aircraft carrier were just the push the marines needed to secure the island. Hammond stayed on Pelilu 10 days. He later was in the invasion of Okinowa and then was sent to China to disarm a garrison.

Ed Hammond has written about World War II extensively for national magazines, and at the age of 92, he still can't understand how he survived the Battle of Pelilu.

"I'm glad I went and I'm glad I served, but I wouldn't give you a dime for another trip," says Hammond.

Copyright 2016 KLTV. All rights reserved.

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