Birthday: January 15, 1922
Birthplace: Westboro, Wisconsin
Family: Antone and Anna
Branch: 2nd Marine Division; 8th Regiment; 2nd Battalion
Post: Communication Section; demolition expert; rifleman
Joseph Kosek was born on Jan. 15, 1922 in Westboro, WI. "I was brought up during the Depression era, things weren't easy. We had nine in the family; my father lost his job in the lumber mill. We had a 22 single shot so you could hunt partridge, rabbits, deer, etc. because of that I became an expert rifleman."
"When the war started, I was working in Chicago and if you get to Chicago they have that Theatre downtown with that big marquee, oh its huge. Everyday the news came across. One day two buddies and I, we're standing there, all of a sudden across this marquee it says the Japs have bombed the United States. So we went back to our rooms and eventually my buddies went into the army and I enlisted in the Marines."
"I went to San Diego to go through Boot Camp. Then from there I went to antitank school, there you learn to fire various guns, 20mm up to 75mm. So when I got on the ship, the first thing you know they holler, `Kosek go man this over here.' It's kind of scary cause when we pulled out of San Diego we went straight through to New Caledonia with no escort, no destroyer, nothing. And we were all aware of that, and so we had certain people, and that was my job, to man the gun and watch a certain degree from here to here in case periscopes came up."
"They stopped at New Caledonia, I don't really know what the reason was. I was what you call a replacement in the 23rd Replacement Battalion. The Second Marine Division had seen their first combat in Guadalcanal. Afterwards they needed to build up the division to full strength again, that's where I came in. Full stength is about 18 thousand and out of that maybe five thousand are front line troops."
"I also got in Communications, combat section, not that I was too happy with that. One time we had to run telephone wires along and radio and what not; we were running this wire along these trees and we had to cross an open spot, and getting across we ran out of wire. I left my carbine leaning against a small tree. I run back to cover and I look out there and there's my carbine sitting out there. So I had everybody cover me and I made another dash and got it. This was in Saipan."
"Okinawa was the longest, about 3 months; Saipan was about 25 days or so and Tianian was about 12 days. Tarawa was the worst, which was 3 days. We lost I think it was 11 hundred and something Marines. They lost over 5 thousand Japs, in three days. Actually two days because the third day everything smoked right up. I also went to Motor Transport Mechanic school when I was stateside. They try to pound you with everything and then when you get over there they'll check your number and they'll put you there, if they need someone in a hurry, which is what happens."
"Then we went to New Zealand, oh man, that was really good because we saved them. The Japs were going to invade Australia and they were going to go into New Zealand. They treated us like kings compared to the average working person there with a family, well a Private in the Marine Corps made more. So we could all go out. I did that a lot because I was in special weapons at the time and I had access to a vehicle. So I slipped up town, which was about 25 miles and had steak and eggs with homemade bread and butter and all the good stuff. A lot of us ate that way."
"In New Zealand, there you got your training (for the invasion). You had your night hikes, one day you got the compass and you had to take the whole crew all over. And then we started saddling up to move out, we were going into a campaign, we knew we were heading out. (They told us where we were heading) as soon as you were on ship. Then you had certain landing maneuvers (which we practiced). We'd stop on some of the islands and landed in the jungles. Man you couldn't walk through some of those jungles! Finally we had submarine drills. One of our own submarines would poke its periscope up there to see if we could spot it."
"After we finished this training we headed in and got into the Gilberts. We had an armada there, probably about four or five hundred ships. At Okinawa, by comparison, we had about nine hundred to a thousand ships."
"Our troop ships stayed in the middle and our carriers stayed somewhat in the middle. Then the destroyers, battleships, and cruisers on the outside were used to watch the planes leaving at daybreak. I'm glad I wasn't in there. Lots of them would come in just as it was getting dark. It'd be misty; there were monsoons and rain, and they're trying to land on this thing and it's heaving. Sometimes the carrier hits the plane and throws it right through the air and the (crew) is running around trying to pick up the pilots. We watched for the longest time and we were all happy we weren't in (the Air Corps). That was scary, oh and the dog fights."
When they dropped the atom bomb, they right away notified us. Our base then was Saipan, not Hawaii, which we would have liked. Right away they announced it (that) they brought in two atom bombs (to Saipan) and they were going to bring them over to bomb Japan. We were the only units on Saipan that were fully armed because we always carried rifles and ammunition, pistols, etc. (My wife's cousin) was with the B-29's. I used to go visit him because I had access to a vehicle. Then one day our tanks went up around the B-29's and no one could go in or out. He said, `What in the hell is the matter with you Marines? We can't even get out of here.' I said, `Don't you hear the word? They have an atom bomb here and they're gonna fly to Japan.' `No (he said), they didn't tell us nothing.' So we used to get the word and they wouldn't. Then the commanders tell you `Smoking lamp is out. Anybody starts any type of fire, shoot to kill.' Those were our orders.
"The next day I'm going to dinner when all of a sudden the Japs come with a strike. They wanted to detonate the bomb. That was a dogfight! The P-38's came in, P-47's, the P-51 was in of course they cleared everything out."
"On Okinawa for instance, they landed a plane, I think it had twelve or fourteen Japanese in it. They jumped out of this plane; the Americans were caught so surprised they didn't really noticed what type of plane was coming in. They (the Japanese) ran out of there and were trying to burn all of our fighter planes up. They did damage to some of them. But they knew they were not going to come out of it."
"Tarawa was my first (combat situation). They (the Japanese) were dug in there. They had their pits dug and they were covered with rocks and sand and everything. And one was made so it would cover the entrance to the other one. So you couldn't attack this one cause that one would cross fire you. So we had one lulu of a time getting in there. The Americans were bombing and we were standing there watching the bombardments going on and the first wave was wrapping up to go in. I didn't get in on the first wave; I was lucky. The powers that be thought there was nothing left of them (the Japanese), but there was a big embankment about four feet high that they had all the coconut logs. In order to get over that they had that cut with machine guns. So when you try to get over that there was nothing but machine guns. Those Japs were in these foxholes, there were these pits and they were covered, they were ingeniously made. They had maybe over a year to fix them. Eventually when a few guys broke over and spotted where they were, they called in the mortar. Usually a good mortar man would get in by the third round. Once we got mortars in the general bombardment did knock out the big coastal guns. They had maybe a half a dozen or so, that's their eight inch or bigger their huge. It knocked them out but not the other stuff."
"Thanksgiving day (on Tarawa) my buddy and I split a can of C-rations, that was our Thanksgiving dinner."
"They (the Japanese) tied themselves on top of the coconut trees. I don't know how they got up there because that's not easy. Our first thing is, when we're gonna hit a spot like that is everybody opens fire. Empty your rifle into the tops of the trees. Tarawa, actually, the highest piece of land was four feet high or so."
"We stayed on Tarawa until about January 9th. Then we went to Hawaii to rebuild and get ready for the next invasion. Our next stop was the Mariana Islands, Saipan. When we were in Saipan we pushed way to the edge of the island. We were on the front for twenty-two days and that means you didn't shave, you didn't bathe, and you didn't clean clothes, no clean clothes. You slept in dirt everyday. No rest. After we were pulled off the line, they made us walk back to our camp near Garapan. (Saipan is about 18 miles long and 6 miles wide.) We got all cleaned up and everything, oh how good that felt. All of a sudden next morning (I hear), `Everybody saddle up (we're) going back in.' There were 4,500 (Japanese) troops, which no one had known about up on the northern cliffs of the island. You always had a fox hole buddy, who stayed with you, one or two people, but three was better. If you had three, you could get more rest because one was awake all the time. You had a good chance of never seeing them again."
"Only once that I seen a guy loose it, his nerves. We got mortared up on a high cliff in Saipan and his buddy was next to him and a mortar shell hit him (his buddy) and blew him up and splashed stuff all over him this guy lost it. Two guys had to hold him down and then we got him to the rear, which was the only time."
"When we were in Okinawa, we were sitting eating our "C" rations with our backs to the tree. All of a sudden this swishes right by me, `Now what!' You know incoming fire is like hornets, and I don't know why nobody else knew why. I took out my knife, dug it out and put that bullet into my case. It missed me by about an inch. Then I asked, `What's going on over here?' This one guy said the commanding General Buckner (was there). `He's now at the Command Post over there, look.' So we all turned and looked and there he and a few other officers were. He officers were all trying to tell him `Get down, get down!' He just kept walking on and he took two artillery shells.
under Learn and Serve American Grant #00LSFWI104