Thursday, June 10, 2010
Major Everett Parker Pope 1919-2009
Just a note, in 2001, while working on the St. John's River Ferry as the lead deckhand, I spotted a car driving on board with a Medal of Honor License Plate. Once we were secure and under way across the river I went up to the car tapped on the window, introduced myself as a Navy Veteran, the son of a World War II vet, and I asked him if he would grant me the honor of shaking my hand. An obvious gentleman in his 80's, he smiled, and said he would be honored to shake the hand of another vet. he was soft spoken but, you could see in his eyes he kept the secrets of that fateful day which in his own words "wasn't nothing to brag about". I looked up his citation that day when I got home, I looked up the facts behind the battle, and realized how lucky this country is to have had and to still have men (and yes women) of his character protecting us. I just learned of his passing, and I will always remember his firm but gentle handshake and the quiet resolution of a man who believed he did nothing more than what was expected of him, and didn't consider himself a hero, because the real heroes were those left behind in foreign graves or eternally resting in a deep blue sea. Thank you Major Pope, I know that God has another leatherneck to guard the gates of heaven.
Major Everett Parker Pope (July 16, 1919–July 16, 2009) was a United States Marine who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his conspicuous gallantry on Peleliu in September 1944 while leading his men in an assault on a strategic hill, and for holding it, with rocks and bare fists when ammunition ran low, against Japanese suicide attacks.
Pope was born on July 16, 1919 in Milton, Massachusetts, the son of Laurence Everett Pope and Ruth Parker Pope. He later moved to North Quincy, where he graduated from North Quincy High School in 1936. He attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, and excelled in both academics and athletics. He was the captain of the state-champion tennis team and was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society and the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. Shortly after graduating magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in French in June 1941, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps.
In about 1942, Pope married his high school sweetheart, Eleanor Hawkins. The couple had two sons, Laurence E. and Ralph H. Pope.
After basic training, Pope attended Officer Candidate School and, on November 1, 1941, was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve. He trained at Quantico, Virginia, and New River, North Carolina, prior to going overseas in June 1942 with 1st Battalion, 1st Marines. On August 7, 1942, as the leader of a machine gun platoon, he participated in the landing and action at Guadalcanal.
In 1943, he was transferred to Melbourne, Australia with his unit. Later, he again went into combat, as a company commander with the 1st Marine Regiment, in the Cape Gloucester, New Britain campaign, from December 1943 to April 1944. In the mopping-up operations which followed, he led a 14-man patrol which in one day killed 20 and captured seven of the enemy during a 12-mile trek over jungle trails.
From September 12, 1944 to September 30, 1944, he took part in action in the Peleliu campaign during which he acted with "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty", and for which he would later be awarded the Medal of Honor and the Purple Heart. Although wounded in action on September 20, he returned to duty the next day, and remained overseas until November 1944.
Pope was promoted to major in January 1945 and assigned for one year as a student in the Japanese language course at Yale University. On July 16, 1946, he was assigned an inactive duty status in the Marine Corps, and returned to his home and private employment in Massachusetts. There he became affiliated with the Marine Corps Reserve and commanded the 2nd Infantry Battalion, USMCR, Hingham, Massachusetts, until August 1950, when he was called to active duty with his battalion upon the outbreak of the Korean War. He served as Executive Officer of 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, until September 1951, when he was released to inactive duty and, shortly thereafter, resigned his commission in the Marine Corps.
Medal of Honor action
On September 20, 1944, Captain Pope and his company set out to storm Hill 154, a steep, barren, coral hill protruding from the face of Suicide Ridge, according to a field dispatch from TSgt Joseph L. Alli of Buffalo, New York, a Marine Corps Combat Correspondent. From almost point-blank range, Japanese mortars and field guns opened up on them from adjoining peaks on Suicide Ridge. Pope and his men took Hill 154 at dusk after hours of bloody fighting which nearly annihilated the group.
Forced to deploy his men thinly, he nevertheless determined to hold his ground for the night. Immediately after darkness fell, the Japanese started to attack, first in small infiltrating bands, and, when these units failed, in groups of 20 to 25 who tried storming the hill. Each time, the Marines opened fire with everything they had — one light machine gun, several Tommy guns and rifles, and a limited supply of hand grenades. When the grenades ran low, they hurled rocks. "We would throw three or four rocks, then a grenade. The Japanese didn't know which were which," one Marine said. By sunrise the Marines were beating off the enemy with bare fists and hurling ammunition boxes at them. Finally only eight riflemen remained. When daylight brought deadly fire, Pope was ordered to withdraw.
For these actions, Pope was formally presented with the Medal of Honor by President Harry Truman during a ceremony in 1945. It was Truman's first Medal of Honor presentation, and he told Pope that he would rather have the medal than be president.
Medal of Honor Citation
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to
CAPTAIN EVERETT P. POPE
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
for service as set forth in the following CITATION:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Commanding Officer of Company C, First Battalion, First Marines, First Marine Division, during action against enemy Japanese forces on Peleliu Island, Palau Group, on 19-20 September, 1944. Subjected to point-blank cannon fire which caused heavy casualties and badly disorganized his company while assaulting a steep coral hill, Captain Pope rallied his men and gallantly led them to the summit in the face of machine-gun, mortar, and sniper fire. Forced by wide-spread hostile attack to deploy the remnants of his company thinly in order to hold the ground won, and with his machine-guns out of action and insufficient water and ammunition, he remained on the exposed hill with twelve men and one wounded officer, determined to hold through the night. Attacked continuously with grenades, machine-guns, and rifles from three sides and twice subjected to suicidal charges during the night, he and his valiant men fiercely beat back or destroyed the enemy, resorting to hand-to-hand combat as the supply of ammunition dwindled and still maintaining his lines with his eight remaining riflemen when daylight brought more deadly fire and he was ordered to withdraw. His valiant leadership against devastating odds while protecting the units below from heavy Japanese attack reflects the highest credit upon Captain Pope and the United States Naval Service
/S/ FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT