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Interview with Robert L. Corwin [7/30/2002]

Roger B. Wilson:

Today is Tuesday, July 30th, 2002. This is the interview of Robert Corwin taking place at Bob's home. The only person in attendance is the interviewer, Roger Wilson, who is a friend of Bob and his wife, Ruth. Run over briefly, Bob, the branch of service and what war, which is obviously World War II, your rank and when you served before we get into more specific questioning on your background.

Robert L. Corwin:

I am retired. I was in the United States Marine Corp. I joined in December 1941 and was inducted at the end of January 1942. After boot training I was sent to New River, North Carolina which is now Camp Lejeune, became a member of the First Marine Division, specifically the First Battalion of the First Regiment. And we then participated in the Guadalcanal campaign. I lasted six weeks and through various tours of hospitals ended up on limited duty at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. And I was a regular marine. But after almost two years of service I realized I wasn't of any help to the marine corps so I asked for a medical discharge and I was discharged at the end of January 1944 and went back to high school.

Roger B. Wilson:

Now, Bob, December 7th, 1941 when Pearl Harbor was attacked, you had just turned - not much more than a month before that you were seventeen on October 20th, having been born October 20th, 1924; could you describe what you were doing at that time, your situation and your enlistment.

Robert L. Corwin:

Well, I remember Pearl Harbor well over the radio saying that they had been bombed by Japanese forces, and I was sitting -- it was around one o'clock on a Sunday afternoon, I was sitting in my parents sitting room at home. And I was dumbfounded. I don't think I even knew where Pearl Harbor was. I'll never forget the impact. And like many young men felt that they should do something. So I decided to join the marine corps. My brother was already, my older brother, Nat, was already in the navy aboard the heavy cruiser USS Quincy. And perhaps the uniform had something to do with my choice of the marine corps. I don't know. But in any event, that's what I did. And the recruiting officer when I went into 90 Church Street in New York suggested that I not be inducted right away; to wait until I finished my junior year in high school. And I'm sure glad he did, and it was very nice of him to suggest that. So that's why I wasn't inducted until January of 1942.

Roger B. Wilson:

And, Bob, you were living in Huntington. What school were you in?

Robert L. Corwin:

Public school, Huntington High School.

Roger B. Wilson:

And you were a junior?

Robert L. Corwin:

Yes.

Roger B. Wilson:

And you finished your junior year?

Robert L. Corwin:

Yes.

Roger B. Wilson:

In January?

Robert L. Corwin:

Yes. Of 1942.

Roger B. Wilson:

Okay. You were inducted at the end of January 1942?

Robert L. Corwin:

Yes.

Roger B. Wilson:

And how did that work then? Where did you report? How did you get -

Robert L. Corwin:

90 Church Street, and then they gave us another physical exam. We were inducted and put on a train and sent down overnight, sent down to Beaufort, South Carolina and then by bus over the causeway to boot camp at Paris Island. And that lasted two months. I had two good drill instructors; one was a private and one was a PFC.

Roger B. Wilson:

Very hard training; isn't the marines are noted for being harder than most other services in boot camp?

Robert L. Corwin:

There wasn't anything none of us couldn't handle. The food was good. You get up at four o'clock in the morning. Most of it was marching and listening and taking orders and we became pretty good at it. An then a couple weeks on the rifle range, we were given the old 1903 Springfield rifles and I had that for rest of my - through Guadalcanal.

Roger B. Wilson:

And after you graduate I guess it's called from boot camp, you're then a PFC, is that right?

Robert L. Corwin:

No, just a private.

Roger B. Wilson:

Oh, just a private.

Robert L. Corwin:

Yes.

Roger B. Wilson:

Then what was your training after Paris Island?

Robert L. Corwin:

Then we were all sent to New River, and that's where I became part of the First Marine Division. I was in B Company of the First Battalion. Our Battalion commander was Leonard Crestwell, well liked by the troops. Our Company Commander was a first lieutenant by the name of Marshal T. Armstrong. And that's where we got our training. And the first part of June we were put on a train and shipped off to San Francisco to be put on a plane to New Zealand.

Roger B. Wilson:

Bob, I understand you have a book about the First Division of the marines with an interesting personal photo in there. Could you describe that book and what the photo shows.

Robert L. Corwin:

The book in entitled The Old Breed: A History The First Division in World War II, written by a chap named George McMillan in 1949. It's obviously way out of print now but it's an excellent book and it covers the division in World War II. On page 16 it shows a squad of marines boarding a train, and I am the last marine in line to the left as you look at the picture. I recognize some of the faces. And the officer with his back to the camera was our platoon leader named Lawrence Smith. The picture was taken in early June 1942 at New River. The train is heading west. Obviously the photographer is looking east. And there was a band playing marching music behind the photographer. And it was late morning on this June day in 1942.

Roger B. Wilson:

Incredible.

Robert L. Corwin:

As you can see the rifles that the marines were carrying were the '03 Springfield type of rifle that Sergeant York made famous in World War I.

Roger B. Wilson:

That's an interesting point. I didn't realize that. I thought you all had M-1's in World War II. Could you explain what type of weapon was a 1903 Springfield?

Robert L. Corwin:

It was a single action six shot bolt action .30 caliber rifle that was dependable. It never failed. And it was heavy. But we liked it.

Roger B. Wilson:

Even though it was not automatic or semi-automatic. The M 1 was semi-automatic.

Robert L. Corwin:

We had rising pistols that didn't turn out to be worthwhile. The next automatic was the Browning automatic rifle which is also a dependable weapon but it was - it was heavy.

Roger B. Wilson:

And you are in - what was your assignment, you were in the rifle squad?

Robert L. Corwin:

Yes. Rifle platoon, yes.

Roger B. Wilson:

And how many men were in the platoon?

Robert L. Corwin:

Sixty men to a platoon; fifteen men per squad; four squads for every platoon. Four platoons made up a company. So the company would consist of about 250 men.

Roger B. Wilson:

Not everyone was a rifleman?

Robert L. Corwin:

No. Four platoons were rifle and one platoon was heavy weapons.

Roger B. Wilson:

Did you have the Browning automatic rifle?

Robert L. Corwin:

Yes, and heavy machine guns.

Roger B. Wilson:

Bob, you said you disembarked from San Francisco in June of 1942. Could you describe the ship that you were on; whether it was in a convoy or not? I assume it was. How long it took to get to New Zealand and some of your personal feelings as you're leaving, I guess you could say, into the unknown.

Robert L. Corwin:

We were aboard a transport called the USS Barnett, which was a converted part passenger part freighter. It was a comfortable ship. We left San Francisco late on an afternoon going west out of San Francisco. I'll never forget going under the Golden Gate Bridge and watching it disappear. I think we picked up one escort which may have been a light cruiser called the USS Boise. I can remember going across the equator and everybody had to be baptized or whatever it's called going through this ritual of being dunked in a tub of water and so on. We ate standing up, breakfast lunch and supper. The food was good. Every night there was a band on the fantail playing popular music of the day. I don't recall any movies ever being shown. Our regimental commander Clifton B. Cates was onboard on this trip going across the Pacific. It took about three weeks. It seemed like an easy trip. We hit no storms or typhoons. We rolled into steaming Wellington Harbor and it reminded me so much of the Maine coast.

Roger B. Wilson:

And you're now into probably July.

Robert L. Corwin:

Yes.

Roger B. Wilson:

You said it took three weeks.

Robert L. Corwin:

Yes.

Roger B. Wilson:

Bob, how long were you in New Zealand? What did you do there and where else did you go before Guadalcanal?

Robert L. Corwin:

We were I Wellington, New Zealand about two weeks. As I understand it we were supposed to go ashore on bivouac and do some more training, but apparently higher ups discovered the Japs had moved into the Solomons and it was decided that Vandergrift's First Marine Division should take over the airfield that was being built on Guadalcanal, so we never left the USS Barnett. And I remember it being raining. I remember they had to unload the ship and reload the ship because of the weather. It was a mess. Apparently the New Zealand workers went on strike. The marines had to do a lot of the loading and unloading and operate the cranes. And then we left, eventually left Wellington to practice amphibious landing. The only previous practice we had on amphibious landings was on an island called the Solomon Island in Chesapeake Bay. So we were going to do one more practice landing in the Fiji's, going down the nets and getting into the Higgins boats, which we did. But the sea was so rough apparently we could never get to the beach so we went around in circles. Half the guys got seasick; came back aboard the Barnett and the whole thing steamed off for the Guadalcanal. This was the first part of August 1942.

Roger B. Wilson:

So you didn't actually do an amphibius landing in Fiji?

Robert L. Corwin:

We did not.

Roger B. Wilson:

And quite a coincidence that the only one you did in Chesapeake was Solomon Islands.

Robert L. Corwin:

Yes.

Roger B. Wilson:

And that's where you were headed.

Robert L. Corwin:

Yes.

Roger B. Wilson:

In the Pacific.

Robert L. Corwin:

Yes.

Roger B. Wilson:

That's where you're headed.

Robert L. Corwin:

Yes.

Roger B. Wilson:

So now you're on your way to Guadalcanal. I meant to ask earlier, but now might be a good time, what were the men, actually a lot of them boys, making up your squad or platoon; were you unusual being only seventeen?

Robert L. Corwin:

I wasn't the youngest marine in our company but I was almost the youngest. Most of the boys were either eighteen or nineteen. If there was anybody twenty years old in the company he was considered an old man. So the bulk of the guys were eighteen years old and some nineteen.

Roger B. Wilson:

Bob, I wondered if you would share with us how you felt heading towards Guadalcanal. Did you know where you were going? You obviously knew you were headed into combat, but did you know where you were going? What were your personal feelings at that time and among the men that were with you?

Robert L. Corwin:

After we left the Fiji Islands we were told we were going to invade an island called Guadalcanal, which meant absolutely nothing to us. We didn't even know where the Solomon Islands were. Soon after we left the Fiji's we picked up a huge armada of ships. I can remember off in the horizon seeing a huge armada of ships. I can remember off in the horizon seeing at least one aircraft carrier. And one of the ships that came along side was the USS Quincy which my brother was aboard as a second- class quartermaster. We came into Guadalcanal on the morning of August 7th going from west to east along the north shore. We were given breakfast around four a.m. in the morning of steak and eggs, and by daybreak we were traveling, as I just said, east along the north shore of the island. Cruisers were up ahead blasting away at Guadalcanal. The Barnett dropped its hook and over the side went the nets. Way down below under water were the Higgins boats and we climbed down the nets into the Higgins boats, went around in circles and a batch of us streamed towards the Guadalcanal shore. I think we were in the seventh to eighth wave on the Higgins boat. It was probably twenty-five or maybe thirty feet long, had a pointed prow. In order to get out of it you had to jump over the side, which we did. The boat went up on the beach and we ran up the beach into the palm trees and there was no opposition, none whatsoever.

Roger B. Wilson:

Was the Higgins boat amphibious, meaning you set up onto the beach; did it have wheels or did it just plow onto the beach and you jumped out?

Robert L. Corwin:

It just plowed up onto the beach and we jumped out, but the bow would only go about a couple of feet into the water else the coxswain couldn't get the engine to reverse itself. So when we jumped out of the boat we jumped into the water and then ran up the beach.

Roger B. Wilson:

Maybe we could digress a minute here. You mentioned earlier on you had an older brother in the navy on the Quincy and that you actually just saw that boat as you were heading towards the Guadalcanal. What happened to your brother or to the Quincy?

Robert L. Corwin:

I only had one sibling and his name is Nat Corwin. He's two and a half to three years older than I am, and he's still alive. Great guy. He was a second-class quartermaster above the heavy cruiser Quincy. And about thirty hours after the landing he was involved in the so called debacle, the Battle of Sabo Island, where Japs sunk three heavy cruisers, one of which was the USS Quincy, and the fourth cruiser was the Australian cruiser named the Canberra. My brother obviously survived the sinking of the Quincy. The boat went down around one a.m. in the morning and he was picked up by and American destroyer at dawn that morning, about five or six hours later and put on another vessel. And he stayed out in the Pacific for the rest of the war.

Roger B. Wilson:

Amazing. Bob, describe please if you would what was the initial objective for the marines on Guadalcanal and what were you doing in those first few days, and when did you first come in contact with the Japanese on the Island?

Robert L. Corwin:

As I understand it the initial objective was a slow mountain or big hill called Mount Austin. I don't think the marines ever got there until November of 1942. Obviously the primary objective was the airfield that was under construction by the Japanese. The first couple of days we spent bringing supplies in from the shore and our company went into the jungle along the river called the Ilu River which is east of the Tenaru River. The Ilu River is a beautiful stream running down the mountains in a northerly direction and it's east of the Tenaru. We went up the Ilu and then went to the west and turned right. And I remember stepping out onto the airfield in the middle of an afternoon, and that was our objective. And luckily there was no opposition. The Japs were completely caught flatfooted. And then that night it began to rain and we were on a knoll near the airfield and thunder and lightening off to the northwest. And I didn't realize it then but the light wasn't God made, it was Japanese firepower and American return fire in the so-called Battle of Savo Island.

Roger B. Wilson:

Bob, when did you first have contact combat with the Japanese?

Robert L. Corwin:

The first contact we had were the so-called Battle of the Tenaru which was I think August 20th or August 21, about two weeks after we landed. Our bivouac area was in the coconut grove just east of the Longa River. Apparently the Japs made four major efforts to retake Guadalcanal; one was in August, one was in September, one was in November and one was in December. Fortunately all four of them failed and the Japs then, I guess, saw the handwriting on the wall and no more attempts were made. The first we got involved in the fight was the so-called Battle of the Tenaru. The Jap forces consisted of about 800 to 1,000 men led by a Japanese colonel by the name of Ichiki. They apparently landed about three or four miles east of our position. Luckily a patrol was led by a Captain Brush of A Company of our First Battalion and discovered the Japs, and the Japs marched west along the shore of the marines of the Tenaru River. And the firefight that resulted over a period of about five or six hours resulted in the almost complete annihilation of the Jap forces. Our task, led by Colonel Crestwell, was south from the perimeter, east and then north and come in behind the Jap forces which we did. And late in the morning coming into the battle area a marine next to me, whose name now escapes me, was struck by one rifle bolt fired by a Jap officer about 75 yards ahead of us, and another marine next to me lifted his rifle, and that was the end of that Jap officer. The battle was over by mid afternoon, and I can remember the few Jap prisoners that we took all in a huddle. And there's a scene in the book that I just mentioned on page 63 which shows - the photographer took it around four o'clock in the afternoon. The photographer is on the beach facing to the west and the Tenaru River, so-called, is to the left of the photographer. And those are the Japs that were killed in the attack. And like any infantryman you look at those poor Jap boys and they couldn't have been more than seventeen or eighteen or nineteen years old. And the marines are walking back to their positions along the beach to the west of the Tenaru River.

Roger B. Wilson:

Bob, I think you had mentioned, we'll try to make some copies of these photos and we'll submit them with the audiotape to the Veteran's History Project so maybe they can keep them with your audio which I think would be very helpful. Bob, in this encounter in which you were engaged, were you firing and was your entire company involved?

Robert L. Corwin:

Other than the two rifle shots that I just mentioned, one by the Jap officer who killed Bob McCarthy of our company and then the marine next to him killed the Jap officer that killed Bob McCarthy, that's the only firing that occurred in the Battle of the Tenaru.

Roger B. Wilson:

After this battle in late August, August 23rd, what transpired for you and your squad?

Robert L. Corwin:

Well, our bivouac, as I indicated before, was near the Longa River, which would be in the northwest part of the marine perimeter. The marine perimeter was about two to three miles long along the beach. This is no little bitty thing. There are 15,000 marines in this area. And we spent time cutting down tall grass so we could get a field of fire. There were marines out on the southern part, so-called Raiders became famous for a battle called the Battle of Bloody Ridge. Guadalcanal at this time of the year was - it's wintertime and it really wasn't that bad. There was occasion when one needed a blanket around two o'clock in the morning. It really didn't get hot until November, December and January, but by that time I was gone. The next major engagements by the Japs, as I indicated before, the second was in September and that's when they would land their cruisers along the north shore of the Guadalcanal east and west of our perimeter and go inland for an attack inland. For some reason they did not want to make an amphibious attack. I can remember being on the beach in the middle of the night when the Jap destroyer cruisers would go, the iron body sound, lobbing shells into the airport to search our airfield. The searchlights were so bright you could almost read a newspaper. So in effect the waters off Guadalcanal during the day were American waters; the waters off Guadalcanal at nighttime were Japanese waters.

Roger B. Wilson:

How much, Bob, were you and your fellow marines aware of what was going on beside your perimeter? For example, I've read where early on the carriers forces had to withdraw and so you were kind of left on your own so to speak without support. In other words, what was your scope of understanding of what was going on beside in your immediate area? Did you know what was happening elsewhere?

Robert L. Corwin:

Not really, but we knew that we were left alone on Guadalcanal because food wasn't being brought in. We got down to two meals a day. Although the food was good, there just wasn't that much of it. We never went hungry. But you could tell the Japs were building up their forces for the next attack, which we didn't know when it was coming. And of course, we had to send out patrols all the time to find out where they were and try to find out what they were up to.

Roger B. Wilson:

Did you have to go on any of those patrols?

Robert L. Corwin:

Only towards the end and that was the day before the Battle of Bloody Ridge and after the Battle of Bloody Ridge. And of course the patrol I went on was when I was hit twice by rifle fire.

Roger B. Wilson:

What then, Bob, was the next engagement you were involved in?

Robert L. Corwin:

The second one was in the middle of September called the Battle of Bloody Ridge. Our position was down on the airstrip to protect the airstrip, in case the Japs broke through. But they didn't. The paratroopers and the Raiders at Bloody Ridge held up and they suffered severeJuly 18, 2007 loss. And then about two days later when that battle was over, the command decided that they should send a patrol up to find out how far the Japs had retreated. During that battle we were down near the airstrip. I can remember the airplane, the Cobra machine gunning the Jap positions. Luckily, we had command of the air, and obviously that was in our favor. The patrol that participated was an all volunteer patrol. About one-third of the boys decided they didn't want to go on it. And we went south along the westside of the Lunga River, and we found the Japs. And we suffered some casualties, like about twenty-one casualties. Eighteen of them never came back. The two of them that came back was a private named Harry Dunn and another private named Jack Morrison. Harry Dunn stayed with Jack Morrison; brought him back the next day walking down the Lunga River, for which he was given either the Silver Star or the Navy Cross in October pinned on him by Admiral Nimitz. And in patrol and my trying to help somebody I was hit twice by Japanese rifle fire, one shot going through my shoulder and the second shot going through my leg. And the second shot continued on and hit my buddy, Rob Ingerson from Randolph, New York. The boy that I was trying to help was a chap named Charlie Geebly (ph) from Neptune, New Jersey. And the next day I was evacuated on the ship that brought in the 7th marines of which the famous Chesty Puller was the battalion commander. And anybody that doesn't no any better, I always say that Chester was my replacement on September 18th, 1942.

Roger B. Wilson:

Bob, if we could just step back a little bit on the patrol. You mentioned the casualties. How many were on that patrol? You mentioned it was a volunteer patrol.

Robert L. Corwin:

Basically, it was a two company patrol commanded by Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Crestwell. The A Company was commanded by Captain Charles Brush and B Company this time is commanded by a captain named Rex ____. Marshall T. Armstrong, our former Company commander was reassigned to some other duty. As I understand it the purpose of the patrol was to find out how far the Japs had retreated, and apparently that Jap attack was commanded by a Major General Kawaguchi. So we made contact about five miles south of our perimeter on the east side of the Lunga River. And by virtue of Jap machine gun fire we suffered some severe casualties. And before pulling out the commander or somebody asked for guys to go out and try to rescue those marines and I was one of those that volunteered to go. And one of the guys I tried to help out there in that jungle was my friend Charlie Giebly (ph) from New Jersey. And I didn't realize it at the time but I walked into an ambush and was hit by rifle fire going in. And I decided this is no place for me, to get out of there. I was hit by rifle fire going out of there. The pain in my right arm was so severe the guys that were behind me retreated. And I'm lying there in this jungle. And now I'm in Japanese territory, and I didn't think I should stay there until sundown because I may be subjected to Japanese bayonet practice. So I laid there; tried to play dead, and suddenly bolted and got out of there and I made it back to my fellow marines who were by this time going back down to river to our perimeter. And soon I'm on a stretcher and then by sundown the next day I was taken on a Higgins boat to the ship that brought in the 7th marines.

Roger B. Wilson:

Bob, what type of medical treatment did you require and did you receive for the wound in your shoulder and in your leg?

Robert L. Corwin:

I was on a stretcher and brought up over the side on this transport. And I'll never forget the navy doctors on the ship, they took my Bowie knife, ripped off all my clothes, threw them over the side. And here I am naked on this deck. I must have smelled like something terrible. But they put a cast on my right arm to keep my had apparently from calcifying in the fist position. No medical treatment was needed for my leg wound. And the ship that I was aboard went to New Caledonia. And I was in an army hospital there for the First Americal Division, and then I was put aboard the USS Solas and taken to the U.S. naval hospital in Auckland, New Zealand. And then at the end of October put aboard a Dutch transport vessel, I think. It was called the Blue Bell, and brought back to San Francisco. I can remember spending - I didn't have any clothes in the naval hospital in Auckland. I can remember borrowing navy clothes from the patient in the bed along side of me and going on liberty at a zoo on my birthday on October 20th, 1942, which was the time I became eighteen years old, in Auckland, New Zealand. I've got to tell you, the navy suffered more than the marine corp did in the Guadalcanal campaign.

Roger B. Wilson:

Bob, take a step back. We'll catch up on your recovery on the way back to the United States. You mentioned that while you were on Guadalcanal while they cut back on rations they were adequate, and actually I think you even said the food was good. Was there anything that you were deprived of or felt that you missed or could have had more of while you were there? In other words, you know, what were the living conditions?

Robert L. Corwin:

What we missed most was toilet paper and shoelaces. You know you wear the same shoes day in and day out. The shoes held up pretty good. They were quality shoes. But eventually the shoelaces gave out and we had no way of keeping the shoes tied together. Little things like that that never occurs to somebody, but that's what we missed, shoelaces and toilet paper.

Roger B. Wilson:

That's great, Bob. Now catching up to where we were, I think on leave in Auckland on your birthday. What transpired afer that?

Robert L. Corwin:

Then they put all the navy wounded, wounded marines on a Dutch vessel. I think I indicated before, I think the name was Blue Bell, and we came back to the United States. There was no escort with this freight. But oddly enough on that ship with me was a young man from Huntington who was in highschool ahead of me by about four or five years and his name was Arthur Berers, spelled B-E-R-E-R-S. And also from Huntington at Guadalcanal with me at the same time was another marine called Dana Babcock. Dana was wounded in the Battle of Bloody Ridge on September 14th, I was wounded on September 17th, and Artie Berers, who was in the Fifth Marine Regiment was wounded on September 22 or 23 on the Britannica River. He took two machine gun slugs through his mouth. He's now living in Seattle and married for the second time. He's got a nice four or five sons. Dana Babcock died several years ago. But in any event, those are the three boys that participated in the Guadalcanal campaign came from Huntington, New York. So we came back to San Francisco. I'll never forget. We were up in the bow. Everybody knew when we were supposed to see the Golden Gate Bridge and soon it just materialized out of a mist, and us going in an easterly direction. And the feeling of seeing that Golden Gate Bridge was amazing. It was like we were home. And in a way, even though our home was three thousand miles to the east, it was home to us. It was a feeling that I will never forget.

Roger B. Wilson:

Bob, after you arrived in San Francisco, what was the treatment you received for your wounds and where were you treated?

Robert L. Corwin:

When we got back to San Francisco the wounded marines and sailors were put in the naval hospital on Treasure Island which I think was either in or near Vallejo, California. And then in January of '43 I was given leave and told to report to the naval hospital at St. Albans, Long Island, and after that I was transferred to the naval hospital at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. And then I was able to go on limited duty at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. But in the spring and summer of '43 I was quite ambulatory and nothing could be done for me. The wounds, they had to heal on their own. So they put me on a public relations job. And I must admit, I had a great time. I met people like Gene Cagney, Nolan and Brian Donlev, John Davis Lodge who became governor of Connecticut. One time I was at a dinner meeting and I sat next to an old retired admiral who seemed like an old man to me then but now he's younger than I am right now. And his name was Reginald Belknap. He told me he had a son-in-law at Guadalcanal. His name was Leonard Crestwell, who turned out to be my battalion commander. I couldn't believe it. And you know, there's no place like the United States. Where else can you go for a big dinner and have an admiral sit next to a private and talk to him on an equal basis. And he couldn't have been more gracious. But I did a lot of speaking tours. I spoke in the Pennsylvania hotel together with other marines and sailors, and then eventually I was put on limited duty as an orderly at the home of the admiral of the eastern sea frontier who was Vice Admiral Adolphus Andrews. And I had a .45 on my hip. My right hand was useless. If I ever had to use it, I don't know what I would have done. But then Admiral Adolphus Andrews retired in November of '43 and a new admiral came in by the name of Cleary. He had been out in the Pacific. And at that time I realized that I should go back to high school. So I asked for a medical discharge, and I really think they couldn't give it to me fast enough, and I was discharged from the marine corps in January of 1944 and went back to Huntington High School.

Roger B. Wilson:

Bob, where was that Admiral's home that you worked?

Robert L. Corwin:

The Admiral's home was in the Brooklyn Naval Yard up on a hill. He had a big white house. He had his own private entrance. He had three chauffeurs. The navy treated these top dogs well. And it was good duty.

Roger B. Wilson:

It sounds it. And on the public relations duty, was the purpose for enlistments or just for moral?

Robert L. Corwin:

To show people the uniforms, show the servicemen out, all of those. To sell bonds, to get other young men to enlist in the marine corps. To keep up the spirits because, you know, we weren't winning the war then. We weren't losing it, but we weren't winning it either. And I was one of the first guys back. I was a novelty, and together with a lot of other sailors who had been wounded in the Guadalcanal campaign. And it was interesting duty. The main office was out of 90 Church Street. And it was interesting duty. I learned a lot, saw a lot, spoke a lot.

Roger B. Wilson:

So it wasn't all bad.

Robert L. Corwin:

No, not by that point, no.

Roger B. Wilson:

And you were unfit for any combat duty or any other meaningful duty, so is that why you were saying they were probably just as glad to let you go?

Robert L. Corwin:

Yes. My right hand was useless.

Roger B. Wilson:

And did you after you were discharged, and we'll get into a little further, you know, your life after the war, but I assume you still needed medical treatment or therapy.

Robert L. Corwin:

No, nothing. It had to heal by itself, which it eventually did. And I've got pretty good use now of my right hand. I can do everything I need to do with it. It gets cold in the wintertime and the fingers, they don't operate right. I've got no complaints. I'm really lucky to be alive.

Roger B. Wilson:

Sure. And the leg was not a serious problem?

Robert L. Corwin:

That's correct, it never was.

Roger B. Wilson:

Bob, you returned to Huntington High school on Long Island, and when did you graduate? You finished your senior year, and what did you do after that please?

Robert L. Corwin:

I graduated from Huntington High School in June of 1944. When I was at the Brooklyn Navy Yard I took correspondence courses through the Marine Corps Institute, and with those credits and one more semester at Huntington High School in the winter of 1944, I graduated in June of 1944 and matriculated at the University of Virginia in June of 1944 and then went on to law school and graduated from law school at the University of Virginia in 1949. When I was in the marine corps towards the end I realized there was only one way I was going to succeed in life, and that was by going back to school, so that's what I did.

Roger B. Wilson:

And did you have, I assume, the G.I. Bill?

Robert L. Corwin:

Yes, I had the G.I. Bill, thank God. And that paid for my education.

Roger B. Wilson:

Great. And what about your family in terms of when did you meet your wife and what does your family consist of?

Robert L. Corwin:

I met my wife, Ruth, on a blind date. She was teaching school in a town near Huntington and we were married in the beginning of 1958. And we now have five normal children, all of whom have children and they're all on their own. And here we are just the two of us where we started off in 1958.

Roger B. Wilson:

And you're retired now?

Robert L. Corwin:

Yes. I retired about three years ago from practicing law in Huntington.

Roger B. Wilson:

Great. Bob, do you participate in any reunions for fellow marines, you know, since the war?

Robert L. Corwin:

I belong to a loose organization called B-1,1,1, which is B Company, First Battalion, First Regiment, First Marine Division. And this is a loose group comprised of those marines who were in B Company only in World War II. And we meet once a year, generally in the early part of September, at various parts of the United States. And since it's restricted to World War II veterans, the group is getting smaller and smaller. But I must say that any Guadalcanal marine may have participated in Cape Gloucester, and they may have participated in the Peleliu campaign, but nobody in Guadalcanal went beyond the Peleliu campaign. At that time it was just too much. But many guys who came from the B Company, Cape Gloucester may have gone on to Okinawa and then went on to Tiens-tsin. But those are the five, four or five campaigns that the First Marine Division did in the Pacific in 1942 in World War II.

Roger B. Wilson:

Bob, this will be the end of the interview with Bob Corwin, date of birth, October 20th, 1924. Bob, thank you very much for sharing all of your experiences with us and many thanks from all of us for what you did for us during the war.

Robert L. Corwin:

Roger Wilson, thank you so much for the chance to speak, and I appreciate it very much.

Roger B. Wilson:

Thank you, Bob.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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