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15th Jul 2021


Gilton, Bill

Posted on 4 October, 2012 by in ,

3 Brothers and 1 Brother-In-Law. Bill Gilton is 3rd from left.

Bill Gilton was born in Southeast Ohio in 1921. When Pearl Harbor was attacked he wanted to go into the Marine Corps as quickly as possible to get into the fight ( I heard this over and over again from other men too). Bill could not get in quick enough so he drove his old car over the state boarder of West Virginia, where the recruiter could get him in the service quicker, this was early 1942. He left his old car set on the street and never saw it again.

Bill went thru Basic Training at Parris Island. After training he was assigned to the 2nd Marine Division as a Artillaryman. His first battle was a horrific battle at a island called Tarawa on Nov. 20th 1943. One of the problems that cost many Marine lives was there was a reef that the landing craft could not get over so Bill and thousands of Marines had to wade in under murderous artillary, mortor and small arms fire. They could not go fast some were up to there shoulders in water, they could not take evasive action, they just kept coming and dying. It took Bill over 12 hrs of being in the water to get ashore. A footnote to the Battle of Tarawa was the actor Eddie Albert of movie and television fame was there as a Navy officer in a small craft that fixed other small craft that had been hit by fire. He made many trips evacuating wounded Marines. He has my respect for one reason he was a very well known actor when the war started so he probably did not have to go into the service and then to end up in such horrible combat when he did not have to be there is very remarkable. Mr. Albert’s story is a lot like the great actor Jimmy Stewart, who also enlisted in the Army Air Corps and flew many missions as a B-24 pilot.

Bill Gilton lost his radio as soon as he hit the water, never seeing it again.
Bill’s next battle was at the island of Siapan (Actor Lee Marvin was wounded there). One of Bill’s memories in his interview was of a Bonzei charge of some four to five thousand Japanese. Bill was going out to act as a forward observer for Artillery when all of the sudden coming straight at Bill were these Japanese, some with no weapons and only sticks. They were charging straight into Marine artillery that could shoot five or ten miles, with the fuses set at a quarter of a second. I have read a account of this last large scale Bonzei charge, by some accounts only one Japanese lived thru it. Bill jokingly told me that when he saw these Japanese coming at him that he turned and ran to a Artillery pit and that he knows that he could have our ran Jessie Owens (the fastest human at that time) very easily. There is much more of Bills interview, I have over two hours of him on DVD if some of you would like to hear more of Bill Gilton’s WW II history contact Larry Martin at Lmww2.com

Bill’s handwriting from the back of the photo shown above


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