Got Names! Revisiting the Leon’s Beach Medical Team Pictures

My friend Printy Arthur came through for us. He studied the pictures of Dr. William Lusk’s hospital corpsmen and helped us out with names. His best recollections of three first names follow. (Click on pictures to enlarge.)

Lusk W Corpsmen

(left to right)

Boches (first name still unknown)

Joe Boyette

William Lusk

Donald Bjork

Bill Alexander

So we’re missing only one first name here: Corpsman Boches’. Come on, someone help us out here!!

In the full beach team picture below, Dr. Lusk and eight corpsmen, we now have five complete names.

Battalion Medical Team enhanced

Standing ( l – r)

unknown

unknown

Bill Alexander

William Lusk

Boches (first name still unknown)

Printy Arthur

unknown.

Kneeling (l – r)

Joe Boyette

Donald Bjork

Printy Arthur thinks that one of the unknown men pictured above had the last name of Atsalas. Does this ring a bell anywhere out there? We know they all came home. Families…help us out!

 

 

 

Dr. Richard L. Pearse and the Medical Unit Aboard the USS Leon APA 48

We want to introduce you to Lt. Commander Richard L. Pearse. Pearse was graduated from Duke University and from Harvard Medical School in 1931. He joined the Navy in 1941 and was appointed a surgeon at the Navy’s medical unit in Key West, FL. Three years later he joined the crew of the Leon shortly before she embarked 1400 marines and officers from the 47th Replacement Battalion and left for duty in the Pacific.

By the time he reported aboard ship, Dr. Pearse was Lieut. Commander and Leon’s Senior Medical Officer.

Pearse 5 pics 2 (5)

Lieut. Commander Richard L. Pearse

 

The crew of the Leon were fortunate to have a Senior Medical Officer of Dr. Pearse’s standing, both in terms of his surgical skills and his administrative/organizational experience. In turn, Dr. Pearse was fortunate to have three other officers who were also outstanding medical professionals. All four ship’s doctors would be challenged beyond their wildest imaginations during Leon’s first operation: Operation Forager, June 1945.

We received a very special photograph from the Toon Family Album that pictures the Leon’s four-man professional medical unit. They include (left to right):

  • Lieut. Gerald S. Almond, Dental Officer, from Andrews, NC
  • Lieut. Commander Richard L. Pearse, Sr. Medical Officer, from Tidioute, PA
  • Lieut. (jg) Arnold W. Friedman, Jr. Medical Officer, from South Orange, NJ
  • Lieut. William W. Lusk, Battalion Beach Doctor, from Carlinville, IL.
Almond Pearse Friedman Lusk enhanced

Medical Unit USS Leon

 

We have described in an earlier post the memorable experience these officers had on D-Day, June 15, 1944. That was the amphibious assault against Saipan. At 0955 that morning the Leon’s davits lifted forty-one wounded and dead men aboard ship. With wounded stretched on litters along the main deck, the medical team had its hands full. The next day would be worse for Leon’s crew. We repeat that story from our June 21 post.

” As she anchored in the transport area on D + 1 day and began lowering her boats, the crew soon learned that the Japs had attacked in force throughout the night on the beaches. Boats arrived immediately and throughout the day carrying approximately 200 casualties from the beach and from other ships. They came so rapidly and in such numbers that it was impossible to keep records or do anything but treat the most seriously wounded.

The Leon’s Dental Officer did an excellent job supervising the receiving ward set up in the troop officers’ mess.  Ambulatory patients were directed to and treated at the forward battle dressing station. Wards for the serious patients were set up in the chief petty officers’ quarters and in the troop officers’ quarters. The ship’s…doctors labored around the clock, perspiring endlessly, wearing only their shorts, conducting surgery on the dinner tables in the troop officers’ wardrooms.

The Leon’s hands were happy to receive the ship’s beach party back aboard at 1400 on D + 2 day. The beach crew had been pinned down by mortar fire and sniper fire on the beach since D-Day. After a minimal rest, the beach party doctor and eight corpsmen turned to, making it possible to run two operating rooms simultaneously.

LST (landing ship tank) 275 pulled alongside at 1222 with more casualties, and the medical team fell further behind.

Six of the wounded aboard ship died from their wounds. But the Leon’s doctors and corpsmen stayed up day and night, and the remaining 300 survived.”


Credits:

Pearse Family Album

Toon Family Album

All Came Home

Dr. William W. Lusk, Battalion Beach Doctor, USS Leon APA 48 (Pt. 3)

In this final post featuring Dr. William W. Lusk, we include three additional pictures from the Lusk Collection. We were terrifically excited to receive—and are anxious to share—these pictures which introduce Dr. Lusk’s  corpsmen. We’re saving history one story at a time here!

The first two pictures were taken at the assault on Leyte in the Philippines, beginning October 20, 1944. The sad news is the pictures include only four of the corpsmen. But the good news is that Dr. Lusk identified the corpsmen by name and confirmed the location (Leyte) and approximate date.

Lusk W Corpsmen

Dr. William Lusk and four of his beach medical team

 

My, don’t these five men look proud to be together? In particular, Dr. Lusk appears as proud and close to his young men as an officer could be. (One rarely sees a picture of an officer with his arms around his enlisted men.) That feeling of respect (and more) seems shared by corpsmen Boches, Boyette, Bjork, and Alexander. To us, this has the feeling of a family picture rather than a combat unit.

We also sense a certain professional confidence among these men. They had experienced two assaults by this time. They (and their peers across the Pacific) were why for every 100 navy and marine personnel wounded in WWII, 97 recovered.

The second picture was taken at the same location and with the same five men.

Lusk Corpsmen (2) enhanced

Our impressions from studying these pictures: All of the men are in full combat dress. (Our guess would be these pictures were taken before the team went over the side on D + 2 day at Leyte.) Note the white circles on the helmets and uniform shoulders. The Japanese penchant for shooting medical personnel was by then well-known; white circles were considered a less conspicuous means for identifying medical help.

All are wearing/carrying helmets, Dr. Lusk’s being cloth-covered. All are carrying medical pouches hanging from a thin chest strap. Bjork’s and Alexander’s pouches hang in front on their left hips; all the rest hang in back. Dr. Lusk appears to be carrying two pouches.

Each man wears a web belt from which hang small marine first aid packs, possibly a snake bite kit, and a holster. The thick chest straps carry canteens and a shovel on the back side.

The last photograph is a fabulous picture of the entire beach medical team. We do not know where or when this picture was taken, though we believe it is the earliest photo. Regrettably, the remaining team members aren’t identified.

Based on the two pictures above, we think the men in the back row are (left to right): unknown, unknown, Alexander, Dr. Lusk, Boches, Printy Arthur, unknown.

The front row includes: Boyette and Bjork

 

Battalion Medical Team enhanced

Dr. William Lusk and his beach medical team

 

In a famous speech widely reported after the war’s end, Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal proclaimed:

“The Hospital Corpsmen saved lives on all beaches that the Marines stormed… You corpsmen performed foxhole surgery while shell fragments clipped your clothing, shattered the plasma bottles from which you poured new life into the wounded…”

They were heroes. Ask a marine or soldier.

Now, we have three corpsmen in the back row whom we are unable to identify. We have four other corpsmen for whom we only have last names. If any of those men is your Dad, your uncle, your grandpa, please contact us!

 


Lusk Family Collection