Friday, February 7, 2014

Captain Andrew Haldane; K/3/5 1st Marine Division

Captain Andrew Haldane, K Company, 3/5 1st Marines
     "Johnny Marmet came striding down the incline of the valley to meet us as we started up.  Even before I could see his face clearly, I knew from the way he was walking that something was dreadfully amiss.  He lurched up to us, nervously clutching the web strap of the submachine gun slung over his shoulder.  I had never seen Johnny nervous before, even under the thickest fire, which he seemed to regard as a nuisance that interfered with his carrying out his job.
     His tired face was contorted with emotion, his brow was knitted tightly, and his bloodshot eyes appeared moist.  It was obvious he had something fearful to tell us.  We shuffled to a halt.
     ..."Howdy, Johnny," someone said as he came up to us.
     "All right, you guys, let's get squared away here," he said looking in every direction but at us.  (This was strange, because Johnny wasn't the least reluctant to make eye contact with death, destiny, or the general himself.) "OK, you guys, OK, you guys," he repeated, obviously flustered.  A couple of men exchanged quizzical glances.  "The skipper is dead.  Ack Ack has been killed," Johnny blurted out, then looked quickly away from us. 
     I was stunned and sickened.  Throwing my ammo bag down, I turned away from the others, sat on my helmet, and sobbed quietly.  
     ...Never in my wildest imagination had I contemplated Captain Haldane's death.  We had a steady stream of killed and wounded leaving us, but somehow I assumed Ack Ack was immortal.  Our company commander represented stability and direction in a world of violence, death, and destruction.  Now his life had been snuffed out.  We felt forlorn and lost.  It was the worst grief I endured during the entire war.  The intervening years have not lessened it any.
Andrew Haldane, 1941
     Capt. Andy Haldane wasn't an idol.  He was human.  But he commanded our individual destinies under the most trying conditions with the utmost compassion.  We knew he could never be replaced.  He was the finest Marine officer I ever knew.  The loss of many close friends grieved me deeply on Peleliu and Okinawa.  But to all of us the loss of our company commander at Peleliu was like losing a parent we depended upon for security-- not our physical security, because we knew that was a commodity beyond our reach in combat, but our mental security.
     Some of the men threw their gear violently to the deck.  Everybody was cursing and rubbing his eyes.
     Finally Johnny pulled himself together and said, "OK, you guys, let's move out."  We picked up mortars and ammo bags.  Feeling as though our crazy world had fallen apart completely, we trudged slowly and silently in single file up the rubble-strewn valley to rejoin Company K.*

Andrew Haldane receiving Silver Star for actions on Cape Gloucester

*At the time of Captain Haldane's death, the bulk of Company K was operating with its parent battalion (3/5) on Hill 140 within the Umurbrogol Pocket.  In an attempt to orient himself to the strange terrain his company was occupying, Haldane raised his head and looked over a ridge.  A sniper's bullet killed him instantly."  (He was killed October 12, 1944.)

--With the Old Breed by Eugene Sledge, pgs. 150-151

Purchase With the Old Breed here:  "With the Old Breed" via Amazon