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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Kenneth Leo Marvin (June 21, 1921-September 15, 2006)

As you walk around the downtown harbor area of Gig Harbor you will see banners celebrating various Gig Harbor military service people through the years.  A few previous posts on a few of those  military people will be repost for your reading pleasure.  This was last posted on June 21, 2015.

I thought I might republish this blog on Kenneth Leo Marvin which originally published on August 5, 2015 as a companion piece to the current temporary exhibit "Bomber Boys".  Kenny didn't serve in Europe or in the Air Corps, but instead in the Pacific.  But both his story and Keith Lile's stories are vital parts of the history of Gig Harbor, and the sacrifices they made for our country.

Kenneth Leo Marvin (June 21, 1921-September 15, 2006)

He had already received his training in the Guard, so he became a member of the 39th platoon and sent to San Diego’s Marine Depot for boot camp.  In 1941, the fleet was transferred to Pearl Harbor.  By August, 1941, they were on their way to Wake Island on a cargo ship.  Kenny describes getting on the cargo ship “…we was passing our sea bags up the gang plank and then I was in charge, I was a corporal you know.  And in those days a corporal was kind of a big shot, self-proclaimed, you know.  I’m the judge of that, so carried the last one up and I…not supposed to be anyone on this gang plank and I run into somebody and I says what the hell are you doing here.  I look down, Christ, white shoes, white pants, and the further up I looked was an officer.  Navy officer.  It was my buddy from school here.  He was an ensign on this cargo ship.  I says Secor what the hell are you doing on this rust bucket.  A couple days later I say hey Secor where the devil we going.  He says Wake Island.  I says don’t mean a thing, but it was really comical.”  {NOTE:  I did not find Secor on the list of POW or an oral history}

Wake Island had previously been used by Pan American Airways as a rest stop, fuel stop, on flights between San Francisco and the Philippines.  But otherwise not much.  The marines were setting up the guns “you know…putting our guns in placement and placing (inaudible) these three inch guns are real…they weight six and a half ton and they got outriggers you know like this and like that.  So had to clear all that we worked…we was just out there to put those in because we were supposed to be relieved before Christmas by the third defense which come out from the states. ….”  “….we were supposed to be back in Pearl Harbor for Christmas but it was four years later we got there.”

They got news of the attack on Pearl Harbor around 11 o’clock on December 8th.  Remember Wake Island is on the other side of the International Date Line.  And although Pearl Harbor was 2200-2300 miles away, the Japanese already had planes in the air over the South Pacific.  As Kenny relates “They had brought a truck load of food and a bunch of us were gathered with out mess kits and here comes these airplanes and the next thing was they were dropping bombs and that’s when they got the Pan American Hotel which wasn’t too far from us.  And actually I could see the pilot in the airplane bomber.  At first we though they at the other end of the island where they saw them they thought they was ours because supposed to have been PBYs come in that morning see and there was a patrol of flight patrol but they was up to 13,000 feet.  Japanese came in at 5-600 feet or 1000 feet under low clouds….I just saw these planes and what the hell are they doing and after we heard the explosions and everything we ran to our guns but they were so low, I think we fired a few rounds, but they were going so fast and so low that it was just wasting ammunition for us. …I never really got scared until the last few days.  We were on these guns, I was on the azimuth.  You know I got a crank in each hand and you’re just matching bugs, you hardly ever look up.  Once in a while I’d look up and I could see those bombs coming down you know, but as long as you can see them you are alright..”

On about the 4th day of the bombing the Japanese came in with their ships and tried to take the island.  It took them 3 or 4 days before they could land.  The marines never left their guns,  and they had to move the guns every 2-3 days to avoid being hit.  The civilians on the island would bring food to the marines “They were real good.  There was 1100 of them there…and you hear a lot about they all ran and hid, but hey there were so damned many that helped us we forgot about the ones that didn’t.”  

At first the marines had 12 fighter planes, F4Fs but 7 were destroyed the first morning.  But the 5 remaining planes did the best job they could.  Population of Wake was 1150 civilians and 400 marines against an unknown number of Japanese pilots and marines.

Well on the second day is when I got hit.  I was ordered to take a tractor and trailer and go to the bridge, there was a bridge across from Wake to Peale and so before I got to that bridge there must have been 50 or 60 civilians filling sand bags for us and.  So I was waiting for this truck to get out of there so I could back this trailer down and get a load of sand bags and so they asked me, let’s see if you can pull it, they couldn’t get the truck out you know so I hooked onto it with this tractor, but before that this Joe Cocachia, he was the civilian in charge of these people, had a string of sand bags you know made a little alley way and so he says run and jump on these things we had then staggered so he hooked me up so I am taking up slack in the line and I look ed back and Jesus everybody is running and so I just turned it off and jumped right over the top of it and I crawled underneath.  And got a pieces of shrapnel in my head.  It glanced off the side of the tractor.  But there were 8 or 9 civilians there that got killed because you know they ran you know.  The ones that stayed in the little sand bags and stuff. …..”  “that’s when they hit the garage and they hit the hospital.  Which was on top of this hospital is a big red cross and everything, but it didn’t mean anything to the Japanese.”

“I just walked back to the…cause I started up this tractor, this caterpillar and Jeez oil was coming-out the sides there was a hole in one of the cylinders bout like that and I says hell I’ll never make it back with this so.  And then me and this Cocachia we went across the bridge to help some of these guys out of the hospital that had been wounded a couple days before, you know.    …. so we get them out of there and there was a big warehouse burning.  I remember this was funny.  This navy officer he comes and he grabbed both and he says I want you to put that fire out.  Shit.  There was no fire trucks or zilch here you know and I started to say something and the civilian he flat told him you know cause he wasn’t he was a civilian, he told damn near to get lost.  He says what the hell you think we can do.”

“They came in at night on the 23rd.  They came in and ran…”

Word came from the higher ups to surrender.  And so they did.  

Again, I want to ask, no beg, you to read Kenny’s complete narrative as I have only reproduced a very small portionleading up to the battle and surrender.  He describes the three camps where he was imprisoned.  

The following are a few debriefing comments about the conditions a Naoetsu:

Japanese Camp officials: 1st Lt Ishigawa camp commander, Sgt Watanabe (the Bird) senior NCO, Sgt Aoki, Sgt Kobiaslu (sp?), interpreter Pvt Kono, Homma civilian mess supervisor. The interpreter was called very cruel and brutal. Watanabe, Aoki, and Kono called "plain, downright inhuman fiends. The worst specimens of mad-men I have ever seen in my life." by the senior American NCO William B Ganci, CPO USN from Canaan, Connecticut. Major David M. Kirk said this, "Sgt Watanabe was the evil genius of this camp...He would have spells when the slightest infraction, imaginary and real, would draw drastic punishment." The interpreter Kono would use "clubs, shovels and the like rather than his fists."..."All this with the smiling consent of Lt. Ishikawa." Watanabe had been at Omori and came to Naoetsu in March 1945 with the POWs transferred there. One of Watanabe's rules was that any POW with dirty shoes had to lick them clean.

Medical care: Japanese sergeant Aoki was in charge of medical care. POW comments about medical care: "(1)Aoki knew nothing about medicine. Nicknamed Gila Monster. (2)Arrogant and very free with blows and punishment. A man had to be almost dead to be excused from work. (3)No medical attention unless you couldn't walk. Our doctors asked for medicine, they would get beaten. Also men with beri beri and other diseases that could hardly walk were beaten (by Sgt Aoki) for asking for a rest pass.(4)The POW population included an American and Australian doctor, American dentist, and about four corpsmen. They were allowed to do almost nothing."

Food: prepared in a galley by POWs under Japanese supervision, carried to barracks in buckets and served there in the individual sections, no tables. POW comments about food: "(1) about 600 grams per day of barley and beans (sometimes). Quantity and quality inadequate. (2)Varied from 500 to 700 grams dry rice daily. A little less than a pint of watery stew with each meal, sometimes dry fish or seaweed substitute. The rice was a mixture of barley and kori usually. Stew could be anything from a few greens to a fair portion of dog or beans or bean curd. (3) One loaf of barley flour bread, no yeast, about 8 oz boiled barley and millet, no seasoning, about two ordinary size soup bowls per day. Boiled kelp and soybean soup. Boiled without seasoning. Lousy, rotten, and tasteless as far as the bread and barley go, but the soup was like sucking your own nose. (4) 300 grams rice, millet, barley mixed/man/day. Small amts. meat (dog, horse, etc) occasionally. Some vegetables mostly daigon or large woody radishes. Bread one meal but flour and water only. Generally all things boiled of necessity but occasionally (1 or 2 a month) fried. Quality was usually poor. Wormy and rotten much of the time." (5) "...we were served an awful red grain-Korean millet, I think-along with dried ferns and seaweed...The seaweed was pulled straight from the ocean and boiled, turning the water into a goop the consistency of snot."

Barracks: One two story wooden building (apparently more barracks were being built at the end of the war) about 40 feet high with apex roof. Approximately 120 feet long by 60 feet wide. Few windows, windows heavily barred. Roof tin or tile, sides covered in tin. POW comments about the barracks: " (1) Just like Granddad's barn. Heavily timbered. (2) concrete 1st floor, tin sides and roof, wooden 2nd floor, few windows and small, beam supports. No double walls, board partitions, each section aisle in middle and double-decked on sides. (3) rough hewn boards for partitions. (4) stalls with small platforms for sleeping. (5) 2 stories of cubicles on each side of aisles upper and lower platforms." Apparently each of the two stories had upper and lower platforms for sleeping.
Latrines: best description from Charles P. Samson, Major USA, from Corvallis, Oregon. (rank may be rank after the war). "Latrines adjacent living quarters, concrete pits at back of barracks. Concrete floor, urinal trough one side, concrete pits other side wooden covered" (typical Japanese straddle type). "Emptied by syphon to river and solid matter hauled out in carts." Heavy rains caused the pits to overflow onto the latrine floor.

Work: officers did administrative work, worked in gardens, odd jobs, on occasion unloaded coal from ship as punishment. Enlisted worked in factories in Naoetsu - steel mill, carbide factory, unloaded ships, barges, trains (usually coal being shipped to factories) POW comments about work: " (1) the worst imaginable conditions, much beating-exceptionally harsh treatment-very hard strenuous work-day and night shifts. (2) conditions were very poor, hard work in rain or snow. Two 12 hour shifts night and day. Very old equipment. (3) dangerous and difficult. Heavy and hot work when undernourished and sick." Some describe 9-10 hour work shift, some 12 hours. POWs worked 7 days a week. Every 5th day they had to change shifts, so one shift worked through two shifts to make that change occur. There was one mention of 2 days off work each month. POWs worked for the Shinetsu Chemical Plant, Nisso Steel Industry, Joetsu Transport Company, and the Naoetsu Bay Transport Company. A POW described unloading coal from ships..."The job was not only dirty but dangerous...when swells came in, the ships rose and fell on the break. We'd approach on heavy barges and have to jump onto rope netting to climb aboard the ship." Next the coal was carried on their backs in wicker baskets up a hill to waiting train cars. The baskets would weigh as much as 100 pounds and they would have to walk on a short wooden plank. People would fall and the drop was about five feet.

Mail: POW comments: "(1) a few, by lot, allowed to write about once a month, mail received once or twice per month. (2) No mail was sent but could be received if the interpreter felt like distributing it. (3) Usually none sent. Small amounts of mail came in but much was not distributed to the men. Some few cards and radiograms sent. (4) I didn't receive any mail while there. I was allowed to write 1 postal card. (5) Very capricious. I sent one, maybe two messages from Naoetsu. One was broadcast and delivered via a recording from a monitor station in USA. Sgt. Watanabe distributed incoming mail to individuals according to his whim. Balance delivered after VJ day. (6) Varied. Later stages could write letter a month. However, it was a farce, since little of it actually was sent."
Treatment: POW comments: "(1) Sadistic, varying with prisoners and guard. (2) We were all beaten on slightest provocation, got little food. (3) Beatings occured every day of individuals and groups. (4) Underfed, continually hazed, physically beaten, occasionally fair but very seldom. (5) Very bad, even worse than in Osaka, which was bad enough. (6) Deplorable, beatings frequent and in general maltreatment. (7) Treated very brutally. Were beat and humiliated on inspection night and morning by Japs. (8) The worst of any camp I had been in. (8) Of all the camps I was in, this was the worst in every respect. Bilibid, Pasay School, Clark Field, and Omori.



© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.
© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Emmett Hunt's Diary Entry, Wednesday, August 27, 1890

Some fog in morning nice later.  Got our boiler tubes finished in A.M. put pressure on then steamed up and in P.M. towed sand scow to the Narrows and partly loaded the scow with hay


© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Emmett Hunt's Diary Entry, Wednesday, August 20, 1890

Nice day almost a sprinkle in morn.  Unloaded our pipe at 15 St this morn and in P.M. steamed to Oakley & Dickson's and got a scow of brick then came to Clay Works and took aboard another load of pipe.


© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Emmett Hunt's Diary Entry, Wednesday, August 13, 1890

Same minus fog & warmer.  Lay at Clay Works till 4 p.m. then towed scow of ware to city.


© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Emmett Hunt's Diary Entry, Wednesday, August 6, 1890

Sunshine smoke warm and north breeze - all in moderation make the weather for this day.  In A.M. when the rules were loaded we took the scow around to Striby's (?) thru on to town and at night bro big new scow to Clay Works for load and anchored.


© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Eugene (Gene) Oliver Pearson

Eugene (Gene) Oliver Pearson
February 27, 1927-August 21, 2018

The following obituary appeared in The News TribuneSunday, August 26, 2018.  Gene and his wife, Barbara Pearson were active and deeply committed to the establishment of the Gig Harbor Peninsula Historical Society aka Harbor History Museum.  The Research Room is named in honor of  Barbara’s mother, Marjorie Ogden.  Both of them worked with the architects to make it a workable and flexible place that it is.

Eugene (Gene) Oliver Pearson

Age 91, of Gig Harbor,Washington, died peacefully on August 21, 2018 in Gig Harbor.  He was born on February 27, 1927 in Gig Harbor, son of Clifford Pearson and Anna (Ahlberg) Pearson of Gig Harbor.  A life-long resident, Gene leaves behind a remarkable legacy driven by his passion to make Gig Harbor a better community.  Respected, beloved, and recognized for his boundless generosity, broad intelligence, and deep commitment to family, friends, and Gig Harbor, his positive mark on the world will be felt and appreciated for generations to come.

An Army veteran, Gene graduated from the University of Washington, launching a long and successful career in banking.  He ultimately assumed the role of President of Peninsula State Bank, guiding it through an important merger with Puget Sound Bank before retiring in 1981.

Gene’s commitment to the community and his church were remarkable.  Known and beloved as the “go to” resource for many, Gene was always willing to offer a helping hand, wise counsel, or intelligent debate on any number of topics, ranging from finance, to management, to gardening.  He served on the boards of several local organizations, and was a strong supporter of many more, including the FISH Food Bank, Gig Harbor Boat House, St. Anthony’s Hospital, and the Gig Harbor Methodist Church.  Gene was deeply committed to preserving and making accessible the unique and treasured history of Gig Harbor.  Driven by this passion, he worked tirelessly, together with his wife, Barbara, to help guide the development and opening of the Harbor History Museum.  As vast as his commitment to his career and community were, his devotion and love for his family were what mattered most to him.  He was dearly loved and will be greatly missed by many.

Gene was preceded in death by his loving wife of 59 years, Barbara (Barb) )glen Pearson, as well as his parents, brothers Carl and Ralph, and sister, Doris.  He is survived by his three children, Erik Pearson (Sue Pearson) of Gig Harbor, Krista Pearson (Greg Novotny) of Gig Harbor, and Garth Pearson (Kristin Pearson) of Lake Forest, IL; as well as six grandchildren, Lisa Pearson (Joe Degel), Karin Pearson (Corey Gratzer), Thomas Pearson (Jadia Trenoweth), Ian Pearson, Katie Pearson, and Ellie Pearson; three great-grandchildren, Joey Degal, and Elliot and Anna Gratzer; and numerous nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held at a date to be decided, Interment will be private.

A blog on Barbara Ogden Pearson 1934-2014 was published on July 15, 2014.  It can be accessed by hitting the link.


A blog on Gene Pearson was published on January 12, 2017.  It too can be accessed by hitting the link.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Emmett Hunt's Diary Entry, Wednesday, July 30, 1890

Too fine.  Got out at 1 o'c A.M. and ran to Aud. Is. to get boom of piles found them towed - so returned picked up a scow of brush adrift and in P.M. towed scow to Clay Works and back to wood in Pass. then to town about 11 P.M.


© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.