BillMancke
Bill Mancke

'It was fast and furious'

BY LAUREN FITZPATRICK

The way he tells it, Bill Mancke doesn't have any war stories.

"I was in the Pacific, the South Pacific with the 4th Division.

"And we made four landings out in the Pacific: Roi-Namur, Tinian, Saipan and Iwo Jima.

"I was wounded three times and made it home.

"That's about it."

It's his friend and fellow vet who pipes up and prompts Mancke to fill in the gaps.

Mancke ditched high school in Tinley Park to enlist. He landed with the Fighting Fourth, one of the few Marine outfits to leave the states and land directly in the Pacific. Their destination was a secret until they sailed past Hawaii.

They completed the landings in a single year, February 1944 to February 1945. And that was about it.

But wait, how'd he get hurt?

First his left side was hit on Roi-Namur in the Marshall Islands.

The Marines had been working on a blockhouse, a little Japanese outpost, and discovered the ammunition dumped underneath it only after they blew it all up.

"I was knocked out and crushed, covered fortunately with what was dirt when the concrete come down and started banging on my legs. I had my legs, and my left side was damaged."

Then he was hit on Saipan. But that was just shrapnel, he said, in the arm and hand.

He was hit again on Iwo Jima with shrapnel from a mortar on the left side and his left arm. He made it to the battalion aide and was sent to the hospital.

"Each time I was fortunate to come out of it OK."

He was lucky on Iwo to have lasted 14 days. His company of 270 men added 70 replacements, but only 70 were left at the end of the two weeks.

"They were disappearing pretty quick."

Mancke was in the first wave on two of the islands, then in the reserves.

"You're better off to be in the first wave than in the reserves, believe me. They usually let the first wave get in by the time they try to start to give you bombardment. Usually your first wave makes it in pretty good, at least the way we were.

"By the time you get two, three waves in, it's pretty confused on the beach, pretty well jammed up and between the equipment not making it and blowing up and so forth.

"That's it. It was fast and furious."