The only Marine Division to never spend a day in the United States as an entire unit was the Sixth Marine Division. Formed on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands in September of 1944, the division trained rigorously for approximately seven months in preparation for the invasion of Okinawa.1 All members of the division qualified with their weapons, completed the combat infiltration course, and endured long, forced land marches which were “a staple of training on the ‘canal”. In addition, each unit completed their own specialized training.2 Following this combat preparation was a 6,000 mile journey by sea to their destination, the Island of Okinawa.3
On Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945, with a total strength of 24,356 Marines and sailors, the division invaded Okinawa and began an eighty-two day assault. The casualties totaled 8,226; this includes the 1,637 who died.4
The Sixth was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, the equivalent of an individual Marine receiving the Navy Cross medal. Recommendation for this unit citation came from LtGen Roy Geiger who wrote, "The conduct of the Sixth Marine Division throughout this grueling campaign was at all times heroic and outstanding. It accepted its hazardous missions without question and performed them in spite of staggering losses among its personnel. The relentless and continuous advance demanded uncommon devotion to duty from its men, who were in action against the enemy for a period of three months." 5
101 days after landing on the beaches of Okinawa, the Sixth Marine Division relocated to the island of Guam. Here they were to prepare for the next invasion – Japan.
Japan’s surrender prevented the need for the invasion, but it did not end the mission of the division. On August 30, 1945, a portion of the division assumed responsibility for the Yokosuka Naval Base. The following month, the rest of the division was transported to China for occupation duty. Their responsibilities included securing Tsingtao, repatriating Japanese nationals, and assuming responsibility for military government.6
Occupation ended on April 1, 1946, one year to the day after landing on Okinawa, and many of the Marines returned to the United Sates. The Sixth Marine Division ceased to be.7
“God, if I survive, I promise …”
We will never know how many whispered these words during that decisive battle of the Pacific War. Nor will we know how many were able or willing to keep their promise to God once they returned home from the war.
I, however, know one man who did, my father, Samuel J. Lupo, a corporal in the Sixth Division of the United States Marine Corps. He dropped out of high school and enlisted in 1943 at the age of 17. Following his combat...