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Interview with Raymond Seay [2/27/2003]

Michael Willie:

Today is Thursday, February 27th, 2003. This is the beginning of an interview with Raymond Aleck Seay at the Erlanger Health Link Plus Office, 975 East Third Street, Chattanooga, Tennessee. Mr. Seay was born on January 5, 1921, and is now 82 years old. My name is Michael Willie, and I will conduct this interview. Mr. Seay, could you state, for the recording, your name and its spelling, please?

Raymond Seay:

Okay. Raymond A. Seay. And it's R-A-Y-M-O-N-D, A-L-E-C-K, S-E-A-Y.

Michael Willie:

Okay. And during which war did you serve, Mr. Seay?

Raymond Seay:

World War II, yes, sir.

Michael Willie:

And of which branch of the service?

Raymond Seay:

Marines. Six years and seven months.

Michael Willie:

Okay. And what was your highest rank?

Raymond Seay:

Private First Class.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Where were you born, Mr. Seay?

Raymond Seay:

Slocomb, Alabama. A little town in south Alabama.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Slocomb, Alabama.

Raymond Seay:

S-L-O-C-O-M-B.

Michael Willie:

Tell me about your family, your brothers and sisters.

Raymond Seay:

Okay. I had seven brothers and two sisters. And I had twin brothers. And one of them did some time in the Navy and the other one had a physical, so he wasn't able to serve. But two sisters -- one of the sisters raised me, by the way, adopted me out of a Methodist children's home.

Michael Willie:

Let's talk about that, your parents. What happened to your parents?

Raymond Seay:

Oh, my mother -- my daddy passed away, I guess. I don't really know, I never heard, but there was a lot of pneumonia. After World War I, there was a lot. And thousands died from a pneumonia epidemic. So I guess that took its toll on my parents. They were older people. We were very, very poor and lived in a little shack in south Alabama. And so we just -- just had a big family. We all loved one another. Seven of the nine of us were in an orphan's home.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Now, your parents died when?

Raymond Seay:

Yeah. Parents died in 1922, five weeks apart, and left nine children.

Michael Willie:

You were 17 months old?

Raymond Seay:

17 months old, yes, sir.

Michael Willie:

So you go to an orphanage?

Raymond Seay:

Mm-hmm.

Michael Willie:

You're there until?

Raymond Seay:

Until 1926, uh-huh.

Michael Willie:

And then what happened?

Raymond Seay:

Well, Dr. Bethea, my daddy was a doctor, new daddy-to-be, my brother-in-law and sister adopted me. I called him "daddy" until the day he died when I was 14. And I continued to call my sister "mother" right on through until I was 17. I said -- one afternoon, my sister said -- I came to the house after football practice, and she says, "Raymond, I want to talk with you now and visit with you. You don't have to -- you don't have to call me 'mother.' You can call me 'sister.'" I said, "I'll call you what I want to." But, anyhow, she still felt like a mother always. She was there when I needed her, and she was a pal, a friend, and she loved her baby boy -- sister, baby brother. I'm glad somebody thought to take me out of the orphanage. Nobody wanted to get -- my folks were always sad because they figured somebody would adopt us that had a lot of money or something like that, and I would just go bad, you know. So they were glad that they had the opportunity to bring me into one of their homes and let me live with them. My name was changed, though, after my sister and brother-in-law adopted me. It was Bethea. So I was Raymond Seay Bethea, B-E-T-H-E-A. Because he was a doctor and that was his professional name.

Michael Willie:

Now, what kind of kid were you especially getting up into the high school years? What did you like to do?

Raymond Seay:

Well, I played sports, yeah. And I liked skating and speed. Hot rod back in those days, send the cars down and let them go. In fact, I liked that -- the race track out there so well, there was a row of oak trees right in the middle. So we took our dates home about 10:15, 10:30, and the two guys didn't like us and one of these girls, so they chased us all the way back from Maine City, Florida, to Winter Haven, doing 70, 80 miles an hour in a 1937 Ford, and we hit an oak tree doing dead center. He was unconscious 21 days. And I was out for about 14 hours. Somebody said, "Ray, you've never come to yet." Somebody watching over us in those days. Speed, speed, speed, and gals and good time, you know. Let the world go by. Easy come, easy go philosophy.

Michael Willie:

Okay. How old were you when you joined the service?

Raymond Seay:

19, yes, sir.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Why did you join the service?

Raymond Seay:

Well, I tell you, I just -- life was becoming a drag, going to classes every day, I was in the 11th grade, and just -- really, I just had a wanderlust. I wanted to get out of that little town down there. I wanted to see what -- how the other half of the world was ticking. I guess it was selfish in a way. Maybe there was a design in all of this anyhow to get me out there and let me grow up.

Michael Willie:

Mm-hmm, right. Your brothers -- did you have two brothers in the service?

Raymond Seay:

No. Well, there were seven boys and two girls, and two of the brothers were in the service in the -- -

Michael Willie:

_______+

Raymond Seay:

Oh, no, no. Some were in there. I just can't remember. We kind of broke up housekeeping. But they -- they -- I had twin brothers. They were in their early 20s there.

Michael Willie:

You had said something about your brother telling you that you weren't -- you weren't going to be up to any good?

Raymond Seay:

Oh, my, they shot it too. My brother-in-law was in the Marines. He was in the Marines down in Central America there, Nicaragua, back in the late '20s, and boy, they pumped me full of bologna and everything and said, "You can't make it." They were using, what you call it, psychology, reverse psychology. I couldn't win for losing. You know how that is? But then I just felt like it was an honor to get away from my roots there at home and get out on my own and prove that I could amount to something. Really, I felt worthless. Just a small-town boy, you know. I was in the high school plays, played football and things like that, but I was nobody. You know how it is. That wanderlust.

Michael Willie:

Right. Okay. So you joined the service?

Raymond Seay:

August 7th, 1940.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Raymond Seay:

August 7th.

Michael Willie:

August 7th of '40. Okay. And then you go to where?

Raymond Seay:

Well, I went to boot camp. And, then, at the end of boot camp in --

Michael Willie:

Hold on now. You go to boot camp in --

Raymond Seay:

In Parris Island, yes, sir, from August until December.

Michael Willie:

Okay. So you're --

Raymond Seay:

Well, no. I wasn't there all that time. I joined a replace battalion, and I went to Cuba in December of 1940. I stayed there for four or five months. And we --

Michael Willie:

Real quick, in boot camp, there was one story I want you to tell about when you're talking to your buddy back then. It's kind of a rude awakening.

Raymond Seay:

Oh, my, boy, that was what I guess I needed. This was no kindergarten, brother. There were a bunch of guys that stick professionally. Anyhow, we were picked up down in Savannah, Georgia, where we were sworn in a few days earlier, and then they drove us up to Parris Island, and I went through the gate and said, "Boy, this looks -- I believe they're going to have us for awhile here. I bet they are going to be too strict for us." My buddy just laughed. So anyhow, we got off the bus, off the van, and -- no, the bus it was, and we start talking, Sergeant says, "You guys knock it off back there," and we just kept talking. And so he said, "Ray, I believe they mean it." And he said, he said, "I'll tell you what, I'll wear your rear end out, you won't be able to sit down for a week." He said, "We will give you a whooping you will never forget." I said, "We're in the Marines. We in the Marines." Oh, boy.

Michael Willie:

Rude awakening.

Raymond Seay:

Oh, my.

Michael Willie:

Did you have any trouble at boot camp, then, finishing up boot camp?

Raymond Seay:

Well, I never -- you're going to laugh at this now. I never had had a needle shot in my arm anywhere in my life. My daddy just didn't believe in them too much. So I got what they call vaccine fever, and I was in Platoon 90, and we had one of the roughest sergeants on the base of Parris Island. He was such, well, a dictator and such a regimen leader, such regimentation, you know. So boy, they just -- they just walked us up and down that parade field out there. And I got tired. But you know, after awhile, I felt a new strength come into my body. I just lost all that excess weight. And the routine was good for me, going to bed at night and things like that, you know. And I had a lot of good buddies, and we had some good times together. I learned to wash my own clothes and make my own bed and stuff like that. That was good for me, boy, I tell you. The regimentation was good for me. I needed that.

Michael Willie:

You needed that.

Raymond Seay:

I needed it. I needed it.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Now, so you go -- you end up going to?

Raymond Seay:

Parris Island on --

Michael Willie:

I mean, after Parris Island, you go to?

Raymond Seay:

Well, I went to Cuba. I went to Cuba in December of 1940. And we stayed there for about four or five -- well, until April of '41. But we were talking, we had heard a little something from the officers and -- that it looks like we're heading in for war, trouble with China and Japan over there, you know. And so my buddy says, "Ray, we're going to be in" -- no, he called me Seay. My name was Seay in the Marines. They don't call you by your first name. He said, "I believe we're in for a big long haul," or something like that. Way back then as recruits at Parris Island, we felt like, well, something is going to develop that we might not like. And the more we stayed in there down in Cuba, the officers would say, "Men, let's go about this now as we're actually preparing for combat." We climbed those hills down there at Guantanamo Bay and made practice landings on the beaches around the islands there. So it was a real rude awakening to me. I joined the Fleet Marine Force, so that's the come back outfit. You just know you're ready for action already, whatever they want you to do. So that was a good training ground down in Guantanamo Bay there. I guess it taught me a lot of lessons.

Michael Willie:

And you're feeling pretty good about yourself?

Raymond Seay:

Yes, sir, yes, sir, mm-hmm.

Michael Willie:

Okay. So about how long were you in Guantanamo Bay?

Raymond Seay:

We were there from December until April. And then we came back to Quantico, Virginia, in April of 1941.

Michael Willie:

Okay. So, April '41, you go to --

Raymond Seay:

Quantico, Virginia.

Michael Willie:

What are you doing in Quantico?

Raymond Seay:

Well, we were just doing guard duty and just wherever -- just whatever they needed for us to do. But all underneath we felt like it was training. They were training us for something. They never would say anything, but they knew more than we knew. So I guess they kept that all secret. They were conditioning us, long hikes, regimentation out on the parade field, don't sass back, you will go to the brig for 100 days before you even get a break, things like that. They scared the daylights out of us. I guess we needed that because we're somebody else's property now. We're no longer Joe's son or --

Michael Willie:

Yeah. Now you belong to the Government.

Raymond Seay:

I belong to the Government. So we were personal property of theirs.

Michael Willie:

Okay. So you're in Quantico. Is that where you were when you found out about Pearl Harbor?

Raymond Seay:

No. We --

Michael Willie:

How long were you in Quantico?

Raymond Seay:

Quantico, for just several months, but I didn't come down to join the First Marine Division until September of 1941.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Raymond Seay:

That's just before Pearl Harbor.

Michael Willie:

Okay. So you went to Quantico -- where did you go from Quantico, then?

Raymond Seay:

Quantico, I guess that was it, the Fleet Marine Force, yeah. That's when I joined the Fleet Marine Force there in late August or early September of 1940.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Raymond Seay:

Or '41, did I say?

Michael Willie:

It would be '41. Because April '40 --

Raymond Seay:

Yeah, because I joined in August, that's right, okay, yes, sir. And it was Tent -- we went to Tent City. Oh, and the Marines began to pull into the Marine Corps, by the hundreds and thousands.

Michael Willie:

This is after Pearl Harbor?

Raymond Seay:

No, no, before. That's why I knew something -- I said, "Something is coming up," you know. So, boy, we had big long hikes and back in the wooded area around the -- around Parris -- around Camp Lejeune, and we made practice landings there. Oh, just about once or twice a week, practice landing on the beaches there at Camp Lejeune. And so that's where we got a lot of our basic training and training for combat. There's no joke about it, something was coming up.

Michael Willie:

Right.

Raymond Seay:

But I was -- I was at the Marine base the day that Pearl Harbor was bombed, and that was in August -- I mean, December the 7th, 1941. I was up in -- I was at a place called not Greensboro, but some place in North Carolina. I forget what it was now. And I walked into a drugstore and a bunch of Marines were all huddled around the radio. I said, "What in the world is going on?" They said, "Haven't you heard? Pearl Harbor has been bombed." My whole life, I can't explain it, it just took on a different dimension, you know. So I said, "Well, we're in for it now." I never forget the -- I had a date with a girl who worked at the drugstore that day that they ordered all the Marines off the street on the day that Pearl Harbor was bombed. "Marines, get back to your barracks." So, anyhow, I had a date with this girl. I said, "Oh, my, I'm not going back to the base until then." And I got out. Boy, the MP's pulled over and they said, "Where you headed?" I said, "Back to the base." "Well, it's about 35 miles that way." You know how it is, Chief. The priority was a date.

Michael Willie:

The war would be going on for awhile.

Raymond Seay:

Yeah, for awhile, yeah. I just tell it like it is. There's no use in beating around the bush. There's no use trying to put on the dog, you know.

Michael Willie:

That's great, okay. So you go back to the base?

Raymond Seay:

Go back to the base, yeah.

Michael Willie:

Basically, are you told then "we're at war".

Raymond Seay:

No. All afternoon, I had to stay that night with a couple that invited us out to sleep there and have lunch with them on Sunday. They took us to church. We knew nothing about it until that afternoon, Pearl Harbor Day. And when I walked into the drug store and they were plugged into the Armed Service radio, and they went through it several times. "We've been bombed at Pearl Harbor." Boy, I don't know. My whole being upstairs here, just things just flooded through my mind. I said, "Boy, this is for real."

Michael Willie:

Right.

Raymond Seay:

I had two years in from August the 7th until September the -- until December the 7th, I had some time in before that, so it wasn't like just coming out of boot camp. I hadn't been to a war situation, you know.

Michael Willie:

Okay. So what happens? How does it change for you? From that point on, what happens? I mean --

Raymond Seay:

My whole life took on a new perspective. I'm property of the U.S. government. I'm in a good outfit. They're going to make me tow the mark. They're going to make me like discipline. They're going to make me love the country. So, since that time, I became a dedicated American. I love our country. I don't want folks blasting it away like the stuff that's going on today. It makes me sick, sir. I just became -- you know, did I like all the things they did? No, sir. I wouldn't be a human being if I did. But it was good for me, the things I learned. We had one of the best drill corporals, Corporal Christi (ph). He was from Texas. It's called Corpus Christi, you know. He would just drill us, boy, until we're nearly drunk, you know. The last day of boot camp, he sat into our barracks, sat right across from my bunk. He said, "Gentlemen, thank you for being a good platoon." He said, "I know you didn't like me. You probably still don't. Some of you will probably always hate me, but I did what I was supposed to do, and I'm proud of the product." And so I just began to become a gung-ho Marine. They pump you up, you know what I mean, yeah.

Michael Willie:

All right. So where are you sitting at that time? You're still in -- still at Tent City, then?

Raymond Seay:

Yeah, Tent City area at Jacksonville, North Carolina. Then when Pearl Harbor, they ordered all Marines back to the base, and we were just -- had to be told where to go and what to do and how to keep your mouth shut and so forth. Everything was a big question mark, you know. We started training within a few days. Long hikes, we took several 15-, 20-mile hikes, with a full pack on our back. We just took it as a part of life. Did we like it? No, sir, we sure didn't. That's -- you're taking away the joy, but that was Marine -- that was Marine -- that was Marine perfected and performing.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Raymond Seay:

Yeah.

Michael Willie:

All right. So --

Raymond Seay:

And we stayed on there until -- in '42, we stayed on there until about April of 1942, May, and then we took -- I was in the First Marine Division, we were under training, and we went from there to Wellington, New Zealand.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Raymond Seay:

They had built a base in Wellington, New Zealand, for the First Marine Division. Boy, it was good eating down there, let me tell you. It was so cold. In wintertime in June, we were freezing, the weather.

Michael Willie:

_____+

Raymond Seay:

So we were just in training there. I said, "Well, we are on our way to do something." We just knew we were going to be headed for war, you know.

Michael Willie:

Right.

Raymond Seay:

So we were trained in some of the basics and things like that.

Michael Willie:

Well, you guys were some of the -- aren't you some of the first --

Raymond Seay:

First ones -- this is the first island to be reoccupied -- well, not reoccupied. Just taken over. It belonged to the British, that was all the British chain of islands down there. We were the first ones. I was in -- I was in the first boat in the second wave hit the shore, and we were looking for -- the way they bombed the shore and dive bombers, SBD, Navy dive bombers, we thought, boy, it was going to be a cake-walk, but there's no opposition. We were just so surprised. We got in a circle about 20 boats, went around and around. It was all so synchronized. Everything just right down to the "T." All of a sudden, we were heading for shore, an interesting happened on the way in. A corporal, Corporal Todde (ph), William Todde, he came on to become a banker up here at Murfeesboro, and we got into a fight because of the tension and everything the day before. We had a knock-down drag-out on the way down, underneath the water, about 30 dag down (ph), but he said something to me and I just lit into him, and we were the best of buddies. He accused me of stealing a carton of cigarettes. I didn't smoke cigarettes. I smoked cigars. I was a big shot. El ropo stinko dopo (ph). And so, you know, I just pounded his head up against the side of that steel bed and all. And here's my best buddy. I try to explain. You can't. Tension, stress, you know. We still were buddies after that. I don't see him, but it was --

Michael Willie:

It says in there that you shook his hand?

Raymond Seay:

Oh, yeah. In the boot going in, yes, sir. I reached up -- I reached through there, and I said, "I've got an unforgiving spirit." I said, "I need to apologize to this fellow." I said, "I can't be a tough Marine any longer right now on this area." So we were going in. We were just -- we were the second boat of the second wave heading for shore. We didn't know what was in there. I just said, "Excuse me." And they wouldn't let -- I pushed him over. I said, "I have a chore to perform right now." I says, "Todde, I'm sorry about all that." He says, "Oh, Seay, that's all right. You're still my buddy." I appreciated that." So we hit the shore with a good conscience. No opposition, though, the bombing, and they had transferred the Japs, Japanese, over to Lage Island across the way several weeks -- they had been following our flotilla ships all the way from New Zealand. They had a tag on us, you know. So there was no opposition there. So they let us get in there. Of course, that night they moved in down the front, and there were about eight Marines killed, never knew what happened. These Japs, Japanese, sneaked in through the jungles and took several lives that night.

Michael Willie:

Where was that? Was that --

Raymond Seay:

At Guadalcanal, on Guadalcanal. Yes, we hit the beach there on August the 7th, 1942, yeah.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Now, talk about Guadalcanal, talk about coming in.

Raymond Seay:

Okay. Well, I was in communications, and my first job was to unroll a big roll of wire about 200, 250 feet from one outpost to another. And so a strange thing happened when I got to the end of the line out there, here's the jungle, maybe Japanese up in the trees or snipers, I thought nothing about that. And I looked down, I left my rifle behind at the ammunition dump. No protection. It didn't take me long to get back down and retrace my steps. Orders or no orders, I'm going back for my gun, brother. That's going to be my pal for a long time. So that took care of that. We moved in the next day across Henderson Field. Of course, you heard a lot about it, about the bombing and so forth, where our planes landed and took off. So we moved inland. But later that night, on Friday night when we landed, a big Naval battle off the coast of Guadalcanal. Oh, my, I had never seen so much fireworks, ships being blown up. The next morning, here they were bringing both Japanese and American servicemen picked up out of the water. They couldn't do much until it got light, you know. Here they were coming in, I said, "Boy, this is something." So when we brought the Japanese in, it was just an old Marine tactic, I guess, and we made them all salute the American flag. We captured a base of their headquarters. We were an outfit Marine. So we -- we had captured -- captured that base. So we just -- and so everybody came by. We wanted the Japanese to salute the American flag. One guy came along, about 18 years old, he was a wiseguy. So the fellow just gently with his bayonet and touched his rear end, and he saluted the flag. It's funny now, but then it was inhuman. It was inhumane. It was not necessary. It was not necessary to be a bully. Now, I'm not a good Marine along certain lines right now to follow a routine through life, I tell you. It taught me a lot of things. It taught me to respect people too, yes, sir.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Guadalcanal, then, and --

Raymond Seay:

We stayed there from August the 7th until December the 16th, August the 7th until December the 16th. And during that time, we went through 89 bombings from the air by the Japanese Air Force and 39 shillings from the sea, 39 shillings. I tell you, I was running for the air-raid shelter. I built me a little place right beside a little creek there just a few feet away from the entrance to the air-raid shelter. I said, "Each man for his own." And so, boy, they were shelling us. And right above me, it cut a palm tree, a big hunk of it off. And I went down and stayed in the air raid shelter for about an hour-and-a-half until the coast was clear and they sounded the clear signal, and I came back, and a big piece of shrapnel was sticking in my shoe. That's how close we were. It knocked me -- the concussion of the shell just knocked me into the entrance of the air raid shelter. I say said, "We're at it now." So we stayed there for awhile. We'd go out on -- Since I was in communication, we would go out -- and the Japanese wiretapped our lines and tried to, you know, mess things up, but our job was to go out and repair there. But I signed up for a group to go up to the coast on Guadalcanal as a colonel. And so the -- our sergeant said, "Would you like to go on an exploration?" He said, "We heard there's some enemy up there and said some guy just come back from up there." He was an Indian. His name was Shockley Few (ph), and he came back and had to swim because they started firing at him because they saw he was an American, and he swam five or six miles back down the beach to where we were in camp. And so we just knew something was up then. So we had come in contact with them, with the enemy, and they were ready for us at any time after that, you know. But that was the early days there. So we trained during the day and listened to the bombs fall. That's a terrible noise. "Pssssh." They called me the crepe hanger. I would get outside and -- What's your first name?

Michael Willie:

Mike.

Raymond Seay:

Mike, yeah. Mike, I would count the planes. They said, "Here's old gung-ho Seay now. He's going to go out and look things over, see if there's enough planes to do some damage today." And so I would -- I would count the number of enemy planes coming over to bomb us, you know. One day when one came right close within 50, 60 feet of our air raid shelter, I hit that air raid shelter first time whistling. No more playboy stuff. This is for real, brother. They say, "Oh, Seay, is the last one to come in. He's out there counting the Japanese bombers now." Gung-ho, Marine, you know, "whoo-hoo." We learned a few lessons.

Michael Willie:

Now, is this the place where the plane had been over you, or was that -- I will talk about that later. Okay. Is this the place where the chaplain talked to you?

Raymond Seay:

Chaplain?

Michael Willie:

Well, you said that there was one point in which a chaplain or a minister had talked to you and influenced the rest of your life. Was that here at Guadalcanal?

Raymond Seay:

Well, the chaplain did. We'd have services out under the coconut tree, you know. And sometimes it would be interrupted through the air raid signal from the airport, condition red, that means enemy planes in the area. And so they would talk to me. I just can't remember -- I know I had some counseling in there and all in talking with me, but it was kind of not so structured. It was just kind of a friendly talk there. They gave us a lot of good ideas. Boy, I tell you, chaplains were really wonderful fellows. They were right with us in the front lines right with us all the time. They were great heros. And the Navy corpsman, too, I can't praise them enough. I can tell you about them. The Coast Guard, pilots of the ship, the boats bringing in the Marines, you know, ammunition and gasoline, stuff like that. So we were just all in it together. That's the way it ought to be.

Michael Willie:

Were you scared?

Raymond Seay:

All the time. I mean, when I got up every morning, the sun was bright, boy. We're just going to have the same old chow every day. We ate twice a day because we were surrounded by flotilla Jap ships. They wouldn't let our ships land with the food. So they would have to sneak it in past the convoy Japanese ships. I went from probably 170 to 152 pounds in just those first few months, few weeks down there.

Michael Willie:

Wow.

Raymond Seay:

But, you know, you didn't stay real hungry. I don't know what it is. I guess you live on the nervous energy.

Michael Willie:

Your stomach probably shrunk a little too.

Raymond Seay:

Oh, my, yes. I had a Marine cloth belt. I had to tie it around. I said, "My belly is gone. I'm going to win the no-belly prize."

Michael Willie:

Okay. Talk about Lonesome Charlie.

Raymond Seay:

Oh, Lonesome Charlie, he was a frequent visitor. His duty was harassment. He was very regimented on that line. He loved his job, and he circled down real low.

Michael Willie:

Japanese?

Raymond Seay:

Yeah. I could see him thumbing his nose at us in my mind, you know. One night I went out to the -- we called it eight-holer where the toilet is, big old thing, eight places seats for fellas to have a comfortable sitting position for a little while. And so he circled right low over our area where we were encamped, you know, and he dropped a 250-pound bomb before I could get back to the air-raid shelter. So, to tell you the truth, I had to go back to the outhouse. You get the story there. But, anyhow, he was over every night, and he just harassed us. I said I wish we could shoot that guy down. They said they would find a replacement right away, you know. That was one of the harassments. One time I was -- I felt I needed to go down to the creek, to the river, at about 5:00 in the morning, and I went down there and took a bath, and I started back to my little hut beside the air-raid shelter, and, you know, the guy fired at me on the way back. I said, "Good night." I didn't expect all this to go on, getting a bath, getting cleaned up a little bit, you know. It's not crowded, nobody is standing in the line. Nice river flowing down, you know. We -- at certain times, we did things because we found out we all needed a regimented life. When you come off the front line, boy, you smell like a hog, you know. Boy, that water feels so good. We would jump in and, boy, just splash water all over the place and had a good time with that. That was a high time in our lives, just getting cleaned up.

Michael Willie:

Did you -- was this -- were you actually engaging the enemy?

Raymond Seay:

Well, no. We were in headquarters and service, Fifth Marine -- First Marine Division. In other words, we took over, we found it was an ideal place to have all their equipment and getting the dues from -- you know, the radio in there, and they sent out messages and stuff like that. So we were right -- this was headquarters and service of the regimen. I was in Third Battalion, Fifth Marine, and I was a messenger in the communication part of that outpatient (ph) zone. So if anything went out on power, I had to do it by foot. And so one day they ran out of hand grenades on the front lines, and I was in unknown territory, I tell you, scared to death. So I had about three-quarters of a mile to go to the ammunition dump. I say, "Well, I hope nobody takes -- fires a rifle and hits this package I got under my arm here. I will be blown to bits," you know. That was part of the stuff we had to do, you know. So we just obeyed what we were told to do. That was it.

Michael Willie:

Now, you're in Guadalcanal until December 16th; is that right?

Raymond Seay:

Yes, December 16th.

Michael Willie:

Then where were you sent?

Raymond Seay:

Then we went to Australia, and we were there from -- we went to New Brisband, Australia, we went there for a few days to get supplies, and then from there to Melbourne, Australia. That's the southern tip of Australia. So we stayed there from December of 1942 until about June, July, August, somewhere along there, August, maybe, of the next year, '43.

Michael Willie:

What are you doing here --

Raymond Seay:

In Australia? Huh?

Michael Willie:

What are you doing in Melbourne?

Raymond Seay:

Well, we were stationed outside of Melbourne about 40 miles away. We were recuperating. We were just recuperating from combat. We just enjoyed ourself, played basketball and croquet and table tennis and things like that, you know. And we -- a certain group would take leave. Too many couldn't go at one time. They would call you on a minute's notice to be ready to ship out. Boy, we just enjoyed it. Christmas Day 1942, it was 85 degrees. The weather is turned around, you know. I said, "Boy, I was swimming in the bay out of Melbourne on Christmas Day, 85 degrees." But the barracks had no heat. We had a lot of blankets around us. It was in the 40's at night. It was cold. But, boy, they fed us good. I tell you, we had lamb chops, lamb steaks, all this stuff. We got so tired of lamb chops, we went "ah-ah-ah-ah." That would be what you would hear in the chow line, "I wonder what it's going to be 'ah-ah-ah' this morning." I laugh and I get away with it. I could then too. They felt the same way. Well, they took good care of us, the Australians did. It was only about 40 miles away to Melbourne. We'd take the old slow-poke train. We call it the cattle car. No place to sit down for some of us, cattle car travel. It would take us a long time to get to the train station down in Melbourne. We would pick up Burmese had a little base down the way from there in Melbourne. We did have a chance to meet a few girls on the train. That was good, you know.

Michael Willie:

Were there -- what were the civilians like? What were the people like?

Raymond Seay:

Appreciative, really appreciative. I tell you, that relaxes me, this felt so good, yes, sir. They just -- neighbor, "Hi there," they'd say, "Where you going, Luv?" I said, "Well, we're in Australia now." They were great people. They really were. We had duties there. We had to chop wood. We had to do mess hall duty, all those things. No matter what our rank was, everybody pitched in and did that. We were fed good, boy, I tell you. We hated to leave there. So we stayed down there at Melbourne at the base out there until about September of that year, and then we began to head back north to New Guinea, the jumping off place for Bougainville and other areas up north of us there. THE COURT: Okay. All right. So obviously you hated leaving this place?

Raymond Seay:

Well, yes. I had an injury there while I was there that made me stay on a little longer. I think that was -- oh, I dropped a box of tractor parts on my foot. So they made me stay behind, gave me limited duty, you know. I'm so glad, I tell you what, because my company was shot up so bad at Bougainville. That's the northeastern part of New Guinea. I was thankful again to the Good Lord. I wasn't a Christian, but I was a thankful person, you know, because I didn't have to go in with this group of Marines and -- that took off. But then we moved up to New Guinea later that summer, about September of '40 -- where are we now? '42?

Michael Willie:

'42.

Raymond Seay:

'42, yeah. And we were stationed on a little place called Goodenough Island. We said, "What's it good enough for?" It was on the southern tip near Port Moresby, New Guinea. You can look on the map and see there, just a few miles away from there. So we stayed there for -- let's see, '43 -- oh, yeah, that's when I broke my foot, you know. I didn't go with my outfit when they took off for New Guinea. I joined them a little bit later on.

Michael Willie:

Right, right. You said they had a hard time in Bougainville now?

Raymond Seay:

Huh?

Michael Willie:

You said they had a hard time in Bougainville while you were --

Raymond Seay:

Yes. I was in the hospital with this broken foot, you know. So a guy came in one day, and I says, "How about Old Red?" He says, "Seay, he didn't make it." I said, "What about this person?" "No, he didn't make it." I says to this fella, I says, "Well, I know you guys had a rough time of it." He came back and visited me in the hospital. He had only been there a short time and something happened, he had fallen or something. So they shipped him back to the hospital there near Melbourne. But we stayed there until the early part of the next year. That would be '43, wouldn't it?

Michael Willie:

Mm-hmm.

Raymond Seay:

Yeah. Let's see, now, '43.

Michael Willie:

Hold on a second. You said Australia, Melbourne. You said December '42 to July '43, then you stay around until about September '43?

Raymond Seay:

Yeah, '43, yeah, that's right, uh-huh. Then the outfit takes off, and I rejoin the First Marine Division. The company I was with in the First Marine Division, Third Battalion.

Michael Willie:

September '43, okay. Now, let's pick up where you meet back up with them. Where do you meet them? Do you remember?

Raymond Seay:

What?

Michael Willie:

Where you hooked back up with your division?

Raymond Seay:

Oh, yeah. I came back when they were at New Guinea, one of those islands down in --

Michael Willie:

Okay. One of the islands?

Raymond Seay:

Yeah, one of the islands. I think it was called Goodenough Island, yes, sir, uh-huh. So we stayed there and trained. And we had a lot of leisure time. Boy, they were pumping the movies in from back in the States. And also some groups came down. Gary Grant came down, I think it was -- or Cary Grant, whatever, he came down, and some of the singers would come, boy, we just turned out for that. That was like a homecoming to us, you know. Singing groups came along. So we were just enjoying the recuperation. We knew we were getting ready to head into it for several more months, you know. So they realized how important all that was. So they wanted to keep us in touch with back home there. But I never forget, on Christmas Eve on Goodenough Island, it wasn't Lonesome Charlie, but someone similar to him, he flew over three or four nights preceding the time that he just finally bombed us, but he didn't hit a thing. He hit a dud on that bombing run. We were all joking sitting around under the -- our eating tables you were out under tents outside, not enough room in the building there. We liked it anyhow. One sergeant had a monkey, had him trained, and this monkey would crawl down the corner of the little building out back while we had a meal. He would come down and ask for food, you know. One day the sergeant, he got tired, he hit that monkey on the rear. We had no more trouble out of him. That would make us laugh, you know. It's Christmas Eve, boy, we was just -- we were way down, you know, 1943, yeah.

Michael Willie:

Okay. So where do you go from Goodenough Island?

Raymond Seay:

Goodenough Island --

Michael Willie:

Are you -- you're not seeing -- I mean, there's no combat or anything?

Raymond Seay:

Oh, no, nothing. It's just an island where they train. They built several small bases there, you know, to recuperate. Fellas had to have a place to come back to that were up there fighting in Bougainville and that northern area up there in New Guinea. So we just stayed right around in that area there. But I never forget one of my buddies, he was killed later on, Frank Sanmigill (ph). He was a close buddy of mine. He was from Puerto Rico. I will tell about that later on if it comes back to me. Anyhow, we went up to the native villages one night. We had never been told it was off-limits. My goodness, we walked into there, and here's this kingpin with all of his wives standing around, other fellows with spears in the soil. "What bring you here? What bring you here?" We just look around. "We like you guys. You're fine." Big old fellows, my goodness. It's just like you see in the movies, boy, they're going to pounce you with the spears and stick them right through you. Of course, they were friendly towards us and everything. We were there about 30 minutes and I said, "Frank, we better go, Chief. We better go, Chief." So we were there just for a little while. And then I guess they had a shake-up in the division for something needing more qualified infantry and others in special radio -- I mean, the messenger center and so forth. So there was kind of an overhaul right in there then. But, you know, you never get a chance to know people because recruits would come in, they would ship them in from Australia, New Zealand, so we hardly knew who the new guys were until they're in there and gone, and they went into battle and never meet them, you know. But it -- we just had to change our friends. Just be casual friends. No real establishing of friends together, you know. But lessons were learned there too. You got to give a little, take a little, yep.

Michael Willie:

Okay. So where do you go next?

Raymond Seay:

Okay. That was in early '40 what?

Michael Willie:

'44.

Raymond Seay:

'44, okay. '44, all right. I know that -- I know that I came back to the States in April of '44, and I had been real ill or something. So they -- I came back on an aircraft carrier back in April of '44 to San Diego. Of course, I lost all contact with my outfit out there then. And I was just run down. Just skin and bones. And oh, I got sick. I guess they send certain men home when they get a diagnosis, probably trouble later on. They don't need any trouble. They need us to be right ready to go.

Michael Willie:

Right. I mean, did you have malaria?

Raymond Seay:

Yes, malaria, bad. I lost a lot of weight. Just -- I don't know. Sometimes you lose your identity too. I don't know how to say that. But you just -- you're just marking time. You're wondering if you're accomplishing anything. There were down days a lot of times. Just hope things would soon get over and get back to enjoying life. But you do what you have to do. That's what I would always say, "Seay, we got to do what we got to do."

Michael Willie:

So you come back to the States?

Raymond Seay:

In April of '44.

Michael Willie:

You said '44.

Raymond Seay:

April of '44, okay. And then I went back to Camp Lejeune there for awhile. And then I got in a different outfit. I was in the Fourth Marine Division. Maybe -- I can't remember if I stayed on until -- anyhow, some of us could take leave. I took a few days and went to Florida to see my people, and the other guys did too. But we were still in training. But I could see what malaria had done, that yellow skin. We took Atabrine -- not blue in the face but real sallow looking. A lot of guys were affected by that malaria. I'm trying to pinpoint what -- we stayed in April until November there at Camp Lejeune and also Camp Hamilton, out in west coast, near LA. And so they -- we got into the Fourth Marine Division. Somehow they shipped a lot of us over in because they felt like they had lost so heavily, they needed to be redeployed, you know. So we -- so we went overseas in November of that year, of '44, to Hawaii, to Maui. That became my new base, Maui, Hawaii, in November of -- or a little before Thanksgiving. And I know one thing, we didn't get the ship unloaded until Thanksgiving Day afternoon, and boy, there was about 60 Marines that came into that base out there in Maui and Wailuku, Maui, hungry as a bear. They would eat the bear maybe if they could get to it. We came there and they served us potted meat and crackers and soft drinks. No ice. And of course we told them where the Marine Corps could go to then. But later on, somebody picked up on it over in another -- another part of the division on another hill somewhere there in Maui, and they brought us over some food about 3:30, 4:00. We had to get the ship unloaded, all those supplies and everything. They kept us working right down to -- until we couldn't go any further, you know. But we didn't know what we were going to do right then, but that's when we began to learn that we -- we made several landings around the islands there near Hawaii. And then Thanksgiving, 1944, we had our big Thanksgiving meal, of course, help from another company up the way. And then we -- we were told after that last operation, we made a landing there on one of those Hawaii islands, he said -- the Lieutenant said, "Gentlemen, we're shoving off again now," and he wouldn't tell much about what it was or anything, but it was -- it was getting ready for the next operation, Iwo Jima.

Michael Willie:

January '44, did you say you were getting ready?

Raymond Seay:

January '44, yeah -- no, wait. No. We didn't hit the beach until --

Michael Willie:

Wait a minute. That's January '45.

Raymond Seay:

'45, yeah, okay. So we were in training until about then. And we made several landings on different types of islands, mountainous groups and just a smooth shore line. And then we got to Maui, Hawaii, in the early part of -- around December, maybe, of '44 or January, I can't remember for sure. Our base headquarters was Maui, Hawaii. So we stayed there in training until -- we left about -- well, the landing was February the 19th, 1944, the landing on -- at Iwo Jima.

Michael Willie:

'45?

Raymond Seay:

'45, '45, excuse me. So we just stayed there and practiced landings and went through school and all. Some of us there had been through machine gun school. So we had all kind of schooling for us. Very busy day because they knew the next one was going to -- not really. They wouldn't tell us where. We knew it wasn't going to be no picnic, and it wasn't. So we went aboard ship in February and made a few landings at Maui. We came back and then we left. This is early '45 now, isn't it?

Michael Willie:

Early '45.

Raymond Seay:

Early '45, okay. We boarded the ship then, and I guess, well, in late January, early February, the trip to Maui, Hawaii. Not knowing where we really were going, you know. And so --

Michael Willie:

Okay. So, as you're drilling through this time, I mean, you know you're preparing for something?

Raymond Seay:

Oh, yes, we know that. Of course, they wouldn't show us the drawings of Iwo Jima until after we got aboard ship. They wouldn't show us the drawings or tell us about the plans because -- altogether, you know, but they would tell us what kind of soil it was, you know, and things like that. And we used to say, boy, this is a far cry from -- what we're going into now from down in Guadalcanal, pretty beach shores down there. No good looking women, but anyhow that was part of it. So -- but we were just really getting ready for, we felt, one of the biggest major operations we had ever gone through. At this time I was in the Fourth Marine Division, I Company, the 25th Marines, and didn't know hardly anybody. So many recruits were coming in -- not recruits but new troops that we hardly knew who our tentmates were at times because it just -- it's just such a transformation of new material coming in. It would be the first time in combat. Iwo was the first time in combat for many hundreds of those fellows. Boy, we were a belabored mess, our sallow faces and all, you know. Very tired, very worn out, sir. I will be honest with you. They had to do a lot to keep us gung-ho, keep us up. But that's part of it too. So we boarded ship there. And, let's see, in late January, I guess, there in Hawaii, we regrouped in Hawaii, but the flotilla ships that we were going to hit Iwo. We headed out and made the landing there, of course, on the 19th, February 19th of '45.

Michael Willie:

Talk about the -- are you -- at this point, are you scared from the time you leave, or are you thinking about what's coming up?

Raymond Seay:

Well, they told us about the terrain and everything. It was ash. See, the other areas were firm, you know. But we had no idea about the number of Japanese. They estimated sometimes 12 to 14,000, but there were more than that. And so we had a lot of schooling aboard the ship. This was going to be a different warfare, flame throwers. And the Japanese had been dug in since World War I, not II, way on back there, boy, they had their guns all ready for us. Whenever you're ready for it, I can tell you about the landing on Iwo. Whenever you're ready for that.

Michael Willie:

Yeah.

Raymond Seay:

Well, anyhow, on the morning of the 19th, rendezvous landing was about 3:15, 3:30, and went topside and the most unusual thing happened for a group of us, we all came up topside as a company -- I mean, as a platoon of the company we were in. So they were calling the guys to go over the side, go down the ladder and get in the landing ship, of course they would make a rendezvous out here and they'd circle until it's daylight or just before daylight. And the destroyers and cruisers and big battleships way in the background just pounding unmercifully the Iwo. And so we couldn't figure out. And 25 of us now -- see what a blessing this was, sir, we didn't question anything. You dare not question anything. We found out we had a new job. Do you know what our new job was?

Michael Willie:

What?

Raymond Seay:

Hauling ammunition and gasoline to shore for the first few days. And you talk about inferno. Boy, I tell you, we were taking a load of gasoline and ammunition in, and the Coast Guard fellow from Pensacola, I didn't know what rank he was or anything, I said, "Sir, you are -- I have a map." I said, "We're supposed to be further down the beach, hundreds and hundreds of yards." He said, "Where are we supposed to go?" "Well, blow us into kingdom come then." I had a right to say something. Scare him out of -- he was a young guy out of school down in Pensacola somewhere where they learn to drive these boats and take them into shore. And so he finally realized it, and he said, "Look sir," he said, "I believe you're right, sir." And he had us way down on the enemy line. They were looking for us up in the -- the guns were facing right at us, you know. So I thanked him later on when we got down there. But we picked up a load of ammunition and gasoline -- I mean, we brought it ashore, and we had to go back and that night we spent the night aboard the ship. Do the same thing the next day, we had to load the stuff that we could pick up with other -- they had to use cranes to load those big barrels of gasoline, you know. I was thinking one day one of the fire Japanese fighter plane came down and hovered all in-between the ships, I said, "Boy, I hope he doesn't spot us. We will be an inferno here," you know. So something kept him away. It was just in our favor, you know. We just -- they kept sending people ashore, and we would watch through the binoculars, the action. And they let seven waves through, the Japanese did. They let seven waves through, and then they opened up their big guns and slew hundreds of Marines in just a few -- just a few minutes, you know. And that was a real blow to us because they didn't have all the best information, you know, on the -- what to expect there because they had been dug in for so long. After we got down there and started up toward the front lines, see these Japs in great big pill boxes, ten feet thick, ten feet thick was the cement outside here, that little slit opening here. Boy, the guns, I climbed up in one of them on the front line, I said, "Boy, what a view of the beach here." And we lost heavily during that time, boy, I tell you. Of course, Mount Suribachi was on the other end. I didn't -- my outfit, the 25th Marines, went there. But by my being on the -- the group that carried ammunition and gasoline to shore, I'm alive today, I fully believe that. Because I tell you what, this guy I told you about that's taking us right into the enemy fire, and he thanked me later on, he says, "Thank you for telling me about that." I said, "Well, I tell you, I just wasn't ready to go." He really thanked me for it. But it was touch and go there for several days there. We could see these waves of Marines moving up, moving toward Mount Suribachi this way. This was a little mountaintop area right down here and had guns all down there and the aircraft guns, boy, they were well equipped to -- they were dug in. I don't know how long they had actually been at it, but Mount Suribachi was like an armed castle. They could shoot down anywhere. So it was hard to take. But, ordinarily, it would have taken several days, but the Marines, 25th Marines, my outfit, finished it in four days. They were so thankful. We turned right and went up the other direction. And so I -- we came ashore on Sunday night. After that week of taking gasoline and ammunition to shore, we came ashore Sunday afternoon. I will never forget I just had taken the pack off my back and moved my strapped down, and I set it down on the beach and the area that was assigned to us, and a Japanese snipper hit my buckle of my pack. It glanced off. I reached down and picked up the bullet, hot. He was in one of the wrecked barges down on the beach. He was having a heyday, boy, just picking them off left and right, you know. But the flame throwers took care of that just a few minutes later, nothing left of him. I knew we were in difficult times from now on. I just sensed it. I felt it, you know. And I tell you one fellow, there was an Indian, he called me -- he called me Brother Ray. He liked that. I called him Sitting Bull Thomas. That wasn't his name. Sitting Bull Thomas. And he says, "I like you. I like you." I said, "Well, you're my buddy." And he says, "I'm going to tell you something now." He says -- I hope this doesn't make the folks angry out there that this took place and nobody knew about it, you know. But he says, "I take my pistol, I shoot myself through the foot." He says, "I got nine children back in New Mexico on the reservation out there. I don't belong here. I don't belong here." He's a likeable fellow, boy, big old Indian, dark Indian, you know, he's just endeared himself to me. He's the one that told me aboard ship, he says, "Seay, you know where the word 'okay' came from? It's a Navajo word. It means all right. It's okay. It's all right."

Michael Willie:

Really?

Raymond Seay:

It's a Navajo Indian word. He told me that about two days before we landed. Anyhow, they took him on the hospital ship and I never saw him again. Boy, we faced something that night, Sunday night heading to the front lines. I got my assignment. They charged me with the flame thrower. I never had a minute or hour of schooling with a flame thrower. I put that big 40-pound flame thrower on my back. We started up this hill, you know. My lieutenant was killed right in front of me. We were in uncharted area. We knew nothing about what was up there. They done the best they could with intelligence. But they got him. So I finally climbed on up there until we found where my outfit was. Like I say, so many new faces came in because so many being shot. Yeah, Mike, you know, I tried on that flame thrower, I said, boy, I used some expletives, pretty bad words, I said I never had a day of schooling in my life. Some guy came over and just gave me a few little safety notes about it, you know. When I got to the top -- this is not going to sound good for Marine officers that are listening to this now. I can't help it. I just -- I just wasn't entrusted to that flame thrower. So when -- that night, walked up to the front line, getting ready to take the other end of the island, you know, I threw it over the side of the cliff. I said, "I will take whatever they want to throw at me, they can. I am not taking the flame thrower and be burnt up to crisp to something I have had no training in whatsoever." I thought, well, if I get a court marshal, I will sure have a good case against the government. I'm trying to be funny but trying to be sensible, you know.

Michael Willie:

Right.

Raymond Seay:

But anyhow, the lieutenant, when we're taking that hill that night, Sunday night, I will never forget it, we never, guy shot himself through the foot, and there was tension building up, you know, and all. He said, "Gentlemen, you're shoving off at 7:00." We're starting up through. The first thing that greeted us was a pill box, and inside that pill box were two dead Japanese soldiers, and I just looked through there and looked down at the beach, I said, "Oh, my goodness, what an advantage they had over us." Machine guns and small -- small guns of other rank, you know. And I said, "Boy, I tell you, this explains how we lost so many people." There's seven ways getting through Iwo Jima before they finally opened up fire. They got them left and right. They were hitting our tanks and everything. So I guess we just goofed somehow, didn't have the intelligence that we really needed to know to get that report to do a better job. But, anyhow, we were taken off up this hill, and we had only been about 50 or 60 yards around through this sand, it was soft and wasn't good terrain at all, and we were getting ready to turn, and my lieutenant got it right through the head. I said, "I got no leader. I don't know where to go. I'm a replacement." I said, "Boy, this is going to be for the birds there." I got up a little further, and I met the guys I would know now over the next few days. I will share a little later on about the close call that I had. But anyhow, we got on up there about 7:30, 8:00 that night, and we were told -- Mike, we were told never to stand up. That's what the Japanese -- I hope I'm not offensive when I mention that -- the other side, they were our enemy, but I will share something with you a little later on when I met a Japanese soldier face-to-face. Boy, it changed my whole perspective on everything. I am doing my job, but there's a human element that comes into it after awhile when you look at it all. Anyhow, my lieutenant got hit and went on up and joined our outfit and the corporal said, "We need to be ready the next morning. The enemy would be mounting a new offensive, counteroffensive." I didn't have time to swallow very good, you know, so I was very restless that night. The next morning we were all laughing and joking, cutting up about taking the hill the night before. So a Japanese mortar shell found its mark right in on top of us. Four buddies were killed immediately and my lieutenant -- my lieutenant was knocked unconscious, and they were giving him CPR, yeah, and all, but he wasn't killed there. But I said, "I know we're in for something now." I said something funny a day or two before that, I said, "I hope we go up this way. We will be able to find Whistling Lena (ph)." Whistling Lena was an improvised makeshift launcher to shoot it. It sounded like this when it would go, "whee-whee-whee." You say you know it's coming, but it never hit anything. I would watch the shells. I would watch the casings fall out there around the water around the ship but never hit a thing. So, anyhow, we got up there and all standing around the next morning when that shell came in on top and killed three of my buddies right beside me, and I got a little wound in my -- just my right leg there, just a small piece of shrapnel, never reported it, never turned it in or anything. I wasn't dying to get a Purple Heart. I was just trying to keep from dying. So, anyhow, that was the day that changed my life on Iwo Jima. I tell you, I was just happy-go-lucky, and I became withdrawn kind of. I was getting tired of it. So that was in early, I guess, we went to shore on Iwo on the 19th, I guess that week, didn't we?

Michael Willie:

Yeah.

Raymond Seay:

I didn't go in until next week on a Sunday. So it was about the 26th or 27th when I joined the outfit to actually do the fighting because I was busy with other details there. But, anyhow, when this shell dropped in on the group of us and killed three of my buddies, I asked to get away for awhile. I just had to to regroup, you know. I says, "Sergeant, could I go back down to the beach base?" We had a base down where we kept everything, supplies and stuff like that. He said, "Seay, is there a problem?" I said, "Yes, sir, there is." I said, "I just -- I've just got to have a little reprieve right here for just a little while," you know. So he let me go down and -- down to the beach there. The lieutenant was so kind. I just said, "I've come down here to rest, sir. I just -- I've just had it up to here, and I hope you'll understand, sir." And, you know, you got to be careful how you word things because they can take you as a coward, but I guess he saw the seriousness of it. But, anyhow, he told me about 3:00 that afternoon, I ought to go back up to join my outfit. Instead I walked down the beach road overlooking the Pacific Ocean, boy, I tell you, I used bad language, oh, my. You say you became a preacher. Yeah, God took my cusser out and put the blesser in. So anyhow I was looking across the Pacific Ocean, and I says, "Well, dear God," I said, "I know I'm here. I don't really know all the details what your plans are for my life," but I says, "I tell you one thing, whatever the future holds I want to serve you, God, and do what's pleasing to you." Mike, I tell you, a certain amount of peace came to my heart. It really did. I can't explain it to you in a spiritual passage because I wasn't a spiritual person. But my attitude was all -- was different after that. I had a peace inwardly that I never did yet, you know. And just a few days before that, I remember a corpsman was coming up and a Marine had been hit right next to me and this corpsman was coming up to take care of it, you know, I said, "Sir, you better get down," I said, "They're firing from the draw right down there up through this draw here. They must have a gun back in there in that tunnel, that cave." And so he -- so, anyhow, they opened up on him, the corpsman, and four bullets right across his chest here. I said, "Oh, my God, what do I do now?" So I says, "Well, dear God, I know you're up there somewhere, but I sure do need your help right now. I'm getting ready to take a dangerous step here." Here I am in a little opening in the side of this hill, and here is the path that the sniper is firing right up through here. I think he had a machine gun at the time, and here's this corpsman pleading with me. He says, "Sir, I saved a lot of you fellows. Please help me." Oh, that got me. I says, "Live or die, sink or swim, I'm going to help this corpsman out." I said, "Dear God, turn those fuzzy duzzies away down there. Let me get out of here and do my job." You know what, I didn't know anything about prayer, anything about that. I had no spiritual lessons on the power of God to change things, change environments, change situations, but I eased out, and I got this corpsman, he was a pretty good-sized fellow, I got him under the belt there, and both hands, I said, "Don't resist now. I know you're hurting." I said, "We will get to that later." So I pulled him up through the -- and I'm sure some jagged rocks were there. I pulled up behind a bunker. It was a volcanic island with volcanic ash. It was sometimes that deep you stepped into it. No real firm footing. So I pulled him up and got him behind a bunker. He looked up at me, I will never forget it, he says, "Thank you so much, Marine. I'm indebted to you." I would have loved to have heard from him later. I would have loved to know how he got through the rest of the operation. I want to tell you, that changed my life a whole lot, to be saving a fellow instead of taking pot shots at fellows and kill them, get them off the map, it made me feel good. I did a good deed to a corpsman. It's the heaviest casualties of all -- the parts of the war here and over in Europe, more corpsmen were killed on Iwo Jima than any other activity. I do not know the number. I'm afraid to say it. But boy, my stock went up in those corpsmen there when he smiled and looked at me and said, "Thank you." And so the guy got taken care of down the way there, a flame thrower took care of him. But it was only about a day or two later that things were winding down. We just thought, well, we got to get the island secure, but we couldn't -- we couldn't relax, you know. We were not getting fired at very much. This guy was firing at us from this cave down here, a flame thrower got him, a tank came up through the draw there in this little gully and just -- boy, just shot that stuff. They say it's 1,600 degrees Farenheit that stuff. But, anyhow, it was just -- it was just kind of touch-and-go for the next two or three days, not much activity or anything. Let me tell you something that really happened back in Georgia, this is one of those human interest stories, and I pastored the church off of the main drag there out towards Stone Mountain, I can't even remember the name of it now. But, anyhow, I met a fellow who was in the Navy, and his job was to circle the island with a little gunboat around and around and shoot flares so that the enemy couldn't slip up on us at night, you know. And little did I realize -- I was sharing it with Norman Witt (ph), he was a mountain boy from Tennessee, great -- he was a good guy, boy, I tell you. He's fighting a life of survival now because a fellow hit him in the car going 65 miles an hour. So he's been slowly dying now for several years, really. But, anyhow, we -- where was I now then?

Michael Willie:

He was going around the island.

Raymond Seay:

Oh, yeah. So I found out, I said I don't know who those folks are, but I tell you what, I sure will vote for them in the US Navy because they kept those flares up going all night. They'd shoot a flare and it comes down in a parachute. It lights up the whole area. We threw more grenades in that stand up there than we had ever had anywhere else. One time we was up on a little ridge, and we dropped about 60 -- 50 or 60 grenades all that night there because they came over our radio, they said 70 to 75 of the enemy had split our ranks, and they're coming in behind us, so be on the lookout. But, anyhow, Norman was one of the fellows firing these guns that shot the flares up. Some good things happened back home that you hear about that make you glad they were doing their job, you know. Anyhow, there wasn't a whole lot of activity. Whistling Lena was something that the enemy -- it was a crude instrument. I don't know how to explain it. We saw it, but it had already been blown to bits by then. We were taken that end of the island and saw where it had been, you know. But it whistled and the shells -- it would fall mercifully out in the water. Didn't do any effect or anything like that, you know. But I want to tell you what, when the word came fellows were going to be leaving tomorrow afternoon, oh, "whoo," I can't explain it to you, all you -- just try to visualize the feeling that came over us. You know what, I hate to say this, I hope nobody is listening and that this will hurt their feelings, but they brought whiskey up to the front lines the last night of operation for us guys. Here is fellows hadn't been eating properly, lost 15 to 20, 25 pounds, and they sent some whiskey up unto there, and I hope the liquor crowd hears me because I'm against it. Brother, I saw it all my life from my family. I drank it myself from 16 until I was 25. But I said, man, this has no place up here. So they handed the bottle over to me, I said, "No, thank you." I passed it on to the next guy. "You can do with it what you want to." You know what I found out the next morning? Just a few yards behind us, six dead Marines. Should never have happened. So, brother, you want to talk about a prohibitionist, you're talking to one right now. I just -- it ruined my family, almost ruined me, got me into all kind of trouble. But I have never touched a drop since I turned my life over to God and everything. But, anyhow, those last few days gave you time to search and look back, you know, and I'm thankful for that lonely setting on a hill, overlooking the Pacific Ocean when I began to turn my life in a different direction and try to find out which way God was going to go God's way. It was later, of course, not until I got converted back in the States, but at least I was finding a new direction for my life there. But I don't know, you know, when I thought about those Marines coming all through combat and then be given something to drink when they just take a little tiny bit throw them, they had no alcohol in their system, you know. So I just -- when I have a chance to speak, I bring that in. I says, "For you fellows who drink, I hope you listen closely now. It gets a lot of people in trouble, a strange place as far away as Iwo Jima." So I just speak what I say is on my heart. I'm not going to beat around the bush. I'm just going to tell -- you know, and now as I'm getting older right now, I hope wiser, I say some pretty difficult things for people to take. I tell young people, "You need to straighten your life out and find direction in your life, find perspective in your life. You need to quit flirting with time and say time is on my side. You never know." I said, "Over there, I lost my buddy Frank Sanmigill." He was from Puerto Rico. He moved to Jackson Heights, New York, to live with his mother and daddy, they had a novelty store business. Frank was my best buddy. I just really loved him. And he was just only 15 feet away from me and about -- only about three foxholes over, and I didn't even know he had been hit, but I learned a couple days after. I says, "By the way, that mortar shell or hand grenade, whatever it was," I says, "Did you hear about that?" I said, "I heard the noise." He says, "Well, Frank is not with us anymore." A little further from me to you, he was killed right there. I didn't even know who it was. We were pinned down for days. We had to urinate in our foxhole. We had to wait until night to go out and try to find a lonely place to do the other, you know, to have a BM. But it was just touch-and-go. I said, "I will sure be glad when this thing is over." And so that's -- I began to get a serious viewpoint in my life, you know. And my life has beginning to take a transformation at least in my thinking now. There must be some better perspective than get blown to bits. I'm not anti-war now. I would fight tomorrow. If the United States needed me, I would be out there fighting. I love my country. I love the American flag. I love it for what it stands for. I have no -- like I said, I think sometimes war is one of the silliest things to win an argument. I'm not a passivist. I would fight for my country tomorrow if I had to. It seems like there would a more sensible way than snuffing out so many young lives, might give them a chance to live and get somewhere in life. I don't care if you get some bad statements coming back to you on this, but I really mean what I say. I think it's a good practical statement. They have a right to live. And so I wish they could find some other way to strum up some business to blow each other off the map. Like I say, I would leave tomorrow at 82 years of age and fight for my country if it were necessary. So that's my strong feeling. You say that's anti-war sentiment. Well, whatever you want to call it, I just know that -- I just believe there are better methods or something. Life is that way. Look at that Insane Hussein over there in Iraq. Boy, you just come up against a guy like that, he poisoned a thousand of his own people to death. I may be getting off onto something I shouldn't be right now, but that's my feeling. We have a bunch of nuts out there, brother. They won't leave America alone. We're not bothering them. We help the whole world with supplies and things like that, and they turn around and stick a knife in our backs. I'm gung-ho America. I love America. I fought for this country, and I just appreciate Old Glory. Every time I see it waving high. I say, "Praise God, my Old Glory."

Michael Willie:

Put on your hat.

Raymond Seay:

Oh, I guess the recruiters would like that, wouldn't they? Yes, sir.

Michael Willie:

Let's finish up the interview with that. You say the night with the whiskey, that was the last night on the island.

Raymond Seay:

Last night on the island. We left the last day to the beach. I shouldn't have brought this up. It's on my heart, but I went ahead anyhow. I think our leaders can make silly mistakes sometimes. I'm not running down any of the -- I don't know who they were or anything, but to come and bring something like that to the front line our last night on the island, and then seven -- seven or eight Marines were just a few feet behind us being stabbed in the back with Japanese bayonets, that wasn't -- excuse me, I'll be anti-war here, folks will be jumping up and down, "Oh, he don't like war." No, sir, I sure don't. But I served my country and I'd do it again if I had to.

Michael Willie:

I agree with you wholeheartedly. I wasn't there, so I can't --

Raymond Seay:

Yeah.

Michael Willie:

Okay. So after you leave Iwo Jima, do you come back to the States?

Raymond Seay:

No, no. We went back to Maui. That was our base of of operation, Maui, Hawaii. And so we stayed there. And then of course they signed the VJ treaty later in that -- earlier in the summer there in the Battleship Missouri off of Tokyo Bay. And so I came on -- came on back to the States, but, of course, I stayed on a little longer because I was there, I was going to get my GI Bill, you know. And there's a captain in the Navy, he asked me one time, he says, "Well, Seay, what you want to do with your life?" I said, "I'm going to get out of this Marine Corps as soon as I can." And I said, "I like to go to school, take some schooling". He says, "What for?" I says, "Sir, to try to amount to something and be able to go back and look my folks in the eyes back there that war is not the end of the day, not the end of the day." That was my driving force to amount to something some day. So I got five years and 25 days of GI bill, paid all my bills and everything. I met my wife at school, and she's been a wonderful support.

Michael Willie:

Let's talk about that. Where did you go to school?

Raymond Seay:

Bob Jones University, Cleveland, Tennessee. The school used to be over there. It was just a small school. I found guys there from the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard, women and men, that found a deeper purpose in life than just eat, drink, and be merry.

Michael Willie:

You met your wife there?

Raymond Seay:

Met her there. She was a country girl from Rossville right here right off Cloud Spring Road. So we had some of the -- we were both Methodists, and I guess maybe still I am in my heart, but I don't let a denomination stand in the way of me. I really do not. There's good Baptists, good Methodists, good Lutherans, good Episcopalians and all. We need to respect their point of view and all. We can't change them. Only God can change them. Don't try to beat around the bush and take God's plans away from him because he's still in charge. I believe that wholeheartedly. I sure do. So -- but I met so many wonderful guys at, like, Marine Corps luncheon the other day, down through the years and different places. I've had many open doors, high schools and places to speak. They sit there spellbound. They say, "Sir, we appreciate you. We've never heard anything like this before." I say, "Well, I hope you love your country better and pay your dues to your country and be a good worker for the nation and for God. As you're growing up, by the grace of God, you will amount to something someday." So that's about the -- oh, let me tell you, coming back, when we left the island of Iwo Jima -- I haven't thought about this long enough. We were boarding the ship, the little landing ships, to go out to this vessel that was going to sail us back to Hawaii, and the guys were climbing up the rope, and it was such a joy, Mike, to look over at their faces and as they're climbing up, holding on. They're skinny, lost so much weight. And I never forget the captain of the ship, he said, "Fellows, take it easy. There's going to be steak tonight, mashed potatoes, rolls, and everything." And a guy forgot himself while he was listening, and he slipped off the landing rope on the side and fell back. They caught him, they broke the fall, but he was injured bad in his shoulder and everything. Boy, I would be so close, I wouldn't let anything excite me to miss that steak and mashed potatoes. The captain said that over the intercom, he said, "We hav ea great" -- We hadn't set out for weeks and weeks to a meal like that told me about that. Guess what?

Michael Willie:

What?

Raymond Seay:

I filled my plate up, ate about three or four bites. I couldn't handle it. I mean, my stomach had so shrunk. I looked over -- going through the line all the way back to Maui, Hawaii, they were serving grits and eggs one morning, scrambled eggs, and something else, fried potatoes, you know. And so he thought -- he thought the grits was supposed to be cereal. So I pulled him back, that Navy fellow working behind the food bar, I called it the food bar, he's going to come over there after me, "Boy, you messed up things around here." I said, "Sorry, I don't have any money to tip you." He's ready to come over there, boy, let me have it. I was getting ready for him too, boy. But he thought the grits was cereal. I said, "Don't spoil grits with" -- he goes, "Get, get," some bad words, "get on out of here." But oh, we enjoyed that trip back, let me tell you. The song that was so popular then, "Going to Take a Sentimental Journey," "da-da-da-da." Record, wind it up, all day long, every day, they would play that thing. Guys would stop back at nighttime, they would sit around, the moon would be out on the Pacific, and say, "Play your No. 1 record, the only one you got, 'Going to Take a Sentimental'" -- We had a good time coming back. But I tell you what, the war was over, it would be over pretty quick now. I tell you, when they dropped the bomb, the Atom Bomb, I said, "Well, I just -- I hate all those people were killed," but I said, "You know what, this thing can be prolonged for years." So I says, "God, you forgive them. They did what they thought was right." I believe it was right. We will enjoy a few more years of freedom because somebody had the nerve to drop -- to take care of that. But I got real bitter right then just before getting back to Maui, Hawaii. Boy, that's the most relaxed trip I had ever taken in a Fleet Marine Force vessel going back to peace in Maui, Hawaii. I felt like the war would soon be over. Boy, I tell you, the exhilaration, I can't explain it to you, Mike, in human words. Such a lift, such a burden off our shoulders. Man, we just got to hugging each other's neck and having a good time. I had a little accordion, I played piano, a little 48-base accordion. I played it before landing on Iwo Jima. We had singings at night. We would sing some of those old hillbilly songs, Frankie and Johnny and so forth. And -- but when we went to shore in Iwo Jima, I never saw it again. They packed it up in a couple of ponchos, but my niece told me back as a young girl in Florida, she said, "Now, don't you let anybody get that accordion. I want to get it back." Of course she never saw it again. But we had a lot of fun going back, just singing and sharing together. I tell you, I never forget coming back from the South Pacific, I got down and kissed the deck of where the ship was docked. And some guy said, "This guy is going bananas." I said, "I tell you what, if you've been through the hell I've been through," I said, "you'd almost kiss the admiral's so-and-so." My wife said, "Don't tell that." I said, "Well, I'm not going to promise."

Michael Willie:

We only have a minute and a half left. I want to talk about -- I want you to go ahead and mention your kids' names and also your grandkids.

Raymond Seay:

Okay. All right. Well, our four daughters are Marilyn, Annette and Janet are twins, and then Becky.

Michael Willie:

Do they have children?

Raymond Seay:

There's nine children, and six of those are girls and three are boys. So we're outnumbered, been outnumbered ever since I married into the Williams family because they had all girls, our girls, six granddaughters are girls.

Michael Willie:

The boys better stick together.

Michael Willie:

I tell my buddies, we talk a walk under the ATV lines down there, I say, "Hey, fellows, you better stick with grandpa. We are outnumbered. We won't get a word in sideways." They like that. They say, "Grandpa, we are for you." So I thank God for my family, I sure do. It's a big family, but we're a happy family. We just thank God for all his many blessings. Most of all for the salvation he's provided through his son Jesus Christ. I just love to share the word. I'm 58 years of age now -- I pastor for 40 -- 51 years, but I've been living for God since 1947 and, Mike, it's the greatest life in all the world. I have a peace that surpasses all understanding. I've learned to love human man -- mankind for what they are and hope they'll let God make out of them what he wants them to be. So it's a joy being with you today, and I hope God continues to bless you now as you do your project here. It's going to help a lot of people. It's helped me to open up here. I like this impromptu, not everything all written down. As things come to you, share it. Sharing is caring.

Michael Willie:

It's very comfortable. You've done a wonderful job.

Raymond Seay:

Well, thank you, sir.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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