The sounds of the lazy Yockanookany River echo into the small town of Ethel, Mississippi. Slowly, the cries of a grieving mother are heard above the waters. James Dodd holds his wife as she cries, upon discovery that her son, William was killed on a little-known speck in the Pacific Ocean: Guam.
William P. Dodd was born in Ethel on February 21, 1915, to James & Eula Ann Dodd, with his brother James joining the family in 1919. William was 5’6 ½” of dashing, with dark brown hair, brown eyes, and a ruddy complexion. Growing up as a young boy in rural Mississippi, he had a passion within him to escape and see the world. William would join the Marine Corps in May of 1935 in New Orleans. In 1937, while assigned to Quantico, VA, participating in fleet landing exercise in California. By 1938, at the rank of Private First Class, he would sign on for another two years after marriage, however, I am unable to find any records on her.
William Dodd in 1935
The times for this marine were prosperous in the Corps, attaining the rank of Sergeant by 1940. It would not be until 1941, when the bombs rained down on Pearl Harbor, that William would be greeted by the brutal truth of combat. William’s first engagement in World War Two was the occupation of Iceland in June of 1941. He was among nearly 4,000 marines who landed on the island, with their supply of cold weather gear being quoted as “"the darndest collection of winter clothing ever assembled.”
However, his first taste of combat would be on November 17th during the infamous campaign on Bougainville. The USS Talbot, a destroyer turned transport brought 146 men plus William ashore with the rest of the 3rd Marine Division. The first thing on the list for the American Beach Head was to push the lines further inland to about 5-6 miles inland. From here, the 21st would begin their first offensive engagement at Hellzapoppin Ridge: a 300-yard-long heavily vegetated sheer cliff face with heavily dug-in defenders. On December 12th, the attacks began, and intense close combat ensued. Despite mortar, artillery, and aerial strikes, the Japanese were not dislodged until December 18th. Williams, assigned to “L” Company, was apart of the southern assault along with “K” Company while Companies “A” & “C” engaged from the Northeast. Before their assault, intense artillery fire cleared the way for an airstrike by 6 TBF Avengers hit Hellzapoppin hard, allowing for the marines to claim the ridge. The 21st lost 12 men and 23 wounded while at least 50 Japanese were killed. On January 9th, 1944, William boarded the USS Libra which was bound for Guadalcanal. After an extended stay on Guadalcanal, William would board the USS Rixey on June 8th and by the little-known battle of Guam.
Landing Map of the 21st Regiment on Guam. Note that 3/21 landed nearly in front of Asan village.
USS LST 219 commanded by Lt Roy Collier Jr, USNR would be the transport that brought “L” Company onto the beaches of Guam on W-Day landing directly at the village of Asan. By nightfall on W-Day, the American forces had pushed 6,600 feet into Guam with Japanese counter attacks made throughout the next days and nights with many infiltration tactics being used to penetrate the American lines. While the Japanese were repelled, this put considerable strain on the American man and supply reserves on the island. On the 26th of July, 1944, Gunnery Sergeant William Dodd would fall in combat from a direct hit from a mortar round, presumably during the counterattack led by Japanese Lt. General Takashina at the Orote Peninsula and the northern parts of the 3rd Marine Division lines. He would be listed with shrapnel found scattered in his body and buried temporarily in the field and the central Army-Navy-Marine Corps cemetery on Guam before being laid to rest in his beloved Mississippi.
(Left: Combat on Guam. Right: Dodd's grave)