15 May 2000

Marine Barracks, Midway Island

Ned Dolan 
Captain, United States Marine Corps, (Retired)

A recent cover story in Marine Times brought to mind what happened one time  when I was stationed at the Marine Barracks, Midway Islands, in 1947.   After graduating from TBS and being commissioned in April 1946, I had orders  to Marine Garrison Forces (MGF), Pacific.  When I arrived there I was  assigned to the Marine Barracks, Pearl Harbor, where I remained for nine  months.  My spouse joined me there after three months.  

In December 1946, the CG, MGF, Brig. Gen.  W. A. Worton, returned from touring the  various Barracks around the Pacific under his command.  When he got to  Midway he found that a captain, Angus J. Cronin, had been given 10 days hack  by the commanding officer for a questionable offense, but that is another  story.  The CG decided the captain should be removed from Midway.  The CG  decided he would be replaced with the second lieutenant from Oahu who had  been in MGF longest.  I was it.  Before he sent me he determined that  quarters would be available for my spouse and I.  That was promised.  So we  flew on to Midway.  The quarters was not what we expected, and that is  another story.  

The MB, Midway was the remnants of a wartime defense battalion.  It had a  headquarters battery, two 90mm AAA gun batteries, and a 60" AAA searchlight  battery, just the place for a 2dLt with an infantry MOS.  I first went into  one of the gun batteries but soon the resignation of Captain Wesley E.  Strauley, CO of the searchlight battery was accepted and he was shipped off  to be separated.  I was designated the searchlight battery CO.  Along the  way I picked up several additional duties as three batteries, the gun  batteries and searchlight battery, had a grand total of 5 officers.  

Among my additional duties were brig officer and OinC rifle range.  As  summer approached the LtCol who commanded the barracks, M.D. (Doc) Holmes,  called me into his office and told me to run rifle requalifications for the  barracks personnel.  Since the range had not been used since at least the  previous year, I went out to look at it.  It was unusable.  The butts, with  40-45 targets, faced north and had been buried in coral sand over the winter  when strong winds blow off Siberia and the Aleutians.  It was impossible to  walk on the butts or operate the targets slides.  

The only way the range could be used is by digging out the whole area by  hand with shovels as a bulldozer (we had a couple) could not be used.   Fortunately my brig was holding two prisoners, one serving 30 days and the  other 45 at hard labor.  These were to be the diggers.  I had my part-time  warden and chaser supervise the dig out.  He would take the two out to the  range at 0800, each with two canteens of water.  They returned at 1130 for  noon chow and when back out at 1300 until 1600 with replenished canteens.   The warden brought out a beach chair, umbrella, a book to read, and his own  two canteens.  He reclined in his chair while the digging went on.  

After a couple of weeks the digging paid off, the target slides greased and  qualification shooting began.  The hard labor terms paid off.  I don't know  how many tons of sand were moved, but I doubt the two prisoners  ever forgot  their effort.  They never got into any more trouble the rest of the time I  was on Midway.  Unlike breaking rocks, their labor was for something useful.

A footnote to the shoot, the MB CO ordered me to see everyone qualified, no  matter how long it took.  This was done in spite of the usual limitations of  the number of rounds each shooter was (and is) allowed.  It seems when the  WW II ended, a lot of materiel was left on the island with no records,  In  our exploring the island in our spare time we found a bunker with tens of  thousands of 30 caliber rifle ammunition which we used until all were  qualified.