Company L, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, 6th Marine Division


The Fourth Marine Regiment was one of the Marine Corps' proudest outfits. During the prewar era, the Fourth served as the fabled China Marines. In November 1941 the Fourth was transferred from China to the Phillipines. There, the Regiment took part in the defense of Bataan and Corregidor against impossible odds. On 6 May 1942, regimental commander Col Samuel Howard, USMC, burned the colors and led his Marines into captivity on the fortress of Corregidor in Manila Bay.

In February 1944, the Fourth Marines was reactivated on Guadalcanal under the command of LtCol Alan Shapley, USMC. The 1st Raider Regiment, which Col Shapley had commanded, became the nucleus of the new Fighting Fourth. The new Fourth adopted the Raiders' motto, "Hold High The Torch." The 3rd Raider Battalion formed the basis for the reactivated 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines.


Among the hundreds of Raiders assigned to the 3rd Battalion was Pfc Ray N. Ellis, of Amherst, Texas. A veteran of the fighting on Bougainville, Ellis, along with his Raider buddies, built the strong backbone for the new 4th Marines. Billeted in a tent camp on the old Guadalcanal battlefields, the Fourth took part in the capture of Emirau in the Admiralty Islands.

Returning to their camp on the 'canal, the Gyrenes of the Fourth were assigned to the newly activated 1st Provisional Marine Brigade on 19 April 1944. The Regiment's next major fight was the capture and occupation of Guam in July–August 1944. For its outstanding performance in combat, the 1st Marine Brigade was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation.

On 7 September 1944 the 6th Marine Division was activated on the 'canal. Built on the nucleus on the 1st Marine Brigade, the Striking Sixth had the distinction of being the only Marine division that never served stateside.

The new division trained in individual and unit tasks during the winter of 1944–45. In a series of exercises on Guadalcanal, Marines ran through tough and realistic drills. They practiced knocking out bunkers, breaching fortified positions, working with tanks and engineers, and many other skills. All hands knew the Striking Sixth would soon be fighting against the Japanese. Landing on Okinawa on 1 April 1945, the 6th Marine Division fought in some of the most bitter and prolonged combat of World War II.

Pfc Ellis was severely wounded on 2 April 1945. The regimental history made note of this action:

"The 4th Marines resumed the attack to the east coast at 0730 on 2 April 1945. There was little resistance until midday. Then, upon moving down a draw, the 2nd Platoon of Company L, 3/4, was suddenly pinned down by fire from mutually supporting cave emplacements on each side of the ravine. Twelve wounded Marines, including Captain Nelson C. Dale, Jr., the company commander, were trapped in the draw and could not be removed for hours. Reduction of the strong point had to be gained finally by a charge, which was led by 1st Lieutenant Marvin D. Perskie, executive officer of Company L, taking over for its wounded commander. One platoon entered the mouth of the draw, while another came down one side of the two noses which formed the pocket." (1)

With a Japanese bullet lodged in the base of his skull, Ray Ellis was evacuated off the island. On 3 April 1945 he was transferred from Okinawa to the hospital ship USS Comfort. In stages, he made the long journey back home. First, Ray was transported to Fleet Hospital 111 on Guam. From there, he went to Naval Hospital #10 at Aiea Heights in Honolulu, Hawaii. Finally, on 16 June 1945, Ray arrived at the Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego. After a prolonged recovery, he was discharged from the Marine Corps in 1946.

Like so many World War II veterans, Ray made the best of his life and raised a family while trying to cope with the debilitating effects of his wound. He died at the all too young age of 38 from a stroke. Fortunately, Ray left behind a photographic record of his time on Guadalcanal. The pictures that follow are of him and his buddies.

Ray's son Randy lives in Eugene, Oregon and proudly remembers his dad. Thanks for Randy's generosity in loaning the pictures to World War II Gyrene, this amazing record can be shared with everyone.

L 3/4 Photos, part 1

L 3/4 Photos, part 2

L 3/4 Photos, part 3


Sources for cited material:
(1) Hold High The Torch by Kenneth Condit and Edwin Turnbladh, GPO, 1960, pg 294



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