Segment 1


William Douglas Lansford was born on 13 July 1922 in Los Angeles. His father was an Anglo from Texas and his mother was a Mexican from Juarez. His parents split up when he was a very small child and he was raised by his mother in a traditional Mexican household. He was in his teens before he learned to speak English and this gave him some trouble at school. Lansford was raised by his grandmother. His mother was in show business and his father was a policeman. From the time he was a child Lansford had a fascination with the military. His father was a veteran of two wars, World War I and the campaign in the Philippines. Life was good for Lansford as a child until the depression hit. His father remained fairly well off but he was not around. Lansford lived with his mother in a five dollar per month garage. Lansford's mother later married a musician. They would take jobs whenever they could to provide for Lansford and his brother. When he was about 16 years old Lansford dropped out of school and joined the CC camps [Annotators Note: Civilian Conservation Corps or CCC]. He became a lumber jack and over time put on weight and got into better physical shape. He eventually ended up in the US Marine Corps. Lansford hung out in front of the post office where the recruiters were located for over a year. He kept trying to join the navy but he was continually rejected because he was underweight. By this time Lansford was 17 going on 18. He had been felling trees with a double bladed axe and was in pretty good shape. In the camps there were a lot of fights between the Mexicans and the Caucasians from the dust bowl. After the CCC camps Lansford again tried to join the navy but joined the US Marine Corps Reserve instead. Two weeks after he enlisted in the reserves the reserves were called up and he was sent to San Diego. From there he was offered his choice of weapon and he chose to be a machine gunner. Lansford joined the 8th Marines [Annotators Note: 8th Marine Regiment]. He had seen a notice on a bulletin board asking for volunteers for exotic foreign duty. Everybody thought it was Shanghai so he volunteered. It turns out that he was sent to Iceland and stayed there for 10 months. He was in Iceland when the war started. Lansford had enlisted in October 1940. Lansford compares the Marine presence in Iceland to their presence in El Salvador and Nicaragua. In Iceland they worked 16 hours a day since it was always daylight. The Germans flew missions over the Marine positions all the time so the Marines were familiar with the Germans. The British were also in Iceland. The British kept the American Marines informed of what was going on. In Iceland they set up observation posts and watched the Germans. That was the only duty they had except for working parties. 10 months after Lansford arrived in Iceland Pearl Harbor was attacked. After the start of the war with Japan, Drew Middleton, a famous war correspondent, gave a talk to the Marines telling them that he had just come back from campaigning with the Germans. He told them that the Germans were great soldiers and they should be glad that they were not fighting them. He told the Marines that they were lucky to be sleeping on mattresses while the Germans slept on the ground. Six months later Lansford was on Guadalcanal sleeping on the ground with the rain pounding on him. The Marines booed Middleton. They were not concerned with the Germans. They were ready to prove themselves.


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