Pfc Arthur "Buddy" Kanert, Jr., Co K, 3rd Bn, Third Marines

 

Buddy Kanert hailed from Dorcester, Mass., and like so many young men, he answered duty's call by enlisting as a United States Marine in 1941. In 1943 he was assigned to the Third Marines, an infantry regiment of the Third Marine Division. The photograph of Buddy at left was taken during his final leave before shipping out for the Pacific early in 1943.

As a member of Able Company, 1st Battalion, Third Marines, Buddy fought in the campaign for Bougainville from 1 November - 25 December 1943. At the top of the Solomon chain, Bougainville was a strategic location to build airfields in the isolation of the Japanese bastion at Rabaul, on New Britain's western tip. The divisional history had this to say about the the island:

"Bougainville – half again as large as Guadalcanal – thick, twisted, impenetrable jungles, bottomless mangrove swamps, crocodile infested rivers, millions of insects thriving in the worst rain forest in the Pacific, heavy daily torrents that wash the sulphur of volcanic Bagana into the streams, inhabited by a wild, uncultured race of people reputed to be head hunters. There were Japs there too, nearly forty thousand of them!"

Infantrymen of the 3rd Marines come ashore under heavy fire at H-Hour, Cape Torokina, Bougainville on D-Day, 1 November 1943. The palm trees in the background conceal numerous Japanese emplacements that these Marines must quickly move to destroy. USMC Photo

On D-Day at Bougainville, 1st Battalion, Third Marines was assigned to Beach Blue 1 on the exposed tip of Cape Torokina. Against extremely heavy fire from more than 20 concealed enemy pillboxes, the Marines faced some of the toughest fighting yet encountered by American forces in the Pacific. Able Company was in the thick of this combat. Among the many heroic men that day wearing the Eagle, Globe and Anchor was Sgt Robert A. Owens, an NCO in Able Company. In the face of certain death, Owens assaulted as heavily fortified Japanese gun emplacement and destroyed a 75mm field piece that was savaging incoming landing boats. For his sacrificial courage under fire, Sgt Owens would later him a posthumous Medal of Honor.

For nearly two months, the Third Marine Division was locked in desperate combat against a determined and fanatical Japanese opponent on Bougainville. The battle raged in spots such as Piva Forks, the Numa-Numa Trail, and the East-West Trail. These places, all in thick and putrid swamps, were the scene of life and death struggles that defined what it meant to be a Marine. The Third Marines was awarded a hard-earned Navy Unit Commendation for its gallant service in this campaign, the only regiment of the Third Marine Division to be so honored at Bougainville.

After the campaign was over, the entire Third Marine Division redeployed to its home station on Guadalcanal, then a major training and staging base. From there, the division prepared for its next campaign, the recapture of Guam in the Mariana Islands as part of Operation Forager. Shortly before mounting out, Buddy was detached from Able Company and assigned as a rifleman in King Company, 3rd Battalion, Third Marines.

The assault landing on Guam was designated as W-Day (21 July 1944) to differentiate from other operations in Forager. Landing on Beach Red 1 at the exposed left flank of the Third Marine Division zone, 3rd Battalion, Third Marines faced the full brunt of Japanese small arms, artillery and mortar fire directed against them from heavily fortified Japanese positions on Adelup Point and Chonito Cliff. On this 500-yard stretch of beach, 3/3 suffered more casualties on W-Day than on the rest of the Third Marine Division's beaches put together.

Third Division Marines come ashore at H-Hour on Guam, 21 July 1944. Infantrymen at right are running forward off the beach. USMC Photo

Early on the morning of W+1 (22 July 1944) enemy forces launched an all-out counterattack against the line of the Third Marines. This fighting lasted from just after 0100 until after dawn and enemy troops closed in so tightly against the Marine defenses that naval gunfire spotters could see them plainly through their shipboard telescopes. But the heavy firepower could not be brought to bear for fear of short rounds striking Marine positions.

Into this maelstrom stepped Pfc Luther Skaggs, a mortarman in 3/3. Skaggs, who had already performed heroically during the landing on Red 1, was wounded in the darkness by a Japanese projectile that shattered his leg. Applying his own tourniquet, he defended his position for eight hours against wave after wave of Japanese assault troops. Only after the main attacks were over did Skaggs go to the rear, where he lost the leg. This brave Marine never said a word about being wounded until the battle was over. For his heroic example, Pfc Luther Skaggs was later awarded the Medal of Honor.

At one point during the pre-dawn hours, Japanese infiltrators penetrated through the battalion headquarters positions and attempted to occupy a commanding height behind the Marine lines. Fire from headquarters Marines and attached amtracs stopped this thrust and halted the penetration. The divisional assault which had been scheduled to kick off at 0700 on W+1, was delayed until 0830. When the Third Marines began its attack up the Japanese-held hills anchored by Bundschu Ridge, they ran into what the official history of the campaign described as "an almost impenetrable barrier of [enemy] artillery, mortar, and small arms fire."

Elements of the Third Marines were not able to secure Bundschu Ridge until 1108 on W+2 (23 July 1944). But that was too late for Buddy Kanert. Sometime during the severe fighting on W+1, he was killed by enemy small arms fire. He was one of 815 casualties that the Third Marines had endured by midnight on 22 July 1944. His sacrifice was not in vain. In taking Bundshu Ridge and its supporting enemy defensive positions, the Leathernecks of the Third Marines occupied key terrain features that would prevent future enemy attacks against the left flank of the divisional beach head.

3rd Battalion, Third Marines suffered a total of 379 casualties in the campaign for Guam, which lasted from 21 July-15 August 1944, including 97 Marines killed in action. For its heroic conduct, the Third Marines received a second Navy Unit Commendation, and the entire Third Marine Division was cited with the Presidential Unit Citation. Buddy Kanert was awarded a posthumous Bronze Star for Valor.

A charcoal sketch by Marine John Falter of Gyrenes in the Third Marines during World War II, from A Ribbon and a Star, Henry Holt and Company, Inc.

In the Third Marines' regimental history of Bougainville, A Ribbon and a Star, author John Monks, Jr., wrote this of the regiment's fallen Devil Dogs. It applies equally to all those who lost their lives serving under the Third Marines' colors in World War II:

"Buddies we must leave behind. It was a time of great reverence. But it was a time of great sadness too. For the men of the Third had been through adversity together...It would be hard to leave the brave, honorable men behind. we would never see them. We could never talk to them. We could never laugh together or fight by their side again. We could only honor them with thoughts of pride, and some day ask the world to listen to their saga. For these heroes were men of great character, unselfish men who gave their lives for their country., as many others had before and many others will have to again. We had only one comfort: we would always love them. We of the Third can never forget them. And we will miss them...forever."

In his last letter home, which he wrote to his cousin on 25 May 1944, Buddy closed with a request: "Think of me often."

Semper Fidelis, Buddy Kanert. We will never forget you.

 


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