My name is Bryan Clement and my grandfather was wounded during the battle of Tarawa. This web site is great, I have been looking for information about that bloody battle and finally came across your site. Thanks.
My grandfather's name is Raymond J. Wyss, staff sergeant, USMC. His story is unique, and this is what I know. He didn't talk much about it but in his latter years this is what he said. Most of his platoon was wiped out as soon as the landing craft's door opened. A handful of men made it up to the beach - my grandpa, a lieutenant and an RTO. My grandpa was hit by a sniper in a tree on the way up the beach. They took shelter in a bomb crater where the Japanese were shelling an American tank. The shrapnel was getting them, so they made a run for it. My grandfather was holding his wound, the right side of his stomach area, when he was hit again in the back. This time the bullet exited out the same hole in the front of his stomach blowing off one of his fingers . Eventually he was marked as dead and his parents got the dreaded visit from the chaplain and everything.
After the battle a navy corpsman was going through the dead Marines when he came across my grandpa and noticed him twitch. They floated him out to the hospital ship offshore and he eventually made his way back to San Diego Naval Hospital. At the hospital he met a beautiful navy nurse by the name of Kathryn Wood. The first encounter is kind of funny. All the Marines had been cutting up in the hospital and when Ms. Wood came across my grandpa's bed he asked her to help him cut his meat; his bandaged hand was under the covers. The nurse replied, “You damned Marines!” Sometime later the beautiful nurse came by my grandpa's bed again and noticed him struggling to cut his meat with his bandaged hand and she felt terrible, so she helped him and the rest is history.
My grandpa married the beautiful nurse soon after; Raymond and Kathryn Wyss. In the early 1980s my grandpa was battling cancer and after his surgery to remove the tumor the surgeon approached us in the waiting room and asked if he had ever been in a war. We told him the story and he said a bullet must have grazed his liver for the liver had so much scar tissue around it he could not believe it was still functioning. He beat that bout with cancer and lived another 10 years before the cancer came back and finally got him. He was buried with a Marine honor guard at a private cemetery.
He had 4 brothers who all served in WWII, one was with an Army recon team that was captured by the Germans and he was held prisoner for many years. His name is Jerry Wyss and is alive today. Another, Rene Wyss, was a Navy man who repaired aircraft with sheet metal. After the war my grandpa and his brother Rene used the sheet metal skills and opened a catering truck business, Wyss Bros catering. They were the pioneers/inventor's of the catering truck. My Cousin still operates Wyss Catering as it is now called. He did very well for himself and his family. I have a newspaper article from the LA Times called “Lightning (in this case Japs) Strikes Twice.” It is about the two bullets exiting one hole and blowing off his finger.
I just thought his story should be told to someone who appreciates Tarawa.
Sr. Account Executive,
P.S. - After speaking with my father, who was also a Marine because of my grandfathers doing, I have a couple of corrections to the story. First of all my dad was drafted into the Army during the Vietnam era and my grandpa promptly drove him to the Marine recruiting depot and enlisted him in the Marines, where he served 5 years in a rifle platoon.
My father said that it was not the beach that my grandpa and the two other Marines stormed, but the airfield. He was on the first wave trying to take the airfield. And he was hit in the chest, not the stomach as previously stated. After making a run for it from the bomb crater a machinegun crew opened up on the three Marines, killing one and taking the legs of the other. That is when my grandpa got hit the second time, blowing his finger off. They were close to the beach wall and other Marines retrieved their bodies and pulled them across the wall. They then marked him for dead. He laid there for more than a day until the burial detail started to sort through the bodies that were starting to smell and that is when they noticed him twitch. Also he was an E-5 not an E-6.