My name is Jim Crue and I am the son of Corporal Elmer “Lefty” Crue of the 18th Combat Engineers. Dad saw combat on Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan, and Tinian. Dad was one of the Marines picked by Lt. Alan Gordon Leslie for the now infamous initial assault on the pier.
Until he was very old Dad did not talk about the war or his experiences, but as a child growing up in Chicago in the 1950's he told me stories of the great Marines he was in combat with. Lt. Alan G. Leslie and Lt. Deane Hawkins were in his words, “men among men.” Both were given battlefield commissions and Dad said both were regular guys. Dad was under the command of Lt. Leslie and Dad told me he was absolutely fearless when leading the flamethrowers from the boat onto the pier. Lt. Leslie, who was awarded the Silver Star at Tarawa and Saipan, was a great inspiration to his men and never forgotten by my Dad.
After Dad's death in 2001 I was able, thanks to the help of Col. Joseph Alexander, to locate his family. Lt. Leslie's sister is still alive and just turned 98 years old. His son, Alan G. Leslie III, was also in the Marines as an engineer. I plan to visit them this winter 2005.
Lt. Leslie was buried in 1998 with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetary. My father would be happy about that. I contacted the family because I wanted them to know the memory of Lt. Leslie is not forgotten. My brother has two young daughters who will learn about Tarawa, their grandfather, Lt. Leslie, and the HELL on earth these good men went through.
As he came to the end of his life Dad told me stories about his combat experiences as a veteran of four battles. He said as a flamethrower it was very difficult to have to burn people to death. He told me he always tried to have a rifleman with him so they could shoot the enemy before they burned to death. Dad had nightmares nearly every night of his life and the malaria he got on Guadacanal stayed with him for years. He NEVER uttered a word of complaint and lived to be 83 years old. He was my hero and a great Dad who worked as a plumber helping build many of the tallest buildings in Chicago. He was proud to be a Marine.
A number of years ago I found a commendation awarded to him for a mission he accomplished on Saipan which is signed by the then commander of the Pacific fleet. He kept it in a drawer for 50 years and never told anyone about it.