I am Dan Koblinski, the grandnephew of Pfc. Quinten G. Nelson, who served as a .30-caliber light machine gunner in I Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division. My granduncle served with the 2nd Marine Division in three of its four campaigns (Guadalcanal, Tarawa, and Saipan, before he was wounded on Saipan, Marianas Islands, June 16, 1944). He was awarded the Navy Cross meritoriously and exceptionally for valor beyond the call of duty.
My uncle saw action on Tarawa, the 2nd Division's second campaign of the Pacific War. From what I remember of my granduncle when I was real little I recall him talking about Guadalcanal and Saipan, but little was said of Tarawa. Once my Dad asked him, “You talk about Guadalcanal and Saipan all the time, why don't you talk about Tarawa?” My granduncle misty-eyed replied, “Because Tarawa was the day God forgot The Corps.” Though the Marines achieved victory there, my granduncle was haunted by the memories of Tarawa.
I got in contact with several of my granduncle’s surviving comrades who are now deceased. One of them was Sergeant William B. Morgan, my granduncle's section chief in his machine gun squad, and Jerome and Donald Brooks (brothers from Flint, Michigan) who were attached to his machine gun section but were not in the same squad.
Pfc. Nelson’s best friend was Pfc. James K. Russell of Alabama, who served as his assistant gunner and was killed later by a Japanese hand grenade on Saipan. While reloading a fresh belt of machine gun ammo into the breach of the squad’s gun, the grenade rolled directly beneath the machine gun, which my granduncle was manning at the time. The grenade exploded with an ear-shattering blast, killing Russell, two Marines, and seriously wounding my granduncle. In spite of his excruciating shrapnel wounds and under intense rifle, machine gun, and mortar fire, he crawled on his elbows and knees, propped the machine gun up on its tripod, reloaded a fresh belt, and resumed firing upon the enemy. Victim of a banzai charge, my granduncle is credited in killing and wounding fifty of the enemy that night on June 16, 1944, before being wounded a second time by hostile enemy rifle fire that tore into his chest. Still, Private First Class Quinten G. Nelson remained at his position firing persistently and readily at the enemy in rapid bursts until he was forcibly dragged away by two of his company medical corpsmen and evacuated. Miraculously my granduncle survived his horrible shrapnel and bullet wounds to receive the Navy Cross.
I was told of one story about my granduncle on Tarawa. Since his outfit, the 6th Marines, was in Corps Reserve offshore, he landed on Tarawa on D-Day plus two. In a rubber boat stockpiled with boxes and boxes of ammunition for his section’s machine guns, Company I and its sister K Company were the last and only two Marine outfits with fresh battle-hardened troops. The rest of the companies in the division were literally decimated and I and K Companies of the 6th Marines emerged as the heroes of the Tarawa battle. They were the last and only outfits of the Divisional reserves which were able to drive northward finish the rest of the battle for the 2nd Marine Division. And here is one story I would like to share with all of you.
As I Company advanced on the left and K Company advanced on the right, both companies were responsible for killing an estimated 175 Japanese soldiers, which was what remained of the Tarawa garrison on the last day, November 23, 1943. Advancing abreast at 20-yard intervals my granduncle’s platoon was receiving fire from a two-quarter-ton Japanese transport truck near a series of shell craters. Underneath the truck was a squad or platoon of Japanese riflemen who were inflicting heavy casualties upon a platoon of Marines to which Pfc. Nelson’s machine gun squad was attached. When the word went down the line, “Machine guns up!” my granduncle and half of his squad answered the call. They assembled their machine gun in a shell crater behind a breastwork of splintered, half-blown, shrapnel-scarred coconut trees, which was once a Japanese entrenchment. My uncle fired several bursts from his machine gun directly under the transport truck from where the platoon was receiving fire. Firing about 80 to 150 rounds from his Browning .30-caliber, air-cooled machine gun, the enemy fire from underneath the truck was silenced. When members of the platoon approached the two-quarter-ton vehicle they discovered fifteen to twenty dead enemy soldiers, all with head, neck, and chest wounds.