Profiles of Courage Sponsored by Rahal-Miller
Fred Kienzle is an 89 year old World War II veteran who served in heavy combat in the South Pacific, including landing on Iwo Jima. Fred is a resident of Jackson County, Florida. This is Fred's personal story about his service to his country as revealed to the TIMES.
Fred's mother's parents were from Germany. Their last name was Fredriech and he was named in honor of them, Frederick. Fred's Grandfather Fredriech worked in the Brass Mill in East Pittsburg. Fred was told the reason his Fredriech grandparents moved to America from Germany was the Black Plague that was devastating Germany and the harsh living conditions they had to endure. His grandmother had given birth to approximately twenty children. Many mornings his grandparents would find some of their children dead. They would take their children's bodies to the sidewalk and the horse drawn hearse would pick them up. His grandparent's household wasn't the only one affected by the Black Plague. All families in the area were affected. After their Black Plague experiences they decided to change locations and live in America.
When Fred was a little child, around toddler age, his Grandmother Fredriech would let him meet his Grandfather Fredriech as he was getting off of the street car after work in a Pittsburg mill. When he and his grandfather would meet up, his grandfather would let Fred have something out of his tin lunchbox. His grandmother made his grandfather's lunch for him and he would always save Fred a cookie or a piece of fruit. His grandfather would have him reach in and get the treat out of the lunch box.
His grandfather always wore a big heavy overcoat. Fred's grandmother would peel all of his grandfather's clothes off. Every layer would be stuck to him because he would be drenched with sweat. Then she would draw him a bath. After bathing he would go down the street to a horse drawn wagon containing a beer barrel and would buy a much deserved beer. His grandparents would sit on the swing and Fred a little rocking chair. One day as Fred met his grandfather he noticed he had something in his coat pocket. Fred was accustomed to his grandfather giving him treats so Fred looked up at his grandfather and kind of hit his grandfather's coat pocket with the back of his hand. Fred's grandfather said "Sweety, don't hit there" and reached inside his coat pocket. Fred's grandfather had brought Fred a puppy. Sadly, Fred's wonderful grandfather would die at the young age of 51. But his Grandfather Fredriech had instilled in Fred the love of dogs. Fred says he can't imagine life without a dog.
Fred would know his Fredriech side of the family best. His father's side was prominent in the community and he would only see them around his grandparent's dinner table after Sunday morning services. They owned a bakery, and ran the prominent bakery for years and years in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The last time Fred was there it was still in operation, but was owned by different people.
His best friend growing up, Charles Meade, was inducted at the beginning of the war in 1941. Fred and Charles were very close. Charles had been in the C.C.C. or Civilian Conservation Corp and then joined the Marine Corps. Charles was a Pittsburg boy like Fred. They lost touch and Fred never knew if Charles was taken down in battle or if Charles survived. Charles was like a real brother to him, since Fred was an only child. Fred said the fact that Charles joined the Marine Corps was instrumental in his wanting to join the war effort as well.
Fred would have enlisted in 1941 if he had been old enough. Even after Fred turned seventeen he still had a hard time getting into the Marine Corps due to his weight. He had never been a big guy. The Marine Corps recruiter advised him to go eat a dozen bananas. When he did, he came back and he was still three pounds shy of the weight requirement. It took him three days of heavy eating to get in to the Marine Corps. Fred also had a difficult time getting his mother and father to sign his release form. First he had to win over his mother, and then Fred had her win over his father so he would sign. Finally they went along with it.
During the interview with the TIMES he said, "To be honest with you, I wouldn't do it again..... I don't know, maybe I would, it would depend on the circumstances." His thinking at that time, and his sales pitch to his parents, was that he knew sooner or later he would be drafted. And if he was to be drafted in the Army and sent to Europe the chances were greater that he would be killed. In the Marine Corps if he didn't survive, his parents would at least know he was able to do what he wanted before he died.
Fred joined the Marines on September 10, 1942, as the war raged in Europe. After boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina he was sent to New River at Camp LeJune. After Fred left South Carolina he boarded a troop train. The U.S. was establishing the Third Marine Division which would be made up of raw recruits. The U.S. then sent them all to California. They landed in San Diego and waited until they could expand their numbers. They were in San Diego which was the staging area. Fred estimates there were probably seven to twelve thousand Marines there at that time. Finally they boarded a cruise ship that the military had repainted grey so it wouldn't be as visible on the ocean. Fred said the cruise ship still had luxurious amenities, including the chandeliers still inside. When they all boarded the cruise ship it was jammed full. When the ship would change speed Fred would wake up every time. After leaving California they stopped off at Pearl Harbor for a very short period of time. During the early hours of the morning the ship stopped and they unloaded a couple hundred female Navy nurses. Then they left and went back to sea. Fred said it was strange to be confined to the ship and then find out there had been female nurses on board.
The next stop was the Island of American Samoa at Pago Pago Harbor. The ship was capable of pulling up and unloading there. They broke up the division at Pago Pago. The divisions were broken into an artillery battalion, construction battalion, and an infantry battalion. The ship then left and went to New Zealand. The U.S. was afraid the Japanese would land on Australia or New Zealand. Had the Japanese attempted it Fred feels the Japanese would have been totally successful.
They were on Samoa for four months. The purpose was to train them for jungle warfare. Samoa was similar to the other Pacific Islands where the United States would soon be involved in conflicts. The instructors were from the First Marine Division and they had already been there and fought. They gave wise advice. It was up to the trainees to accept the advice. To this day there is much respect for the First Marine Division because they did such a fabulous job there.
Finally they left Samoa and went to Guadalcanal. The First Division had been relieved from Guadalcanal. They had been successful in taking the island from the occupying Japanese. Parts of the island were still Japanese infested. The U.S. Army was put in place to keep the Japanese from reoccupying. Fred's group went in as a security force to make sure the Japanese wouldn't come back out of the woods. Fred was stationed there for a little over a year, much longer than they had ever anticipated.
The South Pacific had a change of command during that period of time. MacArthur had now been appointed to be over the South Pacific by the Commander in Chief. After that year in November they landed on the Solomon Islands. Fred and his group entered Emperor Augustus Bay. It was nothing more than a channel that separated two islands. They landed at Bouganville on November 1st and they would to be there 45 days. After taking enough land, it enabled the CBs, the Naval Construction Battalion, to put in an air strip. They were successful in completing the air field in the 45 days. Fred and the group went back to the beach and awaited troop transport to enable them to again board and go back to Guadalcanal on Higgins boats.
Major "Pappy" Boyington's Black Sheep flight group was coming back and they were making loop the loops in the sky. Fred and his group were watching this from the beach as they waited for the Higgins boats. There were about 14 in the group waiting on the beach. The 14 got up and went to the air strip to watch them perform. Fred said, "He and the boys had never seen nothing like this before." On the way to the strip they were debating amongst themselves what those type of loop the loops might mean. One assumption was maybe the Blacksheep are happy is why they are making those loop the loops. Then they assumed maybe it's a sign that the U.S. is winning.
The 14 boys went to the air strip as the Blacksheep were landing and parking. These were Marine pilots they were witnessing. They had gone into the Marine Corps just to be pilots. The Black Sheep squadron was rumored to be some sort of outcasts. They were a crazy bunch; there were 40 or 50 of them.
Pappy Boyington was their commander and he was missing on his return flight. He became a prisoner of the Japanese. He was supposed to communicate with the flight, and they knew he was running out of fuel and wanting to land. They knew, because of the time, that he had been captured. The Black Sheep Flight looked upon the 14 boys and said with excitement and joy, "Oh my God, we got a bunch of Mud Marines here and they are speaking to us and shaking our hands. What do you know?" It was a mutual excitement and interesting moment that lasted about 30 minutes. They learned from the flyers that they were emotionally upset because their leader had been shot down. Their leader Pappy Boyington had become an ace at shooting down the Japanese fighter planes. That was the first time that Fred was that close to a marine aircraft pilot or a fighting plane.
Then the Higgins boats were sent in to the 14 and they were all taken back to the ship and to Guadalcanal. They stayed there until April to allow time to build back their numbers with replacements.
Until that time the Second Division was engaged with the Japanese at the Marianas Islands, Saipan, and Tinian. From there they left Guadalcanal and arrived Guam on June 6th. Guam was to be the first offensive action taken by America to recapture land that was taken from us on December 7, 1941. Guam was an American held and controlled Island that had a hospital and a CocaCola plant. While they were on Guam the U.S. almost lost it, because the Japanese had regrouped. Fred and his force stopped the Japanese advancement on the outskirts of the Guam capital at Agana, a well established and populated city that had an electric power plant and a U.S. hospital. Fred's group stopped at the outskirts and set up megaphone speakers trying to encourage the Japanese to surrender the city instead of resisting and having it destroyed. The Japanese refused. Fred's group allowed the Japanese time to evacuate the city and to move back into the hills. Then Fred's Marine division moved forward again and pushed them back into the outlying islands.
The Japanese held native prisoners which were called Chamoros. Fred's group encouraged the Japanese to release these prisoners, women, and children so that his group could save as many lives as possible. Finally the Japanese bent to Fred's Marine division's request and the Japanese freed the people. It was far too many people for the Japanese to control.
The Japanese agreed to free the natives, and Fred's group allowed the natives to pass through their lines. His group continued to push the Japanese to the north. Eventually Fred's group had them to the point of being overtaken. Rather than be taken prisoner the Japanese committed suicide by jumping off the cliffs into the ocean, along with women and children. The story behind this occurring was broadcast by a Chamoro native named Tweet who was stationed there.
The Chamorans made tremendous efforts to keep Tweet alive. They hid Tweet and fed him. They suffered brutally at the hands of the Japanese in order to keep him from being captured. Finally he was free to come out of hiding when the Japanese jumped into the ocean. It was a disgrace for the Japanese to surrender. They threw their women and children off the cliff first, before throwing themselves off, this was to ensure the Japanese that all of them were killed, and they would know that none surrendered. Seeing the bodies at the base of the cliff was a harrowing sight for Fred to behold.
However a number of the Japanese hid in caves and in the mountains. It took the U.S. military units years to clean them all out and to finally feel they had removed them all. Fred and his group remained there on Guam for quite some time waiting for new orders. They didn't know where they were going next.
As it turned out they were on their way to Iwo Jima and one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific campaign. As they waited offshore the island was bombed and barraged with gunfire from the ships, almost everybody aboard Fred's ship was watching the island and commenting that if the Navy didn't stop bombing Iwo Jima that it was going to sink. It seemed impossible for anyone on the island to survive. However, when the landing began the troops coming ashore on Iwo Jima were met with tremendous fire power from the entrenched Japanese.
Fred went to shore as part of the 9th wave. He came ashore out of an L.S.T. which was carrying his 6x6 International truck. Fred was hauling an 18 ton operating room to be set up to care for the wounded. He was only able to get about 20 yards before the truck became bogged down due to the ash that makes up the terrain of Iwo Jima. He had to abandon the truck and head inland a short distance on foot and dig a fox hole. The fox hole became his first priority. Fred figured if he could make it into a foxhole he would be safer. Just after he ran from the truck it was hit and blown up. Fred was down the beach about 50 yards from the truck, where he wound up digging the foxhole for shelter.
The length of time spent in that fox hole was difficult for Fred to recall. But later that same day, while it was still daylight, the U.S. flag was raised on Iwo Jima. Seeing the raising of the U.S. flag was a tremendous experience. Fred and his group then knew that they were gaining control and winning the battle for the island. U.S. troops were symbolically at the top of the mountain looking down. There were two flags raised that day. The first flag that was raised was a common 3 foot by 5 foot flag like you would have in front of your house. The second flag was the large one from a Naval vessel and it was used to replace the first flag.
In a few days Fred and his group left Iwo Jima and went back to Guam. From Guam Fred was sent to his home town of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania for 30 days leave. Fred met his future wife was while back in the U.S. from the South Pacific on leave. Fred was reassigned to work at a prison where soldiers that had been captured as deserters had been sent to do time. The prison Fred worked at was called Disciplinarian Barracks. Now on a 30 day leave of absence from his job, Fred went on a double date with a buddy and that's when Fred met his wife to be. At the time he met her he wasn't sure if he was going to make the Marine Corps his career or not yet
After Fred's 30 day leave ended Fred had orders to report back to the U.S. Naval Barracks. Fred was stationed at the Navy Barracks for a very short period of time. And then the war ended while he was stationed in Philadelphia. He said the war basically ended when we dropped the bomb. "You should have seen everyone state side. Philadelphia went crazy. America went crazy. It was amazing" he stated .Fred had served in the South Pacific 44 months after completing boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina.
Back then when a person got their discharge, they felt like they were on a cloud. Thirty days after Fred met his wife he was ready to get married. They were married Thanksgiving Day. Fred said, "I guess you could say I was smitten with her. We were married for 66 years. We have two daughters, Robin Fulmer of Marianna and Donna Turner of the Villages."
Fred's father had a Gulf Oil Gasoline Station in the suburbs of Pittsburg. Prior to the war Fred also worked for Gulf Oil. His Mom worked in a bakers shop for a short time but was mostly a home maker. Fred was an only child. He would have had an older brother, who unfortunately died as a young baby.
In Fred's civilian life after the war he jumped from job to job. When he got married he went back to his first job at Gulf Oil Corporation in the city of Pittsburgh. He worked there two months. He quit and got a job with Pittsburgh Railways as a motorman. Fred worked there two or three years. Then his father had a stroke and was unable to return to work at the filling station he owned. Since Fred was the only child he and his wife decided to take over the Gulf Oil Station if his father would agree to Fred's terms. They operated the station for two and a half to three years. Then they decided to come to Florida in 1950. Fred drove an everglade green Mercury to Florida. He had already sent his parents to Florida for a 30 day vacation. While Fred's parents were on the vacation they told him they had decided to move to Florida. His parents had leased a gas station, located in West Palm Beach. Fred applied for a job with the Greyhound Bus Lines and stayed with Greyhound for 30 years, as a bus driver.
Fred had adjusted to the warm weather of the South Pacific. Everybody that knew him in Pittsburgh thought he was crazy for moving to Florida. They lived in West Palm 5 years, then St. Petersburg 5 years, and then Jacksonville 20 years. His eldest daughter's stomping grounds would be St. Petersburg and Jacksonville. His youngest daughter would know Jacksonville best. Fred and his wife then lived to Graceville for 6 or 7 years. From Graceville Fred and his wife moved to Nokomis. Fred had a good inner feeling for Nokomis, even though sometimes he wonders if they should have stayed in Jacksonville.
*Every division of the Marine Corps published a book depicting the history of that division. Each Marine is issued their particular division's book when they are discharged. Fred is very proud of what his unit accomplished as they defended our freedom in World War II. We can all be proud to have Fred residing in Jackson County.