Brothers in Arms


Bartlett, Tom.  "Brothers in Arms." Leatherneck.  78:7 (July 1995), 4pp.

Six of the seven Brandt brothers from South Dakota served as Marines. Herbert was killed at Saipan: "On June 15, 1944, Loyd landed at Saipan. Time passed, and the sounds of combat softened. "I went to the 24th Marines' area to visit my brother, Herbert. I asked someone where he was and was told, 'He was killed about a week  ago, on the Fourth of July.' He asked who I was.'" 

     You know Marines who say, "You think things are rough now? You should have been in the old Corps." For some, civilian life was rough at times, too, especially during the Depression of the 1930s. 
     Given the choice between civilian life and the Marine Corps, six Brandt brothers took what they considered the lesser of two evils and raised their right hands. "We had three meals a day, clean sheets and a place to sleep." Loyd Brandt recalled. "Couldn't beat that."
     Six of the seven Brandt brothers served as Marines. Many families of World War n had five, six or more sons and daughters in uniform. What is unusual is the fact that five of the Brandts all served in the South Pacific at the same time.
     Agnes and Henry Brandt were raising three girls and seven sons during the Depression. That was rough, before the age of food stamps and various welfare programs that flourish today. The Brandts were too proud to seek assistance. They "made do."
     Henry Brandt was a farmer in South Dakota in the' 30s. Money was tight. The family ate what they raised and dido't sell or trade. "There were some crop failures," Loyd Brandt recalled. "We ate a lot of bread and vegetables. Meat was scarce, although we raised cattle, sheep and pigs. They were sold at market. We dido't starve, but many times we went hungry."
     Feeding a family of 12 (10 kids and the parents) was almost impossible in those lean years. As the boys grew and became stronger, they were "farmed out."
     "We'd work for neighbors. They'd take us in. We'd work in exchange for room and board," Loyd said. "No money was involved because no one had money during the Depression. The days were long, and farming was hard work."
     Loyd and Lester are twins. As soon as they were old enough, they left the farm to work as "gandy dancers" on the railroad. "We'd lay track or whatever needed to be done for the railroad. Backbreaking work, but it paid some, which we turned back in to the family."
     Three brothers went to work for the Civilian Conservation Corps.
     In 1937, Harry Brandt, the oldest son, enlisted in the Marine Corps. His letters to the family would inspire others. Following recruit training at San Diego, he was assigned to guard duty at the Mare Island Navy Yard in Vallejo, Calif.
     "I then went to Cavite in the Philippines. At that time, Cavite was a small naval repair yard near Manila. A tugboat brought me out there, where I reported for duty in USS Sacramento."
     The ship had a flat bottom, and it was built for duty on the Amazon River during World War I. She was the last of the coal-burning ships of the Navy.
    "Her bunkers held 400 tons of coal which had to be carried aboard by hand, in baskets. The bunkers were at the bottom of the ship, which meant we had to carry the fuel in single file. Up and down, back and forth. It seemed like a never-ending job. 
     "Marines manned the two guns [.50-caliber machine guns] on the bridge and a 4-inch .50-caliber gun. There were 33 Marines on board. I was fourth loader on the 4-inch/.50 gun; there were seven loaders," he recalled. 
     In January 1938 Sacramento sailed for China where the ship became known as "the Galloping Ghost of the China Coast," because no one knew where she might show up. "Our top speed was 16 knots, and we patrolled from Hong Kong to Ching Wang. We anchored in the Pearl River near what was called Swatow. Our purpose there was to evac-[28]uate American Nationals if the occasion arose." 
     It did on July 4, 1938. 
     "I was sunning myself on deck when a flight of 12 Jap bombers flew over, hitting a Chinese troop barracks. Some bombs landed in the water near the ship, causing some minor damage. We were inundated by American Consul and Standard Oil civilians," Harry continued. 
     "I was transferred to Company A, 2d Battalion, Fourth Marines in Shanghai in July 1938, where I pulled guard duty at the International Settlement while the Japanese were trying to take over. The settlement was occupied by foreign nations and, therefore, out of bounds to the Japanese.
     "The place was flooded by Chinese women, children and old men. Some of them were in pretty bad shape. And on the outskirts of Shanghai, and sometimes right in town, there was fighting going on between Chinese and Jap forces." 
     Harry transferred to the Marine Detachment, USS Augusta in March 1939. "There wete 93 Marines in the unit, and our commanding officer was the colorful Captain Lewis Burwell 'Chesty' Puller."
     The ship sailed to numerous ports: Indonesia, Burma, Indochina, the Philippines, Russia and "all ports along the China coast. I went back to the States in November 1940 after being on the Asiatic station for nearly three years."
     Harry was discharged from the Marine Corps in October 1940.
     "The letters from Harry were shared by the rest of us. Try to imagine reading about duty in China and the excitement we knew Harry was living. Farming certainly paled in comparison," Loyd said. 
     And the Brandt brothers responded to their nation's call following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. 
     Kenneth enlisted on Ian. 7, 1942. "After boot camp, I left the States on March 9, 1942, on a troop-ship. We zigzagged for 10 days, arriving in Samoa. We spent about three months there, training on the old 3-inch antiaircraft guns. It rains there, at least once a day.
     "We formed the 8th Antiaircraft Battalion and went to Wallis Island in June 1942. We spent 18 months there, watching the Seabees building the airstrip."
     Kenneth and his unit transferred to Apamama, Gilbert Islands, "to babysit another airstrip. We came under enemy air attack there for the first time as a battalion. The island was pure sand, so unless there was a direct hit, the bombs simply buried themselves and did minimal damage. The Japs were not noted for their accuracy in bombing." 
     The battalion went to Kaui, Hawaii, and back to the States. "I reported to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and an assignment as a property sergeant. Then I joined a group of replacements, and we sailed to Pearl Harbor, Saipan and Guam. We landed on Okinawa in August 1945." 
     He was a gun captain in an antiaircraft unit. "We were in training for the invasion of the Japanese homeland when the atomic bombs were dropped which brought about the surrender of Japan. We all breathed easier after that." 
     Discharged in January 1946, Kenneth is proud of having served as a Marine. “The Corps was a good place to be at that time," he said. 
     Luverne H. Brandt enlisted as a Marine in early 1942. Following recruit training, he served as a gun captain with the 90-mm. antiaircraft guns of either the l2th Defense or l2th AAA (Antiaircraft Artillery) Bn. 
     “I know he was with the First Marine Division at Cape Gloucester where the conditions of 'The Green Hell' of New Britain were even worse than the Solomons," said Loyd. (Luverne died Aug. ll, 1986, and is buried in the Black Hills National Cemetery near Sturgis, S.D.)
     "Luverne told us about the terrible, rotten, wet jungle and the battle which lasted about three weeks. I recall that he mentioned landing in the Russell Islands, but I don't think they encountered any opposition there. 
"He went in at Peleliu and said that it was, without a doubt, the bitterest battle of the war. Luverne was wounded at Peleliu," Loyd said. 
     Loyd also provided the information of his other brother, Herbert, who is interred at the National Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl), Oahu, Hawaii. 
     "He joined the Marines in April 1943 and then joined E/2/24 which was being integrated into the Fourth Marine Division," Loyd recalled. "On February 1, 1944, he landed at Namur as a rifleman. He was wounded during the second day of the battle and had a short period of [29] convalescence. That was during 'Operation Flintlock.'"

Following the Marshall Islands campaign, the unit sailed to Maui, Hawaii. "The camp was built on the rain-soaked slopes of the island. My brother's album has an entry: 'Families on the island threw open their doors to the Marines and will gratefully be remembered by hundreds of men of the Fourth for their gracious hospitality. Citizens of Maui proved that "Aloha" was more than a word. We adopted the slogan, "Maui Marines No Ka Oi," meaning "Maui Marines Are Best."’"

It was at this time that Herbert and Loyd met for a family reunion. "This would be the only time that any of the five brothers on active duty would get together, even though five of us were in the Marines and in the Pacific at this time," Loyd recalled.

Herbert landed in the early stages of the invasion of Saipan. Casualties were heavy. Herbert's diary almost tells the story of his death in battle: "Stiff resistance at Hill 721 stopped the advance, and it was not until the following day, July 4th, that Hills 721 and 767 were stormed and taken. It was in honor of the date that Hill 721 was renamed 'Fourth of July Hill' by the men who took it."

Herbert was killed during the latter stages of that battle.

"Herbert's loss was especially hard for me, since he made a home for me during my high school years," Loyd said. "He was very much like a father to me."

Twins Loyd and Lester enlisted in the Marine Corps on May 10, 1943. They were both assigned to Platoon 499 at San Diego. Lester joined the 22d Marine Regiment as part of the 3d platoon, K/3/22.

He fought on Engebi, Eniwetok and Parry Islands of the Eniwetok Atoll campaign. In April 1944 he landed at Guadalcanalto prepare for the Marianas campaign.

He participated in the battle for Guam and returned to Guadalcanal. "We drew new equipment, and replacements joined the unit to bring us back up to strength. Next was Okinawa. Fighting there, at Sugar Loaf Hill was, undoubtedly, the worst hell that I experienced in combat. I was a BARman [Browning automatic rifleman].

"One of our replacements got hit by a sniper's bullet, and when be fell, his head was almost under the tread of one of our tanks. I ran to drag him to safety, when the sniper fired and hit my BAR magazines. Bullets and metal went into my side, destroying my kidney and spleen.

"The Marine with the head wound and myself were evacuated, side by side, in the same ambulance.

"That was June 11, 1945. I went to an Army hospital on Saipan, and then went to the Naval Hospital, Mare Island. I was discharged in April 1946," Lester said.

Loyd probably would have continued serving alongside his twin brother, but prior to shipping overseas, he caught the flu and was hospitalized. "While Lester went with the 22d Marines, I got assigned to Amphibious Reconnaissance Company of the Fifth Amphibious Corps. I was assigned to a weapons platoon as a 60-millimeter mortarman."

He would later become a squad leader of a .30-caliber light machine-gun squad. His first taste of combat followed a rubber-boat landing on Majuro Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

"After Kwajalein, we began reconning the islands of Eniwetok Atoll. I knew my twin brother [Lester] was there, but because of the intensity of the battle, we never made contact."

On June 15, 1944, Loyd landed at Saipan. Time passed, and the sounds of combat softened. "I went to the 24th Marines' area to visit my brother, Herbert. I asked someone where he was and was told, 'He was killed about a week [30] ago, on the Fourth of July.' He asked who I was."

Loyd participated in an unusual and unforgettable assignment.

"Several men of my outfit were told to go into the hills near Garapan, to retrieve the body of the Saipan commander, Lieutenant General Saito. He had committed hari-kari, and his body was in this huge cave used as the last command center in the battle.

"A Japanese POW accompanied us. When we were about to enter the cave, we were greeted by rifle fIre and hand grenades. Come to find out, there were seven or eight Japs inside who refused to surrender. We cleared them out, and when the smoke cleared, we put the general's body in a mattress cover, and we carried him back to Charan Kanoa, where it was interred."

Next came Tinian, referred to as "The Perfect Amphibious Operation." Casualties among the Marines were minimal.

"On February 19, 1945, we landed at Iwo Jima. Although my company was more fortunate than most combat units, we were still happy to get off that pile of volcanic ash. And on April 1, 1945, we landed on the northern end of Okinawa. We performed recon missions before being assigned to the island of Tsugen Shima."

Loyd continued. “We made a mght landing out of rubber boats. We were detected soon after landing and had to leave in a hurry, but we made it back to the destroyer with our Marines, al- though some had been killed or wounded in the exchange of fire."

     Another amphibious landing took place at Kume Shima. "There was a Japanese naval unit and a few army troops. We learned they were deserters from Okinawa. We patrolled and had fire-fights, but not at all like the terrible fighting on Okinawa."

In all, Loyd made 55 reconnaissance landings, many at night in heavy seas and without knowledge of the size (if any) of the enemy force on the island. "We were the forerunners of Force Reconnaissance," he explained.

"I was discharged from the Marine Corps in October 1945. We had been on our way back to Hawaii to regroup when we learned that the atomic bomb had been dropped, and we wouldn't have to invade the Japanese homeland. That was really good news."

Six brothers; Marines.

"The oldest brother, Roy, was not in the service. He passed away in 1974," Loyd said. "Among the many things he did in his life was help carve Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills.

"Our father died in 1942. Our mother, who carried the burden of so many sons in the war, lived to be 91. She died in 1980."

Loyd retired from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology where he worked as an electrician. He and his wife, Joyce, recently observed their 47th wedding anniversary.

"We're very proud of our son, Douglas Herbert Brandt, who served a tour with the Army in Vietnam. He saw his duty and volunteered to do a thankless job," Loyd said.

"Six brothers in the Marine Corps," Loyd said, grinning. "Is that a record?"

Nope. The fact that six Brandt brothers served as Marines is notable, but there is a family which boasted seven brothers, all serving at the same time. The Marines, sons of former Army Sergeant Joseph A. Shusko and Frances, ranged in grade from lance corporal to captain. [31]___________________________________________________________________________ 
Loyd's son Doug, a Vietnam veteran, lives in Rapid City. 
More on Herbert Brandt.