We Were Going to Win, Or Die There

With the Marines at Guadalcanal, Tarawa, and Saipan

978-1-57441-689-3 Cloth
6 x 9 x 0 in
320 pp. 32 b&w illus. 3 maps. Notes.
Pub Date: 10/03/2017


  • Cloth $29.95
Winner, Colonel Joseph Alexander Award, Marine Corps Heritage Foundation

In 1940, native West Texan Roy H. Elrod joined the Marine Corps. This placed him on course to experience some of World War II’s most savage combat. Entering the Marine Corps as an enlisted man, Elrod rose rapidly. By the time his unit, the 8th Marine Regiment, went into the fight at Guadalcanal, he was commanding a platoon of 37 mm gunners. They endured Japanese attacks, malarial tropical weather, and starvation rations. His combat leadership earned him a Silver Star and a battlefield promotion.

The next fight at Tarawa was much shorter, only four days, but it seemed an eternity. On D-Day his platoon waded their 37 mm cannons ashore, each weighing nearly 1,000 pounds, through half a mile of bullet-laced surf to get to an island where the killing never stopped. His was the only platoon to get its guns ashore and into action that first day. Saipan was not as intense, but just as deadly. Here Elrod commanded a platoon of 75 mm halftracks. Again, he kept his platoon in front-line combat, blasting enemy caves and pillboxes. It was a dangerous place to be—Elrod was riddled with shrapnel from an enemy artillery shell that ended the war for him.
These are Elrod’s Pacific war experiences: vivid, engaging, humorous, insightful, and authentic. The book is based on more than fifty hours of interviews conducted by Marine Corps historian Fred H. Allison, who also drew upon Elrod’s wartime letters home and provided annotations to the narrative. It is a view of the war from the perspective of a young Marine infantry officer, a job that had an extremely low survival potential. The Marines intended to win—if they did not, they would die there.


North Texas Military Biography and Memoir Series

Published by University of North Texas Press