Linked to USS Elmore by Fate
Private First Class Leonard F. Mason, 24, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry in action when, despite serious wounds, he singlehandedly charged and wiped out an enemy machine gun position on Guam, 22 July 1944. He died of his wounds the following day aboard USS Elmore (APA-42), stationed offshore. An automatic rifleman, he had participated in the initial landing on Guam on 21 July.
Pfc. Mason was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor and the Purple Heart.
Secretary of the Navy James V. Forrestal presented the Medal of Honor to Pfc. Mason's mother with his two sisters witnessing the presentation. Pfc. Mason is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial as he was buried at sea by the crew of the Elmore.
Leonard Foster Mason was born in Middlesboro, Kentucky on February 22, 1920, the fourth of 13 children and the first son of Hillary and Mollie Rachel (Partin) Mason. He later moved to Lima, Ohio, where he worked for the Superior Body Works.
He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in April 1942 at Cleveland, Ohio and was promoted to Private First Class in March 1943. He was stationed at Marine barracks for training at Paris Island, South Carolina, then at the Naval Proving Ground, Indian Head, Maryland and finally at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Ordered into the field in October 1943, he was sent to the Pacific and served as an Automatic Rifleman. Pfc. Mason went overseas in October 1943, and took part in combat on Bougainville with the 3rd Marines, 3rd Marine Division. At Guam, he was part of the 2d Battalion, 21st Marine Regiment, 3d Marine division.
He was wounded in an attack on Japanese forces on Guam on July 22, 1944, and died aboard USS Elmore (APA-42) the following day. The Elmore's War Diary entry for 22 July 1944 notes the following: "Throughout the day, continued to unload troops and cargo, and to receive casualties. All ships of the Task Group remained in the Transport Area during the night."
His citation reads: “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as an automatic rifleman serving with the 2d Battalion, 3d Marines, 3d Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on the Asan-Adelup Beachhead, Guam, Marianas Islands on 22 July 1944. Suddenly taken under fire by 2 enemy machine guns not more than 15 yards away while clearing out hostile positions holding up the advance of his platoon through a narrow gully, Pfc. Mason, alone and entirely on his own initiative, climbed out of the gully and moved parallel to it toward the rear of the enemy position. Although fired upon immediately by hostile riflemen from a higher position and wounded repeatedly in the arm and shoulder, Pfc. Mason grimly pressed forward and had just reached his objective when hit again by a burst of enemy machine gun fire, causing a critical wound to which he later succumbed. With valiant disregard for his own peril, he persevered, clearing out the hostile position, killing 5 Japanese, wounding another and then rejoining his platoon to report the results of his action before consenting to be evacuated. His exceptionally heroic act in the face of almost certain death enabled his platoon to accomplish its mission and reflects the highest credit upon Pfc. Mason and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.”
Leonard Mason Memorial
Memorial Park Cemetery & Mausoleums · Lima, OH
Arthur Ernest Veysey (1914-1997) was an accomplished war reporter and author. During World War II, he joined the staff of the Chicago Tribune and served as a war correspondent reporting from the Southwest Pacific. He served in the U.S. Army’s 3rd Battalion, 24th Division and participated in the invasion of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines. The 24th Army Division was transported aboard USS Elmore (APA-42), boarding on 8 October 1944 at Humboldt Bay, New Guinea. Veysey was onboard one of Elmore’s LCVP landing craft on 12 October 1944, landing at Palo (“Red”) Beach a few hours before General MacArthur famously waded ashore there to proclaim that he had returned to liberate the Philippines. Veysey himself returned to the Philippines in 1970 to revisit the location of battles that he had witnessed in 1944. His story, Return to Leyte, was published in the Chicago Tribune in 1970 – 25 years after MacArthur's return to the Philippines. It is an amazing adventure, linking the present to the past on the Philippine island of Leyte.
Arthur Veysey in his later years.
Bay of Islands
Arthur Veysey was born on September 28, 1914, in Boulder, Colorado, United States. He was a son of Ernest Charles Veysey and Lillian Veysey (maiden name Larson).
He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Colorado in 1935. It was followed by a Doctor of Humane Letters from Illinois Benedictine College (currently Benedictine University) in 1986.
In his early career, Mr. Veysey worked at the Denver Post as a reporter from 1935 to 1937, the Scottsbluff Star-Herald from 1937 to 1941, and at the Omaha World-Herald from 1941 to 1943.
During World War II, he joined the staff of the Chicago Tribune and served as a war correspondent from the Southwest Pacific Ocean. In 1946, Veysey became a foreign correspondent and four years later became the head of the Chicago Tribune’s bureau in London assisted by his wife, a journalist Gwen Morgan.
In 1975, the couple became the general managers of the Cantigny Trust in Wheaton, Illinois, the estate of Col. Robert R. McCormick. They managed the Trust until 1986, and eventually resettled in New Zealand.
Veysey was the author of two books with Morgan, ‘Halas by Halas’, also written with Chicago Bears owner George Halas, and ‘Poor Little Rich Boy: Biography of Colonel R. R. McCormick’.
His wife, who had been working for United Press International, joined Mr. Veysey in the newspaper's London Bureau in 1946 and covered that beat with him until 1972, when she was appointed head of the paper's Paris Bureau.
The couple jointly won the newspaper's Edward Scott Beck Award in 1951 for their coverage of the British elections that year.
Mr. Veysey also won the honor for stories he covered in 1964 and for his coverage of the Middle East in 1967. His wife had also separately received one in 1963.
He covered the world and many of the great events of his lifetime. These included, besides bloody battles in the South Pacific during World War II, the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri. His "beat" covered the early days of the United Nations as well as much of the disruption and conflict in Africa from the last days of colonialism there in the 1940s through the violent revolutions of the 1960s.
Mr. Veysey also reported on the conflict in Northern Ireland, the 1965 Great British Train Robbery, the 1959 visit by British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan to Nikita Khrushchev and the Soviet Union and the Hungarian Revolution. He made periodic trips to Vietnam to cover the war there.
A resident in recent years of Kerikeri, Bay of Islands, New Zealand, he died Monday in Whangareie Hospital, 50 miles south of there. Survivors, besides his wife, include a daughter, Priscilla Skinner; a brother; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Services were held in New Zealand.
Pfc./Cpl. Merriell "Snafu" Allesandro Shelton (1914-1993) in best known as one of Eugene Sledge's fellow Marines. He got his nickname from his cocky personality and demeanor. “SNAFU” is an unofficial military acronym for Situation Normal, All Fouled Up (that is the polite version), meaning that the present situation is bad, but it is a normal event. Shelton’s personality embodied that moniker.
Snafu was Cajun and had a heavy accent. He was in his early twenties, during the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa, and became a close buddy of Eugene ("Sledgehammer") Sledge. Although they came from very different backgrounds, Sledge and Snafu Shelton were close during their months together at Peleliu and Okinawa. He was defined in Sledge’s seminal book “With The Old Breed,” Sledge’s recounting of his experiences as a Marine in the Pacific. But it is due to the HMO mini-series “The Pacific” that Snafu’s character has been immortalized for generations to come.
The Elmore's connection with Snafu occurred in May of 1944 when the ship transported K Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division (K/3/5) from New Britain to Pavuvu in the Russel Islands in early May 1944. Eugene Sledge himself was not aboard the Elmore, arriving at Pavuvu a few weeks later. However, PFC Merriell "Snafu" Shelton was onboard. These men were essential parts of the unfolding events that occurred on Pavuvu and later on Peleliu. It was USS Elmore that brought 'Snafu' Shelton and the 5th Marines to Pavuvu.
If you have read "With The Old Breed" or seen the TV miniseries "The Pacific," then you already know who 'Snafu' Shelton is or at least you have an image of him. But there is more to the man as you pick up on the details of his life.
Merriell Allesandro Shelton, USMC
Merriell Allesandro Shelton was born on 21 January 1922 in Louisiana. He died in Louisiana on 3 May 1993 at the age of 71.
Merriell Shelton was a Louisiana Cajun. He was a gambler prior to his enlistment into the Marine Corps and was a lifetime smoker of non-filtered cigarettes. He spoke with a thick Cajun accent which at times made him difficult to understand until you got used to hearing it. Later in life he worked on repairing and installing air conditioners and was considered a quiet man with a hard look about him. Some consider him to have been somewhat of a loner outside of his family.
Floyd, Gladys, Allen & Merriell Shelton, December 20, 1966
As a young man during the Depression, Shelton served in the Civilian Conservation Corps. He joined the Marines during WWII and fought with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division where he was given the nickname, "SNAFU."
After the battle of Cape Gloucester, which Pfc. (later Cpl.) Shelton had participated in, a replacement named Eugene B. Sledge joined the unit and after a brief time, he and Shelton became friends. Shelton gave Sledge the nickname of "Sledgehammer." Shelton and Sledge's exploits on Peleliu and Okinawa are chronicled in Sledge's 1981 classic memoir, "With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa." Additionally, his relationship with Sledge was also written about in Iain C. Martin's book, "The Greatest U.S. Marine Corps Stories Ever Told." The HBO miniseries "The Pacific", produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, relates some of SNAFU and Sledgehammer's story as well as those of other Marines who served in the Pacific during the war.
Shelton family portrait, circa 1980.
After the war, Snafu returned to Louisiana. He married Gladys Bowman and had two sons, Floyd and Allen. A neighbor, Rod Dreher, provides more information about his later years:
"Well, Snafu Shelton is more than mentioned in Sledge’s (terrific, brutal) book; he’s woven throughout it. When I read “With the Old Breed” a few years back, it was difficult to wrap my mind around the idea that the Marine who committed and endured the savagery of the Pacific campaign was our neighbor, Mr. Merriell. But he was. He lived with his sweet wife, Miss Gladys, and his two sons in a little brick house on Highway 61, a mile or so away. He was an air conditioner repairman and installer; you can see a scar on the ceiling of my mom and dad’s living room ceiling where Snafu accidentally put his foot through the sheetrock when he was putting in the ducts in our place. His younger son and I played baseball together in the summer leagues. We’d see Snafu at the games, but he kept to himself. He was short and stocky, and had a hard, hard face. He smoked unfiltered cigarettes, I remember that, and that he loved to gamble. But mostly, he was this distant, mysterious man. I remember my Dad telling me once that Mr. Merriell had seen some hellacious fighting in the Second World War, but I don’t think any of us really knew what that meant until Sledge’s book came out. My uncle took a role in bringing Sledge and Snafu together for a reunion, which took place around his table. It was a revelation to me to read in Sledge’s book what, exactly, the quiet, hard man who lived in the little brick house down the road had done early in his life. He was a ruthless killer, which is only to say that he was a brave, effective soldier in a terrible war that he didn’t choose. Reading the Sledge memoir, I wondered how in the world a man can come through that kind of hell and have anything like a normal life. I guess Snafu did, but I really don’t know. He was our neighbor, but a loner. You never know about people, do you?"
After Sledge published With the Old Breed, in 1981, he and Snafu reconnected for the first time in 35 years. While their lives took very different paths, both men shared the unbreakable bond of brotherhood as Marines in battle. And when Snafu died in 1993, his old friend, Sledgehammer, was one of his pallbearers.
Sadly, Floyd Shelton (15 Feb 1960 – 13 Aug 1990), the oldest of the two sons died at the age of 30, three years before the death of Merrill Shelton himself in 1993. His wife, Gladys Bowman Shelton (14 Aug 1932 – 15 Nov 1999) died six years after her husband. She was 67 years old.
Merrill Shelton died in 1993, a half century after the war. It was through Eugene Sledge's efforts to rid himself of the demons of war that he wrote his haunting memoir, With The Old Breed. It is because of that literary masterpiece that 'Snafu' Shelton will forever be linked to the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa. We salute his service and proudly recall his passage on USS Elmore.
BURIAL: Bowman-Dedon Cemetery
Saint Francisville, West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana, USA