Widgetized Section

Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone

WWII veteran recalls harrowing battle in the Pacific

(ROCKWALL, TX — November 7, 2017) When Herman Billnitzer joined the Navy as a Pharmacist Mate during the Pacific War in 1942, little did he know he’d wind up spending the majority of his service as a Corpsman of the 1st Marines Division, dodging bullets and tending the wounded on the front lines.

“As I like to put it, I was shanghaied into the Marine Corps,” the 97-year-old said with a chuckle.

At 21 years old, Billnitzer began his initial training as a Hospital Corpsman at the U.S. Naval Hospital in San Diego, CA. He didn’t get much time in boot camp, however, before he was called to join the first wave of reinforcements in the Battle of Guadalcanal – the first major offensive of the Allies in the Pacific theater. The battle took place in the Guadalcanal Province of the nation of Solomon Islands in the southwestern Pacific.

Billnitzer recalled the chaos of the two-month standoff there on the island, where the U.S. forces were heavily outnumbered by the Japanese and very short on pivotal supplies such as ammunition and medical equipment.

“It was rough,” Billnitzer said. “Every night they’d drop bombs to keep us awake, a kind of psychological warfare. The casualties were high from fighting at night. You could look out there in the water and all you could see were dead bodies, some them ours, some of them Japanese.”

The bombs, Billnitzer said, kept the American forces from unloading much-needed supplies, including food. In fact, by the time they left the island a couple of months later, most of them were skin and bones.

“When I arrived on the island I weighed 185 pounds, and I think by the time I got off I was around 160 pounds,” Billnitzer said.

During his four years of service in the Pacific providing aid to injured soldiers on the front lines, Billnitzer caught malaria three different times, including one particularly nasty bout where his temperature shot up to 106 and caused him to become delirious.

“I don’t know how I am here to this day,” he said.

Billnitzer served at the same time as his three brothers Paul, Carl and Teddy. His two older brothers, Paul and Carl, served as officers and his youngest brother Teddy served as a combat medic. Today, he lives in Rockwall with his daughter Cheryl Wynne and is an active member of the American Legion Terry Fisher Post 117 of Rockwall.

Story and photo by Austin Wells.

Our monthly print edition is delivered free to 19,000+ homes in Rockwall and Heath, TX.

To share your good news and events, email .

Subscribe to our email newsletter here.

Advertising: 214-342-8000 or .