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Angelo Martin |
“Four-three-six-one-one-two.” Kenneth J. Goulardt can't remember his Social Security number, but he will never forget his service number, 436112. Only God knows how many times he was asked for it during his years as a United States Marine.
A fourth generation Californian, Ken lived with his family up in the hills above Hayward . “We were the last ranch on the road to get electricity,” he remembered. “Back then you didn't know much about the world, just what you would learn from a radio.”
Ken wanted to get off the ranch, work construction and make some money. By 1941, he had joined the Teamsters and worked as a truck driver, hauling topsoil in to the new Alameda Naval Air Station on San Francisco Bay . He was driving a new Chevy convertible on December 7th when he heard about the Pearl Harbor attack on the radio. “ Pearl Harbor ? We didn't know where that was!”
Ken turned 21 as the Marines were about to begin their fight for the Solomon Islands . Ken manned the machine gun on the Higgins boat that took them in to Bougainville . “The boat was rolling, splashing; Zeroes were strafing us; water was pouring in!” He lost his helmet, rifle and cartridge belt. By the time he found his rifle and cartridges, he was the last one off the boat. He stepped off the boat and onto another Marine who was completely underwater until Ken dragged him onto the beach.
“We had established a position on Hill 1000 and dug in real good and established a permanent line of defense,” Ken said. “Two o'clock in the a.m., the ground started shaking until you could hardly stand up. Coconuts fell out of trees and actually killed some guys ? an earthquake!”
Ken landed and fought on Guam , where his company suffered 80% casualties and Frank Witik of his platoon earned the Medal of Honor. Then Guadalcanal . Then Iwo Jima , where Ken's company, held in reserve, landed the day the flag went up. “On Iwo , our platoon received its second Medal of Honor ? Lt. John Liems, who lived to accept it (Frank Witik's medal was posthumously awarded) from President Truman in Washington , D.C. ,” Ken said. “At the end of the Iwo campaign, only six were left standing of our B Company of the Ninth Regiment.”
With recurring malaria and a serious ear infection, Ken was finally sent to the hospital when he came down with dengue fever. He was later shipped back to a naval hospital in the states. “I weighed 135 when I got to Oak Knoll,” a stay that lasted four months. “You could never get away from the mosquitoes,” he said.
He returned to construction ? operating machinery and running mining operations. Now retired, he is active in Marine Corps activities and enjoys nights dancing with his wife Dorothy. Most of the ranch has been sold, but he still has a few acres up in the hills.
Kenneth J. Goulardt
U.S. Marine Corps WWII
“ Pearl Harbor ? We didn't know where that was!”