JACKSONVILLE, N.C. - John L. L'Abbe enlisted as a rifleman in
1942. “Well, hell, the war was on and everyone and his brother were
joining it in one way or another,” L'Abbe said. So he did; he was 19
After graduating boot camp, Pvt. L'Abbe executed
orders to Samoa and linked up with 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine
Regiment, 2nd Marine Division.
John L. L'Abbe, native of Boise, Idaho, served with 2nd Battalion,
8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division from 1942 to 1945. L'Abbe
was hit in the legs by a grenade at the Battle of Tarawa. While
lying on the beach injured, a Japanese officer tried to slay L'Abbe
with his sword. L'Abbe seized the enemy's sword and killed him with
it. The image by USA Patriotism! was created from two photos
courtesy of L'Abbe, who sent them to 2nd Bn., 8th Marines on
November 18, 2014.
“I joined the Reg. in Samoa going to Guadalcanal where I,
like all the rest, got malaria,” L'Abbe wrote in a letter to
2nd Bn., 8th Marines, dated Nov. 18, 2014.
exaggerating. According to the U.S. Army Office of Medical
History, “Malaria was the single most serious health hazard
to Allied troops in the South Pacific area during World War
II; it caused more than five times as many casualties as did
The disease took a toll on the troops. To
counter it, L'Abbe and the men he served with went to New
Zealand for nine months to recoup and prepare for their next
objective – Tarawa.
Tarawa, the main atoll in the
Gilbert Islands, served as the gateway of the U.S. drive
through the central Pacific toward the Philippines during
World War II. The island, roughly the size of Central Park,
served as the site of the first U.S. offensive in the
central Pacific region. The Battle of Tarawa was one of the
most tenacious and bloodiest battles in Marine Corps
History. Nearly 6,400 Japanese, Koreans and U.S. service
members died in the three-day battle, Nov. 20 through Nov.
23, 1943. Countless others, including then Pvt. L'Abbe, were
L'Abbe recounted, “I was hit with
a grenade in the leg. While I was down lying on the beach, a
Japanese officer – I think he was a warrant officer – came.
We looked at each other, and I saw he had his sword. So I
put my arm over my head and rolled. He got my arm, and I
grabbed it (his sword) and got him.”
inflicted more damage to L'Abbe than what would be expected
from a man who was able to seize the enemy's weapon and kill
him with it. Following the battle, L'Abbe was sent to Naval
Hospital San Diego for care and released with 50 percent
disability. Private First Class L'Abbe finished his service
at a military base in Rhode Island through 1945.
L'Abbe is now 93 years old and residing in Boise, Idaho. “I
recovered alright. My balance is a little off, but I feel
okay in every way I can now.” To the Marines and sailors
currently serving, he says, “Thank you for your service.”
By U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Sarah Burns
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