When I researched Third Down and a War
to Go in 2002 and '03, I was able to contact and interview many veterans of the Sixth Marine Division who served with
former Badgers Dave Schreiner and Bob Baumann in the Pacific. Schreiner and Baumann both were in the 4th Regiment's Company
A. Unless noted, any quotes from the Marines here are directly from my interviews or communication
with them. It might be best to look at the book's page on this site -- linked above -- for background. This is set in the
Battle of Okinawa in June 1945. Baumann had been killed in action on June 6. -- TF
Dave Schreiner, from Lancaster,
Wisconsin, was the Badgers' two-time All-American end. Above, he accepts the Chicago Tribune Silver Football as the 1942 Big
Ten Conference MVP. That's Badgers coach Harry Stuhldreher, the former Notre Dame Four Horseman quarterback, watching.
As the Okinawa campaign continued, the men of A Company grew even fonder
of Dave Schreiner.
“We were not foxhole buddies
or anything like that,” recalled Private First Class Ed Liguori. “He was my lieutenant. He knew me as Eddie.
They all called me Eddie. One day, we had gone two, two and a half days without food or water. There were a few
cans of cheese, but we didn’t have much water. He disappeared. An hour later, he comes back up the hill where we were
in our foxholes, and he had a box on his shoulder. In it were extra large cans of grapefruit juice. I still remember
the color. They were tannish and greenish cans, with no name on them or anything. I don’t know where he stole
it from or where he got it. But here he comes up this hill, and we all took three slugs of that grapefruit juice. I can’t
have grapefruit juice now because of medication, but when I could, every time I drank grapefruit juice, I thought
of Dave Schreiner.”
had some officers who were, very frankly, assholes,” said PFC Jim Harwood. “Most of the officers we had were
good guys. They weren’t going to run you up for some little infraction that didn’t make any difference anyway. Dave
was one of those types of guys who was lenient. He wasn’t going to give you a lot of hell for nothing.”
On June 18, Schreiner wrote his parents on American
Red Cross stationery.
Mother and Dad–
Rec’d letter of June 6 from you. Enclosed was a clipping about Johnny Walsh. No I didn’t
get any bronze star on Guam. I’ve still got my medal. I can feel it when I put my hands behind me.
We’ve been eating very
well of late. Fresh meat, good canned food etc. And I’ve been sleeping a lot. Boy it’s good to rest.
Will write next chance I get.
Don’t forget a company commander is a pretty safe spot.
★ ★ ★
On the night of June 19, former Badger halfback Bud Seelinger, with the 29th Regiment, tracked down Schreiner
and gave him several cans of fruit. The two Badgers again spoke of Bob Baumann, and they were hopeful the fighting involving the U.S. Army and Marine Corps
against the Imperial Japanese Army was coming to an end. Japan's forces had died by the thousands, and the organized
resistance was lessening. But there was one more major pocket of resistance on the southern end of the island, near
a gap in the American lines. By then, runner Vic Anderson had been wounded and evacuated, but he later heard from his buddies
that Schreiner was sent out on what Anderson and others view as a needlessly dangerous mission near the west coast of
Oroku Peninsula on June 20. Anderson said the mandate came from a “new silly-ass major who didn’t know
that we didn’t go out after dark or after 4 or 5 o’clock." Anderson noted that the Japanese forces "would
set up a lot of traps" for the American troops.
Gus Forbus, who by then was in a hospital at Tinian in the Mariana Islands, heard that an officer who joined
the unit late in the battle ordered Schreiner to check on the lines. “The report I got on it was that they were putting
in the lines for the night on the 20th, and he wasn’t satisfied,” Forbus said. “He wanted Dave to check
it out. He was an Annapolis man, but he couldn’t pour water out of a boot.”
In 1993, John McLaughry wrote his memories of that day: My
platoon of M-7’s was assigned to provide fire support for the 1st Battalion in an attack on the last enemy
stronghold at the extreme southern point of Okinawa. The immediate objective was some very rugged
terrain, an escarpment of boulders, sheer rock and caves . . . rising to nearly 300 feet. Prior to the attack
Dave was moving his company into the line adjacent to the company our M-7’s were to support
and I talked very briefly with him. He then, with a couple of his men, disappeared into the rocky area leading
toward the Kiyama Gusuku hill mass.
So McLaughry remembered the patrol as a three-man mission, including Schreiner, and he believed it had a theoretical
legitimate strategic justification in a prelude to an attack on the holdout Japanese Army troops. However, that leaves
unanswered the issue of whether the patrol could have been delayed to the next day or was needlessly risky in the final
stages of the battle.
Marine correspondent Don Petit’s
later dispatch said Schreiner had walked ahead to scout. According to the dispatch, gunfire from a cave suddenly ripped
into his left side. Vic Anderson said he heard that an enemy soldier "with a Nambu machine gun stepped out of a cave
and shot him.”
Petit’s dispatch said
a grenade exploded and fragments tore into both of his legs.
McLaughry’s written recollections made it clear he was skeptical of Petit’s version.
McLaughry’s account: The attack had not yet jumped off when word came that Dave had been hit,
shot by a sniper. There was no word on his condition. Because of my platoon’s connections with Dave, over
the next few hours we tried to get as much information as possible and did hear on good authority
that a bullet had hit him in the chest area, lodging in his spine.
Schreiner was shot in the upper torso.
Despite the myths that spread both immediately and over later years, that’s
The medics treating him and
those who saw him remembered the upper torso trauma years later but weren’t sure if there were other wounds.
That said, even those interviewed acknowledged
that they saw so many deaths, involving both friends and those they didn’t know, that circumstances sometimes ran
together in their minds. Plus, they admitted the passage of nearly sixty years could make memories—even of
very jarring incidents—become foggy. So, Schreiner might or might not have been hit by grenade fragments.
Regardless of the nature of his wounds, men from
the patrol rushed to get Schreiner back to the American unit’s lines. William Ramey, a corpsman and pharmacist’s mate,
recalled working on Schreiner. He said he heard that Schreiner had gone out on that advance patrol with a first
“We were trying to get
plasma started,” Ramey recalled. “He told me, ‘Doc, they pulled a sneaky trick on us!’”
Some of the men, including Ramey, who also knew
who Schreiner was and respected him immensely, took that to mean that Schreiner had been ambushed while accepting
a surrender. Word from the command post later trickled in to support that inference. (Depending on one’s definition
of sniper, that could gibe with the story McLaughry heard.) Ramey believed Schreiner meant “they tricked him into
coming down and shot him.”
didn’t remember Schreiner mentioning a white flag, but he drew inferences and later heard others talk of a faked
surrender. “It’s been a long time,” Ramey said slowly. “But somebody’s last words like
that, they stick with you pretty good.” Ramey’s high regard for Schreiner, and his familiarity with him,
virtually guarantees he didn’t mix up the circumstances of Schreiner’s injuries with anyone else’s.
Contrary to myth, many Imperial Japanese Army
forces and conscripted Okinawans—about 10,000—surrendered on Okinawa. In the book Typhoon of Steel,
the brother-author team of James and William Belote noted that surrenders increased from an average of about 50
per day from June 12–18, to 343 on June 19, and then to 977 on June 20, the day Schreiner was wounded. Japanese
soldiers indeed were allowing themselves to be taken prisoner by Americans on the day Schreiner was on his final
patrol. Still, the Belotes wrote, the enemy forces surrendering were exceptional, because most members of the 32nd Army still
fought to the death. U.S. estimates of Japan's battle deaths on June 19 and 20 totaled 5,000.
Charles Pulford, a private first class posted to the headquarters company, served
as a runner for Barney Green before Green’s death. He said he was at the command post the day Schreiner suffered
his wounds. He didn’t hear direct discussions between Schreiner and officers at the command post. Yet he was
adamant that word of those discussions spread through the command post—along with the news that Schreiner was shot
during a faked surrender. Pulford wasn’t sure which officers came up with the plan, but he said that planes
dropped white pamphlets over the area. He said Imperial Japanese Army forces "were told that if they wanted to surrender,
they would wave these pamphlets. I remember when the planes came over to drop them.” He believed it happened
late in the afternoon. Though his first thought was that it happened on the day Schreiner was wounded, he wasn’t
certain of that. But he was certain that Schreiner contacted the command post on his patrol.
“Being there at the C.P.,” Pulford said, “I heard
that Dave had called back to find out what to do." He said he thought Schreiner had seen enemy soldiers waving the
pamphlets. "He was told to take an interpreter and crawl up there and see what he could arrange.”
Who told Schreiner that?
“I imagine it had to be the commanding officer at the C.P., or
it might even have been regimental,” Pulford said. “Then shortly after that, we heard that he had crawled
up there, and when he raised up to talk to them, they machine-gunned him.”
Schreiner went in and out of consciousness after he was brought back to the lines.
PFC Ed Liguori was in his foxhole when he heard
someone yell, “The lieutenant’s been hit!” He scrambled out of his foxhole and went to where Ramey
was treating Schreiner.
“He was unconscious, breathing
heavily, and it bwas so sad,” Liguori recalled. “He wasn’t moving. He wasn’t talking. There might
have been a moan. They were giving him plasma. They were giving him fluids through his ankle because the blood vessels
collapsed. I didn’t know anything about it at the time, being a young, dopey kid. But later, when I was teaching,
I learned about these things. They couldn’t find any blood vessels in his arm, so they were administering plasma
in his ankle. I guess they found a vein down there.”
In a bizarre twist, PFC Cal Danielson—the young Marine from Rio, Wisconsin, who as
a teenager had met and worshipped Schreiner—was in the area and also heard the word that Schreiner had been hit.
He was with the First Division’s 5th Regiment. “Somebody said, ‘Lieutenant Schreiner got it!’”
Danielson remembered. “I rushed over there. I’m not sure exactly what I said—it was a long time ago—but
I tried to say something about football and how tough he was. I was pretty shook up.”
PFC Vern Courtnage, a driver who did work for companies in the battalion, had
transported Schreiner often, and he saw him right before he was loaded onto a jeep to be taken to an aid station. “He
was on the ground, on a stretcher, with a covering over him,” Courtnage said. “The corpsmen were working
on him, and they loaded him into the jeep. My friend drove the jeep; his name was Duane Carey. We loaded him onto that jeep,
and everybody was wishing him well, and he was conscious. The last words he spoke, that I heard, anyway, were, ‘If
any of you guys think I’m crying, I’ll get out of here and kick the shit out of you!’ That stuck with
me all those years.”
men watched their lieutenant leave in the jeep. They had seen their buddies die, they had crawled over bodies as if they
were rocks, and they were steeled to death, even as they knew it might come to them.
But, god, why Schreiner?
James Singley, the PFC in the weapons company who had served under Schreiner on
Guam, was near Schreiner’s company that day on Okinawa. He immediately heard one of the inaccurate stories about
came down the line that Dave had gotten shot by a sniper right between the eyes,” Singley said. “Now,
when somebody who was well-liked got shot, we always passed the word down the line. Word came down that that’s
what happened. You never knew whether it’s what happened exactly, but that’s what came down the line about
Obviously, if that had happened,
Schreiner would have died immediately. But it’s illustrative of the way stories—often inaccurate—spread
among the men.
Schreiner underwent emergency
surgery at a field hospital. But there wasn’t much hope. David Nathan Schreiner died the next day, June 21, 1945.
He was twenty-four.
The doctors let his buddies know
that even if they had managed to save him, he probably would have been paralyzed. “I was told he was injured in such
a way in the spine that he never would be able to do anything,” Mark Hoskins said, the words catching in his throat even decades later.
The official dispatch makes no mention of a faked
surrender. That raises the question: Why cover that up? If Schreiner died as he gave the benefit of the doubt to
surrendering forces, that doesn’t render his death less tragic than if he had been struck down by a sniper or a
soldier emerging from a cave. In fact, in June 1945, yet another example of Imperial Japanese Army battlefield treachery
would have been appropriate as the nation braced for an invasion of Japan's home islands.
However, if Schreiner’s death was the indirect result of being
ordered to try to arrange a surrender, and the pamphlet drop ended up endangering Schreiner and others, there would
be reason to create a more conventional battle scenario for Schreiner’s death. It would save face for the
officers who had ordered Schreiner to attempt to arrange a surrender.
George Feifer’s book Tennozan discusses in depth the dilemma
of American troops when deciding whether to accept surrenders, given the horrific fighting and barbaric enemy tactics—and
not just on Okinawa. Feifer doesn’t claim to have discerned the actual numbers of Japan's forces and conscripted Okinawans
who died after trying to give up, but he makes it clear that the number was significant. It also is clear that A Company
added to that toll, and part of that was a response to rumors of how the popular Schreiner was mortally wounded.
Again, it’s important to note that Schreiner was hit on a day when enemy surrenders were increasing. There were strategic
reasons to accept surrenders, if information about the location and strength of surviving defenders could be gathered.
But that didn’t mean that all those signaling an intention to surrender were sincere.
“There was a bunch of us mad,” Ramey recalled. “Everybody
thought a lot of Dave. It made everybody so mad, they didn’t take no more prisoners. That was the end of that
outfit taking prisoners.”
Pulford said, “Everyone was in shock. I remember that. And everybody was mad. I mean, mad. . . . We decided not
to take prisoners. But we did let the civilians through.”
Cal Danielson, the Marine from Rio, said that in his brief encounter with Schreiner after
he was wounded, he didn’t hear Schreiner say anything about an ambush, but the word quickly got around that Schreiner
had said something along those lines before Danielson arrived.
Judy Corfield, Schreiner’s niece, said that her late mother (and Schreiner’s sister),
Betty Johnson, attended a Sixth Marine Division reunion in Chicago in 1996. At the reunion, several members of Schreiner’s
platoon told Johnson that Dave indeed had been accepting a surrender, under a white flag, from several enemy soldiers.
The story, handed down orally, was different from the version Charles Pulford remembered from being at the command post.
According to the account Betty Johnson heard,
Dave had been wary as the small enemy party approached him, and when the soldier in front bowed, he had a rifle
hidden behind his back. A man reached forward and fired the rifle at Schreiner, and another tossed a grenade.
Connie Sherman, Schreiner’s longtime friend,
recalled that after the news of his death reached Lancaster, the story circulating around town was that he had been
shot in the back.
So there are conflicting stories
about Schreiner’s death, and they almost certainly will never be resolved. However he was mortally wounded, Schreiner’s death
on June 21 came just hours before Major General Roy S. Geiger declared that organized resistance had ended and the island
was secure. Geiger had succeeded Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner as commander of the forces when Buckner
was struck in the chest by an artillery shell shard and killed on June 18. Geiger’s declaration was premature;
isolated resistance and U.S. mop-up operations continued.
Lieutenant General Mitsuru Ushijima, commander of Japan's 32nd Army, committed suicide on
Tenth Army commander Lieutenant
General Joseph W. Stilwell declared the campaign over on July 2.
Bud Seelinger had lost two teammates on Okinawa. Other Seelinger buddies were killed, too,
but he couldn’t help being more torn up by the deaths of Baumann and Schreiner. “He was just heartsick,”
recalled his wife, Mary Elaine Seelinger. “He was broken up.”
He wasn’t alone.
“Just a beautiful man died,” Vic Anderson said sadly, years later.
Not far from where Schreiner was wounded, a young Army sergeant with the
First Amphibious Special Engineer Combat Brigade, Henry Reese, also took the news badly. Hey, Dave Schreiner got killed!
Reese was from Monroe, Wisconsin, and as a high school student he had met Schreiner during a visit to his older
sister in Ann Emery Hall. Reese also worked at his uncle’s restaurant— Mickies Dairy Bar, directly across
Monroe Street from Camp Randall Stadium. “Dave’s death hit home, let’s put it that way, more than any
other over there for me,” Reese said. “I had seen him play football several times, and he was kind of
In the hospital on Tinian, Sergeant
Gus Forbus was beginning his long recuperation from his leg wounds. A young Marine, another member of the 4th Regiment,
came into his room.
“Sarge,” he told Forbus,
“I’ve got some bad news.”
“Oh, shit,” said Forbus. “Don’t tell me Dave got killed.”
Forbus broke down.
★ ★ ★
Schreiner’s final letter home arrived in Lancaster on June 25. He was already dead. His parents didn’t
know that as they opened the letter with his return address in the left-hand corner.
Lt. David N Schreiner
Co A 1st Bn 4th Marines
6th Mar. Div.
And they read their son’s reassuring final line—the one about a company commander
being in a relatively safe position.
★ ★ ★
Johnson, Schreiner’s niece, was three and a half years old. “I was visiting my grandparents, which I did
regularly, because I wasn’t in school yet,” Judy (now Judy Corfield) recalled. “My mother would send
me there to keep them busy. I would spend a lot of time going back and forth to the Hoskins home, too, which was
only a block away, especially after Charles died and Had was imprisoned. That kept everybody busy, taking care of Judy.”
The news arrived at the telegraph office the
night of June 28, after the office was closed.
Everyone in Lancaster knew the Schreiners’ habits. They were up every day at 5:30 a.m. On June 29, the
delivery boy arrived at the door a little after 7:00. He handed the telegram to Bert Schreiner. The proud father pulled
the sheet out of the envelope.
8:41 P.M., JUNE
MRS. HERBERT E. SCHREINER
216 SOUTH TYLER
TO INFORM YOU THAT YOUR SON FIRST
LIEUTENANT DAVID N. SCHREINER USMCR DIED 21 JUNE 1945
OF WOUNDS RECEIVED IN ACTION OKINAWA ISLAND RYUKYU
ISLANDS IN THE PERFORMANCE OF HIS DUTY AND SERVICE
HIS COUNTRY. WHEN
INFORMATION IS RECEIVED REGARDING
BURIAL YOU WILL BE NOTIFIED. TO PREVENT POSSIBLE AID
TO OUR ENEMIES DO NOT DIVULGE THE NAME OF HIS SHIP OR
STATION. PLEASE ACCEPT MY HEARTFELT SYMPATHY.
A A VANDERGRIFT GENERAL USMC
COMMANDANT OF THE MARINE CORPS
It is one of Judy’s earliest memories.
She stood at the window and watched the delivery boy walk away, down the hill and back to the telegraph station.
“The bad news has arrived,” Bert
Schreiner told his wife and granddaughter.
He did the best he could to comfort Anne. Then he called the Hoskins and Carthew homes.
Doris Hoskins, Mark’s mother, knocked on the bedroom door. Mark
and Mary Hoskins still were asleep.
“You’d better get up,” she said softly. “I have some bad news.”
Both Mark’s and Mary’s parents had already been over to
the Schreiners’ home. When his parents told him about Schreiner, Mark cried.
Almost immediately, he was called to the phone. The caller was a shaken Harry
Stuhldreher. The Wisconsin coach told Hoskins he was leaving for Lancaster immediately. Hoskins rushed over to the Schreiners’.
Mark still sobbed years later, recalling the
★ ★ ★
Newspapers in both Milwaukee and Madison put
Oh, god, not Dave Schreiner!
The Wisconsin State Journal ’s front page
Dave Schreiner Dies
Of Wounds on Okinawa;
Fiancee flying here
The story said that Ensign Odette Hendrickson,
who had received degrees in English and art from Wisconsin before joining the WAVES, was stationed at Hunter College
in the Bronx. She was reported to be returning to Madison, where she would pick up her mother, Lula, and then head to
A Milwaukee extra story carried
a full banner headline across the top of the front page: “Schreiner Killed on Okinawa.” A huge picture of
a smiling Schreiner covered much of the top half of the page; the caption simply said, “Lieut. David N. Schreiner.”
The July 5 issue of the weekly Grant County Independent carried
the entire Marine Corps dispatch describing Schreiner’s death, plus a boxed “In Memoriam” statement
from Stuhldreher. The coach declared: “At Wisconsin, we called him ‘Big Dave,’ not because of his physique
but because of his all-around makeup. His personality, modesty, unselfishness, and friendship all were big. His
loss leaves a big vacuum—as big as Dave himself was in all ways—in all our lives.” The story also said
that in Lancaster “he was known and idolized by the whole community. But the news of his death saddened the
whole state, for he was known to thousands throughout the country as one of the great collegiate football stars of recent
In the State Journal on
July 1, Henry J. McCormick wrote:
there was ever a better football player at the University of Wisconsin, I never knew him. If there was a better
end who ever played football any place, I never saw him. And if there was a boy who wore his honors with more
modesty than Dave Schreiner, I never knew him. It wasn’t so long ago that Dave’s father and I had
a long talk. Naturally, he was worried about Dave, but he was philosophical.
“Whatever happens,” said Mr. Schreiner, “I know
that Dave is doing what he wanted to do.” Mr. Schreiner reflected a moment. “You know,” he
said, “Dave had a chance to be assigned as a physical instructor when he finished training, but he requested
that he be given active duty. And that’s the way it should be.”
Dave Schreiner with his family and fiancee, Odette
Hendrickson, in Lancaster for Thanksgving 1943.
and the picture below It's from the picture
wallet Dave had among his effects when he was
mortally wounded. The family made
a gift of it to me. -- TF
Grave 789, Row 32, Plot A, Sixth Marine
Division Cemetery, Okinawa