Private Leslie Victor “Bear” Frink

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Service Number: 359057

Birth and Early Life:
Leslie Frink was the son of Marion and Leona Frink, residents of Seattle Washington. He was born around 1924; his parents divorced in 1929, and Leslie split time between two families – his father, stepmother, and stepbrother were shrimp fishermen in Petersburg, Alaska, while his mother, stepfather, and another stepbrother lived in Seattle. (1)

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Frink joined the Marine Corps on January 24, 1942. He trained at MCRD San Diego.

Wartime Service:
After completing boot camp, Private Frink was assigned to Company M, Third Battalion, 8th Marines. This was the battalion’s heavy weapons company, and its Marines specialized in the use of 81mm mortars and water-cooled .30-caliber machine guns – support weapons too cumbersome for speedy use with a rifle company. It was the ideal place for someone of Frink’s stature – though only eighteen, he was a burly young man who was quickly nicknamed “Bear.” He was assigned as an ammunition carrier with a machine gun squad.

Frink’s regiment traveled to Tutulia, Samoa for training in the field. Nearby was the camp of the First Marine Raider Battalion, already notorious for being some of the toughest fighters in the Corps. Their officers were always actively recruiting, and the temptation to apply for a transfer was strong. Bear Frink was one such Marine who jumped to try the Raiders – and unlike many hopefuls, was accepted. If he expected a change in position, he was disappointed – the Raiders’ Company E needed ammo carriers as well – but the training was exciting, and the prestige of being a Raider was enough.

Private Frink was assigned to a machine gun team headed by Sergeant Frank Boone. PFC Jack McGovern manned the gun with his assistant, PFC Andrew Radich. Privates Joseph Kaminowski and John Mielke, like Frink, carried belted .30 caliber ammunition. They had little time to get familiar with their new crewmate, as the Raiders went into action for the first time on August 7, 1942, during the invasion of Tulagi. (2) The weapons company set up defenses around the island, and watched as their comrades in Companies A, B, and C set off for a raid in early September. To their surprise, the raiders did not return; instead, Company E and the remnants of Company D (another rifle company used as a replacement pool) sailed over to Guadalcanal themselves. They caught up with the rest of the battalion at a commanding ridge some distance inland, where they were frantically digging defensive positions.

Thirty men from Company E were told to gather their gear and machine guns on the night of September 12, 1942. They reported to Captain Bob Thomas, the new commander of Company C, and were told to follow his riflemen to a new position farther into the jungle. “We crossed the lagoon on a fallen tree… which appeared to be our only exit other than… along the river,” remembered PFC Mielke. “This was very dense jungle, a heavy growth of banyan trees… It was getting too dark to see, and we settled down for the night.” (3)

Date Of Loss:
The Japanese attack against Bloody Ridge slammed into Company C just after dark. As the rifle platoons disintegrated, the machine gun squads of Company E kept up their fire – but suddenly the Japanese were to their flanks,  and then behind them. Many Raiders quit firing and lay prone, listening to the sounds of enemy soldiers prowling through the jungle just feet away, occasional bursts of gunfire and exploding grenades, and the howls of at least one Marine who had been captured and was being tortured by the enemy. Platoon Sergeant Lawrence Holdren quietly declared that the night was the worst situation he’d ever seen – for a veteran of Belleau Wood and the Argonne, that was saying something.

As dawn came, both sides tried to locate their wounded – sometimes with fatal results. A few Raider machine gunners found a badly wounded PFC Charles Everett not far from Sergeant Boone’s position, and tried to drag him back to safety when an enemy gun opened up, scattering the rescuers.

Bear Frink and John Mielke heard the shots, and both sprang up to help. Mielke lost sight of Frink as Bear disappeared into the jungle, but suddenly heard shouts of alarm and a loud scream. The young Marine had run headlong into the enemy machine gun position, where quick-moving Japanese infantry bayonetted him to death. (4)

As the Raiders withdrew, they were forced to leave Frink’s body behind. If found on a subsequent search, his remains were never identified.

Next Of Kin:
Mother, Mrs. Leona A. Zavales

Status Of Remains:
Unknown

Memorial:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.
Sedgwick Cemetery, Kitsap County, WA.
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NOTES:
(1) Frink appears to have been counted twice on the 1940 Census, once in Alaska (with Marion and Geraldine Frink) and once in Seattle (with William and Leona Zavales). When he enlisted, he gave his home address as Seattle and named his mother Leona as his next of kin.
(2) Squad member names from Alexander, Joseph H. Edson’s Raiders: The 1st Marine Raider Battalion in World War II. page 148. Frink joined the Raiders on July 2; they departed Samoa on July 5, stopped over at Noumea from July 11 – 23, then sailed for Tulagi. Considering the other members of the squad had been with the battalion since its inception, Frink was very much the new man – when interviewed for Alexander’s book, Mielke identified him only as “Bear from California.”
Private Kaminowski was killed in action during the battle of Edson’s Ridge.
(3) Ibid.
(4) Alexander, 156
(6) John Mielke, whose eyewitness account forms the basis of much of this biography, received the Navy Cross for his participation in the battle of Edson’s Ridge (see Page 8). He died in Michigan on September 11, 2010.

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