Service Number: 359057
Birth and Early Life:
Paul Ratcliffe was born in Philadelphia, around the year 1922. He grew up in northwest Philly, where he attended St. Athanasius school with neighborhood friend Joseph M. Rushton. Like many boys his age, Ratcliffe had to leave school before graduation to find employment; however, he and Rushton stayed close through the 1930s and into the new decade.
Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Ratcliffe enlisted on January 14, 1942. He didn’t join the Corps alone; Joe Rushton was sworn in the same day and both were sent to Parris Island with the Fourth Recruit Battalion.
Ratcliffe and Rushton were both picked to join the First Marine Raider Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Merritt “Red Mike” Edson; they were then assigned to the same company, then the same platoon. The Philadelphia boys fought in the invasion of Tulagi on August 7, 1942, and then a skirmish near Tasimboko, Guadalcanal on September 8. Their battalion moved inland to defend a ridge within artillery range of Henderson Field, and on the night of September 13, the Raiders’ Company C – with Ratcliffe and Rushton – was ordered to take up a defensive position in the jungle, some distance from the main line. The position was across a lagoon; to cross, the men had to file over a fallen tree trunk.
Rushton, nursing a shrapnel wound in his backside, was not pleased with the situation. “As the long afternoon was drawing to a close it became apparent to even the dim-witted that we were in for big trouble,” he recalled. “If our positions became untenable we were then to withdraw back across the log, or that not being possible to fight our way out as best we could…. We were expendable.” (1)
Private Ratcliffe was of the same opinion, though his reaction was different. Later that evening, he sought out Rushton for a visit and to share a smoke. Rushton was worried about his friend’s demeanor – he had a flat, apathetic tone in his voice and a faraway look in his eyes. The two shook hands as darkness fell, and Ratcliffe returned to his spot on the line.
Date Of Loss:
Paul Ratcliffe was never seen alive again by anyone who survived the Japanese attack that fell upon Charlie Company that night of September 14, 1942. In danger of being surrounded, the Marines were forced to scramble back across the lagoon; several were cut off by the Japanese. Rushton, himself badly wounded, was concerned with helping PFC Kenneth Ritter, and was finally carried to safety, never to return to combat. Others were not so fortunate – the company counted five Marines missing in action after the night’s combat. (2)
A patrol some days later located some bodies in Charlie Company’s old position, but were unable to identify any individuals. If Private Ratcliffe was among them, he was buried as an unknown on the field of battle.
Next Of Kin:
Mother, Mrs. Marie Radcliffe
Status Of Remains:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.
(1) Alexander, Joseph H. Edson’s Raiders: The 1st Marine Raider Battalion in World War II. page 148
(2) The missing seem to have been mostly from one platoon led by Lt. John P. Salmon; accounts state that during the fight for the ridge, Salmon was extremely upset at leaving his men behind. In addition to Ratcliffe, the company lost PFC Salvatore Cracco, PFC Charles Roberts, PFC Francis Potter, PFC Ken Ritter, Private Malcolm Hogan, and Private John Langdon.
A Raider stiletto and carved sheath with the initials PR were recently acquired by a private collector. This may have belonged to Paul Ratcliffe, however it is not known for certain. For more information, visit this thread on www.wehrmacht-awards.com.