Raymond Henry Maassen
|HOME OF RECORD:
|NEXT OF KIN:
Father, Mr. Claus Maassen
|DATE OF BIRTH:
July 17, 1920
January 12, 1942
|DATE OF DEATH:
September 26, 1942
|CAUSE OF DEATH:
|LAST KNOWN RANK:
|STATUS OF REMAINS:
Manila American Cemetery & Memorial, Philippines
Birth and Early Life:
Raymond Maassen was born in Owego, New York, around the year 1922. His parents, both German immigrants, ran a farm and raised ten children before relocating to the town of Aurora in 1937. (1) “Bud” Maassen attended Emily Howland Central School in Scipio, though he left after his sophomore year to help his father Henry with the farm.
Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Maassen left Aurora to enlist in the Marine Corps on January 12, 1942. As he stood in line at the Syracuse recruiting office, he may have noticed a familiar-looking teenager a few paces behind him. (2) Gordon R. Stewart had been two years behind Bud at school in Scipio, and the boy behind him, Albert DePasquale, was from nearby Cayuga. They all trained together at Parris Island with the Sixth Recruit Battalion, and miraculously were not split up when assigned to their first combat unit – Company G, Second Battalion, 5th Marines.
After months of training at New River, North Carolina, the 5th Marines began the voyage to war. Their first stop outside of the United States was in New Zealand, but a quick change in their division’s timetable meant they were soon back on the hated transports – this time en route to the Solomon Islands.
Maassen, Stewart, DePasquale and the rest had their first brush with the enemy on August 7, 1942. They were invading Tulagi – a small island off the coast of Guadalcanal – and while the Marine Raiders in the assault wave did most of the heavy fighting, Company G could still consider themselves as battle-tested. The following two weeks were spent encamped on Tulagi, making short patrols to the surrounding islets and keeping an eye out for any Japanese stragglers who had managed to avoid the Marine dragnet.
On August 21, 1942, 2/5 boarded destroyers and crossed the strait to Guadalcanal itself. They joined the rest of their regiment, plus the 1st Marines, in attempting to push the Japanese off the island while defending the territory they’d already taken. For Maassen this meant occasional combat patrols during the day, standing guard at night, and gorging himself on a rare tropical delicacy.
At around 0500 on September 25, 2/5 began marching towards the Matanikau River, where they would support another Marine battalion that had run into unexpectedly heavy resistance. Though they had fought in a few small actions and participated as reinforcements in the battle of Bloody Ridge, this advance represented the first large-scale patrol for 2/5, and some of the Marines were understandably nervous – meeting a returning column carrying stretcher-bound wounded did not help, nor did a report that scouts in the vanguard had discovered a still-warm Japanese cook fire. As night fell, the men of Company G slid into defensive positions along the east bank of the Matanikau, ready to attack in the morning.
Date Of Loss:
The morning and early afternoon of September 26 were deceptively quiet as the Marines attempted to make their way through the jungle to the river’s mouth. They could see no sign of the enemy, though they knew they were being watched; a feeling that became certainty when Company E attempted to ford the river. Enemy guns opened up, giving Easy Company a bloody nose and sending them scattering back to the trees for cover.
Company G, under Captain Harold Richmond, pushed through the thick vegetation until they were almost at the river’s mouth. Then, weapons held high, they splashed into the water – completely devoid of cover. The Japanese fire turned and raked the Marine advance, causing 25 casualties in a matter of minutes. Ray Maassen fell dead alongside the body of his friend, Gordon Stewart. DePasquale, their friend and BAR gunner, managed to get to safety.
Seven of G Company’s dead – including Privates Maassen and Stewart – were never recovered. They may have been washed away by the river, or buried in a temporary grave.
Next Of Kin:
Father, Mr. Claus Maassen
Status Of Remains:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.
(1) The Maassen parents were interesting characters. Claus Heinrich Maassen (Henry) was a former German cavalryman (he claimed to have personally polished the Kaiser’s boots) before immigrating to the United States in 1909. The following year he was accidentally shot in a domestic accident; the bullet lodged near his heart, but he was nursed back to health by Mary Brackert, whom he married in 1911. In 1983, Henry and Mary were congratulated by the First Family on their 72nd wedding anniversary.
(2) Gilliland, Sandie Stoker. “Gordon R. Stewart and Raymond H. Maassen.” Post on Scipio Center, NY History blog, April 17, 2011.
(3) Ozzie DePasquale survived the attack across the river; he was badly wounded the following day, but earned a Silver Star in the process. It is easy to imagine that anger over Stewart and Maassen’s death played a part in his actions. He would return home in time to attend memorial services for both, and was discharged for disability. Sadly, a horrific car crash killed DePasquale in November, 1945. He was only 23 years old.