Private Calvin Kenneth Kasel

Brother Marines: Calvin (left) and Milton Kasel, 1942.
Brother Marines: Calvin (left) and Milton Kasel, 1942.

Photo uploaded to WWII Forums by user “emu.”

ribbon_apc

NAME:
Calvin Kenneth Kasel
NICKNAME:

SERVICE NUMBER:
347229
HOME OF RECORD:
153 Lem Turner Road, Jacksonville, FL
NEXT OF KIN:
Parents, Oswald & Alma Kasel
DATE OF BIRTH:
January 3, 1925
ENLISTED:
January 8, 1942
DATE OF DEATH:
October 8, 1942
CAMPAIGN UNIT MOS RATE FATE
Guadalcanal I/3/5 Private KIA
CAUSE OF DEATH:
Gunshot wounds, head and chest
INDIVIDUAL DECORATIONS:
Purple Heart
LAST KNOWN RANK:
Private
STATUS OF REMAINS:
Not recovered “due to battle conditions”
MEMORIAL:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial

Birth and Early Life:
Calvin Kasel was born on January 3, 1925. He grew up on the family dairy farm in Jacksonville, Florida, tagging along after his older brother Milton like a shadow. When not attending school, the two boys helped their father Oswald with the daily care and upkeep of the farm.

In 1940, a contingent of US Marines arrived in Jacksonville to establish a barracks and oversee construction of a new airstrip, eventually expanded and commissioned as Naval Air Station, Jacksonville. From their farm on Lem Turner road, all the way across town, the Kasel boys could probably see Navy and Marine pilots on training flights overhead; as 1941 wore on and the base expanded, there was an influx of uniformed servicemen to notice on the occasional trip into Jacksonville.

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
When Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941, Milton and Calvin both decided to join the fight as Marines. They wanted to go together, but on the “day of infamy” Calvin was still only sixteen years old. By the time of his seventeenth birthday in January 1942, the brothers had received their parents permission to enlist; they left home on January 8, and were sent to boot camp at Parris Island.

Wartime Service:
The Kasel boys made it through boot camp, and were overjoyed to receive orders to report to the Fifth Marines in New River, North Carolina. There, unfortunately, they were separated – Milton joined Company C, First Battalion as a BAR gunner, and young Calvin went to Company I, Third Battalion. The fatiguing training schedule made it difficult for the brothers to visit, though there were the occasional liberties to be taken in nearby towns.

The Fifth Marines set sail for the South Pacific in May of 1942; after a brief spell in New Zealand they shipped out for the island of Guadalcanal. Although they landed with no opposition on August 7, 1942, they began to learn lessons in jungle warfare the hard way. Posted on the perimeter facing the Matanikau River, Calvin Kasel participated in raids, patrols, and defensive actions. He heard of the fate of Colonel Frank Goettge’s patrol, participated in the defense of “Bloody Ridge” in mid-September, survived on Japanese rice, flapjacks, and spam, cheered for the pilots of the Cactus Air Force, endured rain, heat, and fear. (1)

The experiences of Company I were detailed by several of their NCOs in a report collected as the battle went on. While none mention Kasel by name, the young Floridian would have discovered each of these lessons in the field.

We are learning the hard way to move quietly in this jungle. I have been fired at many times by snipers and haven’t seen one yet. The sabers which the Japanese officers carry have proved to be worthless… but I wish I had ‘in reserve’ a good jungle knife. We could use this against the Japs as well as cutting the vines that catch on us at night.

Our 60mm mortars are fine weapons if you have observers who know their stuff. The mortar was not stressed enough in training. I love our mortar. If the numbers on the mortar sight were luminous, with a luminous strip on the stick, we would not have to use the flashlight. This flashlight business is dangerous.

On the Matanikau River we got to firing at each other because of careless leadership by the junior officers. We are curing ourselves of promiscuous firing, but I should thing new units would get training to make the men careful. We learned not to fire unless we had something to shoot at. Doing otherwise discloses your position and wastes ammunition. I have been charged twice by the Japs in bayonet charge. Our Marines can out-bayonet fight them…. Every scout should be taught to look in the trees. I was a scout and got shot in the shoulder by a Jap in a tree. I look in the trees now. (2)

September ended with a disastrous attempt at crossing the Matanikau River; though neither Calvin nor Milton Kasel’s battalion was involved, the regiment’s Second Battalion bore the brunt of the frontal attacks which ended in a withdrawal back to the Marine main line. American planners needed time to organize the next attack, and for a week life for the Fifth Marines was almost quiet.

The advance began anew on October 7, 1942, as 2/5 and 3/5 began advancing towards the Matanikau once again. By 1000, a nasty wrinkle had appeared in the plan – several hundred Japanese soldiers of the 4th Infantry Regiment who had crossed to the “American” side of the river to dig in. The resulting twelve-hour firefight kept 3/5 from reaching the Matanikau, and while the Japanese were nominally trapped as night fell, a sergeant from Company L remarked “Their rifles and machine guns had our whole unit pinned down and stuck where we were…. It’s more nearly correct to say that they had us bottled up.” (3)

Date Of Loss:
In the early morning hours of October 8, the Japanese in the Matanikau pocket decided to make a break for it – through the American lines. Their point of egress was the position held by 3/5, and for most of the night it was “mayhem first class” as both sides shot at anything that moved, hurled grenades, slashed with bayonets, and occasionally physically collided with each other in the dark. Although dozens of Marines were hurt or killed, the maneuver was a disaster for the Japanese, almost all of whom lost their lives. “As first light of day crept over the jungle floor, the after-battle scene looked like an artist’s rendition of Dante’s Inferno. There were bodies all over, ours and the Japanese, some on top of others, many of them dead, others wounded.” (4)

Somewhere in the midst of the chaos and destruction, seventeen-year-old Calvin Kasel lost his life.

Decades later, an American working on Guadalcanal noticed a colleague wearing a World War II-era Marine dog tag.

kasel dog tag
Photo posted to WWII Forums by user “emu.”

While researching Kasel’s name, “emu” unearthed the following story.

On October 8 the marines put a three-prong thrust across to the west bank of the [Matanikau]. Kasel was in a weapons pit just behind the Marine front lines about 100 meters in from the beach. The Marines were not aware there was [an] enclave of about 200 Japanese behind their lines. As the attack went ahead these Japanese tried to make a break out and ran across the top of the position Kasel and his platoon were in. Twelve marines were killed and a few of the Japanese managed to rejoin their forces on the other side of the river.

This story is consistent with the historical record of the Japanese nighttime breakout on the morning of October 8, 1942.

“emu” cleaned up the dog tag, and mailed it to Calvin Kasel’s niece (Milton’s daughter) who was then living in Florida. It was the first memento the family received; none of Kasel’s effects were returned. (5)

Study of the company’s muster roll provides some interesting information about the Marines who may have been killed with Calvin Kasel. They were:

Sergeant Arthur C. Garrett (gunshot wound, chest and neck). “Due to battle condition body could not be recovered.” Eventually located and repatriated.
PFC Joseph N. R. Dionne (gunshot wound, head and chest). “Due to battle condition body could not be recovered.” Currently MIA.
PFC Schley Junior Lilly (gunshot wound, back). “10, remains interred in grave #R27-5, 1st Mar Div Cemetery, Guadalcanal.” Buried in private cemetery.
PFC Alfred John Murther (gunshot wound, head and abdomen). “Due to battle condition body could not be recovered.” Eventually located and repatriated.
Private Calvin Kenneth Kasel (gunshot wound, head and chest). “Due to battle condition body could not be recovered.” Currently MIA.
Private Raymond Kolacinski (machine gun wound, neck). “9, remains interred in grave #R23-3, 1st Mar Div Cemetery, Guadalcanal.”
Private William P. Neuhardt (machine gun wound, head). “9, remains interred in grave #R23-2, 1st Mar Div Cemetery, Guadalcanal.” Buried in private cemetery.

The following groups emerge:

Not Recovered

Recovered, buried next day

Recovered, buried second day

Garrett
Dionne
Murther
Kasel

Kolacinski
Neuhardt

Lilly

Of the groups, Kolacinski and Neuhardt follow the ideal operating procedure most closely. Their causes of death are noted most specifically; the following day, both are buried in clearly marked and identified graves. Under the circumstances, they had the easiest post-mortem journey.

PFC Lilly had to wait two days before burial, which could be the result of any number of factors – he may have died apart from the others, or even later in the day, meaning that his body didn’t begin its trip to the cemetery until sometime on October 9. He was seen to die October 8, however, so the exact circumstances remain a bit of a mystery.

Why the four remaining Marines were listed as “not recovered” isn’t known – especially as the Fifth Marines held their ground for a full day following the battle – nor are the circumstances that led to the eventual discovery and identification of Garrett and Murther. It is possible that they were simply missed – many survivors recall the jungle in this area as being particularly dense, so even with a battalion of Marines nearby, a few may have missed detection. Sergeant Jim McEnery tells of seeing “dead Marines from I and K Companies and the Raiders scattered all over the place. I found the body of Private Emil Student, a Marine I knew fairly well, leaning up against a tree. He almost looked like he was asleep. There were about thirty Jap bodies out there, too, along with maybe a dozen other Marines.” (5) Student, a member of Company K, was initially listed as “not recovered” but was eventually found, identified, and given a proper burial

Could the four Marines from Company I have been in the area reported by McEnery? It’s certainly possible; Private Student was the only man from Company K to be listed as “not recovered” so it is possible that the location was overlooked by the Graves Registration teams until some time had passed, by which time they would have had to rely on identification tags or personal effects. Since Kasel’s dog tag eventually turned up without any remains, it’s possible he wasn’t wearing any identification at the time of his death; since his family received none of his belongings, it’s possible that anything bearing his name or address had been lost or rotted away in the humid jungle.

Calvin Kasel’s final resting place is a mystery. He may be buried as an unknown in a national cemetery, or still lie where he fell on Guadalcanal.

Next Of Kin:
Parents, Oswald & Alma Kasel

Milton Kasel would have heard about his brother’s death very quickly, but he was afforded only a few private moments to grieve. He fought through the rest of the Guadalcanal campaign, in the rain-soaked jungle of New Britain, and then onto Peleliu where he was himself hit and evacuated. He ended the war as a guard at the Jacksonville Naval Air Station, just miles from his childhood home.

Milton married Mary Evelyn Barker in 1951 and held a range of jobs, from engineer to salesman. He passed away in Florida in December, 1968.

Status Of Remains:
Unknown.

Memorial:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.
_____
NOTES:
(1) Third Battalion’s activity during the early fighting on Guadalcanal is described in great detail by Sergeant Ore J. Marion in  On The Canal: The Marines of L-3-5 on Guadalcanal, 1942. Although in a different company than Calvin Kasel, they shared several experiences.
(2) US Marine Corps, Fighting on Guadalcanal. This study was put together following the battle of Guadalcanal; it is composed of interviews with combat veterans sharing their firsthand recommendations. The Marines interviewed here are Platoon Sergeant Clifford M. Feagin, Sergeant T. E. Rumbley, and Corporal Fred Carter, all of I/3/5.
(3) Marion, 157-159.
(4) Marion, 161.
(5) Post by “emu”on World War II Forum, May 29, 2011.
(
6) McEnery, Jim. Hell in the Pacific: A Marine Rifleman’s Journey from Guadalcanal to Peleliu. page 118.

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