ST. GEORGE, S.C. (BP) -- An estimated 3.6 million Americans fought in the Pacific Theatre in World War II, overcoming brutal encounters on island after island against Japanese soldiers burrowed into the hillsides.
The late Jimmy Connelly was one of those Americans.
The Navy made Connelly chief of a troop-landing Higgins Craft during the massive amphibious assaults at the outset of the Allies' first major Pacific offensive against the Japanese -- Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.
Each craft could ferry up to 36 Marines, and when they stormed the beaches, Connelly operated a 7.62mm belt-fed machine gun to provide cover. On his 10th trip to transport troops into the Solomon Islands battle zone, he also was carrying several hundred five-gallon cans of gasoline. When a mortar round struck their craft, shrapnel pierced his neck and arm, and his pants were set afire, propelling him into the ocean. Read More