Sixth Marine Division
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Stories by Others About the Sixth Division, the Marines, and World War II

Searching for My Dad's Buddies: PFC Josephus F. Judge

by Bob McGowan

My Dad was a squad leader in the 3rd Platoon, H/3/29. All my life I heard about my Dad's men who were killed on Okinawa, most of them on May 14, 1945 in one costly assault on a little hill off to the left flank of Sugar Loaf. Like most Marines, my Dad spoke of them by their last names only: Soper, Martin, Laney, Pallo, and so forth. But when he spoke of PFC Judge, he would always say "Josephus Judge." Kind of an unusual name for a hillbilly kid from parts unknown who never shaved and probably never wore shoes before he enlisted (my Dad's opinion).

My Dad died in 1999, but I still l felt a connection to these young Marines, one reason being that now I was the keeper of their legacy. Their Lieutenant, "Hank" Johnson, was killed almost immediately in the assault, and given all the casualties that were incurred at that time, I suspected that the families never received much in the way of a letter or anything about how these brave young men died.

After numerous searches on the internet, I learned that one Josephus Franklin Judge was buried in the Floreffe Cemetery, Pine Grove, WV. I started calling local churches and was handed over to an "old timer" who just happened to have been a high school classmate of "Joe Judge." This gentleman also served in the battle of Okinawa -- in the Navy -- and he told me that there were nine boys in the class of 1945, and eight of them fought in WWII. Two of them were killed, and a third was killed in the Korean War. Many of the boys, including Joe, dropped out early in their senior year as soon as they turned 17. Their mothers were allowed to accept their diplomas for them.

The "old timer" told me how to find Floreffe Cemetery, and after some trial and error I found a very remote location on top of a hill with the only access a narrow, steep, winding dirt road. There I found Joe's grave, along with his parents and siblings, five of whom had died in infancy. In an odd twist of fate, I saw that Joe's father had died in an auto accident on the same day as Joe.

In an attempt to reach the family, I wrote a letter to a local American Legion that I spied along the way. About a year later, I received an e-mail from Joe's niece. I drove down to Pine Grove to meet the family and to give them the 6th MARDIV brass marker that my Dad had bought for his own grave. The Association had sent one for Dad, so I had an extra. His family only knew that Joe was killed on Okinawa, and they had heard that he died of wounds on a hospital ship. I told them the whole story and showed them the names and fates of all the Marines of the 3rd Platoon.

final resting place of PFC Josephus F. Judge

Only a few of the Platoon reached the objective that day, most being cut down by machine gun fire from the forward slope of the hill they had just left or from the unprotected left flank. After reaching the hill, my Dad was hit by a burst from a Nambu that put two rounds through his lung and right arm. He figured he was mortally wounded, so he turned the squad over to his best buddy, Corporal Grant Soper. Soper was last seen taking the objective along with PFC Josephus Judge and his BAR. They never came back. I don't know how long they lasted up there. I only know the Japanese who were counterattacking all day trying to get at the wounded Marines never made it past them.

Sometime later I got another letter from one of Joe's high school classmates, Mr. Frank Watson, an Army paratrooper who was captured by the Germans at Anzio. We became good friends, and one day I helped Frank climb up the hill to visit Joe's grave, reminiscent of a scene from "Saving Private Ryan." While we paid our respects, we noticed a fellow moving the lawn there and tending all the graves. Frank and I thanked him and gave him a few bucks for gasoline for his mover. I know that's what Dad would have done if he was there. Maybe he was.

☆ Next: Corporal Grant E. Soper