Ed Bremen wounded on Saipan in WW II fighting with 4th Marine Division

Cpl. Ed Bremen is presented the Purple Heart at a ceremony in California in 1945 at the hospital where he was recovering from a battle wound he received on Saipan. He was a member of the 4th Marine Division. Photo provided

Ed Bremen was a Marine sharpshooter in Company F, 2nd Battalion, 24th Regiment, 4th Marine Division. He became a Browning Automatic Weapon man who saw action in the Pacific on Roi and Namur islands near Kwajalein Atoll in February 1944 and Saipan in the Mariana Island chain in June, 1944. He was wounded there and spent the next 16 months recuperating in a trio of hospitals throughout the country.

“The life expectancy of a BAR man in battle was a matter of minutes. The Japs looked for us and tried to shoot us first,” the 87-year-old Port Charlotte, Fla. man, who lives in Heritage Oak Park subdivision, said. “I lasted two days on Saipan before I was hit by enemy fire.”

“A BAR weighs 22-pounds without the ammo,” he explained. “I also carried six or eight pouches on my web belt and each held two clips with 20-rounds in it.”

A BAR had more than twice the fire power of an M-1 rifle, what most Marines carried into battle.

Members of the 4th Marine Division take a break on Saipan during the 24-day fight for the island that cost the lives of thousands on both sides during the World War II battle. Photo taken by Ed Bremen

Bremen chronicled his Pacific battles with a small Kodak camera he carried with him during the island fighting. He has pictures of dead enemy Marines, destroyed American tanks on the beach, landing craft coming ashore and U.S. Marines being buried at sea.

The Army Air Corps wanted to turn Saipan into a “Super Fortress” base. B-29 bomber crews used the island as a base to bomb the Japanese home islands in preparation for the invasion of mainland Japan by American forces that never happened.

On June 15 1944 127,500 Marines and Naval personnel arrived off the island in 535 ships and attacked. Two days before the landing the U.S. naval armada fired on Saipan with 15,000 5-inch and 16-inch artillery shells. In addition, more than 165,000 other shells of varying caliber were fired by American forces during the first 48 hours pounding the 31,629 Japanese troops holding the island.

Wrecked American tanks hit by Japanese artillery while coming ashore on Saipan tell a deadly story. In the foreground are dead American Marines who didn’t make it, too. Photo by Ed Bremen

The invasion force was comprised of Marines from the 2nd and 4th Divisions. The main invasion force came ashore along a four-mile stretch of beach at Chalan Kanoa. During the first day’s battle 28 American tanks were destroyed on the beach.

Japanese forces zeroed in on the Marines hitting the beach with Howitzers hidden behind Mount Fina Susu. By the time nightfall came on day one, the 2nd Division alone had suffered 2,000 casualties. Slightly more than three weeks after Bremen and his fellow Leathernecks landed on the 85 square mile island it was theirs. By that time 71,000 American forces had come ashore. Of that number 3,100 were killed and 13,100 wounded. That was double the losses Americans suffered on Guadalcanal two years earlier.

The Japanese defenders lost 29,500 troops trying to hold Saipan. Only 2,100 prisoners were taken by the Americans by the time the shooting stopped.

A half dozen Marines are buried at sea aboard ship off Saipan in the Mariana Island chain during the summer of 1944. Photo by Ed Bremen

It was difficult for Bremen to recall specifics of what he experienced 65 years ago fighting on the island before being struck down by enemy fire. He did remember the invasion.

“We came ashore in landing craft. The Japs were waiting with automatic weapons firing from pillboxes and concrete block houses. Our artillery, our 105s, took care of many of these enemy emplacements,” he explained.

Much of the rest of the fight on Saipan was up to individual Marines. A lot of it was hand-to-hand fighting. Another thing he remembers were the banzai the Japanese made to overrun American positions.

“They mostly attack us in the morning. Fifteen or 20 of them would come right at us with their rifles. They didn’t seem to care if they were shot or not. I think they had somebody behind them with a gun point at their back,” he said.

After capturing the islands of Roi and Namur in February his division returned to Hawaii to regroup and train for the invasion of Saipan four months later.

“The first two islands we landed on weren’t nearly as big a problem as Saipan. Saipan was a bitch,” Bremen said. “They were much smaller islands with fewer Japs. We killed everyone of them before the fighting was over.”

Shortly before hitting the beach on Saipan their commander issued a written statement Bremen has kept in a World War II scrapbook all these years. The yellowed, typewritten note to his troops reads:

“Regimental Combat Team 24 at Seas 14 June 1944–D-Day

“To the officers and men of our combat team. Tomorrow we again engage the enemy in combat. This will be a far different operation from our last.

“We are now ready for action. We are veterans of one operation and have seen our dead. From them we have taken renewed devotion to our duties and have become spiritually fortified. I have complete confidence in the ability of each and every officer and man of RCT 24th to do his duty. We are a united team.

“My final advice to you now is first, keep contact with each other and keep pressing forward. Keep faith with yourself, your Corps, your Country and your God. And may God be with everyone of you.

“Signed: Col. F. A. Heart,

“United States Marine Corps

“Commander RCT 24”

“I got shot on June 17, 1944 as the Marines and my battalion were advancing slowly in a line across the island shooting every Jap we came across. They were doing their best to stop us as the 60 Marines in our battalion came at them firing their rifles,” Bremen said.

“I don’t remember much except I laid out in the sand for hours before a corpsman arrived.I was hit in the back and the butt with enemy rifle fire. The corpsman patched me up and put me on a stretcher.

“I was taken to a landing craft and out to a waiting hospital ship off shore. During the transfer from the landing craft to the ship one of the four cables holding my stretcher broke and almost dumped me into the sea,” he said.

From there it was onto a Naval hospital that took him to Hawaii where he stayed for months until being transferred to California and another Naval facility. Bremen ended up in the hospital at the Navy Yard in New York City.

Sixteen months later he was discharged and did light duty until the end of the war. He went back to work for Western Electric, where he worked before the war, installing communication equipment in phone company buildings until retiring in the 1970s. He and his first wife, Doreen, moved to Florida a short time later.

A family affair. Ed is pictured in his Marine uniform, second from the left. At the far left is his youngest brother, Sam, in the Navy. To Ed’s left is his oldest brother, John, in the Army and Fred, his second oldest brother, who served in the Coast Guard. Photo provided

After her death Bremen moved to Port Charlotte, met and  married, Pat, his current wife. They had grown up on City Island in New York City more than half a century earlier. The couple has been married since 1999.

Bremen has two grown children from his first marriage: Edward in Connecticut and Rick in Colorado.

Bremen’s File

Name: Edward H. Bremen, Sr.
D.O.B: 9 Dec. 1922
Hometown: Bronx, NY
Current: Port Charlotte, Fla.
Entered Service: 21 Nov. 1942
Discharged: 21 Dec. 1945
Rank: Corporal
Unit: Company F, 2nd Battalion, 24th Regiment, 4th Marine Division
Commendations: Purple Heart, WWII Victory Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Theatre Campaign Ribbon with two Bronze Battle Stars, American Campaign Medal, Good Conduct Medal. He is also entitled to wear the Presidential Unit Citation awarded to the 24th Marines for their actions on Saipan
Battles/Campaigns: Saipan, Roi and Namur islands near Kwajalein Atoll
Spouse: Patricia (nee Rolfe) Bremen
Children: Edward, Jr. and Rick

This story was first printed in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Florida on Monday, November 15, 2010 and is republished with permission.

Click here to view Bremen’s Collection in the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project.

Click here to view the War Tales Facebook fan page.

Edward H. Bremen Sr., 89, of Port Charlotte, Fla., passed away Saturday, April 7, 2012, at Port Charlotte Rehab Center.

He was born Dec. 9, 1922, in New York, N.Y., to John C. and Anna May Bremen .

Edward was a retired installer for Bell Telephone and AT&T. He moved to Port Charlotte in 2000 from Spring Hill, Fla. Edward was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran of World War II, and a life member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

He is survived by his wife, Patricia F. ‘Pat’ Bremen of Port Charlotte; sons, Edward H. (Jean) Bremen Jr, of Newtown, Conn., and Richard J. (Tracy) Bremen of Loveland, Colo.; stepdaughters, Lorraine Goucher of Port Charlotte, and Barbara Greig of Englewood, Fla.; brother, Frederick A. (Gerry) Bremen of Palm Bay, Fla.; five grandchildren; three step-grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and three step-great-grandchildren. Edward was preceded in death by his first wife, Doreen G. Bremen, who passed away in 1998; and father, John C. Bremen.

Visitation will be held from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. and from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m., with a funeral service at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, April 12, 2012, at Roberson Funeral Home Port Charlotte Chapel. Interment and military honors by a U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, April 13, 2012, at Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, Fla. Memorial contributions may be made to the Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 759, 3424 Curacao Court, Punta Gorda, FL 33950. Friends may visit online at http://www.robersonfh.com to sign the memory book and extend condolences to the family.

Arrangements are by Roberson Funeral Home, Port Charlotte Chapel.

Comments

  1. Don. I was a young Vietnam Veteran in 1970, fresh out of the Marine Corps and starting a career in Telephone work that would span 34 years.

    I met Ed Bremen when I was sent to help him install a new Operator’s switchboard in the the New YorK Telephone office, New Rochelle, NY. Ed immediately took me under his wing to teach me the business of central office installing. We talked about being Marines of two different generations and he told me that he had been wounded on Saipan. I never knew the extent of his bravery, because he never bragged about it.

    Ed told me many stories over the five years that I worked with him, most of them with a humorous bent. He was many things over many years, but the one thing he always was was a proud American and Marine. He was also a stock car racer and built ice sail boats to race on the lakes near his home. He took this young man and helped to mold me into a productive citizen. I will be eternally grateful to my old friend.

    I was laid off from Western Electric in 1975, and by the time I came to work for New York Telephone in 1978, Ed had retired and left the area. This past year I began to occasionally search for Ed’s name on Google and across the net.

    Imagine my surprise today when I came upon your article. There he was, smiling out at me in two versions. His young Marine self and his much later, post retirement self. His eyes still had that sparkle in them, ready to tell another joke or story. It was with a heavy heart later this day that I found that I was too late, my mentor and friend, Ed Bremen, had passed away in April. So many things went through my head….. if I had only found this article a couple of months earlier….. if only he could have lived a while longer so that I could have told him what he meant to me in my life. But one thing that really said it all: I was very honored to have met, worked with, and come to know this man.

    His kind will be sorely missed in this world. Indeed, the whole generation of true American Heroes are quickly passing into history.

    Thank you, Don, for bringing Ed’s story to light for all to see. Thank you for honoring, as I always try to do, this wonderfully heroic generation of men and women who suffered through the depression and together fought the war against those who would enslave us all. We will now soon see their like again.

    John Zaffino Cpl USMC, 1966 – 1970

    • I like your story about Ed. My Dad to was with the 4th on Saipan and was wounded there on June 16th. I worked for General Telephone for 22 years and the Continental for 7.

  2. I thought this was an interesting story about Ed. What really caught my attention was the second picture, the picture of some marines from the 4th division. I actually own that same photo and the guy standing right in the middle is my grandfather Willis L Kimball, and he told me that he asked a photographer in Saipan for some photos and he got some. I find it amazing how i found the photographer that gave my grandfather the photos from world war 2. My grandfather was a corpsman during when he was with the 4th division and he was also wounded on the 4th day

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