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SAIPAN FIGHT RECOUNTED IN MARINE'S BOOK.

Byline: Dana Bartholomew Staff Writer

Cpl. Roy Roush hit the beach on the Japanese-held island of Saipan with a small Bible in his left shirt pocket over his heart. He'd need it.

Mortar shells fell like rain on the Marine company covering the far left flank known as Red Beach One during the early morning assault. Then American shells began falling with the roar of a freight train.

``All hell was breaking loose,'' recalled Roush, now 79, of Woodland Hills, who has chronicled his World War II exploits in ``Open Fire,'' a 680-page book he published himself.

``We landed in an area that was still being shelled by our own ships, including the USS California, with 16-inch shells. I lost one of my best friends from Oklahoma as a result of a direct hit.''

The 18-year-old Marine from the 2nd Division, 6th Regiment, 2nd Battalion, had withstood malaria-infested jungle during the battle for Guadalcanal.

He'd survived a Marine bloodbath on Tarawa, where 1,050 Marines died in 3 1/2 days of fighting.

And now the biggest man in Fox Company was hefting his 28-pound Browning automatic rifle onto Saipan - a volcanic island fortress southeast of Japan.

The worst came after dark as Roush and company lay exhausted along a road by the beach that, if taken, could sever the Marine assault.

``Banzai! Banzai!''

The cry split the night - the do-or-die battle cry of the imperial Japanese forces.

A hundred feet away, men charged. At their head were officers waving two-handed samurai swords. Then came the thump of battleship fire - and a flare lit up the night.

``I saw about 150 Japanese. Some of 'em had sabers, others rifles, pistols, fixed bayonets ... It was like being supercharged - all your senses come alive, like being electrified. I was firing my BAR, the noise was deafening.

``It was over in about 60 seconds.''

That night and throughout the battle from June 15 to July 8, 1944, the Marine who'd wanted to become a military pilot would endure many such charges. The cries of the wounded split the air.

So tired they could hardly walk, the Marines pressed on. And the Japanese were unrelenting.

At one point, he saw a Japanese bugler signal one more charge.

``Ta ta ta ta tah ... he played that thing clear through. It was surreal. Then we shot him, and the banzai attack began.''

Roush kept the bugle.

On Saipan, more than 23,000 Japanese were killed. American dead numbered close to 3,500.

Roush would go on to fight the battle for Tinian - to survive as one of four left from his original company.

After finishing college in 1950, he joined the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, when during training the engine of his F-80 fighter exploded and caught fire just after take-off.

During a desert crash landing, he suffered a severe compression fracture to his back. He would go on to fly commercial aircraft and write pilot handbooks for such planes as the B-1B bomber.

A religious man, he recently earned a doctorate in biblical archaeology.

``I wasn't an Audie Murphy or Sgt. York,'' he said of his Marine exploits. ``These guys, in my opinion, were the greatest men in the world because they were fighting for freedom.

``Whey they're gone, we'll never see the likes of them again.''

Dana Bartholomew, (818) 713-3730

dana.bartholomew(at)dailynews.com

Internet link: Those interested in Roy William Roush's book, ``Open Fire,'' can go to http://open-fire.us/

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Roy Roush of Woodland Hills, a veteran of the Marines and the Air Force, displays some of his collection from his war service.

Phil McCarten/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 6, 2004
Words:613
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