Military Order of the Purple Heart

Texas Capital Chapter 1919 Austin, Texas

 

HADRON BANKSTON


1925 - 2011

1st MARINE DIVISION

INSIGNIA

HADRON "IZELL" BANKSTON

Patriot, Chapter 1919

 Navy, WWII, Pacific

 

Hadron Izell Bankston was born in Malta, Texas (Bowie County near New Boston) in 1925.  He has been called Izell all of his life.  As a small child his family moved to Kaufman County and while he was growing up they lived variously at Kemp, Blue Bank, Mabank and Kaufman.  He was attending Kaufman High School when America entered the war and he wanted to volunteer immediately.  However, he was only seventeen and his mother refused her permission.  So, Izell bided his time until he turned eighteen and enlisted in the Navy on his birthday.  Doing so meant dropping out of high school before finishing his senior year.

 

Izell entered service as a “selective volunteer” and after eight weeks of “boot camp” in San Diego, California, he was assigned to the Hospital Corps and sent to the Naval Hospital there where he initially worked in the dermatology ward.  He later served special duty with the boot camp for a short time and then his name came up for training to be a Corpsman with the Marines.  He was a Hospital Apprentice Second Class when he attended the Medical Field Service School at Camp Elliott in San Diego and graduated on September 1, 1943 as a Medical Field Service Qualified Assistant.  He still has today a bound notebook with his detailed handwritten class notes from his training course work.

 

During his time at Camp Elliott in San Diego, Izell remembers that the Indians in communications training, later famous as the “code talkers,” were in the barracks immediately behind the “huts” that he and the medical personnel were living in.  He also remembers the 12-mile road marches every Monday and the rigorous training for overseas assignment before being deployed to the Pacific.  He shipped out with other unassigned Navy Hospital Corpsmen on an old pre-war luxury liner, the “Mount Vernon,” which had been converted into a troop transport.

 

They arrived in-theatre at New Caledonia and after three weeks they were further sent on a new Landing Ship Transport (LST) to Brisbane, Australia where they were stationed briefly on the Brisbane Race Track.  The American troops had only U.S. money that was not convertible into Australian currency.  Some of the local citizens, out of the goodness of their heart, spent their own money to provide them with some of their needs.  Izell next shipped to Milne Bay, New Guinea on the troopship “President Polk,” where he joined with the   3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. When he arrived, the 5th Marines were training in making practice landings and working their way up the coast, preparing for operations to force the Japanese out of the area.  Izell was allergic to quinine and he soon came down with malaria. He was most ill between December 1943 and April 1944.  However, he could tolerate Atebrine and responded to that treatment.

 

On December 26, 1944, Operation Cartwheel began, the battle to take the Japanese airfield and the area along the coast at Cape Gloucester, New Britain.  The 5th Marines, initially in reserve, were held on board ship through the first day and then were landed on “Blue Beach” (Hell’s Point) and took up positions in a chaotic area devastated by earthquake and a typhoon.  Izell had a friend killed by a falling tree, downed by aftereffects of the earthquake. The area he was in was also bombed by a lone Japanese plane, even as the men were trying to construct hasty shelters. Nine days into the operation, on January 3, 1944, Hospital Corpsman Bankston was attending the wounded during his battalion’s fighting west of the airfield at “Suicide Creek,” when he was himself wounded by shrapnel.  He was evacuated with fragmentation wounds to his face, left shoulder and his left leg, severe enough to keep him in an Army Hospital on New Guinea for a month before being released and returned to duty.

 

He says his most memorable action of the war was Operation Stalemate, the taking of Peleliu in the Palau Islands, September 15, 1944 through November 27, 1944.  What was anticipated to be a four-day operation lasted over two months, and considering the number of men involved, had the highest casualty rate of any battle of the war in the Pacific.  The 5th Marines came ashore in the center of the division landing and attacked directly to their front across the island to secure the Japanese airfield. Incidents that made the greatest impressions on Izell included these.  One night, his medical team came to the realization that their position was in Japanese held territory, out forward of their own lines.  They successfully slipped back safely in the dark.  But, it had been frighteningly slow with frequent stops to take cover as flares illuminated the area, forcing them to wait motionless until the flares had burned out before moving again. Losses were heavy among the medical personnel, with consequences that Corpsman Bankston could never have anticipated. When the colonel in command of Izell’s unit was wounded in the arm he turned to the doctor there and said, “You are in charge, I’m leaving,” and then made his way to the rear. Of course, the medical doctor had not had training to be put in such a position. Another time there was not a single doctor remaining present for duty with the3rd Battalion, 5th Marines.  Peleliu was hard, but the Corpsmen did the best that they could.

 

After the war was over, Hadron Izell Bankston was discharged from the Navy on November 22, 1945 and returned home to Kaufman, Texas.  He immediately went back to High School, finished his classes and got his diploma in 1946.  During the time he was finishing up classes, he chanced to meet a long time friend, Mary Virginia Berendzen, an 18 year-old who was teaching the primary grades in nearby Warsaw.  The school system wasn’t all that big and they knew all the same people. Izell and “Jenny” married May 17, 1946.  Izell then enrolled at North Texas Agricultural College (now the University of Texas at Arlington).  Because he was combat wounded, he and Jenny received $125 per month, substantially more than what was provided to the normal G.I. Bill recipient.  After one year in college, he entered into a 5-year apprenticeship as a pressman with the Dallas Morning News.  After three years in Dallas, they moved to Big Spring and Izell finished his last two years of apprenticeship on the newspaper there.  They then moved to San Antonio where he worked for six years as a fully qualified pressman on the San Antonio Light.  He then returned to the Dallas Morning News, and he stayed with them for 34 years.  He and Jenny had a son and two daughters who had grown and married and had families of their own before Izell retired at age 68.  During this period Izell worked his way up from an apprentice pressman to the Department Head (Superintendent) of the Pressroom.  In 2005, Izell and Jenny moved from Dallas to this local area to be with their youngest daughter and her family (she has five of their eleven grandchildren).  Shortly after arriving he joined his fellow combat wounded veterans of the Military Order of the Purple Heart here, and this month Texas Capital Chapter 1919 proudly salutes Patriot Hadron Izell Bankston.

 

Patriot  HADRON I. BANKSTON  died December 2, 2011 at age 86.

 


IZELL AND MARY VIRGINIA “JENNY” BANKSTON

1947

1st MARINE DIVISION HOSPITAL CORPSMAN HADRON I. BANKSTON

AND HIS BIG BROTHER MADRON BANKSTON

IN 1945

(THEIR FATHER’S FIRST NAME WAS ADRON)

IZELL AND MARY VIRGINIA “JENNY” BANKSTON

Purple Heart Meeting at Hill's Cafe

May 24, 2008


TOP PHOTO

 

IZELL IN 1943


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