Mel Baldivia’s Story

I was born in Mexico in 1919.  I came to America with my family when I was 3.  We moved to Southern California  near Pomona and San Dimas.  I worked in the orchards picking citrus and finished my schooling in the 8th grade.  The depression made it nearly impossible to continue because I had to earn a living to support the entire family.

I went to work in a steel foundry in south Los Angeles (near Slauson Avenue) for the next 4-5 years.  I married Terry (in Los Angeles) in 1944.  We had 3 children, Pat in 1945; Barbara in 1947; and David in 1964. Terry died in 2007.

Later in 1944, I was drafted for WWII service, and went to the Los Angeles Recruiting Station with 500-600 draftees.  A Marine Sgt selected 7 or 8 of us and we were loaded on a bus headed for MCRD in San Diego.

I spent about 3 months there in boot camp and then we were moved to Edson range at Camp Pendleton for our rifle training. I made PFC and shortly thereafter we boarded a troopship in San Francisco headed for Guadalcanal.  I was initially assigned to K Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. We were on Guadalcanal for a short 3-4 weeks when we shipped out to Pavuvu Island. Pavuvu is the largest of the Russell Islands in the Solomon Islands, located northwest of Guadalcanal. The island had served as a coconut plantation for natives. In 1941, when the United States declared war on Japan, the island natives abandoned it when the Imperial Japanese Navy swept over the Solomon Islands. After the United States captured Guadalcanal, they were able to use the airfield to bomb out the Japanese garrisons on nearby islands. Pavuvu was one of them. This island served as temporary home to the U.S. 1st Marine Division after their action on Cape Gloucester, and again after their action on Peleliu during the conflict against Japan. After the war, the natives returned to the island and resumed the coconut plantation.

We were to stage with the 1st MARDIV.  The only fresh water we had we collected in rain barrels (and it rained a lot). We then shipped out to the Northern Training Area in Okinawa but it was after the major battle, but we had some “wipe up” operations to do. During a movement we encountered Japanese hiding in one of their “famous” tunnels and they began firing at us.  I wasn’t so sure what was going on but I got up near and sprayed the area with my Tommy gun. That didn’t stop them so I tossed in a grenade…got all quiet after that.  Next our unit moved on to China (near Tietsing).  They billeted us at a former racetrack…a very muddy march it was!...no trucks could slog through it.  The US forces had left behind a lot of gear (absorbed by the Japanese) so we were tasked with rescuing it.  Some interesting asides of that experience: a rickshaw ride was 70 cents (US); naturally the Marines found the local liquor store (good stuff-cheap); we found a great restaurant (Russian) and ate many fabulous meals there; and a weird one - the Chinese trucks were fueled with wood.  We moved to billet at a former Russian school for 3-4 weeks.  Our mission at the point was to round up remaining Japanese soldiers and send them home. One of the Japanese soldiers we encountered spoke quite good English, he couldn’t believe the war was over and boasted “if you’d fought us, we woulda beaten you as badly as we did the Chinese”.

As the system worked back then, I had enough points and was old enough to be mustered out – it was now 1945 so I was sent back to San Francisco (Treasure Island), processed out and boarded a train to rejoin my family in Southern California.

I went back to work at the foundry for a couple years doing molds and forming cores. I worked over in San Bernardino for a month or so also.  An Italian friend knew of a job opening at American Can, which I applied for, and worked at that Company for the next 26 years.  I worked, all 3 shifts at times, in the milk department loading trailers headed for the dairies.
I moved to Bend in 2012 to live with my loving and loved daughter, Barbara and her husband Jeff. She faithfully brings me to Band of Brothers every week and is here with us today, along with her husband Jeff, and their son John.

My name is Mel Baldivia.                   

SEMPER FI MARINE!!

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