BRISTOL — Harold "Bub" Sheffield, one of the last surviving Marine Raiders from World War II, recently spearheaded a successful effort to erect a monument at the State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen honoring the Raiders.
"They were America's first special operations units," says the 95-year-old, who served with Carlson's Raiders in the South Pacific and in 2011, with the help of fellow Bristol resident Joe Denning, wrote a book about his service with the Marine Raiders.
He says that he wanted to do something to provide a permanent reminder of the role that the Raiders played in the war and was helped by donations from U.S Marine Raider Association as well as his family.
The monument was recently installed at the cemetery and a dedication ceremony is being planned for next spring. Sheffield says that it very appropriate that there be a monument in New Hampshire for the Raiders as one of their commanders was Lt. Col Merritt Edson of Keene.
He says that his unit commander while he was with the Raiders was James Roosevelt, the youngest son of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Sheffield was born and raised in New Jersey but spent his summers at his grandfather's home in Alexandria and one summer worked as a bus boy and set up pins in the bowling alleys at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods.
He later excelled at sports in prep school and went to Nichols College in Dudley, Mass., where he enjoyed playing football but didn't like the business curriculum and dropped out. He and his long-time friend Bill Weiland had talked about joining the Royal Canadian Air Force in the summer of 1941 and Sheffield decided later that year that was what he wanted to do, as he already had a pilot's certificate and had flown a plane solo.
He had stopped by at his mother's house to say goodbye and head for Canada when he learned that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. Both he and Weiland rushed to sign up for the Air Force but because they hadn't completed two years of college couldn't become pilots without passing an exam, which wouldn't be offered until the following April.
Not wanting to wait, the two signed up with the Marines. Part of the enlistment was a physical exam and Sheffield said that while waiting in line for the exam a recruit standing behind him on the shoulder and asked him to pee in his cup because he didn't think he could pass the exam because he had been drinking too much. ''I can only pee 100 proof" the man, said. Sheffield granted the request and later became good friends with the man, Harold Foote, who later became a New York real estate developer and portrait artist.
Sheffield was sent to Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands in August of 1942, where the Japanese were continually bringing in fresh troops. He was stationed on a sand bar near Tulagi, and his job was to observe the Japanese ships and report their arrivals to home base. He said the ships would pass so close to the observation point that he could hear the Japanese talking as they passed by.
At one point while on Guadalcanal, Sheffield was suffering from malaria and in such bad condition in a hospital was shivering so hard that he said he didn't care whether he lived or died. But there were rumors of a Japanese invasion so he was carried down to the beach by his friends Bill and Herb, who set him up in a foxhole with his rifle and grenades. "I was too sick to defend myself, let alone anyone else," he recalls. But a major naval battle took place that night, chasing away the Japanese invaders and turning the tide in the battle for the island.
After five months he was sent to New Caledonia to recuperate from the effects of tropical diseases and while there he volunteered to join the Marine Rangers and was sent to Bougainvillea, which was held by the Japanese, where he started working behind their lines.
He said that the patrols were small, three to five men, and that they traveled light, often with pistols instead of rifles and without helmets, because they made noises while the Marines walked. They stayed out for days at a time, reporting the positions of enemy troops with not much to eat except rock-hard chunks of chocolate.
The Raiders were disbanded in 1944 after their hit-and-run tactics no longer needed and Sheffield was then sent to Guam, where he remembers a shell crashing into his foxhole, badly injuring the man next to him but failing to explode.
The next day while crossing an airstrip he stopped at a Japanese machine gun emplacement which was not active and went inside, where he found six to eight dead Japanese soldiers and noticed that one was still alive and following him with his eyes. Recalling that the Japanese sometimes hid grenades on themselves, he went outside the emplacement and tossed a few new grenades in to make sure they were all dead,
After 29 months of war Sheffield returned to the United States and, after marrying his first wife, made his home in Alexandria. He went to what was then Plymouth Teachers College and transferred to the University of New Hampshire, where he earned a forestry degree and went on to Yale, where he earned a master's degree.
He worked for lumber companies before he went to work at International Packings Corporation in Bristol where he was in charge of personnel and later went into the real estate development business.
"It's been an interesting life," says Sheffield, who in recent years has made many speaking appearances for groups, museums and historical societies.
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