Voices from the Pacific War Voices from the Pacific War

Oral Histories




Precis of war service during WWII and later his life in Australia following discharge from the US Marine Corps in 1945. 

By Gordon McDermott (EX RAN)


Earl Hampton Guerry was borne in Orlando Florida on 29 January 1921. He joined the US Marine Corps on 12 January 1942 and saw action in the South Pacific Area from May 20, 1942 to August 6, 1945.

He participated in the capture and occupation of Guadalcanal B.S.I from August 10, 1942 to December 9, 1942; capture and occupation of Cape Gloucester, New Britain from December 30, 1943 to February 10, 1944; capture and occupation of Peleliu Island, Palau Islands from September 15, 1944 to October 15, 1944; capture and occupation of Okinawa Shima, Ryuku Islands from June 14, 1944 to June 21, 1945.

He was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for “outstanding Gallantry and determination in successful landing assaults against the Japanese at Guadalcanal B.S.I from 10 August 1942 to 9 December 1942.

It was during his service on Peleliu Island that he suffered “blast trauma” to his left ear resulting from an exploding Japanese mortar shell which wounded two of his mates. Earl also contracted malaria during his period of service in the South Pacific.

It was during 1944 that Earl was sent to Melbourne for R&R and there he met my aunty Peggy and they were married on December 30 1944. Three children (two girls and a boy) were born and today they are aged 64, 61 and 56 respectively.

Earl was honourably discharged from the US Marine Corps on November 12 1945 and he returned to Australia where he lived for the rest of his life until his death on July 6 1996.

 Life in Australia was not all smooth sailing for Earl and being an American with a Seminole Indian ancestry did not endear him to his new bigoted  in-laws who came from British stock and were untrusting of the ‘yanks’. Indeed they readily supported the uncharitable view that the Americans were “over paid, over sexed and over here” (notwithstanding the reality that presence of the yanks in Australia was vital to the war effort and ensured the security of the country). 

Earl had a number of vocations during his time in Australia and was mainly employed as a house builder and handyman (he built his own house in Melbourne in the early 50’s). Unfortunately due to his wartime injuries he had to leave the building industry and he became a bus driver at the princely sum of 15 pound a week (approx. AUD$30.00) and worked untiringly at other casual jobs to support his family and provide them with a decent life.


Although it was Earl’s intention to commence a life after the war in his new country, he vehemently rejected any notion that he should become an Australian citizen and would not abandon his passionate ties with the US and his Indian heritage. Unfortunately this meant that he was unable to rely on Australian welfare benefits in later years when his health deteriorated and in fact he was considered to be an illegal immigrant. This weighed heavily on Earl and in effect he was working ‘under the radar’ for most of his time in Australia. Nevertheless he became a valuable member of the community and was a great family man who loved to entertain family and friends in the home he built.

In the mid 60’s he made application to the US government for a military disability pension resulting from his ongoing malarial condition and this resulted in him receiving a pension that consisted of two payments only. For some unexplained reason, the US government discontinued payments after they reconsidered his application and assessed his disability as 0%. Earl sought the assistance of the “Disabled American Veterans” in progressing his claim but little progress was made via this group and Earl became wholeheartedly dejected accordingly, he pursued the matter of a pension no further.

It was not until 1980 that I was able to assist my uncle during an infrequent visit with him by developing a resubmission to the US government stressing that injuries to his left ear was the main driver for the submission seeking a pension rather than his previous claims for malaria. Earl had been dogged for most of his adult life with the effects of ear damage and was hostitalised in Melbourne hospitals many times – in fact, he was still suffering from the effects of this until his death. Moreover, his condition precluded him from working in the building industry due mainly to ‘balance’ problems associated with his condition.

The submission to the US government was fruitful and following further medical examinations (funded by the US Consulate General in Melbourne) Earl was eventually awarded a small pension in compensation for his injuries and according to his daughter Barbara, he eventually received his first pension cheque in late 1991.

In summary, Earl (my uncle) was a wonderful man who answered the call to arms in 1942, saw a lot of action in the Pacific and received a unit commendation for his efforts in Guadalcanal. Prior to his discharge from the US Marine Corps in 1945 he married my aunty Peggy following a whirlwind romance during his previous period in Australia whilst on R&R in Melbourne in 1944. Their union produced three wonderful and healthy kids who still enjoy life. They are all married (or have been) and have their own children. I do believe that Earl and Peg would be proud of them.

A final word from me. You will have gathered from the forgoing passages that it took many years for Earl to be recognised by US authorities as being worthy of the award of a pension. This doesn’t surprise me considering the weight of government bureaucracies but I do find it galling that administrations (both here in Australia and the US) do not follow through on their promises to look after their men and women when they have returned from ‘active or hazardous service’. For example, it took almost 45 years to settle the last of the claims resulting from the collision of the HMAS Melbourne (Australian Air Carrier) and the HMAS Voyager (Australian Daring class destroyer) in February 1964 which claimed the lives of 82 men. This was the worst peacetime catastrophe in Australia’s history. Governments are only too ready to send troops into active service when the political climate dictates but abrogate their responsibilities following their return to the civilian sector. One can only hope Bruce that through your series of lectures and books you have written and yet to write may bring to light some of the lesser known trials and tribulations of our servicemen and servicewomen and their transition back into civilian life.  I would hope that the politicians and public officials can learn from the lessons of history and remedy this gross injustice across all the armed services so that new recruits will see that they will not be forgotten after they have rendered service. Incidentally, I spent 26 years in the RAN, hence my reference to this dreadful incident.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the contribution to this small work by Barbara Feil – Earl’s eldest daughter. I could not have covered as much ground as I have without her generous support.