Asmuth, Walter, Col

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Last Rank
Primary Unit
1960-1960, Marine Barracks Guam
Service Years
1932 - 1960



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Home State
District Of Columbia
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by Greg McCourt-Historian to remember Marine Col Walter Asmuth.

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Contact Info
Home Town
Not Specified
Last Address
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Date of Passing
Feb 27, 1998
Location of Interment
Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, Virginia
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Plot: Sec: 60, Site: 4997

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Last Known Activity
Colonel Asmuth was born in Washington, DC, and graduated from high school there in 1928. He then entered the Naval Academy and graduated in 1932 at the depths of the depression. At that time, half the class was not commissioned because of a lack of spaces, but Midshipman Asmuth had done well enough to receive a commission as a Marine second lieutenant. After training, he served aboard the battleship USS Arkansas. Here he experienced life in the interwar military?deployments to the east coast, west coast, and Europe, periods of drydock, field training for the Marine detachment when the ship was in port, and gunnery practice. Next he went to Shanghai, China, for service with the 4th Marines. An expert marksman, he went to Peking for a rifle tournament in July 1937, and was there for the "Marco Polo Bridge Incident"?a minor clash between Japanese and Chinese troops, but one that Japan used as an excuse for invading China. One of the first Americans to see the Japanese war machine in action, he watched as the Japanese pummelled the Chinese with artillery and aircraft and then assaulted with infantry. The Marines in Peking conducted an operation to protect American citizens during the fighting. They put the Americans up in tents in the embassy compound including "one family with nine children and a goat who camped right on the Ambassador's front lawn." Eventually, Lt Asmuth made his way back to Shanghai where he helped guard the International Settlement as the Japanese drove the Chinese forces out of the city and inland. In June 1941, he joined the Marine Detachment aboard USS Nevada at Pearl Harbor as detachment commander. He was aboard the ship that fateful Sunday morning when the war in the Pacific began. During the attack the 70 Marines of the detachment manned their various guns and fought with distinction. Then-Capt Asmuth had trained them well. Two detachment Marines received Navy Crosses for their actions. Nevertheless, it was a grim day for Nevada. Hit by a torpedo and five bombs, her forward deck a shambles, she was beached on Hospital Point to avoid sinking in the ship channel. Despite rumors of his death among Naval Academy classmates, Capt Asmuth escaped unscathed. His ship having been sunk, Capt Asmuth was available for reassignment. In July 1942, having been promoted to major, he took command of newly activated 3d Battalion, 9th Marines (3/9). He trained the battalion at Camp Pendleton through the fall and winter, and in January they shipped out for New Zealand. On 1 November 1943, the battalion landed in its first combat operation?Bougainville?a key step in the campaign to neutralize Rabaul. The landing was difficult. Rough seas damaged craft and Japanese resistance destroyed many more. Units became interspersed and lost. Control quickly descended to small unit leaders. Nevertheless, the Marines established themselves ashore. In later years Col Asmuth would comment, "Nothing is as thoroughly planned as an amphibious operation, but little planning survives contact with the enemy." As the perimeter took form 3/9 ended up on the far left behind the Koromokina River. They were center stage for the next major action of the campaign, the Japanese counterattack. On the night of 6-7 November, the Japanese landed 475 soldiers west of the Marines. The landing had not been smooth, and Japanese units were scattered over a wide front. Nevertheless, at dawn on 7 November, those Japanese units nearest the Marines attacked and ran straight into 3/9. The initial assault was repulsed, and LtCol Asmuth sent K/3/9 to counterattack. However, the dense jungle and concealed enemy limited progress. The division reserve, 1/3, was sent in to reinforce; later 1/21 and a tank unit joined as well. By 9 November the Japanese force had been annihilated. For his actions during this crisis LtCol Asmuth received the Bronze Star. The citation reads, in part: When the Japanese landed near his troops in an effort to launch a major assault in the entire beachhead, LtCol Asmuth immediately made a reconnaissance of his front lines and informed himself of the enemy strength and dispositions. Thereafter, he skillfully organized and launched a counterattack and succeeded in repelling the Japanese until his flank could be reinforced. For 3/9 the remainder of the campaign consisted of a slow expansion of the beachhead. All these actions took place in one of the worst environments of the war?thick jungles, bottomless swamps, swarms of insects, lurking crocodiles, and constant rain. LtCol Asmuth later recalled that the men's feet were literally rotting off. The Bougainville campaign lasted 57 days for the 3d Marine Division. It was followed by a few months on Guadalcanal to reorganize and train for its next operation?Guam, which began on 21 July 1944. The 9th Marines landed on the right (south) end of the division sector, with 3/9 in the assault. The plan called for 1/9 and 2/9 to follow 3/9 across the beach, whereupon 3/9 would become the regimental reserve. The prelanding bombardment was a ferocious and synchronized attack by air and naval gunfire?the result of hard lessons learned during previous landings. Nevertheless, 3/9 met fierce fire as it came ashore. Once across the beach, it crossed a rice paddy and continued on to the steep ridge behind the shore. Progress on the left was unexpectedly rapid. On the right, however, Company I took fire from the caves on Asan point. LtCol Asmuth sent in Company L, the battalion reserve, to help out. By 1350 the battalion had reached its objective and at 1415 the battalion reverted to regimental reserve as 1/9 and 2/9 pushed through. The day's fighting had been a great success with all objectives attained on schedule. However, it had not been without cost. The 9th Marines suffered 231 casualties, among them LtCol Asmuth. Although he continued in action for several hours, his wounds were too severe, and he was forced to turn over command to his executive officer. For his actions he received the Silver Star. The citation reads in part: Landing under heavy fire, LtCol Asmuth personally directed the operations. . . . When his battalion was delayed by enemy fire, he went forward to his front lines. . . . While thus engaged, he was seriously wounded but refused to be evacuated and continued to lead his battalion until the objective was secured. Although LtCol Asmuth recovered fully from his wounds, the war in the Pacific was over for him. In the postwar years Col Asmuth served in London as amphibious plans officer for the Eastern Atlantic, on the staff of the JCS, and as chief of staff of the 3d Marine Division. His final duty station was as commanding officer of the Marine Barracks on Guam, where he was fondly remembered as one of the island's wartime liberators. He retired from the Marine Corps in 1960 and accepted a position with GE Information Systems working on specialized equipment for military intelligence. In 1970 he retired for the last time and moved to Virginia Beach with his wife, Janice. He died on 27 February 1998 and is buried in Arlington Cemetery beside his wife.
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 Unit Assignments
MARDET (Afloat)1st Bn, 5th Marine Regiment (1/5), 5th Marine Regiment2nd Bn, 5th Marine Regiment (2/5), 5th Marine Regiment1st Bn, 6th Marine Regiment (1/6)
Marine Barracks2nd Bn, 8th Marine Regiment (2/8)3rd Bn, 9th Marine Regiment (3/9)
  1932-1934, MARDET USS Arkansas (BB-33)
  1934-1935, 1st Bn, 5th Marine Regiment (1/5), 5th Marine Regiment
  1935-1938, 2nd Bn, 5th Marine Regiment (2/5), 5th Marine Regiment
  1938-1938, 1st Bn, 6th Marine Regiment (1/6)
  1938-1939, Marine Barracks Bremerton, WA
  1939-1940, 1st Bn, 6th Marine Regiment (1/6)
  1940-1941, 2nd Bn, 8th Marine Regiment (2/8)
  1941-1941, MarDet USS Nevada (BB-36)
  1942-1944, 3rd Bn, 9th Marine Regiment (3/9)
  1945-1945, Marine Barracks London, England
  1960-1960, Marine Barracks Guam
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1941-1941 Central Pacific Campaign (1941-43)/Attack on Pearl Harbor
  1943-1944 Northern Solomon Islands Campaign (1943-44)/Battle of Bougainville
  1944-1944 Marianas Operation /Battle of Guam (1944)
 Colleges Attended
United States Naval Academy
  1928-1932, United States Naval Academy
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