Poindexter, Arthur A, Col

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0702-Air Defense Officer
Primary Unit
1941-1942, 0702, 1st Defense Bn
Service Years
1937 - 1963
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This Military Service Page was created/owned by GySgt David R. Marcussen to remember Marine Col Arthur A Poindexter.

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Date of Passing
Jan 05, 2000
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HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. -- Retired Col. Arthur Poindexter, a highly decorated Marine who was held for months as a prisoner during World War II, has died. He was 82.

Col. Poindexter died Wednesday of congestive heart failure at his Huntington Beach home.

"He was intense and passionate. He was totally masculine and honest, very intelligent, very caring and loyal," said his widow, Patricia Foy Poindexter. "To the very last, he was a fighter."

Col. Poindexter was born Feb. 25, 1917, in Madison, Wis. He joined the Marine Corps at 19.

As a second lieutenant, he was assigned to Wake Island in the Pacific Ocean in 1941, where 1,200 civilians were building a Navy air base.

Wake Island came under siege a day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

U.S. forces battled for 16 days before surrendering on Christmas Day. During the fight, Col. Poindexter was captured and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp in China.

He was held until the end of the war. After being released, he remained in the Marine Corps until he retired in 1963, after 26 years of service.

The U.S. soldiers' defense of Wake Island, which was compared to the Alamo, captivated the American public and was portrayed in a 1942 movie.

Col. Poindexter was cited for his gallantry at Wake Island and for meritorious service in Korea.

After leaving the military, Col. Poindexter earned a master's degree and a doctorate and taught international relations at California State University, Long Beach, for 16 years.

He wrote and co-wrote several books, and articles published in the California Social Science Quarterly, American History Illustrated, the Military Historical Review and Leatherneck Magazine.

Col. Poindexter is survived by his wife, two daughters, a brother and sister-in-law, and three stepchildren.

A memorial service will be held today at Huntington Landmark, the senior community where Col. Poindexter lived.

He will be buried with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

Other Comments:
August of 1941 found 2nd Lt.. Poindexter on Wake Island along with other Marines, Sailors, and civilian contractors constructing a defensive installation because of the deteriorating conditions in the Pacific with Japan. This was seven days a week of hard work

On 8 December 1941 (international date line is between Wake Island and Hawaii) shortly after receiving radio messages of the attack on Pearl Harbor Hawaii, the first Japanese aircraft were spotted closing in on Wake Island and it's defenders. From that time until the surrender of United States Marines, Sailors and Civilian workers, the island was under attack from the Japanese Navy Ships and Aircraft and attempted landings.

Lieutenant Poindexter, during the fighting, discovered that two large landing craft had grounded on the reef about 30 yards offshore.

Although four machine-guns were firing at the barges, tracer ricochets made it apparent that the .30-caliber bullets were not penetrating. A moment later, both barges backed off and attempted to nose in again, as if seeking a break in the reef. Not meeting with success, and still being peppered by machine-gun fire, the Japanese made still another attempt to reach shore, but at no time--probably because of the Marines' fire--did they commence debarkation.

Taking advantage of this momentary stalemate, Lieutenant Poindexter formed two teams of grenadiers to move down to the water's edge and lob hand grenades at or into the barges. One team consisted of himself and Boatswain's Mate First Class James E. Barnes, USN, while the other consisted of Mess Sgt. Gerald Carr, and a civilian, R.R. Rutledge, who had served as an Army officer in France during the previous war. While the machine guns suspended fire, the grenadiers attacked, meeting with partial success when Boatswain's Mate Barnes was able to place at least one grenade inside a barge just as the enemy debarkation commenced, inflicting heavy casualties.

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 Unit Assignments/ Advancement Schools
1st Defense Bn
  1941-1942, 0702, 1st Defense Bn
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1941-1941 Central Pacific Campaign (1941-43)/Battle of Wake Island
 Colleges Attended
University of KansasCalifornia State University, Long Beach
  1935-1937, University of Kansas
  1964-1980, California State University, Long Beach
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