Walter R. Bartosh

Eau Claire Marine Cited for Bravery in Night Flight

Ten Marine aviation officers and eight enlisted men, who distinguished themselves in the successful air battle against the Japanese in the South Pacific, have received letters of commendation, it has been announced by Marine Corps.

Among the officers was First Lieutenant Walter R. Bartosh, 22, then a Second Lieutenant, who was cited for volunteering for a night search for Jap warships under unfavorable conditions.

The citation given Bartosh read: "For meritorious devotion to duty under adverse circumstances while conducting an aerial night search in the Solomon Islands area on October 19, 1942. Lieutenant Bartosh volunteered to make the important night search under very unfavorable weather conditions in order to verify reports of enemy sub activity. His successful completion of the mission determined that no enemy ships were in the area and furnished new and valuable information. During the flight, he located and bombed an enemy anti-aircraft position. His courageous conduct was in keeping with the highest traditions of naval service.''

Lieutenant Bartosh is the son of Richard Bartosh, 2819 Sornona Park, Eau Claire.  His brother, Carl J.,  is serving somewhere overseas with the Marines Air Service. His sister, Richardis, is in WAAC training camp at Fort Des Moines, IA.

Captain Walter Bartosh, U.S. Marine Corps, on leave from his station in California, is visiting his father, Richard Bartosh, Somona Parkway.

Eau Claire Flier Commands Squadron on Guadalcanal as 9 Superiors Are Casualities

(The following story was written by Sergeant Milburn McCarty, Jr., Eastland, Texas, a Marine Corps combat correspondent. It is forwarded to you because of the local man named in the article)

SOMEWHERE IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC. (Delayed) —Eighty went out to Guadalcanal and only 46 came back, but they finished their job. 

That's the record of a battle-scarred contingent of dive bombing Marines whose number was diminished almost by half after going through one of the toughest war assignments to date.

An Eau Claire Second Lieutenant, who started as the tenth-ranking officer of the group, finally succeeded to command of the group as death, injury or disease disqualified the men ahead of him.  He is Lieutenant Walter R. Bartosh, United States Marine Corps, the son of Richard Bartosh, 2819 Somona Park, Eau Claire. Later, Bartosh was promoted to First Lieutenant. In a recent letter home, Captain Jack Brushert, Marine pilot, reported Bartosh was promoted to Captain.

Another surviving Marine from Wisconsin is Corporal Harvey A. Peterson, radio gunner, son of Fred Peterson, 2316 North Palmer Street, Milwaukee. Both of the Wisconsin men are now stationed at an undisclosed field in the South Pacific.

Story of the Squadron
The story of the squadron, now told for the first time, is the story of a bombing squadron that fought through the bitterest period at Guadalcanal, a squadron that bombed and shot and strafed, and was bombed and shot and strafed, in return, not only every day, but practically every hour of the day.

This Marine aviation unit arrived at Guadalcanal with 42 pilots, 38 aerial radio gunners, and 21 SBD dive bombing planes.  Sixteen more planes arrived as replacements while they were on the island.

The squadron left seven weeks later with 23 pilots, 23 gunners, and NO planes.

"What ships were left were filled with holes and hardly worth bringing out," explains Lieutenant Bartosh.

Three Top Officers Killed
Lieutenant Bartosh was tenth in command when the squadron arrived at Guadalcanal, but before the squadron had been there a week, a Jap shell landed near Henderson Field and killed the top officers at once--Major General Gordon A. Bell, of  [**missing data**] usually it was attacked two or three times in a trim.  Sometimes, a pilot would be in the air 10 or 11 hours a day, and he spent most of this time over Jap-controlled territory.

The SBDs also took punishment between trips.

"One day," relates Second Lieutenant John R. Kennedy, of Minneapolis, "the Japs caught us before we could get off the ground. They came in swarms and kept coming all day. When the Japs finally left, there were only two planes we would get off the ground.  With attacks like that, plus the holes we'd bring back every trip, we kept our mechanics pretty busy." 

The job of dive bombers is to dump their loads and get away so it's always difficult to establish definitely the amount of damage they do. Recapitulation shows, however, that the squadron helped account for at least one Jap battleship, [?]cruisers, six destroyers, 12 transports, and an assorted collection of Jap land installations.

Jammed with Men
How many thousands of Japs they killed only Tokyo knows.

"Those Jap transports were so jammed with men," says Lieutenant Bartosh, "that when we strafed, bodies literally rolled over the decks in waves."

Already two of the survivors have been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for their performance: Second Lieutenants Robert W. Johannesen of Tacoma, WA and Moscow, ID and Lucius S. Smith III of Du Quoin, IL.  

Living conditions attending this fighting were, of course, indescribably bad. When the men weren't crouched in fox holes, they were trying to sleep on damp bunks. Between raids, they smoked cigarettes and drank coffee; meanwhile, keeping one eye peeled skywards for Jap planes.

Most of them got dysentery. Second Lieutenant Robert P. Graham, a graduate of the University of Virginia, reports that his gunner came down with an acute case at just the wrong time.

"Dysentery hit him just as we were returning to Henderson Field with five Zeros on our tail. The poor fellow couldn't even open the hood to get air, for that would have slowed us down five knots.  We'd hardly hit the field when he was out of the plane and running for the river."   

For diversion, Lieutenant Bartosh, an avid bridge fan, tried to get in some games during his few idle hours. "But Guadalcanal," he states, "is the hardest place I ever saw to get a fourth at bridge."

Forced Landings
The men were making forced landings behind Jap lines every other day or so. Sergeant John M. Conn, of Shreveport, LA, came down twice, once with a pilot who was later lost and then with Second Lieutenant Robert P. Meentz of Port Madison, LA.

After his first forced landing, Corporal Lamons was picked up several miles off Florida Island by natives in their family canoe and, the second time, he and Lieutenant Meentz--after wrecking their plane in a jungle thicket--by-passed three Jap camps and reached American lines the following day. Then Lieutenant Meentz had to make another forced landing with Radio Gunner Edward J. Witkowski, a Corporal from New York City. Meentz and Witkowski hold the record in the squadron among survivors for the longest time spent in the bush--26 days!

Here's their story:
"We went out on a raid one night at 11, bombed two Jap destroyers, and returned to Henderson," Meentz relates.

Then we went out again at midnight to get some transports com [**missing data**]  shells, and all sorts of gifts."

The American asked about transportation back to Guadalcanal.  The chief, through his interpreter, replied that "It is too far for our canoes." 

"Lieutenant Meentz gave them propaganda talks," says Witkowski. "He told them how we Americans were their allies and had come to run the bad Japs away. When the interpreter translated this, the natives would break out with great cheering.

Natives Fascinated
The chief always insisted that the Americans appear in their full flying regalia. The uniforms fascinated the natives.

Finally the Marines departed, but left drawings showing the difference between U.S. and Jap planes, and also between U.S. and Jap physical characteristics to show the natives, in the future, whether it was friend or foe appearing on the island.

A Marine flying boat picked up the two men and carried them back to Guadalcanal and, after 26 days' absence, they began their bombing routine again.

Meentz, Witkowski, Bartosh, Conn, Smith, Lamons, Johanneson, Kennedy, Graham, and other squadron [**missing data**].

Pilot Now Major in the Marine Corps

MAJOR W. R. BARTOSH Walter R. Bartosh, 24, veteran Marine Corps pilot who distinguished himself in successful air battles against the Japanese at Guadalcanal and other places in the South Pacific, has been promoted from Captain to Major, according to word received by his father, Richard Bartosh, 2819 South Slope Terrace.  

Major Bartosh, who was with the first Marine Corps squadrons to occupy Henderson Field on Guadalcanal when the Marines invaded that Japanese stronghold, returned from duty in the Pacific a year ago and is now stationed at Laguna Beach, California.

He commanded his squadron as a Second Lieutenant on Guadalcanal after senior officers had become casualties and was credited with destruction of enemy planes and shipping as well as frequent strafing of enemy ground positions.

Marine Flier "Got More Japs Than You Can Shake Stick at"
"As far as I am concerned, I've come out of the first American front unscathed--technically speaking," Lieutenant Walter R. Bartosh, who has been flying war planes for the U.S. Marines in Guadalcanal and other South Pacific areas, writes in a 1etter just received by his father, Richard Bartosh, 2181 South Slope Terrace. "I am proud of doing that alone," he added. 

"I'm not permitted to say where I am now or where I am going," he explained in his letter, which was dated December 1. 

Evidently, he was somewhere resting after his experiences, which included "getting more Japs than you can shake a stick at," for he added, "I'm back in good shape again. I did not realize how run down I had become until I started resting. I just could not get enough to eat or enough time to sleep. Actually that was all we we're doing. Not even work."

Wants No Tears Shed
"After this rest," his letter said, "I'll be back in the frying pan again. If I go, I want no tears shed, for so many of us have to go in order to beat those d—n Japs, but their end is inevitable. We'll win the d—n thing but it will take a little time. If there is a bullet with my name on it,  I'm going to get it whether I like it or not, but I sure can do a lot of ducking until that time. So don't worry about me at all. Just do everything you can back there to win." 

"So far, Dad," he wrote, "I have given them both barrels. That stubborn Bohemian blood in my veins seems to have turned the trick. I've got more Japs than you can shake a stick at, and you can thank yourself for every one of them."

 Mentions Lt. Brushert
Lieutenant Bartosh mentioned in his letter that Lt. Jack Brushert, also a Marine Corps flier, was now in Guadalcanal. He also writes that "what was in the papers around the middle of November was part of my doings." 

Enclosed with the letter was some Japanese paper money, which he said he took off a dead Japanese Royal Marine. "The money is not worth anything," he wrote, "but is valuable as souvenirs."

Written by Harold (Diz) Kronenberg

The Bartosh family operated the Bartosh Cleaners and Fur Storage business on Hastings Way.