Eddie Albert- From Tarawa to "Green Acres"-MC Times
Lore of the Corps
Actor first earned fame for heroism in combat
By Charles A. Jones - Special to the Times
Posted : November 26, 2007
Best known for his role as lawyer-turned-farmer Oliver Wendell Douglas on the 1960s TV show “Green Acres,” Eddie Albert also had a strong following in the 2nd Marine Division after he helped save the lives of dozens of leathernecks during the Battle of Tarawa.
Albert, whose real name was Edward Albert Heimberger, established himself as an actor in pre-war Hollywood with his first movie, 1938’s “Brother Rat.”
But after the bombing of Pearl Harbor launched the U.S. into World War II, he joined the Navy in 1942 and was commissioned as a Naval Reserve lieutenant junior grade.
He sailed to Tarawa as a salvage officer on the troop ship Sheridan, one of many ships that arrived on Nov. 20, 1943. Tarawa was a strategically vital Pacific island that was key to helping U.S. bombers attack Japanese forces in the Marianas.
Albert guided the assistant control boat he commanded to the designated drop zone on the beach, where it unloaded Marines and supplies.
However, a blunder by military planners predicting the tides stranded many landing craft hundreds of yards off-shore on reefs and exposed Marines to Japanese fire.
As Marine casualties mounted in the lagoon, Albert assumed the initiative, plucking the injured and dead out of the water and from under enemy fire in his salvage boat. He transferred the leathernecks to landing craft, which then transported them to ships further offshore for medical treatment.
When his boat was damaged, Albert sent it and the wounded Marines aboard to the Sheridan, taking command of a landing craft and rescuing more men.
Assuming command of a third craft, he led four other boats to the beach and loaded them with wounded Marines, taking them to various ships, including destroyers providing fire support.
Albert took 46 wounded Marines to the Schroeder on his final trip; records show 42 of them survived.
His last task at the end of the battle was to recover bodies from the surf.
After Tarawa, Albert made training films and did war bond tours. He left the Navy after the war as a lieutenant.
Albert resumed acting and was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actor for 1953’s “Roman Holiday” and 1972’s “The Heartbreak Kid.”
Forty-four years after the battle, due largely to efforts of Schroeder crew members, he received a Bronze Star with combat “V” for his actions at Tarawa. He died at age 99 in 2005.
The writer is a lawyer and Marine Corps Reserve colonel in Norfolk, Va.
In Medieval England...I mean...Medieval England, Iowa
I love hearing stuff like this. Its so common for people of that generation too. For example it blew my mind when i found out that Scotty from startrek was there, first wave on D-day assaulting Juno Beach...
A little OT, but this made me think of how different the wars of yesterday were compared to today. The participation of our citizenry was so much more broad based - we had movie stars, executives, scientists - folks that we'd consider the "elite" on the front lines.
I tend to think that's one reason why we used to, as a society, understand the imperative of quickly and decisively ending a war - and today we're quick to get in, but then quickly lose interest. The elite have no stake in a loss. The war is fought by "other people" and the rich and powerful decision makers are free to sit back home and play politics, risking none of their own in the process. I bet if the children of the Clooneys, Penns, Clintons, Bush's etc. were all on the front line, 1. they would more carefully consider the use of force in the first place and 2. there would be none of this haggling over troop levels, funding, or calling our own forces criminals/stormtroopers etc. once we committed to war.