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Semper Fidelis is more than a Marine slogan
Everyone calls him “Gunner.” His name is Arthur C. Farrington, but his friends
and fellow tennis players call him “Gunner.” Most know “Gunner” was, and always will be, a U.S. Marine. Often “Gunner” will proudly
wear a shirt or a cap containing the Marine logo on it. The Marine Corps is never far from “Gunner’s” thoughts.
On the public tennis courts, where “Gunner” plays doubles a few times a week, he often plays men half his age. Sometimes he’ll play
men who have a half-century edge on him. On Armistice Day, November 11, 2007 “Gunner” Will be 85-years old.
“Gunner” is a slightly built guy. His legs aren’t what they used to be when he was a champion singles player in Haiti or when he won
all-Marine singles and doubles tennis championships four decades ago. Most of the men at the public courts know “Gunner.” He’s a nice
guy and a good doubles partner. He smiles a lot on the court - he’s a sportsman and a gentleman, but something happens when he misses
a shot that he thinks he should have made. The other side of the “Gunner” appears. He gets furious with himself. He’s close to smashing
his racket, but doesn’t. He just knows he could have done better. Thirty or forty years ago he would have handled that same shot easily
– and he knows it. It’s just the frustration he feels from the memories of yesterday.
Arthur Farrington was a U.S. Marine from 1940 to 1971. He served in the second World War in Guadalcanal, New Guinea, New Britain and
Peleliu. He served on U.S.Navy ships and later in his career when war broke out in Korea he landed at Inchon with the 1st Marine Division,
battling to Seoul, the Chosin Reservoir and on to the 38th Parallel.
remembers most of the dates of every battle. He vividly remembers the names and ranks of his fellow Marines. When I asked him if he
felt much fear when he was in combat, he looked at me with a knowing stare and said, “No, I was just glad that I wasn’t there at ‘D-Day,’
or Stalingrad, but we weren’t afraid. We had a job to do.”
to him that the Battle of Guadalcanal was one of the greatest, fiercest battles of the war he said, “Yeah, I know. Our job was to
kill ‘em for what they did to us at Pearl Harbor.”
“Gunner” talks of the
battles on Guadalcanal, of the Japanese bombers releasing their bombs, of the Mitsubishi fighters strafing him and his fellow Marines.
He talks of digging in at night, of seeing the dead American and Japanese troops laying around him. When asked again, “Weren’t you
afraid with all the death around you.” He replies, with a confident, knowing stare and says, “Nope, we had a job to do and we did
it. Our only fear was never to let our fellow Marines down. We never wanted to do that. We were loyal to each other.”
He tells, “One day we saw a Japanese convoy coming towards the beach we dug holes and started firing our 37 mm gun. We really thought
they were going to land near us, but we changed their minds.”
He saw Bob
Hope and his USO Troupe. He listened to “Tokyo Rose.” He won the Army Table Tennis Championship. He remembered when Franklin Delano
Roosevelt died in April, 1945 and he felt terrible that FDR didn’t get to see the end of the war. He was glad we dropped the Atom
bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, “It saved thousands of American lives.”
All during his tours “Gunner” kept a diary. These notes appear in two books he has written, “The Leatherneck Boys,” and “Pacific Odyssey
On Thursday, November 12, 1942 “Gunner” wrote about the day on
Guadalcanal, which was still in the midst of a fierce battle:
of ships in the harbor. Air raid. Fifteen 2M Japanese torpedo bombers (Bettys) came in 5 feet above the water. Grummans dove on them
and the AA was terrific. Andy, on the beach, saw 10 go down and no ships were hit. We could see the smoke from the bombers….Saw 10
P-38’s (Lightnings) come in. They are really big…Air raid 1:30. “Washing Machine Charlie” came over. At 2:00 a big sea battle got
underway. It has been going on for two days. Our planes sank two Japanese aircraft carriers early in the day. Flashes and tracers
all over the bay. PT boats right in there. Hit Japanese battlewagon with torpedo and 1,000 pound bomb. Fires and flares all over.
Lasted till 3:00. AA cruiser Atlanta and a destroyer went right in between two Japanese battlewagons and got sunk. Have a good Thanksgiving.
We had ham, pig-in-a-blanket (hot dogs), vegetable stew, bread pudding and cocoa on the Marine Corps’ 167th birthday.”
The battle on Guadalcanal raged from August 7, 1942 to February 7, 1943. It was a decisive, strategic time of the war. It was a major
land, naval and air confrontation. Over 1700 of our American ground forces were killed, 4,911 naval fatalities, 420 air crew members
died, 29 American ships sank and 615 American aircraft were destroyed.
On February 18, 1946 “Gunner” officially left the Marines only to re-up in the Marine Reserves in the fall of 1946, serving until
“I walked tall about being a U.S. Marine. My dad was a Marine. My
brother was in the Army Air Force.”
“Being a Marine is the proudest thing
that ever happened in my life.”
“Gunner” said that he has been watching
the PBS series, “The War.”
I’m sure that scenes on “The War” will bring
back many memories to “Gunner.” Memories of the 30 years he served his country and served it well.
“Gunner” and his wife Erlinda live in southern California. They have 2 sons and 2 daughters.
When I asked “Gunner” how he wants to “go out,” he said, “I would like somebody to blow taps, you know, a bugle.”
There aren’t many of these quiet, modest American heroes left among us.
Arthur C. “Gunner” Farrington is one of them.
Semper Fi, “Gunner,” Semper