Roy Batterton runs his hand over a black and white photo of 14 men, relaxed, smiling, seated cordially beside a barracks in Achnacarry, Scotland. He points to a younger version of himself, a handsome fellow with curly hair, at the center of the front row. Silently he ticks through the faces. Including him, he figures only three are still alive. Most of them never made it through the war.
When the picture was taken in the summer of 1942, Marine Capt. Roy J. Batterton was 24 and eager, he says, to “be the best of the best”. He remembers that he “wanted to go to the most intense, most dangerous parts of the world”.
He had been sent to England the year before as a second lieutenant with a special platoon to guard the American Embassy, a duty fulfilled in civilian clothes. By the end of 1941, when America entered World War II, the Marines on embassy detail were ordered into uniform and issued weapons. Everyone received rapid promotions. The following June, Batterton, now a captain, and another officer took some of their men to Scotland for seven weeks of tortuous training with more experienced British commandos.
He and his men trained on the Isle of Wight to take part in an attack by Allied forces on the German held port of Dieppe, France. After the raid was canceled on three separate occasions due to poor weather, he and his troops were ordered to return to the States. They later received word that the raid had gone off with disastrous results. Most of the men with whom they had trained had been killed or captured.
“I had nothing but good luck all the way through the war”, says Batterton.
As a member of the Fourth Marine Raider Battalion, his war experience bounced him all over the South Pacific. He took part in a couple of battles in New Georgia — part of the Solomon Islands — emerging wounded and emaciated. “Several of my close friends were killed in that first battle in New Georgia. That hurt and I had to learn not to be affected”, he says.
He was sent to New Zealand for rest and rehabilitation. While there, he met his future wife, Joan.
He was sent to Guam where he was wounded again by Japanese artillery. He was sent back to New Zealand for rehab and had another opportunity to see Joan. He returned to his unit and participated in several other battles on South Pacific islands.
Batterton finally asked his commander for permission to return to New Zealand — not for rehab this time, but to get married. It took him 2,500 miles by air to reach Joan who had hastily prepared a church wedding. While waiting for the ceremony to begin, he went to a nearby bar where he met three strangers — two Air Force pilots and a Marine. Keeping up with the spur-of-the-moment theme, he enlisted the Marine as his best man and rounded out the guest list with the two pilots. He and his bride enjoyed a short honeymoon before he was ordered to Guadalcanal.
He would be wounded again before the war’s end — shot through the foot on Okinawa. It was his last war wound, but not his last war. In 1952, as a lieutenant colonel, he asked to leave his office job for a command in Korea. He arrived in Korea on a Monday and was on the front lines by Tuesday.
In some ways, he considered the fighting in Korea worse than in World War II. “We saw more incoming artillery than we received from the Japanese”, he says. “Massed artillery is terrifying”.
For his efforts during World War II and Korea, he was awarded many medals. Among them were two Bronze Stars, two Silver Stars, three Purple Hearts, and a Medal of Valor.
After Korea, he continued his military career and retired with the rank of colonel. After his retirement, he bought a farm near Berryville so his wife could pursue her love of riding horses. He also had the opportunity to achieve his life-long goal to work with public education by serving as principal of Clarke County High School. He has been an active member of American Legion Post 41 and many community organizations and causes.
Even with his many commendations and sad memories of battles past and friends lost, he sums up his wartime experiences simply: “We did our duty”.
(Editor’s Note: Colonel Batterton died on October 14, 1912)