Private First Class (PFC) Ralph Charles Simoneau of Germantown, Wisconsin, served in the U.S. Marine Corps from October 22, 1943 to July 21, 1946 and is among the Lance Sijan Award honorees for 2019.
Enlisting in Oct 1943, Ralph attended recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego (Platoon 924). Upon completion, he volunteered for the 2nd Raider Bn. Later, after the Para Marines and Raiders were disbanded, he and his fellow Marines became the core of the newly formed 5th Marine Division.
Ralph was assigned to Company D, 2d Battalion, 27th Marine Regiment, volunteering for training in a 60mm mortar section. After additional MOS training, Ralph and his unit set sail for Hawaii. There, they conducted more field training before deploying to the island of Iwo Jima. Upon reaching Iwo Jima, Ralph and his unit hit “Red Beach 1” on the first wave, (the second overall wave on the island). 50,000 Marines aboard LSTs were boarding LVTs deep in the bowels of their respective ships, while the naval bombardment commenced.
As H-Hour was approaching, the shelling tapered off and their landing crafts headed for the ship’s launching ramps. According to Ralph, what seemed like only seconds later, the Marines were down the ramps and in the water, heading for the beaches of a pork chop shaped island, Iwo Jima. None of his fellow Marines or sailors had any idea that they would shortly be fighting in one of the toughest and bloodiest battles in the history of the U.S. Marine Corps. Seven battalions of the 4th and 5th Marine Divisions were tasked to hit the black volcanic beaches—Ralph was in the first group of assault waves.
H-Hour was set for 0900L, and they landed right on time. The ferocity of the Japanese resistance to his unit’s landing has been thoroughly documented, but he makes a point to always remind people of the price that was paid to secure Iwo Jima. The 5thMarDiv killed 7,710 of the 13,449 Japanese troops interred on the island. The 5thMarDiv suffered 8,770 casualties, 2,482 of which were killed in action. Seventeen of the Twenty-Seven Medals of Honor earned on Iwo Jima were awarded to the Marines and Sailors of 5thMarDiv. Only four of those who participated in the original assault waves survived the battle. Ralph is one of those survivors. In total, the 3rd, 4th and 5th MarDivs suffered more than 21,000 casualties, with 7,000 KIAs, during the Battle of Iwo Jima. Ralph spent 36 days on Iwo Jima before getting back on ship.
Ralph received the Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Presidential Unit Citation, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and World War II Victory Medal.
Immediately after he was discharged from the Marine Corps, Ralph enrolled in the Milwaukee State Teachers College. While a student, he met his future wife, and eventually left school to get married.
After leaving college, Ralph held several jobs, none of which he was satisfied with due to feeling underutilized. This held true until he finally landed at the Milwaukee County Transit System. Ralph held several positions during his 30-year tenure with MCTS. His final position was that of Route Supervisor, where more than 600 buses fell under his responsibility. Ralph retired at the age of 62.