GILBERT G. RICKMAN
Master Sergeant | Marine Corps
By late summer of 1942 when he set foot on Guadalcanal, Rickman had two stripes and four years of service with the Marine Corps. He had qualified as a parachutist in the beginning days of the Paramarines. Bold men were eager to volunteer for the increase in pay, though all were required to be unmarried and the drop-out rate was threateningly high.
A year later, he was on what became known as Edson's Ridge, fighting alongside the 1st Marine Raiders. Since August 7, the unit assaulted Gavutu and Tanambogo before turning to Guadalcanal. The two day battle on the ridge resulted in staggering Marine casualties as the Japanese pushed toward Henderson Field, but they were met with the ferocity Marines pride themselves on. On what was the last day of fighting, September 14, Rickman was shot in his left arm and shoulder and had to be evacuated.
He returned to the states to instruct at the Parachute School before sailing out to the Pacific as a Platoon Sergeant of the all black 9th Ammunition Company on Banika in the Solomon Islands. By the end of the war, he had worked up to Gunnery Sergeant and had the fitting appearance of an old salt with piercing eyes and bronzed skin.
When the Marines scrambled to send a unit to Korea in 1950, Rickman was with 4.2" Mortar Company, 5th Marines, the regiment selected to form the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade. The Corps was drastically reduced in numbers during the post-war years and was unprepared to send a sizeable force to the Korean peninsula. The provisional force they sent was the best they could muster on short notice while rebuilding the 1st Marine Division.
The Brigade first defended the Pusan Perimeter at Masan and fought north to the Naktong in the debilitating heat of a bloody summer. September 4 saw the deactivation of the brigade, and 5th Marines reverted to control of the 1st Marine Division as they reformed in Korea before storming Inchon. Acting as a platoon commander, Rickman offered professionalism and determination during his tenure with the mortar company through some of the most difficult circumstances. He distinguished himself throughout the Chosin campaign in the frigid winter of 1950 and remained with the company until the beginning of March 1951 when he rotated back to the United States.
He stayed in the Corps for another eight years, spending time with the 4th Marine's 4.2" Mortar Company in Hawaii for a few years and topping out at First Sergeant before retiring. He was truly of the 'old breed' and a model of a Marine non-comissioned officer.
Marines oblige to pile up as Sergeant Rickman demonstrates how five Japanese he killed in a dugout hand-to-hand battle looked after he was finished.