By Sgt. Dan Polier

Cpl. Barney Ross came home from the wars the other day. He hobbled down the gangplank of a hospital ship at San Diego leaning heavily on a cane. It was a native-made affair studded with sure enough Japanese buck teeth. The cane was a grim reminder of the harrowing night at Guadalcanal when he flattened 22 Japanese. As everybody knows it was one of the few times that Barney was evenly matched.

As he walked down the gangplank, Ross smiled and waved his hand, but his eyes were searching for the ground. When he reached the end of the gangplank he stopped in his tracks, kneeled as if to pray, and kissed the ground. It was good to be home.

“This I vowed to do if I ever saw American soil again—sometimes out there we’re not so sure we shall.”

barney ross boxing usmc

Barney walks the gangplank home.

Bracing himself with his cane, Barney watched as his buddies were carried from the big hospital ship. They, too, were a grim reminder of the night he stood guard over his wounded comrades in the bloody jungles of the ‘Canal.

“The night I spent in that shell hole with five wounded marines and two soldiers was by all odds the toughest round I’ve ever slugged through,” Ross said. “I thought the bell would never sound.”

All this time, Barney has slugged through a lot of rounds and slugged a lot of fighters. He won three different boxing titles. But that round he won on the ‘Canal is something you just can’t measure in titles or service medals.  It’s different when you are slugging for your life.

Barney continued his story:

“We’d been expecting Army units momentarily when we were cut off by the Japs. We dived for a pair of shell holes about 10 feet apart. I was the only one unhurt.

“It was about 4pm, and in the shell hole with me was an Indian named Pvt. Monak. My best buddy, Pvt. R.C. Atkins of Rome, Ga., was in the other hole with two other marines. That night two soldiers wriggled into my shell hole.”

The Japanese poured mortar and machine-gun fire into the two shell holes until 7 the next morning. Three of the wounded marines were hit again during the terrible night. It was left to Ross to hold the Japanese at bay. He crawled around gathering grenades and ammunition. The others were too badly injured to even help load the rifles.

“In all, I threw 21 hand grenades, fired 100 rounds of M1 rifle ammunition and at least 80 rounds from my Springfield,” Ross said.

“They never did get a telling punch in on our little group.

“Sometime during the night I got a leg and arm full of shrapnel,” Barney related. “But, by golly, I can’t tell you when it was—I was just too busy to notice. I had malaria at the time, too.

“The next morning Freeman Atkins suggested that we crawl from our shell hole,” Ross continued. “I lifted him up on my shoulders, when looking up, I beheld what looked like angels from heaven coming toward us. It was Capt. LeBlanc, Lt. Murdock and enough of the others to make us realize the round was over.”

The round was over all right and Barney had won. The captain counted 22 dead Japanese and 30 bullet creases in Barney’s helmet.

Barney has been recommended for the Navy Cross or the Army Distinguished Service Cross. He has already been named as boxing’s “man of the year.” We would like to think of him as just a damn good marine.

barney ross boxer usmc

Barney never kissed the canvas as a fighter. This was different. It was good to be home.

 For More on Barney Ross Check Out:

Max Baer and Barney Ross: Jewish Heroes of Boxing

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