The ‘Sea-Going Quarterbacks’

By and

Max Gollaher never received the Purple Heart for his service in World War II, though he probably deserved it.

None of the men in his battalion?all of whom were injured in the war at one point or another?received the Purple Heart.

“We were dismissed and forgotten,” said Gollaher, now 77.

Forgotten by the U.S. Navy because of the secrecy of their unit, Gollaher was a quartermaster (navigator) on the top-secret Landing Craft Control.

He explained his war experience this way: “Have you seen the movie ‘Saving Private Ryan?’ The beach scene?That is what I went through six times.”

Gollaher is the only Utahn who was a member of the LCC. His boats brought the Army and Marines to the beaches during the first wave of an invasion.

“We didn’t do much shooting, but we go shot at,” he said.

Initially, the coral reef hampered the Navy ships, turning them over and drowning many sailors. To solve this problem, underwater demolition teams went in before an invasion, destroyed a section of coral reef and marked the area with buoys.

These buoys emitted sonar waves that only the LCCs could monitor. These $500,000 boats lead the armada into the open area of beach.

“The Marines called us the sea-going quarterbacks,” Gollaher said.

Being on the front line, and with only 50-caliber double barrels for defense, the LCCs were pretty much sitting targets.

“We were mostly hit with mortars,” he said.

The LCC had an 84 percent casualty rate. Because of the high number of deaths, each member of the battalion had to master three separate jobs.

“We all crossed-over if one got killed,” he said.

Death was just part of the job. Gollaher had three men die in his arms. He recalls one soldier “shot in the guts” who kept asking Gollaher where he would go when he died.

“I had a minute and a half to talk to him. I was about 22 years old myself and I was trying to console this young boy,” he said.

Gollaher said every soldier had to rationalize the situation to remain sane.

“I could always look at life when it was bad and say it could be worse,” he said. “I wasn’t being thrown into the hole, I was throwing some other guy into the hole.”

He said his fellow troops would make jokes with the wounded, the dying and the dead.

“It bothers me more in the last few years than it did when I was younger,” said the retired elementary school principle.

Through all of the battles, Gollaher stayed intact?except he is now deaf in his left ear.

“I consider myself lucky,” he said.

One thing that helped give him hope during so many battles is the patriarchal blessing he received as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“The patriarch gave me the blessing. He said, ‘You will go into military service and your life will be threatened by land, sea and air, but you will be returned home safe if you follow the right path.’ That gave me a religious foothold and something I based my hopes on.”