Lt General USMC William Van RyZin’sLt General USMC William Van RyZin’s Dog Tag Returned to Son, Retired Col Peter Van RyZin

Lt. General USMC William John Van Ryzin was born April 20, 1914 and died, at the age of 88, on July 1, 2002 in Washington, DC.

On October 22, 2011, 9 years after his death, his son, retired Col Peter Van RyZin was presented with his fathers dog tag by the POW/MIA Awareness Committee of NJ.

Command Chronology April 1968

Lt General USMC William John Van RyZin was commissioned in the Marine Corps in 1935 after graduating from the University of Wisconsin and he retired in 1971 as a United States Marine Corps Lieutenant General. (See links to the right for military documents, excerpts from books, etc, of his service)

He was preceded in death by two wives, Evelyn Grace Ingenthron and Joan E. Macdonald. As of July 1, 2001, he was survived by two sisters, Helen Venrose and Mary Jane Leuer; one brother, Arthur Van Ryzin; two sons, Peter Van Ryzin and Joseph Van Ryzin; four grandsons and three great-grandchildren.

He was a member of Trinity Episcopal Church, Shepherdstown, WV, a member of Shepherdstown Men’s Club, Forty and Eight; was a founding member of the Historic Shepherdstown Commission with many years of restoration work of the Entler Hotel; and was principal volunteer for the Jefferson County United Way, where he received the de Tocqueville Award for being Mr. United Way.

Lt. General Van Ryzin’s dog tag was brought home from Vietnam by retired Chief of Police (Deptford, NJ) Ray Milligan in 1993. Milligan was a volunteer with a group called Operation Smile, a medical mission that travels the globe and performs corrective surgery for children with cleft palates or cleft lips, mostly in Third World countries. Milligan, a former Force Recon Marine who’d served in Vietanam, had gone to Vietnam as logistics support coordinator for the medical program.

There, in the small shops that lined the street outside his hotel,  he bought approx 400 dog tags that were being sold by a street vendor – one of those dog tags was.Lt General USMC William Van RyZin’s.

A year ago, he handed the dog tag collection over to the POW/MIA Awareness Committee of NJ. SInce that time, they have been diligently working on locating and reuniting the dog  tags with veterans and their families through research and coordination, with the help of several veterans organizations

CONDITION RED -Marine Defense Battalions in World War II
18th Defense Battalion (October 1943-April 1944)

Activated at New River, North Carolina, by Lieutenant Colonel Harold C. Roberts, who was replaced in January 1944 by Lieutenant Colonel Wil-liam J. Van Ryzin, the unit became the 18th Antiaircraft Artillery Battal-ion on 16 May of that year. By August, echelons of the battalion were located at Saipan and Tinian, but by September it had come together on the latter island, where it remained until the end of the war.

Reorienting the Defense Battalion

At Marine Corps headquarters, General Vandegrift, now the Commandant, faced a problem of us-ing scarce manpower to the greatest possible effect. Vandegrift’s director of the Division of Plans and Policies, Gerald C. Thomas, promoted to brigadier general, received instructions to maintain six divisions and four aircraft wings, plus corps troops and a service establishment — all without a sub-stantial increase in aggregate strength. Most of the men that Thomas needed already were undergo-ing training, but he also recommended eliminating special units, including the defense battalions. Abolishing the defense battalions promised to be difficult, however, for the Navy Department felt it would need as many as 29 battalions to protect advance bases. General Vandegrift exercised his powers of persuasion on Admiral Ernest J. King, the Chief of Naval Operations, and talked the naval officer into agreeing not only to form no new defense battalions but also to accept deactivation of two of the existing 19 units, while reorienting the 17 survivors to meet the current threat. The proc-ess began in April 1944, and five months later, the defense battalions that began the year had con-verted to antiaircraft artillery units, though a few retained their old designation, and in rare instances the 155mm artillery group remained with a battalion as an attachment rather than an integral component.
A new table of organization appeared in July 1944 and reflected the emphasis on 90mm and 40mm antiaircraft weapons, though it left the manpower level all but unchanged. The document called for a battalion of 57 officers and 1,198 enlisted men, organized into a headquarters and ser-vice battery, a heavy antiaircraft group, a light antiaircraft group, and a searchlight battery. Only three
Coast and Field Artillery
The first defense battalions were equipped with 5-inch/51-caliber naval guns which were originally designed for shipboard mounting and later extensively modified for use ashore. These weapons were then emplaced in static positions, but with great difficulty. The guns fired high explosive, armor piercing, and chemical shells.
Initially, the defense battalions were issued the standard M1918 155mm “GPF” guns, which had split trails, single axles, and twin wheels. These World War I relics deployed to the South Pacific with the defense battalions. Later, the battalions were issued standard M1A1 155mm “Long Tom” guns. This piece weighed 30,600 pounds, had a split trail and eight pneumatic tires, was pulled by tractor, and was served by a combined crew of 15 men. It was pedestal mounted on the so-called “Panama” mount for its seacoast defense role. It combined great firepower with high mobility and proved to be a workhorse that remained in the inventory after World War II.
units retained the designation of defense battalion until they disbanded — the 6th, the 51st, and the 52d. In the end, most of the defense battalions became antiaircraft artillery outfits and functioned under the Fleet Marine Force, Pacific.
While these changes were taking place, defense battalions participated in the final phase of the Central Pacific campaign — three successive landings in the Mariana Islands by V Amphibious Corps and III Amphibious Corps, and the destruction by American carrier pilots of the naval air arm that Japan had reconstituted in the two years since the Battle of Midway. In the Marianas, the Ma-rines stormed large islands, with broken terrain overgrown by jungle, a battlefield far different from the compact, low-lying coral outcroppings of the Gilberts and Marshalls. The Marianas group also differed from the recently captured atolls in that the larger islands had a sizable civilian populace that had lived in towns flattened by bombs and artillery.
On 15 June 1944, the conquest of the Marianas began when V Amphibious Corps attacked Saipan with the 2d and 4th Marine Divisions, backed by the Army’s 27th Infantry Division. The 17th Defense Battalion, under Lieutenant Colonel Thomas G. McFarland, reached Saipan in July, where the 18th Defense Battalion, led by Lieutenant Colonel William J. Van Ryzin, joined it and became part of the island garrison. Although Saipan was by now officially secure, danger from various tropical maladies persisted. After a briefing on the island’s innumerable health hazards, Technical Sergeant John B.T. Campbell heard a private ask the medical officer “Sir, why don’t we just let the Japs keep the island?”
On 24 July, Marines boarded landing craft on Saipan and sailed directly to Tinian, the second objective in the Mariana Islands. McFarland’s battalion landed at Tinian in August and devoted its en-ergy to building and improving gun positions, roads, and living areas. The battalion’s historian, Charles L. Henry, Jr., recalled that “round-the-clock patrols were still a necessity, with many Japa-nese still on the island.” Skirmishes erupted almost daily, as Marines from the battalion “cleaned up the island.” The 18th Defense Battalion moved from Saipan to Tinian, where the 16th Defense Bat-talion joined it in September to help protect the new airfields.

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