OCEANSIDE — Tom Bussjaeger smiled from ear to ear on Oct. 11 as he exited the YAT-YAS Museum at the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton’s Del Mar boat basin area.
Surrounded by members of the Marines Assault Amphibian School Battalion, a color guard and friends, Bussjaeger celebrated the re-dedication of the monument he and members of his World War II amphibian tractor battalion erected in 2001 to commemorate their unit’s contributions.
“I feel like I’m a Marine again,” Bussjaeger said. “I never did lose that, but I feel like I am so proud of the Marine Corps as I see them today.
“I told them in there today that I want to make sure the 2nd Amtrac Battalion lives with that monument that we have here,” Bussjaeger said.
Wednesday marked the 16th anniversary of the monument, which commemorates the U.S. Marines 2nd Amphibian Battalion, which served in the Pacific Ocean theater of World War II from 1942 to 1945. Bussjaeger, Bob Limpus and Bob Ornsby built and financed the modest memorial, which includes the names of his unit.
Bussjaeger presented the colonel of the local battalion a binder that tells the story of the history of the monument.
“They’re just like my brothers here, they are just the greatest group of people,” Bussjaeger said of the marines on hand. “It’s too bad some people can’t see the spirit of the Marine Corps.”
The Marine Corps worked quickly to put together the ceremony, which included much of the pageantry of the 2001 dedication. Bussjaeger was flanked by several friends, including Bill Burke, who served in a different amphibian tractor unit and lives in the same assisted-living facility as Bussjaeger.
“The Marine Corps was everything to me, I would have stayed for 30 years if I could have stayed. I loved every minute of it,” Burke said. “Today almost brought a few tears to my eyes. It was very emotional.”
The Marine Corps amtrac battalions fought in some of the key Pacific battles during the war, including Saipan, Tarawa, Tinian and Okinawa.
The amtracs, short for amphibious tractors, are the predecessors of the amphibious assault vehicles used in today’s military that can operate on land and at sea. The military began using them in 1942 as a way to transport troops from ship to shore. The vehicles were critical to the Pacific efforts because they could traverse coral reefs that tanks and other vehicles couldn’t.