A Leatherneck with a Saxophone Takes to the Pacific

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In Big John’s Adventure’s in Travel, I thoroughly enjoy paying tribute to the brave men and women of our armed forces.  On this page we will take a historical journey, traveling back to a time when the entire world was engulfed in war.  On this journey you will meet a patriotic young man with a love for country and a song in his heart.

This post is a brief glimpse into the life of a leatherneck who carried his trusty saxophone into war and brought the joy of music deep into the jungles of the Pacific. This particular marine has a special place in my heart for he is my paternal grandfather, Richard Edwin Cutler. Though I never had the privilege of getting to know him, I’ve heard the extraordinary music he once created could  jazz up even the most unlikely of venues.


My grandfather, Cpl. Richard Edwin Cutler, standing tall in his U.S.M.C. uniform (circa 1943).


 Richard embracing my grandmother, Lauretta, shortly before shipping off to the Pacific Theatre. 


 A happy day for two special couples at a St. Brigid’s Catholic Church, San Diego, CA (August, 1943).



 One of America’s finest ready to do his part for the war effort.

Richard with rifle

Cpl. Richard Cutler on Peleliu Island with the 12th Defense Battalion (12th Bn. Anti-Aircraft Artillery), USMC.

In September, 1944, the 12th Defense Battalion landed in Peleliu, where they endured some of the most heated fighting of World War II.  During the bitter fighting on Peleliu, the 12th Defense Battalion gave support to the 1st Marine division while it fought valiantly to take control of this small Pacific island.  Though these brave marines eventually proved victorious; the fighting they endured was later described as “the most heavily fortified ground, square yard by square yard, Marines have ever assaulted.”

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War-weary marines huddled together in a bunker house on Peleliu.


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Richard Cutler playing with the men of the 12th Battalion Anti-Aircraft Artillery, Marine Corps Band.


Though he could do damage with a rifle, this marine became quite the legend with this piece slung around his neck!


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Cpl. Richard “Dick” Cutler plays his sax as the pretty girls sing and dance (3rd bandstand from left).

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I haven’t been able to identify any of the females performing on the stage but they were most likely part of a traveling USO show. Perhaps a visitor to this site might one day be able to provide us with more information.

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 Singing to the boys so far away from home.

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Drink up fellas, you deserve it!

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Aren’t they lovely!

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 I know those young marines hated to see them walk off that stage!


Do your stuff, Gramps, and make that sax sing!

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In honor of Cpl. Richard E Cutler -USMC (8/25/1921-9/1985)

Thank you for reading my article and I hope you visit my site again real soon. Feel free to explore other areas of my blog, post a comment, and show some love on social media.

Happy travel,

Big John

Posted in Asia, Historical Journeys and tagged , , , , by with 9 comments.


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  • Larry Cutler says:

    Also John, My Dad finished his USMC Career as a Sgt. When he returned Stateside they transferred Dad to Washington, DC. He played in Harry Truman’s Inaugaral ceremonies. He also had a job writing letters to parents/releatives that their Father, Son, Brother, wasn’t coming Home. He worked for the VA in North Chicago, IL for a number of years serving as a Music Therapist. He also was an Adjutant for the DAV. He was able to get Veterans higher Veteran’s Benefits, something that’s still sorely needed TODAY. He was also employed as a security guard, working at the Nuclear Power plant in Zion, IL. If any of our Cutler Clan is planning on having children, I’d be honored to have a Richard, or Ray (His Dad) as his namesake. I’m too old to have kids. LOL anyway if you ever want to hear some hilarious stories of me and him, give me a call. (971) 716-7852. And please if any other pictures turn up please send them! L

  • Larry Cutler says:

    I remember when my Dad would go out to play in his bands on the weekends, my job was to shine his shoes! I had a small shoeshine kit. he even taught me to spit shine those shoes just like they did in the Marines. I always asked him to play “The Girl from Impanema” He’d pull out that sax and play it like it was in his head the whole time. One thing he passed on to me was a love of fishing. He could tie a popper on the end of his line, cast it out on top of a Lily pad, drag it across the water when a hungry Bass would gobble it up. We had many epic battles fishing and hooking into Northern Pike, Walleye, etc. We fished all over IL, WI. On the day he passed, i whispered in his ear that i would catch a couple of fish for him. After leaving the hospital, thats what I did. I went fishing for Trout. After about 15 minutes i had two big Rainbow trout. One for me, and one for Him. He passed away right before I had gotten home. He’s buried right outside Miller Park Milwaukee Brewers. Woods National Cemetery. So if you go to visit him one day, go to the ball game too. He’ll hear ya yell for the Cubs, lol

    • johncutler121 says:

      Larry, you and your sis added so much more to your dad’s story. I’m so glad you posted!

  • Kathy Smith says:

    John, I couldn’t resist chiming in when my half-brother Larry alerted me to your outstanding blog. First off, best wishes to your grandmother, Lauretta and a life long lived!

    Dick married my mom, Eloise in Chicago in ’56 when I was 8. My little brother, Larry came along in ’57. We spent great childhood years in southern MI and northern IL. Two of the best things that I learned from my step-dad was a love of nature, fishing and the outdoors and a love of music. In spite of venturing off into rock and R&B in the 60′-70s, I’m STILL a jazz buff to this day as that’s basically what was often played in house and it’s what I know best. I recognized all of the standards by the time I was 10. My awareness of Dick’s skill as a solid musician developed my appreciation for the jazz genre. He played all reeds—tenor, alto, soprano and baritone saxes and mentored me in clarinet during my school band years in junior high. While holding a day job he frequently worked several local gigs in Illinois and a few that were more distant that kept him away from home for a few days. I’m sure the extra bucks were a plus but it became clear to me later that it was ALL about the music—”the love of the game.” He was an experienced chart reader and improviser. At home, I recall hearing reel-to-reel recordings of his solos with the Stan Kenton Orchestra among others. A weekend trip to South Bend, IN so Dick & Mom could see a Count Basie Orchestra performance resulted in a post-show dinner at a restaurant with the entire band. I was about 9 and remember sitting on vocalist, Joe Williams lap.

    Most importantly, though, were Dick’s recountings of some of his experiences in Peleliu which, believe it or not, were not lost on a 9-year-old girl. He allowed me to take some Japanese military school artifacts he had found while overseas to a grade school show-and-tell. (Regrettably, those items are no longer in existence.) One anecdote that has remained with me is his claim to have also found in a cave a pair of Japanese shoes—with the feet still in them. I don’t doubt it. There were definitely horrors endured and witnessed by our guys during that time. Dick’s elaboration of events while we watched episodes of “Victory at Sea” in the ’50s on a black and white TV created some lasting remembrances.

    In any case, nice to meet you in this sideways manner and as they say, we’re all just separated by 6 degrees.

    All the best to you and your family. If you’re ever in Chicago you’re always welcome at my home.

    P.S. One small point of correction: I have documentation that shows Dick’s full given name was Richard EDWIN Cutler.

    • johncutler121 says:

      I just learned so much from your post; much more than what a few photographs could ever tell me- thank you sincerely. I wanted to tell you that I also have his saxophone sling at my house along with a necklace he sent my grandma from the Pacific that was made out of shells. Anyways, please stay in touch. I consider you family.

      PS. I made the correction on the name.

  • Larry Cutler says:

    My Dad Richard Cutler was an awesome Dad. It was a pleasure to read this blog, and start bawling at the end. I am glad he was my Father.

    • johncutler121 says:

      Larry, I’m glad he was your father as well as my grandfather. If he had not returned home you and I would never have existed.

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