75th Anniversary and Rededication of Ronan’s Parrish Memorial Field



II, 1945.

During the 29 September football game against Browning, the Ronan community celebrated the 75th Anniversary of SGT Laverne Parrish Memorial Field.  Laverne Parrish, a 1937 graduate of Ronan High School, was killed in action in the Philippines during WWII, and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Truman in July 1945.  The school’s orginal athletic field was dedicated to Parrish in the fall of 1948.  To make way for a new high school building, the field was relocated to it’s present location in the fall of 1969.  Many improvements have been made since.  It is now one of the top high school fields in the state of Montana.

     As a tribute to the heroism of Laverne Parrish and appreciation for the support of Ronan schools and the community, the 1974 Class A State Football Champion Ronan Chiefs will dedicate commemorative stones set on the stadiums entry plaza.  

     Attached is an American Legion article chronicling the heroism of the “Montana Medic”, Laverne Parrish, and pictures of the commemorative plaques which along with a welcome message will be placed on the stones.

Pat Meagher speaks to Jeff Smith about Laverne Parrish, the stadium’s history, and the planned event on the lighter side.

(This article was taken from the book, “Montana in the Wars,” which was first published in 1976 in serial form in
the Montana Legionaire, official monthly publication of the American Legion in Montana.)
Everyone in Charlie Company could hear the plaintiff cries of the two young infantrymen who had just been cut
down by Japanese machine-gun fire. Surprised by the enemy fire, the company had pulled back to regroup and size up
its position. But it had left two wounded out in the open at the scene of the ambush. Now the enemy was content to
wait for someone to come get them-if anyone could reach the two men in an openly exposed position. It was an old
Japanese trick: baiting U.S. troops by allowing the wounded to suffer in full view of their friends. And all the while, time
was an important element because these wounded were dying.
“Oh, my God, help me,” moaned one. “We can’t help them,” remarked the platoon sergeant. “They’re dead.”
But one man had decided these two would not die, nor would they e left to the unmerciless Philippine jungle or the
Japanese army. Without a word to anyone, he moved from under cover and sped toward the two wounded men.
Everyone in Charlie Company whispered a silent prayer. “God help him,” said one soldier. As he moved forward,
Army Technician Fourth Class Laverne Parrish, C Company’s young Montana medic, knew he was going to need all the
help or prayers he could get.
Running, Walking, crawling, evading the Japanese fire now directed at him, the young medic made his way to
the two wounded men. His concern was now for the wounded; the Japanese fire aimed at him was coming dangerously
close to them. The realized, as so many other combat medics were already aware, that the Japanese were sighting in on
the bright, red cross emblazoned on his helmet. As a sign of healing, it made a perfect target for the enemy who used it
to full advantage.
Reaching the first man, Parrish examined him, administered first aid to him, and then began dragging him back
to cover. All the while he continually placed his body between his wounded ward and the Japanese. As if by a miracle, he
made it with the first wounded; eager hands rushed to help him. As his friends took this trooper from him, Parrish said
nothing. Instead, he turned around and went after the second. The odds were against him; he was pushing his luck.
Once again, through the 25 yards of exposed area he went. And once again, he had made it. Reaching the second man,
he dragged him back to cover. The Japanese had lost all three; their trick had failed. And everywhere the men of
Company C talked about the exploit of the “Montana Medic.”
The exploit of Laverne Parrish on that hot, muggy day of January 18, 1945, was just the beginning! And as his
company pushed through the jungled hell of Luzon on the Philippines, Parrish’s further exploits would make him a
legend in the U.S. 25 th Infantry Division, bring his death, and gain him immortality as one of America’s Medal of Honor
Parrish’s story properly begins in Knox City, MO on July 19, 1919- his birthday. With his parents he moved to
Montana in 1934, settling in the small town of Ronan in the northwestern part of the state. He was a typical small town
youngster. He enjoyed life, but he was worried about the menace of European War and the threat the Japanese seemed
to present in the Far East.
Laverne Parrish was one of the early birds. He enlisted in the U. S. Army in March of 1941, several months
before the entry of the United States into World War II. After basic training, he decided to become a medic; he wanted
to help save lives more than he wanted to take them. He took pride in his assignment in the 25 th Infantry Division outfit,
nicknamed “Tropic Lightening,” can boast, even now, that it has never served in the continental limits of the United
States. It was organized in October of 1941 from the members of the old Hawaii Division then stationed at the famed
Schofield Barracks. The 25 th saw combat the first day of the war, being in Hawaii on the “Day of Infamy.”
The25th, under Maj. Gen. J. Lawton Collins, began preparing itself for combat with an enemy who would use the
jungle to his fullest advantage. The division was brought up to full strength by August, 1942, with the arrival of the 161 st

Regiment from the United States. The 161 st had formerly been a National Guard outfit. It came into service as an
element of the 41 st Infantry Division, but had now been transferred to the 25 th Division. T-4 Laverne Parrish was with the
161 st Infantry.
“Tropic Lightening’s” first combat zone was the island of Guadalcanal. Savage fighting between the Marines and
the Japanese epitomized the scene; on the sea the Navy fought to stay with and maintain our land troops, but it was
suffering heavy losses. The job of the 25 th was to relieve the Marines with its fresh troops and hit the enemy and turn the
tide against the Japanese once and for all on Guadalcanal. Guadalcanal was the first of many American stepping stones
leading back to Japan. The 25 th saw more action after Guadalcanal. In 1943 they helped in the invasion of Munda; later, it
proceeded to New Georgia. On New Georgia, the 161 st came up with a slogan: “Golden Gate in ’48.”
The tide in the Pacific was turning against Japan, but the cost in American lives was high. MacArthur’s Southwest
Command was leapfrogging up through the Solomon chain and New Guinea; its objective being the reconquest of the
Philippines Islands. When America lost the Philippines in 1942, MacArthur promised, “I shall return.” This was the
objective; to free the suffering masses in the Philippines who had fought so valiantly and desperately with their
American allies in the dark, bitter days of the Bataan and Corregidor; and the final loss of the Philippines to the Japanese
in 1942 meant a brutal administration from an Asiatic conqueror.
Many military and political leaders did not want to return to the Philippines. They wanted President Roosevelt to
bypass the Philippines and capture Formosa. The Philippines, they said, would be too long and costly a struggle. The
Japanese army on the islands was larger than ours, so why risk such a costly encounter? The island of Formosa, they
continued, was more important because of its strategic position, and because of its use as an unsinkable aircraft carrier
by the Japanese.
On July 27-28, 1944, President Roosevelt traveled to Pearl Harbor in order to discuss the military situation with
his two top men in the Pacific: MacArthur and Admiral Chester Nimitz. “What was their opinion,” he asked. The Navy
strongly urged bypassing the Philippines; so did many others from the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
MacArthur was stunned. He said very little during the first day of the meeting. When it came his turn to speak,
he delivered an adamant plea for the United States to return to the Philippines. He spoke of tactics and strategy briefly.
Then, with his usual command of oratory which is classical Greek in style, he pleaded for a return to the Philippines. We
owed it to these people to return. How could we leave them to the Japanese when they had suffered so much for us and
our way of life? To abandon them would be a disgrace that America would never forget.
Roosevelt was moved; so were many others. MacArthur would have his way. Roosevelt ordered the reconquest
of the Philippines. On October 21, 1944, the 6 th Army under MacArthur landed two corps on the beaches of Leyte Gulf. In
front of a Signal Corps microphone on the beach just won, MacArthur recalled the bloody epic of the past. “This is the
Voice of Freedom, General MacArthur speaking. People of the Philippines: I have returned.”
MacArthur could announce that Leyte was secure on December 26, 1944. In the meantime, the worst threat to
American recovery of the island had been beaten. One of the great naval engagements in world history, certainly the
largest, had taken place and had been won. The Japanese fleet had been destroyed in its last effort to regain dominion
of the Pacific. The recapture of Luzon was MacArthur’s next step in retaking the Philippines; on this island was the
historic capital, Manila.
The Japanese meant to provide stiff opposition. The invasion soon found itself under attack from Japanese
“kamikazes.” These suicide planes took a heavy toll of ships and lives. On January 6, 1945, as the fleet proceeded to
Luzon, Japanese planes struck 16 ships, 10 of them seriously. But MacArthur was not to be stopped; not now! The
importance of Luzon was summed up by MacArthur when he said, “In the campaign for liberation of the Philippines, I
now faced my final and decisive objective, the recapture of Luzon. It was a difficult and dangerous problem, for the
Japanese forces greatly outnumbered my own.”

American troops, including the 6 th , 37 th , 40 th , and 43 rd Infantry Divisions, assaulted the beaches on January 9,

  1. At first, opposition was light. The Japanese had expected landings farther north in the gulf on beaches to which
    they themselves had come at the outbreak of the war. Japanese resistance began to stiffen; they were not licked yet.
    MacArthur described the enemy’s determination: “As we pressed forward, Japanese resistance began to stiffen. The
    terrain lent itself to defense, and they used it to full advantage. They dug caves into the sides of hills and connected
    them with tunnels, well supplied with ammunition. There was no surrendering. Every Japanese soldier fought to the
    death. You had to blow his head off or thrust him through with a bayonet.”
    As casualties mounted, the 25 th , which was held in reserve, received the call to hit the beaches. On January 11,
    1945, the “Tropic Lightening” men poured into landing aircraft headed for Luzon. Still with them after five campaigns
    was T-4 Laverne Parrish. The division landed in the San Fabian area and drove across Luzon’s Central Plain to crash into
    the enemy six days later at Binalonan. It was here that Laverne Parrish rescued the first two of many men who would
    live because of him. Parrish was asked by friends why he went after the two wounded men. After all, he tried to tell
    them, “that’s my job.”
    Charlie Company soon cleared away this initial Japanese opposition. Division patrols, meanwhile, learned that
    nearby San Manuel was well organized for defense and that it was held by a strong force. It had to be taken. The new
    division commander, General Charles Mullins, launched the 161 st against it, strongly supported by air bombardment and
    artillery. The approach to San Manuel was an open field; it would provide little cover for advancing troops. In the early
    hours of January 24, Charlie Company encountered heavy enemy crossfire in attempting to attack across open terrain.
    Finding it impossible to advance, the company fell back to the shelter of a ditch; but Parrish had already caught sight to
    two wounded men out beyond the ditch in full view of the enemy.
    Instantly, the heroic aid man left his sheltered position and started working his way across the field. He managed
    to bring both men in, but on his second trip he realized that there were more wounded lying in that open field than
    originally thought. He went right back, twisting, squirming, snaking from one casualty to another until he had treated 12
    men. Three of the more seriously wounded he carried back with him to the ditch. He made them comfortable; then he
    proceeded to tend to some 37 other wounded in the ditch. He was an angel of mercy. He was charmed, according to
    some of those who had witnessed his recent exploits.
    Parrish never stopped working that day. He moved among the men, caring for them, boosting their morale,
    soothing their worried minds. The enemy fire had not slackened; it was as intense as ever. Suddenly, a Japanese mortar
    shell landed in the midst of the wounded. When the smoke had cleared the tragedy of what had really happened was
    apparent. T-4 Laverne Parrish had been mortally wounded. Despite aid, he died within a few minutes.
    The 25 th , along with the rest of the American forces drove forward. On February 4, 1945, MacArthur re-entered
    Missoula. But the courage of a young corpsman did not go unforgotten. On July 13, 1945, General Orders No. 55
    announced that the Army had awarded, posthumously, the Medal of Honor to Laverne Parrish. His courage was beyond
    His parents received the Medal for their son in a public ceremony in Missoula, Montana. Colonel A. M. Weyland,
    on behalf of President Harry S. Truman made the presentation. The date was August 5, 1945, and already American
    leaders envisioned an end to the war with a weapon that would make war unthinkable.
    In the course of World War II, six army medical corpsmen who won the Medal of Honor saved the lives of 151
    men. These men are the most respected among military personnel. Usually, their rewards are small. After all, say many
    they’re just doing their duty. Most of us would agree that they have done more than their duty.
    Why? What inspires the corpsmen of our armed forces? Sargent Thomas J. Kelly, a Medal of Honor medic
    serving with the 7 th Armored Division in Europe put it this way: “I was a kid who’d been brought up to believe in certain
    things. I had been taught that a man fought for his country when it was in danger. I knew that a man owed loyalty to his
    buddies, and if that meant he had to stick his neck out, why he didn’t stop to figure the consequences, he just dived in
    and helped. Maybe it sounds corny, but that’s what I believed.”
  2. But it doesn’t sound corny; it sounds right, just right. Laverne Parrish would agree!

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