WWII Marine Turns 100 and His Fellow Marines Came to Celebrate

These are the Marines!

A Marine celebrated his 100th Birthday last Friday. He was in his fraternity’s “great room” when he heard the news about Pearl Harbor. One of his fraternity brothers was listening to the radio and loudly announced that Pearl had been bombed by the Japanese. Each of the “brothers”, in the house, was aware that America was at war. Some joined immediately. Some waited.

After completing his freshman year, he enlisted. Why are the Marines so important? He said, “Because Marines are first to the fight.”

In 1943, he was sent to Camp Pendleton, California. He was transported by train and was assigned to the charge of three recruits. A Marine corporal gave him money to ensure that they were well-fed.

He was the first person to get dressed and wake up at boot camp. The drill sergeant was already up when he entered the tent on his first day. It was already 4:30 AM. It was 4:30 AM. This was the time he would start milking the cows at the family farm. After completing boot camp, he was assigned to JASCO (Joint Assault Signal Corp). After completing his JASCO training, he was sent to Hawaii for further training. He was then assigned to the 22nd Marine Regiment.

The Marines, along with thousands of others, trained for combat and were soon headed to battle against the enemy. He saw his first combat on the island of Engebi. Marines fled for cover as the ramp fell. He was struck in the chest with a round and fell to his knees. The Corpsman was called. He was sent to another hole in the sand next to his Captain. The Captain was killed and shot. There was no time for grief. He went on to another hole to continue his work.

He was part of four more Pacific assault landings and would then take part in the most bloody battle of the war, the attack on Sugar Loaf Hill in Okinawa. He was hiding in a hole under mortar fire when a shell came close to Sugar Loaf. He was then hit in the butt. He believed he had “bought” the farm, but he was wrong. He was hit by a water bottle that was fired into the air with a mortar around it. It hit his “backside” and caused no permanent damage. Just a big bruise and a great laugh.

He had already received his Dear John letter one year prior. His fiance had returned the engagement ring to his parents and canceled the wedding. She had fallen in love with a pilot after she met a “flyboy”. An 18-year-old girl, who was cleaning the floors of an upper-class man’s house, was pledged to her sorority. Although she wasn’t thrilled with the “pledge duty”, she was willing to do it anyway. She looked up to see a handsome man in an upright frame, and she asked the sorority sister: “That’s your brother, he’s here in the Pacific. Maybe you should write him.”

For the rest of the war, the Marine and his pen pal continued to correspond. While on occupation duty, he wrote his last letter in Tsing Tao, China. The Marine was able to return to the United States intact and he met his parents, who wept when he got off the bus wearing his Marine uniform.

He asked his pen pal to come to visit him a month later. After asking her mom for permission, she agreed. He was in her hometown so she flew there and waited at the airport. She read Saturday Evening Post while she waited. She looked up when a man called her name. She claimed she fell in love with her first person-to-person encounter. He said that he had never seen a more beautiful woman.

They were married in 1946. They celebrated 75 years of marriage last year. The Marine was now less inclined to attack the enemy, but he still held his salute. Uniformed Marines presented him with challenge coins and more. He was moved beyond words to hold his salute even in freezing conditions. He is grateful that he was among the fortunate Marines who returned home. He said that the heroes never returned home.

I tweeted about having difficulty getting the Marine Corps online portal to work. And boy, did I get an awesome response. 1.3 million.

From the DAR to the Commandant’s Office to Rich McCormick (a fellow Marine Congressman), to the local Marine Recruitment station to Marines who traveled 400 miles to salute and shake hands with a 100-year-old Marine.

We love you, Happy Birthday.