John showed up at the club every day at noon. He was an affable good natured ole guy just happy to be alive. I got to know him in the 1990s. He was on a mission to get people to quit smoking by pulling an oxygen bottle around with him . He’d often say “I survived Pearl Harbor one first wave landing and 2 second wave landings in the war in the pacific, but cigarettes are what killed me.
But John was a real life Boulder war hero. He often wore his hat “Peal Harbor survivor” He was a US Marine stationed at Hickham field on December 7 1941.
“I was just a kid. 135 1bs. 18 years old when the Japanese started bombing. I literally got blown out of my bunk. When I went outside I could see the meatballs on the zeros as the flew over. We knew instantly what was happening. There wasn’t much I could do except keep my head down. The Zeros were all over the place bombing and strafing everything. Everything was burning and destroyed. We Marines were taught to keep down during shelling and bombings which is exactly what I did. But I survived it. There was no fighting back. They surprised us and the first things they hit were our gun emplacements. Even so, running out on to an airfield during a Zero bombing strafing raid is suicide. I lived to fight another day.”
John was at Guadalcanal for one month. He didn’t like to talk about it except to say It was everything you ever read about and more.
“I survived a first wave landing there and was not wounded. It is a miracle that I never got hit. You know we lost 35% of our guys on the first landing. Mostly everyone else was wounded. I don’t know how I escaped. I guess the good Lord was with me.”
He survived Second Wave landings on New Britain Island and Tarawa.
“No I never got wounded and I never got sick. A lot of guys did. Between malaria and dysentery and the Japs trying to kill us we had over 65% casualty rate on those islands. I guess it was my age. I had just turned 18 so my immune system must have been pretty strong, maybe that and growing up on a farm here in Boulder”
Those landing were pretty bad. You just had to keep your head down, make your way up the beach and try to find some cover. Then we could get a position in the jungle so we could fight. Once we established a beach head, the Japanese didn’t stand the chance, but you couldn’t tell them that. But we knew. They had the entire United states Marine Corp landing on their islands and we weren’t going to leave until we occupied them. That’s what they didn’t understand. They were good fighters and dedicated, but we were better. We had an armada of ships and the wherewithal to out bomb and out last them….. and we out fought them man to man……so much for being a Samari. A lot of them were you know. They’d come at us with their swords….they were no match. We were Marines…we out Samaried them. They didn’t expect it. They thought we were weak and couldn’t fight. But they didn’t know what a Marine was. They soon found out.
I think history will find that US Marines in the pacific will go down as the greatest warrior class in history.”
John died of emphysema in 1994. Todays post is for him and all Marines who fought in the pacific and who are fighting today in bitter battles in Afghanistan.
from Americas most famous small cityJann Scott Boulder Colorado