Tag Archives: WWII

Dad’s Affair with the Military History Channel

My Dad was an avid reader. Foreign Affairs kept him current on geo-political dynamics. The Economist informed him about money and economies around the world. The New York Times and Christian Science Monitor made sure that he kept up with U.S. news. Until a couple of years ago, he consumed non-fiction books about Shakespeare (Harold Bloom), history (Jared Diamond) and military strategy (Stephen Ambrose).

As he lost his concentration for longer works, the ratio between the printed word and the boob tube reversed itself. Television went from an evening pastime that would begin with the evening news shows (a vestige of the time when they used to be actual, thoughtful shows presided over by thoughtful anchors like Huntley and Brinkley or Walter Cronkite) to the status of electronic companion.

During his last few months of life, he consumed the Military History Channel almost exclusively.

Hour after hour, day after day, he watched familiar black and white images culled from news reels. Military advances were demonstrated with ever more lethal efficiency through film clips and interviews about wars from the Revolutionary War forward. Some documented in painful detail the creeping advance of the Marines in the Pacific Theater of WWII. Dad’s war.

I worried about the effect of this steady diet of war video. Why ingest gruesome images of loss and destruction? Would it trouble his dreams?

He was, like so many veterans of his age, not one to talk about the war. Certainly he didn’t regale us with tales of his buddies, near misses, brave efforts or hijinks. War was a serious topic, rarely broached.

I sometimes felt like Dad’s own movie clips were running in a loop in his head. Without preamble, Dad would occasionally look up from a glass of wine and remember standing on the loading dock in San Diego with the sudden responsibility for loading a warship that would soon be bound for Kwajalein.

Did the images on the small screen take him back to a time and place he needed to revisit? He seemed expressionless when he watched the scenes. How could they not depress him?

I considered switching the channel, suggesting different fare, but I stopped myself. He had so little control over his life at that point. Who was I to legislate what he watched? I wondered if perhaps he needed to review this important part of his history. Or perhaps he just followed a habit formed long ago when he used to be a student of military strategy.

In those last, long weeks, I sat next to him and wondered what he thought.

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My Father’s War

Henry at the 23rd Marine's base camp in Maui, 1945

Henry at the 23rd Marine’s base camp in Maui, 1945

(Third in a family legacy series. In the second, I tried to imagine what Mom’s experience must have been like on the home front, which I titled, “My Mother’s War.”)

Like many men of the Greatest Generation, Dad was always quick to deflect attention from his accomplishments during the war. The real heroes, he said, were the guys who were wounded or died. As a child, I morbidly wondered if he ever killed someone. So far removed was it from my experience that I thought of it like something from a movie. I never found out if he did, never asked him, perhaps because when the topic of the war arose, there was always a pause. For a moment he seemed far away, remembering scenes, perhaps. Or people.

Only in the last 15 years of his life did he share information about his role during the war. Even when sharing relatively lighthearted stories, he would often be moved to tears as memories welled up.

After instructing recruits at the base in Quantico for two years on rifle marksmanship, bayonet training, mortars, map reading, nomenclature, and cleaning of all the military weapons, he received orders to join the 23rd Marines, 4th Marine Division in 1943.

He was to serve as R-4, Regimental Supply Officer.

When I was young, I didn’t think being a supply officer sounded very exciting. But Dad would put it in context for me, explaining, “Your intelligence officer tells you what the enemy can do, while your supply officer tells you what you can do.” The supply officer’s job is to ensure combat readiness by having the personnel and materials in the right place at the right time to achieve the combat objective. The lack of food and supplies confounded Gen. Robert E. Lee on his northernmost advance to Gettysburg, and we know how that ended. Had the Confederate Army had adequate supplies, things might have turned out very differently.

Dad’s explained his first assignment, loading a ship in San Diego in preparation for the 4th Marines’ deployment to the battle lines in the Pacific in December 1943 or January 1944:

“I was told to take a communications group and establish an advance command post with about 15 guys.  Rhett Williamson was S4 Supply and Logistics Officer.  …He had stuff coming from five places.  The first time I know about it is a truck shows up at the gate for instructions.  We start getting these loads of stuff.  Loading should have been pre-planned.  Rhett isn’t down on the docks.  It’s chaos unless I do something about it.   This went on for 10 days.  When we got through, we were the only ones in the U.S. who knew what we had and where it was. Louis Jones, Regimental Commander, asked Rhett what was going on and kept him standing there until 4 a.m.  Then he said, “Campbell, you are now R4 (Regimental Supply Officer).

“We got it all on there.  At 2 a.m., I got a call at the gate.  ‘We have a load of explosives on there.’  The Commanding Officer said he didn’t want any explosives on the base without him knowing about it.  So I called him at 2 a.m.  I never heard from him again.

“At 6 p.m., we’re all loaded up.  We were supposed to leave at 8 a.m.  At 7 p.m., a truck shows up with ammunition.  I asked him what was in the trucks.  He said enough for a round of fire for an entire regiment.  So I told them to unload the ship, put everything on the dock, and put the ammunition in the boat.

“That’s how you load a ship. You figure out what you need in terms of beans and bullets.  You figure out what you need first and put them on last. We disembarked right on time.”

According to John Costello writing in The Pacific War 1941-1945, the 4th was to participate in Operation Flintlock, the plan to assault Japanese positions in the Marshall Islands that were being used as bases for ships, submarines and air staging. The battle plan was hotly debated because of the bloody lesson of Tarawa, which had resulted in heavy losses.

The plan called for attacking two positions in the Kwajalein atoll. Roi-Namur, the northern objective, was made up of two islands connected by a narrow causeway. In alignment with battle tactics learned the hard way based on the first two years of the war in the Pacific, the islands were blasted by battleships for three days before the amphibious landing.

Now S-4, Dad’s job was to get materials ashore. He secured a boat driver and chose to land supplies after the first wave of infantrymen but ahead of the next wave.  Company Commander Shelton Scales’ jaw was said to have dropped when he landed on the beach and found Dad there ahead of him. The attack that began on Jan. 31, 1944 was mopped up by Feb. 3.

Saipan was a challenge of a different order. The Battle of Saipan was part of “Operation Forager,” which aimed to sieze Saipan, nearby Tinian and recapture Guam in the Marianas. According to Costello, “Operation Forager’s 535 ships and the 127,571 troops assigned to the American assault in the Marianas made it not only the largest force yet assembled for any naval operation but also the instrument of a new phase of the war.”  Now American troops would attack well-defended bases of Japan’s inner defense line rather than pulverize atolls.

Bombardment began June 13, 1944, and D-Day was two days later. With over 3,000 killed and 10,000 wounded, it would become the costliest operation for American forces to date – but that cost paled in comparison to Japanese loss of life. Five thousand Imperial Army soldiers died in suicidal Banzaii attacks, and an estimated 22,000 civilians died, principally because their shelters were in harm’s way and indistinguishable to Marines who cleared suspected bunkers with explosives. Even more horrifying, an estimated 1,000 women and children jumped off a cliff to their deaths based on orders from Emperor Hirohito suggesting they would be heroes on a par with soldiers in the afterlife if they did not surrender. Taking Saipan took six weeks.

Dad received his first Bronze Star in 1944 for his efforts on Saipan. The citation read: “By his initiative, perseverance and outstanding ability, he not only provided by proper planning for the supply of his organization but during the early phases of the Saipan operation while beaches were congested, under heavy hostile gunfire, and threatened by Japanese counterattack, he through several sleepless days and nights not only insured the combat supply of his own unit, but also supplied other units for whom immediate supplies were unavailable…. During the entire operation on Saipan, lasting for a period of approximately one month, never once did his regiment suffer for lack of supplies or equipment.”

As costly as Saipan was, it brought Tokyo within range of B-29 bombers.

Operation Forager continued when, two weeks later, two Marine divisions landed on Tinian on July 24. Costello wrote, “Inside a week the Marines had won control of Tinian with only four hundred casualties, in what General Smith was to call ‘the perfect amphibious operation of the Pacific War.'”

Here’s how Dad described it to me in 2000:

“Tinian was heavily defended. Although there were good landing areas on the south side of the island, at the Corps level, they decided against landing there and instead chose a small landing beach about 100 yards wide. They figured they could get people on the beach and it wouldn’t be defended.

“D-Day was 7 a.m. Scads of landing craft were offshore. My regiment was in reserve for landing since they were part of the assault on Saipan. They were supposed to move in behind the initial troops. The initial landing proceeded okay. The 2nd regiment was supposed to land – to come through us and proceed.  We were supposed to wait until after they were off of the causeway.

“I borrowed a jeep and talked to Col. Jones.  He said, ‘Campbell, I want all communication vehicles and anti-tank guns ashore.’  I took a boat to talk to the control officer, Col. ‘Jack’ Horner.  Col. Horner said, ‘Campbell, I’ll get to you as soon as I can.  I have to land the 2nd regiment ashore.’  I told him, ‘Col., we’re astride.’  He said, ‘Campbell, I told you I’d let you know—now goddam it, get off my boat.’  I looked for a hole and put my men ashore.  When I told Col. Horner later, he threatened court martial.

“The main attack came in that night. Regimental guns killed 600 Japanese that night with 36 mm anti-tank weapons that shot canisters of grape shot. It didn’t last long.  Our counter-attack broke their back at the end of August.

“We found beer in a Japanese dugout.  Every man in the regiment got a bottle of beer and the rest went to Division.

“Saipan is where the Japanese jumped off a cliff rather than be captured.  They believed they would be tortured by the U.S. The remaining pockets of resistance ranging from squad- to platoon-sized raised hell – it was really dangerous. Our battalions were spread out on the North end.  At night we formed a defensive perimeter.

It was on Saipan where Dad experienced what he called “the hairiest situation”:

We had overcome the emplacements and had set up three or four encampments along the plateau.  At night, the Japanese who were still loose on the island would open fire.  Every night gun battles would break out.  LtC. E.J. Dillon, who was no friend of mine, would call and tell me he was out of some supply – like illuminating shells.  I was the supply officer, and it wasn’t really my job to get it to him, but as the senior supply guy, I felt responsible.  So I’d reconnoiter a jeep. It galled me that I didn’t have one assigned to me like some officers who could swan around in theirs with some burly guy sitting on top of the supply boxes with a BAR.  This required going across ‘no man’s land,’ the narrow perimeter of the island.  I’d been over the road once but I really burned rubber with a 45 in one hand. We’d head out in the dark down the long road to deliver the shells.  I could imagine an ambush anywhere. Never had a problem but I sure felt grateful to have my skin by the time the war was over.

1945 V mail

Henry’s V-mail to his parents on August 3 from Tinian:

It’s been a long time since the last letter, and since I wrote it, the battle for Tinian has been fought and won, although we are still mopping up. Things will relax a little now, I xpect, so you can expect to hear from me with more regularity than in the past.

This will serve to do little more than advise you that I am perfectly OK, and so far unscathed. The Tinian fight has gone considerably easier than Saipan, but I’m glad that it’s over – it was officially announced secured night before last, although mopping up still continues.

You letters – from all of you – have been arriving as the mails do, and they are always eagerly read. I’m glad Eileen could be with you as long as she wash – wish I could have been there too. However, even though I could not, I feel I was well represented. It must have been a lot of fun, and from your letters and Eileen’s, everybody had a pleasant time of it.

As for myself, I am – as I said OK, and am at the moment enjoying a little relaxation. That won’t last, of course, — R-4s, like woman’s work – is never done. Any staff officer is in that position.

Sometime soon I expect I’ll be getting around to putting own on paper such account as I can give of the Saipan and Tinian operations, but don’t look for any spell-binding report. It’s mostly hard work, the excitement is occasional, and then not very exciting in the re-telling.

I send you all my love. It is a wonderful feeling to have a family like mine safe at home.

Your loving son,


Source: The Pacific War: 1941-1945, New York: Atlantic Communications, 1981, p. 669

Source: The Pacific War: 1941-1945, New York: Atlantic Communications, 1981, p. 669

The 4th Marine Division had a chance to recover after Operation Forager’s success, not seeing action again until February 19, 1945. Other Marine divisions, however, were plenty busy, especially on Peleliu where the 1st Marines engaged in battle that was bloodier and more grueling than Guadalcanal. Col. Chester “Chesty” Puller’s 1st Regiment clawed up a cliff, under fire from Japanese who rolled grenades down on them from caves, gulleys and holes, costing the regiment a third of its strength. Peleliu was taken on Nov. 25, 1944.

According to Richard Newcomb, author of Iwo Jima: The Dramatic Account of the Epic Battle that Turned the Tide of World War II, it was inevitable that the Allies would have to take Iwo Jima. To attack Japan, it would need the island as a fallback for B-29’s. Iwo Jima was the only island in the area capable of supporting several airfields, an objective of the mission. It would be the first American attack on Japanese home territory.

When Dad talked about Iwo Jima, he usually started by describing its long, narrow beach of volcanic ash (described as a sticky, glue-like substance) over which Mt. Suribachi and the cliffs loomed, riddled with Japanese defenses. Iwo was a stone fortress. Violating Japanese military doctrine, the island’s defenders developed a plan to wait until Americans had penetrated 500 yards onto the island. Then and only then would weapons open fire from the airfield, supported by artillery on Mt. Suribachi and the plateau. Sixteen miles of tunnels connected Japanese concrete artillery emplacements. After initial fire, the guns at the airfield would withdraw to the north.

Bombardment of Iwo began on June 15, 1944. The 4th Marine Division began landing at 8:59 on D-Day, February 19, 1945, against high winds and four foot surf.  Here’s how Dad described it in 2000:

When we pulled in offshore, the light was growing.  You’re up on the deck.  You see this ungodly ghostly tower rising 600-700’ in the air.  It was a volcanic spire, the goddamnedest thing I ever saw.  Scary.

“The island was shaped like a pork chop.  It was a volcanic mound with steep sides, honeycombed with caves.  It overlooked the beaches we landed on – the Japanese had perfect visibility.  Down at the far end was another escarpment looking the other way.  We had one fine officer who took a posthumous award for scooping up men without leaders and taking the key point (Chambers).  They got all shot up.

“High velocity anti tank guns were looking right down at the beach.  It was probably 500 yards or more from shoreline to airfield.  It was D+2.  We were in a pillbox, our first command post.  The gun opened up.  There was a tremendous concussion over my head, sand came down.  I think a round bounced off the ground on top of the command post.

[The 4th Marine Division could only advance some 50 yards on D+2 as it pushed northward, experiencing high casualties as it attempted to clear pillboxes, caves and tunnels.]

“The next night, the Japanese had mortars – 240 mm – as big as a trash can.  You’d see it go up.  You wouldn’t know where it would come down.  They dropped one about 30 yards outside the pillbox.  It lit into a crater where we had 15-16 people. Just like that, they were gone. We lost some very good men, some who were friends of mine.

[By the end of D+3, the 4th and 5th Marine Divisions had suffered a combined 4,574 casualties.]

“The longest walk I ever went on – I don’t know how far in miles or yards – was on Iwo Jima.  We were in reserve because we’d been all shot up.  We’d probably lost a third of our troops by then.  My job is to prepare to take over, so I need to know where everyone is, their weaponry, etc. I had to walk alone to the command center from my division’s headquarters.  It seemed like miles, but I wonder how long it really was.  I went to collect our orders and check the situation map.  The map was surrounded by people and it was hard to get much of a view.  Periodically, however, the Japanese would start shelling and while everyone scattered, I could copy the map.  Worked great.”

Iwo Jima, and its specific objectives, earned gruesome nicknames – the Red Island, Blood Beach, etc.. The 4th Marine Division faced formidable defenses in Hill 382 (for its elevation), which would become known as the ‘Meatgrinder.’

Although American forces had overwhelming superiority, Iwo Jima was the only battle by the Marines in which the overall American casualties exceeded those of the Japanese. American losses reached 6,821 with another 19,217 wounded. Dad received his second Bronze Star with “V” for Valor for his efforts as operations officer, 23rd Regiment, 4th Marine Division.

For its actions against enemy forces during the war in the Pacific, the 23rd Marines received the Presidential Unit Citation Streamer with one Bronze Star,the Navy Unit Commendation, the American Campaign Streamer with four Bronze Stars, and the World War II Victory Streamer.

The 4th Marines were pulled back to base camp on Maui to reconstitute their ranks, which had been decimated by the campaign for Iwo. After receiving an ultimatum threatening Japan with “prompt and utter destruction,” American airman dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6 and on Nagasaki on August 9. On August 15, Emperor Hirohito announced his acceptance of the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, kicking off a national frenzy of celebration and kissing servicemen. The Instrument of Surrender was signed by the Japanese on September 2 aboard the USS Missouri.

It’s hard to imagine that the war did not change Dad. It must have. But as he explained to Mom in a letter, “…it is as if there is a hard shell around me and that ALL of this present life went on outside me.”

He came home.


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My Mother’s War

(Second in a historical series for a family legacy book. Again, I will refer to Mom as Eileen in these years before she was Mom.)

When Eileen and Hank married, just 19 days after Pearl Harbor, the Marines were on full war footing. They found a minister who would marry them at the Post Chapel in Quantico on Dec. 26. No church wedding, no fancy dress, no friends in attendance – just Eileen’s mother and a couple of witnesses. Hank had a full 12 hours leave for his honeymoon.

Life Magazine's Hex Party

It’s hard to imagine the rapid changes that the couple confronted in 1941. A February 1941 copy of Life, the all-photographic news magazine that dominated the weekly news market, was still taking a light hearted tone with headlines like, “Bombed London Railway is Remade as Good as New in Four Hours.” An article explaining the aiming of field artillery boasted, “The gun crew works like a football team.” The rest if the issue was devoted to the belles of President Roosevelt’s birthday balls to raise money to fight “infantile paralysis” (polio), vacationing in Biscayne Bay, and “the blondest of the new crop of New York debbies” (debutantes). In the story, “Life Goes to a Hex Party,” amateur sorcerers in Washington try black magic against Hitler.”

Even though the U.S. was not yet in the war, the seriousness of the situation was already personal to Eileen. Her cousin, John Driscoll, to whom she was very close, was killed in a training accident when his plane collapsed on September 26, 1941, a week before he was to have received his commission in the Air Corps of the Army. Having already lost her father that February, Eileen would have grown up fast.

Then Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7. The war was no longer “over there.” It was here. Henry later noted that the Marines fully expected at attack up the Potomac River, aimed at the nation’s capital. Immediately, a nation-wide blackout went into effect. Gas masks were distributed. Machine-gun posts were added alongside the White House and U.S. government buildings.

The two set up housekeeping together in married housing in Quantico, VA. In an interview with Betsy in 2000, Henry told her, “Because I was an expert shot, and also a good student, at the end of the ROC class I was selected to go back to Quantico as an instructor, which I did for two years. I went back to the same company I had been officer candidate in.”

Within two months, Eileen was pregnant, like many of the wives. Scott was born on November 13, 1942. With Hank working hard, she and other new mothers supported one another, and likely played occasional hands of bridge while swapping tips about baby care.


Eileen Driscoll Campbell and Scott Campbell

Henry was promoted from second lieutenant to first lieutenant during that first year, and wrote his brother, Ed, that he expected to remain in Quantico with the newly formed G Company until the early part of 1943.

So though Eileen would have known Hank would come safely home each night, at least for a time, they knew many others were in harm’s way. Hank explained later, “The first two years of the war were very tough on my classmates; they were expendable. The casualty rate among second lieutenants was high.”

Within months of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese Imperial Army invaded Wake Island and thousands of American forces surrendered in what would become the Bataan Death March. Corregidor was overrun and the Philippines were surrendered. Things finally turned in November 1942 after a victory at Midway and hard fought land and sea battles for Guadalcanal, which became Japan’s most staggering military defeat. Late in 1943, U.S. military forces deployed new amphibious warfare techniques that aimed to obliterate Japanese defenses. Even with the new strategy a success, U.S. Marine losses were heavy at Tarawa, a small atoll. On the first day of the attack, casualties were 20%. It took 18,000 Marines three days to secure the small island at a cost of 1,300 dead. Hank lost a close friend.

Hank shipped out in the third year of the war for the Pacific with the 23rd Marines, 4th Marine Division. He would have sailed out of Honolulu as part of the “Big Blue Fleet” on January 22, 1944, bound (although he didn’t know it yet) for the Marshall islands where he would join the attack on Roi-Namur.

Henry left with a memento that Eileen’s friend helped her to create: a pin-up style snapshot of her immersed in a bubble bath. The wives conspired to create the images as a way of reminding their men what awaited them at home.


At some point, Eileen went West to stay with Hank’s family in Yakima.

In those years before the 24-hour news cycle, Eileen would have anxiously awaited news reports of actions, which were often delayed for security reasons. Or she might have seen news reels with thrilling images of victories and frightening scenes of destruction. She wouldn’t have known where Hank was until well after the fact, when V-mail arrived. Very likely she would have breathed a sigh of relief after learning he was safe following the victory at Saipan.

The Admiral Campbell home in Yakima settled in to a rhythm, with Scotty enchanting Grandmother Campbell and Aunt Janie. Upon meeting Eileen, Grandfather Campbell was reported to have said, “Son, a pretty face will fade away, but a good pair of legs is a joy forever.” Grandfather Campbell, who ran away from a hard-scrabble Kentucky home at the age of 14, had an eye for such things. He maintained an extra-marital relationship with Erma and retired to her home after dinner to play cards on most evenings; Mom was invited to play bridge with the pair and Grandfather’s friends.

As a mother of a young child, Eileen would have supported the war effort by caring for Scotty. More than two million women worked in war industries and another million as “government girls” in offices, while others plugged the hole in manpower by driving trucks and manufacturing in factories. Everyone pitched in, however, by adhering to wartime rationing, planting victory gardens and salvaging scrap metal, rubber, cooking fat and nylon and silk stockings which were needed for war supplies.

An article saved by Eileen explained how to fill out the consumer application required to obtain Ration Book Number Two.  The application was distributed via newspapers “in recognition of the fact that newspapers reach practically every individual in the United States.” To complete the form, you had to go to your pantry on Feb. 21, 1943 and count all cans, jars and bottles containing 8 ounces or more of store-bought food: canned fruits, vegetables, soups, etc. Coffee (and sugar) rationing had begun in 1942 and all citizens were required to inventory the coffee on their shelves on Nov. 28 of that year. You then calculated the amount of coffee to which you were entitled by stating the pounds of coffee you inventoried in November minus 1 pound for each person 14 or older in the household. Then you counted the units of cans on your shelves and subtracted five cans for every person in the house. Based on the answers provided, you would be issued Ration Book No. 2. If you had coffee or canned food above your allotment on hand, those stamps would be removed from your book. You couldn’t buy items at the grocery books without the appropriate ration stamps.

The Campbells and Eileen also wrote Henry regularly. Victory mail (“V-mail”) was censored, transferred to film, and printed back to paper, saving shipping space for war materials.

Saipan grabbed the U.S. imagination not only for its size and violence – it took 71,000 U.S. troops six weeks, over 3,000 losses and another 10,000 wounded – but for the horror of the mass suicide of roughly 1,000 Japanese women and children who lived on the island. Emperor Hirohito had declared that civilians who died there, rather than surrendering, would have equal spiritual status in the afterlife as soldiers.

Hank went on to Tinian, and then Iwo Jima. By February 15, 1945, a quarter of a million troops were ready to attack the island’s 20,000 Japanese Imperial Army troops, who were well defended by a warren of interlinking caves and tunnels. Iwo Jima’s casualty rate – with 24,000 wounded and 7,000 dead – was the highest in the history of the Marines.

In late March or early April of 1945, Eileen would have gotten word that Hank was safe after the 23rd was pulled back to Maui for R&R, and to reconstitue its ranks after so many were lost.

The atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in August 1945, and on August 15, WWII was finally over with the surrender of Japan to the Allies.

Between Tinian and Iwo Jima, Hank wrote to Eileen about the effect of the war on who they were as a couple: “I expect we’ve both changed this year—-yet I think we’ll be surprised at the smallness of the change. The part of me that’s fought the war out here—-is NOT the part of me that is the half of ‘us.’—-I feel strongly that it is the mechanical person out here fighting, and that the real person—-the one YOU know—-is in a state of suspended animation.—-Perhaps an accurate explanation of the fact that I never write what I’m thinking about and feeling—-that I neither feel nor think—-and it is as if there is a hard shell around me and that ALL of this present life went on outside me.”

By November, 1945, Hank landed in Southern California where he was reunited with Eileen, Scott, Eileen’s mother, and Hank’s Aunt Janie.

Hank later said he had to fight for his pants at first, with Eileen so competently in charge at home. He and Eileen drove to Washington D.C. with Eileen’s mother and Scotty to find a place to live when Henry began his new assignment at Marine Corps HQ in its Plans and Policies Division.

Next: the post-war years

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Memorial Day: A Friend Never Forgets

Photo credit: fkehren via flickr under CC license

Photo credit: fkehren via flickr under CC license

Announcement time at church. There was a reminder about the hiking club outing, a request for sign-ups to bring a salad or cake for the parish picnic on June 9, and a woman who said she had become a great-grandmother once in January and twice in April.

An older man dressed neatly in a coat and tie took the microphone. “I want to remember friends who never came back,” he began.

The rustling of papers and quiet conversations ceased.

— I remember George Monroe who died in the invasion of Saipan. He was a lieutenant in the Marines. He had a contract to play baseball with the Boston Braves but he never returned.

— And my friend Rocky Rogers. He had been captain of the swim team at Amherst. He was shot down over the Channel.

— These are the friends I want to remember on this day of days, Memorial Day.

Because the George’s and Rocky’s who never came back are remembered by fine men like Herb, men with big hearts and long memories, we remember the meaning of Memorial Day.

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