PDA

View Full Version : So, Is The Corps Keeping Track Of How Many WWII Vets It Has Left?



BigDon
2008-Mar-12, 09:33 PM
I only know of two now.

Both of whom are my uncles. (Dad's older brothers). My Uncle Don's career reads like a history of the Pacific War. Wounded the first time at Pearl Harbor. That scene fromm Tora! Tora! Tora! where the bomb fell on the front lawn of that barracks was a recreation of what happened at my Uncle's barracks. The blast blew in the windows and my uncle was laying in bed across the room, feet to the windows. The glass shredded everybody in the squad bay and my uncle had to recover from full body lacerations from foot to head.

And he was thrown back into the mix as soon as he was able. And that Saving Private Ryan stuff? Uncle Don did that "opposed landing" thing more than five times against the Japanese. Pelelui, Tarawa and others ending in Iwo Jima where he was wounded out of the war. No, he never sat foot on Mt. Suribachi.

Uncle Dick was also in the Pacific, in the glider group. They would drop in the night before an invasion to set up positions behind enemy lines. That's gotta be tense as well.

At Tarawa the landing craft got hung up on the reefs due to a neap tide not happening as expected. They were still 100 yards out and in over 6 feet of water when the Japanese cut loose on them with rapid fire anti-aircraft guns and the landing craft and fellow Marines began to disintegrate around him. As he is the same height I am, 5'10" he wasn't all that keen to go wading with a full kit on in water over his head. I believe that was the first time he was "orphaned". (Out of three times) Being orphaned in military parlance means your company has taken so many casualties they don't re-man it, they divide the survivors up into other units.

If I'm not blending my stories, I know I'm getting them out of order, then it was at Pelelui where his company (not platoon) suffered 65% KIA. He had strong opinions about that battle. More so after the history (or Discovery) channel did a documentary on it and said the main reason for the attack was so that the Admiral in charge could get in "practice" for another, more important invasion. He had a bit of a "moment" right after that aired. I believe that has since been disproven, but I recall the show saying that. These men were his friends and he had been with them since boot camp.

At Iwo Jima, Uncle Don went from E-5 to company commander the first day after landing. They gave him the Bronze Star for his actions there. Until he was seriously hosed by a Japanse machine gunner. He caught a long burst, fourteen rounds destroyed his Thompson sub machine gun and another seven perforated him, mainly right hand and left leg. Surviving something like that is a gamble of long odds to say the least. (Japanese rapid fire .27 caliber)

That enemy gunner had kept them pinned down for days. Uncle Don was the last person he shot, the long burst finally gave the shooter's position away to a bunch of very angry Marines who were tired of him. Seems his firing position was carved into bare rock 40 feet up a 60 foot cliff and the entrance covered with artificial vines.

Before Uncle Don was evac'ed out his men brought him over by stretcher to see the body of the man who shot him. Not that many people in war get that opportunity.

Gillianren
2008-Mar-13, 12:44 AM
More so after the history (or Discovery) channel did a documentary on it and said the main reason for the attack was so that the Admiral in charge could get in "practice" for another, more important invasion.

Was he angry at the show or at the admiral? If it was wrong, be angry at the show. If it was right . . . .

What I wonder about is Gypsy Holocaust survivors. They don't come from a written tradition, and there are very few left. I thought, once, about getting a grant to go into Eastern Europe to try to document their stories.

The Backroad Astronomer
2008-Mar-13, 03:42 PM
We lost at least one in january, as my great-uncle who served in wwII passed away. It was kind of a mixed blessing because over the last couple of years he was suffering from alzheimers.

Fazor
2008-Mar-13, 06:36 PM
I know they are/were keeping track of WWI vets.... so I'd assume the same is true with WWII. Who "they" are, and exactly how closely and accurately "they" are keeping track are not things I can answer.

RalofTyr
2008-Mar-13, 06:42 PM
In elementry school, the teacher would always ask if we had a relative that served in WW2. I said yes....he was in the Luftwaffa...

Actually, my step-grandfather was on board the destroyer that fired the first shot at the mini-subs. I had to interview him for a project in high school once. He said he radioed it in to his commander and if my teacher has a problem with that, she can call him. And he gave me his phone # on a piece of paper to give to her.

My great uncle was a Lt. in the Marines in the Pacific theater. He was a forward observer. His team consisted of him and a sgt. There job was to spot for artillery. After a barage, it was the sgt. job to look. As soon as he poke his head up to observe, he was shot. My uncle stay down in that hole for days until releaved. He later advanced to Col. and wrote a book on how to combat guerrilla warfare in which Kennedy read, liked and signed. If Kennedy wasn't shot, perhaps the Veitnam war might have been fought differently.

Trocisp
2008-Mar-13, 06:43 PM
The last American World War II veteran on active duty was Captain Earl R. Fox, USCG, who retired in 1999. I found out that much...


It also appears that this (http://www.americanveteranscenter.org/WW2.html) site does something along those lines, although because there are so many of them there isn't a single list that has all of the names on it... at least not a published one (afaik).

Larry Jacks
2008-Mar-13, 07:36 PM
There are probably several groups out there that keep track of WWII vets from the different branches. The Veterans Administration comes to mind for one. There may be other groups such as the America Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars that keep track of those vets who joined. Most Marines that I've met over the years are very proud of their service. There are organizations for Marine veterans that probably know a lot of the surviving WWII vets.

The sad fact is that WWII ended almost 63 years ago. The youngest legal veterans (those who enlisted at age 17 - there were some underage enlistees as well) are probably 80 years old. The ravages of time are catching up to them in a major way. Some 16 million Americans (mostly men) served in the military in WWII. Today, the survivors probably number in a few million range or even less. In another 10 years or so, they'll number in the thousands. It's the passing of an era.

farmerjumperdon
2008-Mar-13, 07:41 PM
Gotta be quite a few left yet. Not they there are not special, but they are not so few, yet. On the other hand, there can not be many WWI vets left. Even a 14 year old that lied about their age and signed up late would have to be over 100.

The oldest vets still alive in my family are from the Korean War. My Uncle Don (landed on D-Day) died 4 or 5 years ago. My father, also a Don, served on the USS Wisconsin, though I do not know when or where. Stepfather Bob was a tail gunner in a bomber over Korea.

jt-3d
2008-Mar-13, 08:01 PM
Sadly we are getting way on past WWII and the vets are dropping pretty fast. My next door neighbor is one but he's in a coma in the hospital. He probably won't be coming home. It's sad.

http://jt-3d.com/pics2/salute.gif

Fazor
2008-Mar-13, 08:05 PM
Gotta be quite a few left yet. Not they there are not special, but they are not so few, yet. On the other hand, there can not be many WWI vets left. Even a 14 year old that lied about their age and signed up late would have to be over 100.

Well, an oddly recent and relative article came up when I was searching for something else. Article from March 7, 2008 (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/03/07/MN9TVF4FC.DTL):

Calling it a high honor, President Bush warmly greeted 107-year-old Frank Woodruff Buckles on Thursday, a man described by the White House as the last known surviving American-born veteran of World War I.

jfribrg
2008-Mar-13, 08:35 PM
there can not be many WWI vets left.

Here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surviving_veterans_of_World_War_I) is the list. This list isn't necessarily complete. Sometimes you don't find out about one until after they die. AFAIK, there is no complete list of surviving veterans for World War II. I read somewhere that the VA does not have a complete list. It doesn't make sense to me, but unless you are receiving VA benefits, then they don't know about you. Other organizations have piecemeal records. A while ago, President Bush mentioned that World War II vets are dying at the rate of 1,100/day. This number, while reasonable, was based on sensus data and actuarial estimates and not on mortality statistics. Here (http://www.slate.com/id/1007759/) is a short article explaining it.

HenrikOlsen
2008-Mar-13, 11:04 PM
The French just lost (http://www.nysun.com/article/72831) their last WWI vet at 110.
The Brits just lost the only Englishman sent to Auschwitz.

jrkeller
2008-Mar-14, 04:03 AM
In 1973, there was a hugh fire at the National Personnel Records Center which destroyed a significant portion of the military's records.

Link (http://www.archives.gov/st-louis/military-personnel/fire-1973.html)

Having a father who was 18 in 1943, all of his friends and many of his relative served in WWII. They told me many stories of their lives, but unfortunately most have past away. My father was in Navy flight school when the war ended, but he said that he would have been part of the invasion of Japan.

My mother's cousin was a paratrooper in France for the Germans. I was able to meet him in 1977 when we lived in Germany. Another one of her cousins, Fritz (American born), served in the submarine corps and visited Tokyo Bay.

My cousin's husband served in the Marine corps and was on Guadalcanal. He said that the man on either side of him was killed and he eventually came down with a severe case of Malaria.

My next door neighbour turned 18 three weeks before Pearl Harbor. He enlisted and spent the next 4 years fighting the Japanese and then being part of the occupation force. He was a bombadier in the India-China-Burma theatre.

Kaptain K
2008-Mar-14, 09:26 AM
My father tried to enlist and was turned down before he was drafted (go figure). He never got out of the states.

My uncle (mother's brother) flew the hump in Burma.

farmerjumperdon
2008-Mar-14, 11:43 AM
Wow, that has become a short list; 1 US soldier left that actually served overseas.

Moose
2008-Mar-14, 04:39 PM
(Last I heard) Canada has a single remaining living WWI vet. Our government intended to hold a state funeral for him, but he apparently did not want that for himself. The story fell off the news cycle sometime last autumn before there was some sort of resolution, so my information is likely to be well out of date.

Kaptain K
2008-Mar-14, 05:00 PM
Wow, that has become a short list; 1 US soldier left that actually served overseas.

If that's sarcasm, it is totally uncalled for and very resented! :mad:

My uncle was the only male and seventeen years older than my mother. My father's two brothers were six and nine year younger than my him, and thus too young to be in the armed forces in WWII.

Fazor
2008-Mar-14, 05:33 PM
If that's sarcasm, it is totally uncalled for and very resented! :mad:

My uncle was the only male and seventeen years older than my mother. My father's two brothers were six and nine year younger than my him, and thus too young to be in the armed forces in WWII.

(I think he was referring to the WWI vet, not the thousands of WWII vets)

HenrikOlsen
2008-Mar-14, 05:48 PM
(Last I heard) Canada has a single remaining living WWI vet. Our government intended to hold a state funeral for him, but he apparently did not want that for himself. The story fell off the news cycle sometime last autumn before there was some sort of resolution, so my information is likely to be well out of date.
From the Wikipedia entry lising the known surviving vets, Canada has two, including the only female left, the male surviving canadian is living in the US.
It also mentions that Canada had desided on a state funeral for the last one, intending it to be in honor of all of them, but it didn't mention that it was the male vet who was the intended recipient.

Moose
2008-Mar-14, 06:10 PM
From the Wikipedia entry lising the known surviving vets, Canada has two, including the only female left, the male surviving canadian is living in the US.

When this came up, there were three remaining vets. But I'm pretty sure I'd heard we'd lost two of the vets within a month or so last autumn. None of the vets were enamored by the idea of a state funeral, least of all the survivor.

As I said, it's entirely possible that my information is inaccurate, having been filtered through the wire services, a local radio station's news desk, and some degree of distraction of having been in a morning commute.


It also mentions that Canada had desided on a state funeral for the last one, intending it to be in honor of all of them, but it didn't mention that it was the male vet who was the intended recipient.

All that said, I'd be more comfortable relying on the wiki entry than my faulty memory.

Nick Theodorakis
2008-Mar-14, 06:31 PM
My father died five years ago this June. He was a WWII (and Korean War) US Navy veteran -- serving on a submarine in the Pacific theater during WWII. He was interred in a military cemetary by his request -- although he didn't stay in the service after Korea, I think the experience affected him all his life.

One thing that impressed me was how every time I visited the cemetary, how many new gravesites were added since my last visit. It dramatically shows just how quickly we are losing the generation that fought WWII.

Nick

Gruesome
2008-Mar-14, 06:44 PM
There was a story on the local news a few months ago...A charity funded a for WWII vets to visit the memorial in D.C. The report said that the vets are dying off at a rate of 1,700 a day.

I don't know how they keep track, but that's the number they gave.

Gillianren
2008-Mar-15, 01:46 AM
My dad was buried in a military cemetery, too--twenty-five years ago this past February--and he was a Vietnam vet. He was career Air Force, though.

novaderrik
2008-Mar-15, 04:29 AM
Gotta be quite a few left yet. Not they there are not special, but they are not so few, yet. On the other hand, there can not be many WWI vets left. Even a 14 year old that lied about their age and signed up late would have to be over 100.

Well, an oddly recent and relative article came up when I was searching for something else. Article from March 7, 2008 (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/03/07/MN9TVF4FC.DTL):
Quote:
Calling it a high honor, President Bush warmly greeted 107-year-old Frank Woodruff Buckles on Thursday, a man described by the White House as the last known surviving American-born veteran of World War I.

that guy never actually saw a battle- the war ended while he was on the boat over to Europe.
not to take anything away from the guy- he did volunteer for the war, after all- but can he really be considered a "veteran" of a war he never fought in?
my dad never considered himself a veteran, but the US Army considered him to be one, since he did work in a motor pool on a base in Thailand in the late 60's. my grandpa was considered a WWII vet, but he didn't think he was, since he worked on airplanes at an Army Air Force base in Texas in the early 40's.

BigDon
2008-Mar-18, 08:43 PM
that guy never actually saw a battle- the war ended while he was on the boat over to Europe.
not to take anything away from the guy- he did volunteer for the war, after all- but can he really be considered a "veteran" of a war he never fought in?
my dad never considered himself a veteran, but the US Army considered him to be one, since he did work in a motor pool on a base in Thailand in the late 60's. my grandpa was considered a WWII vet, but he didn't think he was, since he worked on airplanes at an Army Air Force base in Texas in the early 40's.


"They also serve, those who stand in wait"

You often cannot go on the offensive without others waiting in reserve. Those chosen to be in that reserve are just as worthy as those thrown into the fray.

Moose
2008-Mar-18, 08:49 PM
Hey Don, not to pressure you or anything, but didn't you promise us an epic story in some other thread? Some BAUTers have had worms on their tongues since before you got sick. That's gotta taste awful by now.

[overdramatic] Won't somebody think of the BAUTers? [/od]

BigDon
2008-Mar-18, 10:04 PM
Yeah Moose, I promised Stuart in the "airforce" thread. Last Saturday though I had to shovel gravel for a friend's new patio pavings going in and was still a little woofed. Took four yards.

Guess I'll buck up and do that right now. Thanks for the push Moose, I might have put that off untill later this week.

Moose
2008-Mar-18, 10:22 PM
As I said, no real pressure or special hurry, I just wanted to make sure you hadn't forgotten. Your navy stories are worth waiting for, and that one sounded special.