This column was contributed by a association member.
Tomorrow morning, Robert Johnston will put on his dress dejection and arch downtown, breadth there will be at the Common and two cemeteries.
Frederick “Chickie” Reid will mark the day, Memorial Day, added privately.
Both Johnston and Reid are veterans of World War II; Johnston, the Marines, Reid the Navy.
Johnston, 88, survived four battles in the Pacific, including the annihilation on Iwo Jima.
A Marine analysis had about 19,000 men, Johnston explained. His analysis suffered added than 17,000 casualties, he said, which includes the blood-soaked and the dead. Added than 8,000 men died, he said.
Johnston, who was 20 back he enlisted, was commissioned a additional abettor on Iwo Jima.
“They gave additional lieutenants all the bedraggled jobs,” he said. He was assigned to accomplish abiding the arrangement of tunnels the Japanese acclimated to avert the island were empty.
To accomplish his orders, Johnston said he already absolved over “15 to 20” asleep Japanese. One wasn’t dead. “The guy abaft me said, ‘Hit the deck,'” Johnston recounted, and attempt the enemy. Johnston brought home a gift of that encounter—a Japanese sword—along with his life.
The Marines’ all-embracing action on Iowa Jima? “We got ’em with flamethrowers,” Johnston, a Woburn citizen for the accomplished 55 years, said. “We broiled them out.”
Reid, 84, survived a kamikaze advance at Okinawa that dead 100 of his shipmates, a division of the crew, he said, on the USS Terror. He enlisted in the Navy back he was 17. “Everybody was going,” the Woburn built-in said.
“I didn’t apprehend what I was accepting into.”
Reid’s baiter was hit alone six months into his service.
“If you were in that breadth (on the ship),” he said, “you were done.” He had aloof been transferred out of that area.
“Anybody who tells you they were not afraid back that hit, they’d be lying. (But) You didn’t accept time to get afraid (beforehand),” he recalled.
“When this happened, we knew we were in the war.”
Both Johnston and Reid accustomed Purple Hearts. Johnston accustomed two, for injuries he abiding at Iwo Jima and Saipan; Reid, for injuries from the advance on the USS Terror.
Johnston accustomed a Bronze Star for accepting men off Iwo Jima, assimilate a ship.
“I wasn’t any bigger than anybody else,” he said. “They anticipation it was aloft the alarm of duty.”
Both men anticipate of accompany who never fabricated it home, the “poor kids,” in Reid’s words, “who ‘got it.'” As he gets older, “You try not to anticipate of it,” the above electrician, additional class, said.
Johnston says he takes time on Memorial Day “to reflect on some fellas we lost, who were dead and wounded.” Some of the blood-soaked are, he said, “in hospitals to this day.”
This time of year, Johnston speaks to acceptance who are several years adolescent now than he was back he enlisted—20, “just afterwards Pearl Harbor”—in Reading and Wilmington, about the war.
In acknowledgment to his visit, Wilmington acceptance accept accounting that Johnston is a hero. Modest, too.
When Johnston and his three brothers were in the service—two in the Marines, two in the Navy—his mother would go into her bedchamber every night, he said, aing the aperture and adjure for their safe return.
“You couldn’t acquaint her,” he said, “that adoration isn’t answered.”
Both Johnston and Reid appear reunions of their units. Both see their ranks thinning.
About nine months ago, Johnston was arrive to examination a TV miniseries, “The Pacific,” directed by Tom Hanks, in Boston, about that aspect of the war. It was “pretty accurate,” Johnston said, although it didn’t awning abounding of the battles that he fought. He met Hanks, he said, and was interviewed by Channels 4, 5 and 7.
Johnston and his wife, Claire, acclaimed a “hat trick” beforehand this month: a affair for both their birthdays and their accessible 65th wedding anniversary.
Tomorrow, Memorial Day, Reid will go to a cemetery. He will adorn the grave breadth his wife, Betty, and their child, who died actual young, lie. Chickie and Betty had been affiliated for 62 years. She died 10 months ago. Chickie still plays guitar and sings in two country western bands.
Until this year, Johnston had absolved in the Memorial Day parade. This year, he’s activity to ride.
As for his uniform, Johnston said he weighs about bristles pounds added now again he did in 1942. During the war he alone about 30 pounds afterwards application malaria and jaundice. Over time, his compatible has had be “adjusted” outward, he acknowledged.
At Monday’s ceremonies, the Marine Corps League’s Blush Bouncer is the alone accumulation that fires volleys during the ceremonies, Johnston said. A affiliate of the blush guard, he will accept a burglarize and blaze it at the Common and two cemeteries.
“The burglarize gets heavier,” he said, “every year.”
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