Pacific WWII battles should also be remembered
Published 11:42 am Thursday, July 18, 2019
On the 75th anniversary of D-Day at Normandy (June 6), it was great to see all the praise heaped onto the WWII veterans who fought there. They deserve all the praise they are getting.
But I must confess there is an emptiness in my heart because I too am a WWII veteran who survived four D-Days in the Pacific. I keep asking myself how many times the Normandy veterans are going to be praised while we who fought in the Pacific never get mentioned.
For example, in nine days will be the 75th anniversary for the invasion of Saipan where we lost during the invasion almost as many American troops as D-Day at Normandy. I was there on D-Day, June 15, 1944, and went in with the troops on Saipan, as well as Tinian, on July 24, 1944.
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One such loss at Saipan was James Baker from Troy, New York. He performed several heroic acts during the last few days of battle only to be seriously wounded. The medic who was trying to get him back to a safe defensive position for the night was also wounded. Baker said, “I am finished; just prop me up against that tree give me a cigarette and a pistol.” The pistol had eight rounds. The next morning as his unit moved forward, they found him dead and still against the tree. The pistol was on the ground empty and eight dead Japanese soldiers were lying around him. These men like Baker should never be forgotten and there were thousands of young men just like him fighting for our country.
I was not a hero during my tour in the Pacific and was just doing what my government asked me to do. It makes me very sad to see all my comrades forgotten while we heap the praise on Normandy year after year after year.
I must admit I recently felt like a hero because my wife and I went back to Saipan in December of 2017. When the local natives, the Chamorros, found out that I was in the D-Day invasion of both Saipan and Tinian, they scheduled a ceremony at the American Memorial Park. We were not told what it was about and when our group arrived, they ask me to step forward.
I was awarded a medal for Valor in the Pacific during WWII, which was inscribed with “Our Grateful Islands Remember.” It is sad that we must go to a foreign country to receive praise for our fighting in the Pacific.
I am 94 and have committed myself to speaking out for the war in the Pacific during the rest of my life. I have a 30-45 minute presentation and I welcome speaking to groups.
D. Ralph Young
(formerly of Stanford)