Veterans Day: My Dad and Peleliu

My dad served in the Pacific in WWII, as a medic in the 81st “Wildcat” Division. His outfit was involved in two notable fights. Angaur isn’t well known. Peleliu was unequaled for its sheer awful bloodiness. The famous 1st Marine Division invaded Peleliu in September ’44 and was mauled so badly that it wasn’t fit to fight again for another seven months. The 81st Division had to pitch in and ultimately concluded the 73-day battle. To his dying day my dad would never say a word about what he saw and experienced there. He would just shake his head.

Almost every book about Peleliu focuses on the Marines and understandably so. I’m reading the only published history of the 81st and it got me thinking about Googling my dad’s outfit. And I found an old Army documentary about the 81st on Angaur. So I’m sitting watching the thing—including many politically incorrect descriptions of the Japanese—and… Holy cow! That’s my dad!

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I’m putting up two pics. One of my dad smoking a cigar and goofing off with an Army buddy. The other a screen shot of a Wildcat in a helmet, from the film. The guy looks so much like Don Martin, it’s spooky. But two things are off. First, the nose is a little too full. Second, I never heard about my dad working on a landing craft.

Maybe it is him, though. He might have bopped his nose so somehow it was swollen. Maybe he was “volunteered” into different duty for a time. Like I said, the resemblance is just so vivid to me.

Anyway, here’s a toast to my dad and the millions of other dads and moms, husbands and wives, sons and daughters who put on uniforms and did what needed doing.

About drmar120

D. R. Martin is a writer and photographer based in Minnesota.
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