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Murray Journal

Local veteran remembers his time as a World War II marine

Nov 06, 2018 04:42PM ● By Jana Klopsch

John Delliskave reminisces about being a young Marine. (Shaun Delliskave/City Journals)

By Shaun Delliskave|[email protected]

Young John Delliskave had not been on Iwo Jima for very long when he approached a mound near the Motoyama Air Field. The Marine stepped around the rise and faced his enemy; as each raised their weapons, a blast rang out. That day, John recalled, was part of an amazing, terrible string of memories that many veterans from World War II have about their service. Those WWII veterans’ memories, and lives, are fading fast.

For John, the way he honors Veterans Day has changed over time. As a naïve farm boy from Murray, Veterans Day was a relatively new thing when he was born in the 1920s. Growing up the son of Italian immigrants, living next to Woodstock Elementary School, John was raised to be patriotic, despite ethnic slights he felt he received from some of his teachers.

The last of five children, he lived with his wife and two children on his parents’ farm because they needed his help running it. When he was drafted in 1944, his wife was pregnant with his third child. John easily qualified for a deferment but refused to take it. “It was the right thing to do; there was no question about what needed to be done,” John explained. 

“I didn’t want to be in the Army because of the cold winters in Europe. I didn’t want to be in the Navy ‘cause I got seasick,” said John. So he got his wish and was inducted into the 3rd Marine Division. He joined in the liberation of Guam, but he called that a cakewalk compared to his next assignment: Iwo Jima.

He had many close calls, even that of hearing a bullet whiz past his head. Out of his entire platoon, only eight survived. When the famous flag-raising took place on Mount Suribachi, John recalls the entire island erupting in cheers at the sight. As he prepared for the invasion of Japan, the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki propelled the Axis to surrender, and he was able to return home to Murray.

Of the 16 million Americans in WWII, just over 400,000 are alive today, with an estimated 362 dying each day. Like many veterans, John refused to talk much about his experience for many years. It was not until 40 years had passed that John joined any veterans’ groups, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Marine Corp League. In 1985, he began participating in an honor guard for veterans’ funerals.

John’s advice for recent veterans, especially those coming back from conflicts in the Middle East, is to embrace being a veteran. “At least wear a hat that shows where you served,” said John; he wears a Marine 3rd Division cap. “I wish the Korean and Vietnam vets would show more pride in letting people know who they are.”

Now living with his daughter in South Jordan, he has a flagpole that flies the American and Marine Corps flags daily. He also visits classrooms to share his experiences and participates in the Veterans Day tradition of giving poppies away. He chuckles that so many young people want to take a picture with him. “Back at Olympus Junior High [in my day], I couldn’t get the girls to pay me any attention, and now this.”

There are many service members and veterans among John’s posterity and extended family. Both of John’s sons served in the navy, and two of his daughters married veterans. Some of John’s grandchildren have also served in the armed forces. John shares words of wisdom with much greener vets.

He encourages veterans to remain patriotic, and he likes to remind people that patriotism is more than just flying the flag. “Patriotism is about being grateful—for your freedoms and your country. Also, it is about giving time. Continue to serve when you no longer are in the service.”

Note: John Delliskave is the writer’s great-uncle.