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Tuesday, November 11, 2003
'He was one of our heroes'
Sunday, November 09, 2003
By David J. Kolb
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR
Don Glover heard God speak to him for the first and only time in his life at the bottom of a deep shell crater on the beach of Iwo Jima.
The deadly air above was whizzing with flying shrapnel. Exploding ordnance deafened all sounds except the screams of wounded men.
In that terrifying moment, Glover says, God told him he would be OK -- that he would have a lot of close calls, but would never die in combat.
God was right.
It was Feb. 19, 1945, just a few days after the Kent City farm boy's 20th birthday. Young he was, but Glover was no raw kid. He was a combat veteran, one of the most skilled and competent killers in F Company, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Regiment, 4th Marine Division.
Prior to landing on Iwo, Glover was promoted to corporal after winning the coveted Silver Star for action earlier on Saipan, another Pacific island hell. Glover had taken out three Japanese machine gun positions with hand grenades. He had been shot in the leg during that action.
They handed the medals out to the men months later on the ship heading to Iwo Jima. "That was a hell of a plan," Glover said, recalling with scorn the ineptness of giving a man his new medal just in time for him to carry it into another fight on yet another enemy-held island. He gave his Silver Star and Purple Heart to the ship's captain, who mailed them back to his mother in Kent City.
When Glover and Kelley were first dumped onto Yellow Beach 2, their landing zone, out of their armored amphibious tractor, resistance was very light. "This is going to be a picnic," Glover thought.
That changed shortly.
To their left was a 50-foot long, 3-foot-deep anti-tank trench dug by the Japanese. Kelley and Glover investigated. Glover crawled in at one end, but was pulled out by his heels by Kelley, who said, "Let me go first." Glover, right behind Kelley, thinks his sergeant might have been worried about a booby-trap.
Kelley didn't get more than a foot along when he was shot in the head by a Japanese machine-gunner who had been sealed up in a compartment at the other end. Glover backed out as fast as he could move.
He could fire out along the length of the trench. It was perfectly camouflaged, but a suicide mission. "They put him in there and then closed him up. He killed one Marine, so he did his job. But he got the best one of all, Sgt. Kelley," Glover remembered.
"Kelley was lucky," he added. "He didn't know what hit him. The rest of us suffered."
Moose Kelley served with Glover and most of the men of Fox Company through all three of the 4th Division's previous island campaigns: Roi-Namur, Saipan and Tinian. The worst of the battles was to be Iwo Jima, but now Kelley was gone in the fight's second hour. Many more Marines, thousands of them, would follow him into the grave that day and in the coming ones.
But things got hotter, as very accurate Japanese artillery and mortars opened up from atop Mount Suribachi, which had a clear view of the landing beach, and from high ground at the other end of the island, creating a crossfire. That's when Glover dived into his shell hole, followed by another Marine, LeRoy Surface of St. Louis, a bazooka man. "Old LeRoy," Glover chuckled. "He had funny eyes. They called him 'Old Banjo Eyes.' "
Each Marine had his own specialized weapon assignment. Glover carried a light .30-caliber carbine because he had been an ammo carrier for a partner who lugged the heavy Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR). The majority of the riflemen used the semiautomatic M-1 Garand rifle. Glover liked the smaller carbine.
"You could bring it up quick," he said.
Two Marines following Glover and Surface almost made it to the shell hole, but were cut down just short by the razor-sharp shrapnel in the steel storm above. They bled to death on the rim of Glover's hole, their lives leaking out in red rivulets that stopped just short of his helmet. "I guess they just ran out of blood, every drop," Glover recalls.
As the roar of the din increased in intensity, Glover slid down to the very bottom of the hole, reached behind his pack to shove it higher behind his neck and closed his eyes. Darkness enveloped him and all noise faded into nothingness.
Next, he said, he heard a chorus of angels singing.
Then God spoke.
At a reunion a few decades later, Glover said he met fellow Marine Earl Otworth, who told him he saw Jesus on a different part of the beach that day. They figured out they had their encounters at roughly the same time.
One fellow veteran overheard them talking. "Hey," he asked in a derogatory manner. "Did Jesus have a beard?" Then he went away laughing.
Glover said another Marine who had been in the fight got hot under the collar hearing them talk about God. "If there's such a thing as God, he's going to have to show me a lot more than he has!"
By the time World War II ended, Glover had amassed a lot of medals and ribbons, but it was the one he never got -- the Navy Cross for heroism -- that clouds his days late in life.
Glover prizes the extraordinary letter, but feels it was a substitute so that someone else could get his medal. The Navy Cross for Marines is second in official significance only to the Congressional Medal of Honor, which some who know Glover believe he also should have gotten for what he accomplished later on Iwo Jima.
One of them, an Iwo Jima veteran badly wounded in action, believed so strongly that Glover deserved his higher award that he bought a Navy Cross from a medals dealer and sent it to his friend. The card reads in part: "God bless you always. Semper Fidelis."
Glover believes he earned his Navy Cross, but that's not what's foremost on his mind. The message he most wants people to know is that God talked to him that day on Iwo Jima.
That's what he told the students of Kent City Community Schools when he was their special guest of honor during a salute to veterans on Nov. 11, 2002. He was invited by Kent City High School Principal Fred Geronke to speak before the veterans ceremony that is now a Kent City tradition.
It was the only time Glover has really told even a portion of his story publicly because he knows that many think he "cracked up in a foxhole" when he talks about God.
"The problem was," said Harold Davis of Lubbock, Texas, a former gunnery sergeant who served with Glover on Iwo, "compared to other services, the Navy and the Marine Corps were so stingy with medals. You had to be exceptionally outstanding in some situation, with an officer in authority (aware of it). So on the front lines, as hectic as it is, you don't have many people to recommend you for your actions, because they weren't there. So very few got decorated."
He added, "Don was one of our heroes, all right."
By contrast, says U.S. Army veteran Dean Chapman of Norton Shores, author of "Growl of the Tiger" about the exploits of the U.S. 10th Armored Division, the Army was more generous. "We gave out a lot of medals. It was good for morale and the men earned them."
But Glover wasn't in the Army.
These days, Glover spends most of his time in his modest home at 2236 Travelo in Arlington Park South Mobile Village in Muskegon Township, thinking about days gone by.
His second wife passed away years ago. Many of his old friends have died. An outspoken man who always says what's on his mind, come what may, he is estranged from many family members. Even some of his old war buddies have had fallings-out with him.
At least once a week, he is visited by his close friend, Charles "Chuck" Carlson of 4511 Arbutus in Egelston Township, an Army veteran during the Korean War and a Kent City native who befriended Glover and Glover's late brother, Paul, after the war. Carlson has heard all of Glover's tales of the South Pacific and stands in awe of the man: "Don Glover should have received every medal there was, including the Congressional Medal of Honor."
Those who were there that night with Glover agree.
"Don was the major factor in stopping the Japanese attack in F Co.'s area," said Ed Davis of Springfield, Ohio, a corporal who served with Glover. "Basically, he alone was responsible."
That attack resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Japanese at or near Glover's position. He won't say how many he himself killed that night.
Glover is not a religious or churchgoing man. So he really can't explain why God spoke to him at the bottom of a shell hole that day on Iwo Jima. His late father told him it was part of a plan that isn't yet clear.
He grew up in a broken, brawling, dysfunctional family in the small town of Ferry, between Hesperia and Hart. He later moved to Kent City with his mother, stepfather and brothers and sisters.
Life was hard and Glover remembers being constantly hungry. He worked long hours in the onion fields around the area. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Glover decided the Marine Corps was his ticket to three square meals and a new life: "Hauling onions ain't for me."
"Boot camp? I loved it. I was always the first one through the obstacle course." Although he had fired a lightweight squirrel rifle back home, he liked the heft of the Marine Corps heavy weapons.
Glover always listened intently to the Marine Corps veterans who returned from Guadalcanal, the brutal and heroic campaign of August 1942 to February 1943 that stopped the Japanese tide of victory in the early part of the war: "Stay down. Never walk along a skyline or on the top of a hill. Don't look up over a rock, look off to the side. Never piss outside your foxhole at night."
He still has his old "dress greens," his uniform with all his decorations on the chest. On the campaign ribbons below his Silver Star and Purple Heart decorations are four tiny battle stars that attest to his participation in the 4th Division's four ferocious Pacific campaigns: Roi-Namur, Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima.
Glover knows why he is still here. In that hole on the beach, after hearing God's voice, the shelling died down. His companion, LeRoy Surface, kicked his foot, and laughed at Glover for "taking a nap" during the battle. Glover insists he wasn't napping, but admits "hours passed" while they were in the shell hole.
A few days later, he decided to take God up on his promise, so he climbed, for the hell of it, onto an unexploded shell sticking out of the sand. The men with him, horrified, shrank away, expecting the worst. Glover mocked their fear, then took out a carton of K rations and calmly ate his lunch while straddling the shell.
Nothing happened, but Glover says he always has felt ashamed that he challenged God that one time. He swore never to do so again.
Instead, perhaps it was God who challenged Don Glover.
IT WAS THE WORSE NIGHT OF ALL ON IWO JIMA
Monday, November 10, 2003
Second of a three-part series
CHRONICLE EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR
By David J. Kolb
Don Glover leans forward and peers into the black-and-white, framed photograph taken by a Marine Corps combat photographer during the bloody battle for Iwo Jima.
It's a picture of four bone-weary Marines, one of them Glover, carrying a stretcher into relative safety behind the massive bulk of an uprooted tree.
Though it was taken during World War II more than 58 years ago, "I can remember it like it was yesterday," he says, reminiscing in his home in Muskegon Township's Arlington Estates South Park Mobile Home
Dombrowski was one of two Marines caught in an open field just beyond where the photo was taken. The other Marine, whose name Glover can't remember, also was lying wounded out on the field.
That man was badly hurt. He had been hit with a bullet that pierced his heavy steel helmet but didn't exit, cutting a complete circle around his skull
so neatly that Glover recalled it looked like a surgeon had removed the top of his head. It was not an uncommon wound on Iwo Jima.
The top of the man's brain was completely exposed, but he remained calm and talking as Glover and three others made a decision as to who to take out first to safety. The man with the head injury was coherent, but he also was paralyzed.
The four stretcher-bearers were hurrying back to safety when one of the grenades rolled under the stretcher holding Dombrowski and exploded.
"All that power went up under the guy's back," recalled Glover. "Whoomp! That shrapnel probably finished him off. It hit me in the goddamn legs."
By the time they got to safety with Dombrowski, they were so exhausted they could hardly walk. But, tired as they were, there was another Marine out there. Glover went back, but got confused. "I went through the wrong hole."
An enemy soldier fired at him right next to his right ear, but missed. "Point blank," Glover said. "I thought my damn eardrum was gone."
The Japanese were firing, but it wasn't an enemy shell that got Glover -- it was Marine artillery on Mount Suribachi that landed short. As Glover ran, the shell exploded, picking him up and tossing him through the air, knocking him out for a few seconds.
When he came to, he had to figure out where his fellow Marines were. He jumped up, startling a few Japanese who thought he had been killed by the blast. His men thought he was dead, too. "Here comes Glover's ghost!" one yelled as he ran past them to safety.
Under a smokescreen laid down by their artillery, they went back for the second wounded Marine, but he already was dead. Still, they brought him out under fire. "Never leave a man behind" is a Marine Corps tradition.
When Corpsman Owen "Doc" Bahnken started to prep Crowley for evacuation, Glover said he argued against it because he believed Crowley to be in such terrible shape that letting him die would be a mercy.
Bahnken, a beloved Fox Company hero who had been with the men through all four of their campaigns, wouldn't hear of it. He told Glover he took an oath to save men no matter what the odds.
So "Doc" pumped morphine into Crowley and ordered him taken to the beach to wait for evacuation to a hospital ship. Crowley made it to the beach, but due to the crush of casualties he lay there in agony, all but forgotten, for several days.
"Bill, is that really you?" Glover said, holding back tears. He had long thought "Little Bill" dead.
As for Bahnken, his many friends in the company mounted a campaign to get their brave corpsman a Congressional Medal of Honor for his uncounted acts of heroism. The Navy turned them down, as it did a similar request to get Glover his Navy Cross for his actions of the night of March 8-9, 1945.
Every day on Iwo Jima was much like the day before for Fox Company in the period after the invasion landing and the fight on the beaches. Move out, engage the enemy, dig in for the night. One horror blended into another.
The Second Battalion of the 4th Marines was assigned to the extreme right flank of the advance across the length of Iwo Jima. Up and down the line in front of them, the Japanese held on grimly, popping up from holes and caves, then disappearing.
Late in the afternoon of March 8, Lt. Sam Haddad ordered Glover and new replacement Pvt. Charlie Swanson, who today lives in Marseilles, Ill., to dig in and prepare for an expected big Japanese counterattack that night.
As they dug, Japanese spotters on top of a nearby cliff wall watched. Off to their left, but beyond where they could see, other Marines were presumably digging in. But Glover and Swanson couldn't see them. The only weapons they had were grenades, Swanson's M-1 rifle and Glover's trusty .30-caliber carbine.
The night's spread-out defense line was of some concern. "You want to have a guy close enough to where you can shake his hand," Glover said.
As darkness deepened, they could hear the Japanese moving up in force.
Then, out of the night behind them, he heard the voice of a machine-gunner -- "a real skinny guy with knobs on his shoulders," Glover recalls.
"Hey, Glover! I got something for you," Glover remembers the man saying. "I think you'll need this before the night's over."
"Ernie" Pyle and three ammunition carriers dropped off a light .30-caliber, air-cooled Browning machine gun and six boxes of ammo about 30 feet to the left of the foxhole. Then they left.
The Japanese, of course, had observed how lightly defended the Marine line was at Glover's end. But they had no idea there was a machine gun there because it had arrived after dark.
Swanson, who remained in the foxhole about 30 feet away from Glover's machine gun, remembers the awful "Banzai!" screams from the charging Japanese.
"It was ... the worst night of all. All them guys coming at you," Swanson said. "Damn right I was scared! They called us all kinds of names and screamed at us, 'We're going to kill you!' "
"I was happy," said Glover. "I knew what the machine gun could do. I couldn't have been nervous. If I was, I couldn't have done what I did."
The attack came a few weeks after the invasion on the Iwo Jima beaches. During that horrific experience, Glover said, God spoke to him while he cowered in a shell hole. He said God told him he wouldn't die in the battle.
But as hundreds of enemy soldiers charged his position, Glover said of the revelation, "I never gave it a thought."
There were so many Japanese coming at him in the dark that Glover said he could feel the ground shaking. He pressed the trigger and opened up "as soon as I had targets." Marine artillery fired flares that lit up the battlefield bright enough to read a newspaper by, he said.
Glover said he just automatically worked the trigger. "I thought of it a little like a game," he said, except at one point, when another flare revealed how many Japanese were still out in front, he realized this was no sporting event.
"I thought, 'Donald, there might be too many to stop.' Then that thought left my head. You put the gun right on those groups (of Japanese and you) just mowed 'em right down."
The Japanese during the attack fired continuously straight at Glover. Shrapnel and sand rained down on him, but he never got a scratch.
The intensity of the Japanese counterattack weakened as the night wore on and ultimately petered out as the brunt of the attack moved off to the left.
Marine Corps accounts of the action that night do not specifically mention Glover nor anyone else on the line. But official records do note -- specifically the "C-2 situation map" and the report of Col. T. R. Yancey -- that at Glover's position there were "strong infiltration attempts; sporadic mortar fire during the night (and) killed 784 en. (enemy)."
A declassified intelligence report obtained by The Chronicle also names no names. But "C-2 Periodic Report No. 19" stated in no uncertain terms that the attack was a big one: "To quote the Division: 'The enemy used everything he had.' "
Glover said Cates asked him how many enemy lay out there. Glover says he told him, "Only God knows."
To this day, he won't cite a figure. All he will say is that he started out with 1,500 rounds, and finished with a handful.
After Cates left, Glover said some Marines came over and shook his hand in appreciation.
Cpl. Ed Davis, who was behind Glover's position at battalion headquarters -- which was hit hard by the Japanese, resulting in the loss of many officers and records -- remembers hearing Glover's machine gun firing throughout the night. He could see the streaks of mortar fire raining down on Glover's position to his front. "Poor Glover," he recalled thinking.
Years later, Davis wrote a detailed letter strongly supporting Glover's claim for a Navy Cross to the Marine Corps Medals Division. It was to no avail.
But Davis was not a direct witness -- the medals rules require at least two -- nor did any officer personally witness Glover's actions to write up a formal account. Also, Swanson, the closest living Marine to that night's action, today maintains he can only remember some of what happened that night, little of it pertaining to Glover specifically.
Moreover, a blunt and direct Glover did not endear himself to some of his comrades after the war -- personal disputes that in some instances had little, if anything, to do with the war. So in some corners the praise, if there was any, is faint.
Perhaps the biggest big part of the problem, surviving company officers say, was that so few in battalion and lower command posts survived Iwo Jima, and that the battalion headquarters and its records were hit hard during the counterattack. By all accounts, the scene there during the attack and in the aftermath was pure havoc.
Don Glover had luck to spare during his ordeal in all four of his Pacific battles, and especially on Iwo Jima. His luck ran out, however, when the shooting stopped, in his battle to win a Navy Cross.
'IS IT RIGHT? NO'
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
By David J. Kolb
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR
The gunfire stopped in Fox Company's sector of Iwo Jima not long after Marine Cpl. Don Glover repulsed a big Japanese counterattack.
Even so, Glover's war did not have a happy ending. The combat veteran who had performed some heroic deeds of World War II left the war zone embittered and frustrated, his actions largely unrecognized.
But he lived through the carnage in part, he says, because God spoke to him as he took cover in a shell hole and told him he would survive.
For days after the big counterattack, the push went on, although there was no combat of significance that Glover, who now lives in Muskegon Township, could remember. Ultimately, Fox Company and its affiliated units were told to head to the beach for evacuation.
However, wallowing in self-pity, even after a big battle, was not allowed in the Marine Corps. The first few hours off the hated beaches of Iwo Jima, thousands of exhausted, hurting, wounded, filthy, hungry and battle-shocked warriors were just beginning to unwind aboard the ships that would take them back to the 4th Marine Division's base in Hawaii for refitting and retraining.
Then reality set in.
"We were on that ship for maybe two hours when they came and started up with their horse----," Glover remembered. "Inspection, gun watch to relieve the sailors. Gun watch! That was the only time I really lost it."
Every day, the Marines trooped down to the lower deck one by one to present their rifles for inspection. "Where's your rifle?" asked the major in charge. "This is my rifle," Glover said he told him. "He thought I was being a smart ass."
The Navy ship captain was there and Glover said he stood there shaking his head. "Are you trying to tell us that rifle got blown up and you never got a scratch? Amazing! Amazing!"
At every inspection, Glover presented the same blown-up carbine and it was duly reported in. This went on until they got back to Camp Maui. The first time he presented it there, a sergeant took it from him, threw it into a trash barrel and issued him another carbine.
Glover was angry they wouldn't let him keep it. "I killed a lot of human beings with that rifle."
They began to add replacements and retrain. The scuttlebutt was they were to be one of the spearheads for the expected invasion of Japan.
After the casualties at Iwo Jima, the company was filled with new recruits who had never seen action. One of the briefings explained how Japanese civilians might come at them with pitchforks and reminded the men they were to shoot to kill if attacked.
Sgt. Glover, now with his own platoon, was approached by a recruit who told him he couldn't kill a woman. "I said, 'Why not? You gonna let her run a pitchfork into you? You don't belong in the Marine Corps, you belong in the Boy Scouts!' "
On July 4, 1945, the entire division was to assemble for an awards parade.
But that rumor was quickly scuttled, with the new rumor being that the Navy Cross was going to the battalion commander Lt. Col. Edward J. Dillon. Dillon, the 23rd Regiment's executive officer, had been assigned to lead Second Battalion after its officer corps was decimated.
Glover next heard he was to get the Navy Cross at some "later" date. Then, he was officially notified that he was to get a personal Letter of Commendation for bravery from the commanding general at the same parade.
Glover said he was upset at the time, but the news a month later about the end of the war with Japan and the expectation of returning home to see his girlfriend and family pushed the episode from his mind.
But there was, he said, one occasion on which he and the late Lt. Col. Dillon met face to face.
A few weeks after the parade, he and his squad were taking a break from policing an area near headquarters when suddenly out stormed Dillon, a notorious stickler for "by the book" Marine Corps discipline. Interviews with Glover's fellow Marines reveal story after story about Dillon's excessive strictness.
"Who are you and what the hell are you men doing?" Glover said Dillon demanded.
"Sgt. Donald Glover. These are my men and we're taking a break," was the reply.
With a lot of "points" earned on the battlefield, Glover was mustered out of the service that November. He had his medals, but he also had "jungle rot," a kind of weepy fungus, dripping out of the ear on the side where a Japanese gun went off next to his head on Iwo Jima.
His leg wound from Saipan, which he said "you could put a finger into," still pained him. He didn't have a high school diploma, and the promise of a police job in Chicago fell apart when his engagement to his girlfriend there was broken off through a heart-breaking misunderstanding.
Glover had a shot at joining the Michigan State Police. But when the choice came down to giving up his disability claim in order to join, he declined, a decision he said he always regretted.
For years, Glover was troubled with nightmares about being chased down by Japanese soldiers. So he started going to sleep holding a gun under his pillow. "That quieted things down," he said.
Glover ultimately settled into fairly steady work at Teledyne Continental Motors in Muskegon, retiring in 1985 with his pension. He married two women; his first wife divorced him, his second wife died. Inter-family disputes led to estrangement from many of his closest family members.
While he regularly keeps in touch with his fellow Fox Company companions, Glover has had only limited contact with area vets. He did serve as past commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Don Rea Post 8846 in North Muskegon in the late 1960s.
It made him laugh.
Glover's friends and his nephew, Bill Glover of Vacaville, Calif., went to bat for him over the issue of his Navy Cross. Glover painstakingly collected accounts of his uncle's exploits and written statements from his friends in the Corps to back up the claims.
They ultimately ran into a brick wall.
The chief stumbling blocks were the length of time that had elapsed between the counterattack and the filing of Glover's claim in 1994, and the lack of two direct eyewitness accounts.
Ironically, the written citation for bravery that Glover received from Gen. Cates also helped block his bid. The then-head of the Navy's Military Awards Branch cited Cates' Letter of Commendation to Glover as direct evidence that the certificate was the only honor Cates had meant Glover to receive.
"While one may disagree with his decision some 50 years after the fact, there are no procedures to now reconsider the approved award without substantive new supporting documentation, which has not been provided," Anthony wrote.
To some of the men and officers who served with Glover, it was a familiar story.
Lawrence Snowden, a retired general who now lives in Tallahassee, Fla., who briefly commanded Fox Company on Iwo before being wounded, said the loss of key officers in the company and battalion hurt Glover's case.
"There isn't any doubt in my mind that what he said he did, he probably did it ... (but) at one point in the regiment, there were 32 captains and majors out of action on Iwo (who were) not there to participate in writing up the awards."
Ahern, at age 83, retains the same sharp sense of humor and irony that endeared him, unlike many other officers, to the men. He remembers Glover as "one of our good guys." Ahern says he understands Glover's feelings, but "I feel everyone who was on Iwo should have gotten a medal.
"Is it right? Is it justice? No. They should all have gotten a medal, but that was not the Marine Corps style."
Dale Cook, who served with Glover and was wounded on Iwo Jima, knows well the carnage that decimated Fox Company on the island. "The company went ashore with 232 men. We got 105 replacements. Only 79 really returned to the company (after Iwo)."
Cook, too, tried his hand at helping Glover get his medal -- "he was the guy up there" -- but said that was how the system worked.
Cook for years was the editor of the Danville, Calif., VFW Post 75's newsletter. In an issue devoted to Iwo Jima in April 2000, he wrote this caustic paragraph about the counterattack:
"On the night of March 8-9, Corporal Don Glover's machine gun chattered almost continuously in the dark. He was positioned anchoring one end of the Second Battalion, 23rd Marines defensive line which during the night stopped cold an organized 1,000-man Banzai charge. The next morning found 784 Japanese bodies before the line, a major percentage in front of Glover's gun. A fill-in Lt. Colonel from Regiment for the wounded unit's Battalion Commander received the Navy Cross for the night's action: Glover, a Certificate of Commendation."
Lt. Col. Dillon's Navy Cross citation, a copy of which was obtained by The Chronicle, lauds his "extraordinary heroism as Executive Officer" that night in "reorganizing the Command Post despite a depleted staff" and, during the counterattack itself, for his work in directing the repulse of the Japanese, "resulting in the annihilation of five hundred of the enemy."
No one interviewed in the course of this series disputed the late Dillon's personal courage, but none among the dozen or so interviewees who served with him or under him thought that if there was only one award to be given out, an officer should have been given the Navy Cross instead of the Marine directly involved in the fight.
But most say the matter is so old now, it's best to just accept things as they are.
Still, the Navy Cross issue aside, he doesn't want anyone to misunderstand his reasons for telling his story after all these years. "I don't want anyone to think I won the war all by myself."
He said his chief concern, far beyond that of getting justice from the Navy Medals Division, is letting people know that God spoke to him on Iwo Jima.
The old Marine, who remains in good health, says he still doesn't fear death. In fact, Glover is kind of looking forward to a heavenly meeting with all his old friends from the Corps, killed in battle so long ago, or passed away as time has taken them one by one.
He says he has finally figured out life.
"It's a big picture puzzle. There are hard pieces and there are easy pieces, and as you go along, they are put in one by one. It's not over with until the last piece is put in the last spot."
Every morning when he can, he dutifully raises the American flag in front of his trailer.
Not long after the Department of the Navy turned down his appeal, a small package arrived at Glover's trailer.
Inside was a familiar-looking medal in the shape of a thick, squared-off cross which pictured in its center a three-masted ship at full sail. Accompanying it was a note from William "Little Bill" Crowley, Glover's good friend in the service and the man whose life he once begged a corpsman to let end on Iwo Jima because of Crowley's shocking wounds. Crowley has since passed away.
The handwriting was neat, but the signature was a scrawl, as if it had been signed by a blind man.
Which it was.
Enclosed is the Navy Cross that our Company Commander of 2-F-23rd couldn't admit that you earned. Even though you had all the written award, that should have ensured your receiving the medal.
I will send you the case, ribbon and lapel pin in the very near future. It will take about 6 to 8 weeks for you to receive them. I do hope you enjoy this medal.
Don, YOU earned IT!
God bless you always.
Don Glover got his Navy Cross, after all.
© 2003 Muskegon Chronicle. Used with permission
GLOBE and ANCHOR
Marines Sites & Forums
By R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)