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WWII veteran shares story of Iwo Jima
|Photos by Sean V. Lehosit
|Luther Crabtree (left) is introduced by Kiwanis member Roland Lane (right). Crabtree shared some brief thoughts and stories about his part in the invasion of Iwo Jima, during WWII.
The Hilltop Kiwanis Club paid homage to World War II veterans at their May 19 meeting, inviting guest speaker and retired Marine, Luther Crabtree to speak with audience members about his part in the 1945 invasion of Iwo Jima.
The talk came just days before Armed Forces Day, which was declared an official holiday by President John F. Kennedy in 1962.
“Usually, old Marines just fade away, but I see a renewed interest in what got us here,” Crabtree said.
According to Roland Lane, a Kiwanis member who coordinates veteran programs throughout the Columbus area, many World War II veterans are now sharing their experiences with the public. Additionally, for those interested in the personal stories of the war – Columbus is a prime source of information.
“Columbus is blessed by having several hundred World War II vets living here,” Lane said. “We’ve got a good reservoir of people to draw from… our draw is probably better than most cities.”
In fact, Hilltop Kiwanis members, Harold Hambrock, Gerald Koster, Bruce Bester, Bob Jones, Jay Kennard, and Joe Norris are also WWII vets – whom alongside Crabtree, received Starfish Pins on behalf of the Kiwanis Club for saving the lives of many during wartime.
Crabtree said he lived a humble life in Columbus, until he and his brother decided to join the Marine Corp in 1941. Trained as a paratrooper, Crabtree received extensive training at a base in Hawaii – where, for a year starting in 1943, he prepared for the invasion of Iwo Jima.
According to Crabtree, Iwo Jima was chosen for its tactical edge in fighting Japan. The military needed a flight path for bombing Japan, and Crabtree said, Iwo Jima was perfect for this purpose.
However, the battle was hard and bloody. Crabtree said, they lost 1,000 men on the first day and would soon lose many more in the days to come. When the battle ended, the Marines lost 6,821 soldiers, including Crabtree’s brother.
“Bloodshed on...was appalling,” Crabtree said.
Their forces were able to gain control of a primary airfield – the invasion led to the first Japanese territory seized by American forces in WWII. It was also one of the last barriers to getting to Japan.
For Crabtree’s performance during the war, he was awarded the Silver Star of Valor and a presidential citation. In 2001, Crabtree was put into Ohio’s Military Hall of Fame.
“On 13 March, when the advance of his company was held up by rifle and grenade fire from a series of caves to the front, Corporal Crabtree, utterly disregarding his own safety, ran forward of the front lines and destroyed two cave positions with demolitions,” the presidential citation reads.
The citation later details how Crabtree risked machine gun fire, taking out three additional caves with satchel charges. This made it possible for his company to advance their movements.
On March 14, 1945 the American forces had won the battle, and the iconic image of red, white, and blue was raised.
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