It is not everyday that you meet a genuine American hero. Yesterday was obviously not like everyday.
I was in my studio when a 97 year old man walks in carrying an armful of photos. As I was discussing his order with him, I couldn’t help but notice the US Marine Corps cap on his head and the Battle of Midway shirt he was wearing. Turns out he was there.
As a Pfc., he was stationed aloft in a 30 ft tall searchlight control tower during the Japanese attack, armed with a .30-caliber bolt action rifle. From his position, he had a birds-eye view of the decisive WWII battle.
Earlier that year, famed Hollywood director John Ford (Stagecoach, The Grapes of Wrath, How Green Was My Valley) bunked with him and others for a couple of weeks in the atoll’s power plant. Ford was there in his capacity as the head of the photographic unit for the Office of Strategic Services. The footage Ford shot while there was edited into the 18 minute long Academy Award winning documentary, The Battle of Midway which contains the first actual combat footage ever filmed in color. The picture above shows Ford in the center flanked by the younger American soldiers, including my client who is seated to Ford’s left.
Ford is quoted as saying, “The Marines with me – I took one look at them and I said, “Well this war was won.” They were kids, oh, I would say from 18 to 22, none of them were older. They were the calmest people I have ever seen. I mean the thing [a Japanese bomb] would drop through, they would laugh and say “My God that one was close.” I figured then, “Well, if these kids are American kids, I mean this war is practically won.”
My client ended up making the Marines his career choice and retired as a colonel. Still married to his wife of 72 years, he chuckled as he took his leave and told me that his goal was to make it to 100. Judging from what I saw, he’s setting that bar too low.
Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio tapes and cassettes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.