Our March volunteer profile is on PFC (Private First Class) Dick Whitaker. Upon his graduation from high school in Saugerites, New York, in 1944, the United States Marine Corp gave him an amazing senior trip.
He first travelled to the posh resort of Parris Island, SC, when he received basic training. Upon completion Dick travelled to another superb facility at Camp Lejeune, NC, for infantry training. With the proper polish, he was ready for advanced training and journeyed to California and then via a troop ship to Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, to join the 6th Marine Division in January 1945.
On 13 March, Dick boarded a US Navy attack transport ship and sailed north toward the island of Okinawa Shima, the last Japanese stronghold in the Pacific. He participated in the largest land battle in the Pacific War, landing on Red Beach Number Two on Easter Sunday, 01 April, 1945. Dick’s regiment, 29th Marines, suffered a casualty rate of 82%…highest ever recorded by an infantry regiment in Marine Corp history.
He credits smoking with saving his life on Okinawa. Near Sugar Loaf Hill while sitting in his fox hole, he leaned over to get a light from his buddy, when a sniper’s bullet hit his hand (positioned where his head had been!). Slightly wounded, Dick only missed combat for a couple of days before he returned to Fox Company for duty.
Dick worked at a private school in Conneticut for many years, until he moved south to Mount Pleasant, SC. Today he volunteers two mornings a week onboard the USS Yorktown and has been very active in our 5th grade history programs talking to students. Still serving the nation and telling the story of his senior trip, Dick is a testament to the young men who served our country in World War II and is leaving a legacy of service to future generations.