Monday, December 06, 2010

A Hero in Our Midst of the Greatest Generation: John Ditterline II

I have known John Ditterline II for over 20 years. He has attended the same church as I have during that time and is a close family friend. He has led an amazing life and the fine folks at the Brown County Press have chosen to highlight his heroics as a member of one of the USMC battalions that fought at Iwo Jima in WWII. From the Brown County Press:
John Ditterline II, is the father of five, was married to his wife Edith for more than 55 years before her passing a few years ago, and he is an Iwo Jima survivor.

In 1943 a young 19 year-old Ditterline joined the United States Marine Corps and went through his basic training in San Diego. He went on to attend 'Cook's and Baker's School' to become a cook for his fellow marines.

"I always liked to cook and I think my job as a cook was very important," Mr. Ditterline said. "I took my job seriously and did it the best I could."

After Boot Camp and a few more months of training, Ditterline was sent to the island of Maui in Hawaii to prepare for action.Eventually he was sent to Saipan where his outfit, the 2nd Armored Amphibious Battalion, prepared for Iwo Jima.

"My battalion was ready to go," Ditterline said with a smile, "I carried a gun at all times, even though I was a cook, I was ready. I'm grateful I never had to shoot anyone, but I certainly saw enough dead men while I was there."

"It was my battalion that first hit Iwo Jima, but I didn't go in for a couple days later. I was there, near the bottom of the hill where that famous picture of the raising of the flag was taken. It was my responsibility to to see that everyone got fed."

Of the six men shown in the picture three were killed during the battle. The picture was later used to sculpt the USMC War Memorial located adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery.

"At the time the picture was taken, we had no idea it would become so famous," added Ditterline.

Eventually Ditterline was sent back to California where he was honorably discharged.

"I served two years, eight months, 17 days and I'm not sure how many minutes," Ditterline said. "I got out right before Christmas.

"I had a lot of experiences both good and bad during my time in the service."

John was a key member of his battalion at both Saipan and Iwo Jima. He is a fine man who exemplifies the Marine Corps and Christianity. I am privileged to call him mentor and friend. In fact, it has always been my hope to do some video interviews with John regarding his service and his amazing life as soldier, pastor, and educator. It is important we catalogue and record these stories like John's because they show us how great America and her people are, and it is especially important because:
"I'm a member of the Iwo Jima Survivors Organization and every year it organizes a gettogether to reminisce. But a couple weeks ago, I received a letter that this year would be the last year for the event. I guess there just aren't enough of us left."

Ditterline proudly wears a hat which reads, "Iwo Jima Survivor."

Ditterline said he didn't talk much about his time in the war for many years but now realizes that his memories are important to America's history.

Sgt. John Wesley Ditterline said he recently attended a couple Veterans Day celebrations in the county which he appreciated tremendously.

"I have to say," Ditterline said, "the Veteran's Day observance at the Hamersville Elementary and Middle School was one of the best I've ever been to.

"It was sponsored by the 7th graders, and I felt honored to be a part of it. They recognized the Veterans in attendance and called us all up on the stage where we were personally thanked and presented with a rose. It was a very special time for me, and I appreciate all their efforts."

Kudos to the folks at Hamersville. They deserve recognition they originally didn't get in the local papers. God bless John and all the other veterans of that Greatest Generation, as well as those of Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East Wars. I am proud to know so many veterans and thank all of them for their service.