Pearl Harbor Day evokes memories for local vet
The politicians didn't know that the Japanese had modified their aerial torpedoes so that they could skim along at a shallow depth and do maximum damage to ships moored at harbor, Barrow said. That's why the devastation at Pearl Harbor was so severe.
America lost Guam and Wake islands to the Japanese soon after the Pearl Harbor raid, and didn't reclaim them for more than two years. But Barrow believes that, "without the loss of our battle fleet at Pearl Harbor we could have supplied General MacArthur in the Philippines" and saved thousands of people who were forced into the "Death March" from Bataan and into Japanese prison camps.
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Barrow's group protected the ammunition depot at Nimitz Beach and built a new Navy base. He became a platoon sergeant.
On Feb. 8, 1942, his battalion commander called him into the office to sign re-enlistment papers since his current four-year enlistment had expired.
"I informed him that I was in total agreement with him except that bit about me signing re-enlistment papers. I informed the major that I had no intention of being made a fool of twice, especially not by the same group of people." A pilot before he joined the Marines, Barrow said the Marine Corps "had cost me a career in aviation" by assigning him to a combat engineering battalion.
He never did sign re-enlistment papers, but he remained a Marine for four more years and saw combat at Guadalcanal, Bougainville, the Solomon Islands, Emirau, the Archipelagos, Guam, the Mariana Islands and Iwo Jima.
"My amphibious tank organization was always selected to make the first wave of the landing," he said. "I managed to get a bayonet stuck in my left knee and a piece of a Japanese 40-millimeter anti-tank shell in my head" on Guam.
After his injury on Guam, he went to a hospital ship for surgery.
"I got up three days later and the doctors immediately told me to lie back down. The X-ray showed a crack through the middle of my skull. I laughed. Those deck apes couldn't tell the X-ray plate was scratched. They'd already taken the metal out."
But at Iwo Jima, Barrow said the beach was "six feet up in the air from artillery shell fire, but I never got a scratch on me. And I landed right at the foot of Mount Suribachi."
At 85, the member of the Prescott Chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association still knows how to handle a K-Bar knife – the one weapon he still has from his Marine Corps days – and called it a "fantastic weapon."
About seeing combat on so many Pacific islands, Barrow said he "landed on a lot of beaches against enemy shellfire and all you see is what's just around you."
"But you don't kill people and forget it," he said soberly. "We had artillery and tanks and there was nothing but bodies. It leaves such an impression."
In 1945, while he was on Iwo Jima, he starting writing to a girl back home. Her name was Wilma, and his brother was married to her sister. They met for the first time in late 1945 and were married the next year. They have been married for 57 years and have lived in the Prescott area since 1987.
In 1951, while he was serving in the Air Force in Guam, he and Wilma looked for an American tank "that I had put down in a hole so the Japanese couldn't get to it" during World War II. The tank was still there.
Now 85, Barrow believes "war is so bloody, so stupid. If you're going to get into war, you better win it," he said. "You don't know what it does to people to lose a war."
The former Marine said he is happy that the United States won World War II and that he did his job, "gave his bucket of blood and did not complain about any assignment I was given while in the Corps. I had nothing personal against the Japanese and could never get over shooting at some individual who might have a family at home who needed him."
Contact Dorine Goss at email@example.com or 445-8179, ext. 2036.