A Story From My Father

December 8, 1941, around 4am, Cornado Island, near San Diego, California.

The entire day before and through the night, marines were preparing as quickly as possible for a possible invasion of San Diego; Concertina wire was spread across the beach, machine guns emplaced, foxholes dug, mortars emplaced, field telephone wire strung, ammunition stockpiled. He said on reflection it probably wouldn’t have done much against an all-out invasion attempt, but it was the best that could be done at the time. And, like he always told me, “You prepare for the worst as best as you can….and hope for the best.”

At 4am, in the heavy fog, a strange tapping was heard coming from behind their lines. The marines were tense and especially so because the visibility was near zero. Pistols and rifles were trained toward the noise. Dad, by then a corporal, very quietly, “Hold Fire. Hold Fire.” to the marines around him. He had decided that if anyone was trying to sneak up on them, they wouldn’t be making so much noise.

The tapping was getting louder and louder. Soon, they saw that the noise was coming from a red tipped white cane. A blind man was out for an early morning walk. Everyone suddenly went back to their “normal” tenseness.

“Sir. You need to go home. You’re in amongst a bunch of very nervous marines. I’ll have someone escort you so you don’t get shot.”

Then and Then


There are 37 years between the two pictures.  The black and white one was taken in 1966 by my grandfather and I took the color one in 2003.    Coming as no surprise to any Marines reading this, the dates of the pictures are November 10.

My dad enlisted as a private in 1934 and retired as a major in 1964.  He was on active duty for a bit over a month more than 30 years, so the time between these two pictures is longer than he was on active duty.

He looks a bit tired in the second picture, and so does mom, but that’s OK.  When the latter picture was taken, he was 90 years old and she was 85, so they’re entitled to look a bit tired.

Dad’s “PCS Heaven” orders arrived about 8 months after the latter picture was taken and mom’s followed 13 years later.  Since mom was in the navy, I’m sure she’s noticed that the streets of heaven are guarded by United States Marines.