FORMER World War II US Marine medic and Woodlands resident Jack Fletcher (90) had pride of place at the 151st Memorial Day, America’s equivalent to Anzac Day, at King’s Park yesterday.
A Texan, Mr Fletcher joined the US Marines aged just 17 before spending 37 months in the Pacific War against Japan, including the capture of Guam where half of his 1st Battalion and all his fellow medics were killed in the first hour of fighting.
During five weeks of fighting in 1945, he and 17 medic comrades were all that were left from a company of 88 on the 21sq km Iwo Jima island where the US lost 6800 men, with about 19,000 wounded, and the Japanese lost almost all of a 21,000-strong garrison.
Mr Fletcher was posted to Japan after atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
A former agriculture consultant and North-West cattle farmer, he moved to Perth 50 years ago and now has seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren in WA.
“It was only 10 years ago I talked him into talking about his WWII experiences, and he now lays wreaths for Anzac and Memorial days and can remember the name of every guy who was with him,” grandson Jim Fletcher said.
US Memorial Day commemorates the 1.3 million dead of all America’s conflicts. The first Memorial Day was held three years after US President Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address in 1863 to remember those who died in the US Civil War.
Scotch College bagpipers led Australian and US representatives, including former Australian ambassador to the US Kim Beazley, in remembering the alliance between the two nations.
“I deliver the Gettysburg Address because it is supposed to be the inspiration for the first Memorial Day,” North America Veteran’s Unit president Michael Munjac (74), a US Navy lieutenant 1964 to 1973, said.
“It’s a silent ceremony and we have messages from the US Consulate, President Barak Obama, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and a keynote address from our most senior officer Captain Michael Donnelly, so we don’t forget.”.