As a Young Marine in Combat ... We Saw a Lot of Things that a Human Body Shouldn't See

As a Young Marine in Combat ... We Saw a Lot of Things that a Human Body Shouldn't See

Howard Schnauber
November 17, 1994
Interviewer: Rheba Massey

Howard Schnauber
November 17, 1994
Interviewer: Rheba Massey

Howard Schnauber was just 19 that day in 1941 when he went into the army recruiting office and asked what the army could do for a young man. The recruiter's reply was, "What could you do for the army?" Howard, a farm kid, didn't know the answer to that question, but the marine recruiter across the hall called him over, "I like your attitude."

"Ten minutes later, I was in the Marine Corps," Harold laughed. When he was interviewed in 1994, half a century later, he was still proud of having been a Marine.

Howard was born in Watertown, New York, and spent his first seven years in an orphanage, until he was farmed out to the Schnauber family who changed his name. He left them when he was just fourteen and was on his own, working on farms and for the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Howard went through boot camp at Paris Island and was infused with the high standard for discipline necessary to the corps. He was sent to New Zealand and then to the Guadalcanal Islands on August 7, 1942. Only two of the seven men he went in with survived. When he reached the beach, he dropped down behind a big coconut log and was able to silence the machine gun fire directed at the scene before him: a chaplain praying over a dead Marine. Howard wondered how the sniper firing from a cave had missed hitting the minister. "I guess it kind of makes you believe in something more powerful than we are."

"That was my first experience as a young marine in combat . . . We saw a lot of things that a human body shouldn't see--the type of things that stay with you the rest of your life ... maybe God kind of messed up when he made the human body. Why didn't he put a device in there that would let you forget what happened 50 years ago? Today I don't even know what I did yesterday ... but I can remember what happened ... These are the things that, in later years in life, come back to bother you."

The marines took Guadalcanal and then went to Australia where they regrouped, and even had some good times, such as a Christmas dinner shared with a kind family. Then they went up the coast of New Guinea, and the day after Christmas hit Cape Gloucester, making five separate landings. The last was at a Catholic mission which sheltered some lepers and where they found some nuns who had been horribly tortured by the Japanese.

The marines regrouped at the Russell Islands and then hit the island of Peleliu where 17,000 marines were lost. The Japanese had held the island for many years and were entrenched in caves and tunnels. "You didn't stand much of a chance. But we did end up taking the island. We secured it and then I was sent home." Taking the island was accomplished with the help of heavy artillery and air support, but mostly the sacrifice of many young lives. Howard said it was a matter of "perseverance" and "guts"; but still, some Japanese held on in the caves for two years, even after the island was secured. The Japanese were so determined not to surrender, that Howard feels the Hiroshima bombing saved lives on both sides.

Morale among the Marines remained high, with the exception of one man who could not stop crying; for the majority the mood Howard remembers was "enthusiasm." Howard is proud to have served with the "finest fighting unit in World War II." Not all of war was terrible. He recalls some beautiful things, such as a church choir on the shore singing, "Now is the Hour (when we must bid adieu)" as they backed out of Melbourne, Australia's harbor.

Howard was wounded four times during World War II and once in Korea. He has scars and has a knee replacement, but . .. "Nothing was so bad that I couldn't get over it. The people that I came in contact with in hand-to-hand combat, they're dead and I'm alive and that makes me feel good."

Howard, having been shipped home from the Pacific with a war injury, was in Washington, D.C. as a guard at the White House when the victory in Europe was declared. When President Roosevelt died, Howard stood guard duty for six hours when the president's body was lying in state in the rotunda. Howard recalls this president fondly, especially for his respect for the Marines. Mrs. Roosevelt felt differently; she thought the Marines "should be put on an island and rehabilitated for six months before we were allowed back into the States. We resented that!"

On V-J Day, when the Japanese surrendered, Howard recalls Washington was "just one great, big, massive party!" President Truman came out in front of the White House, three or four times and waved at the crowd. "Everybody was just elated. These are the good things you remember."

Howard's later memories of Truman are not so good. Howard joined the National Guard and was stationed in Korea in 1950 when Truman proclaimed the troops must stay on active duty as long as they were needed. Howard's extra year in Korea cost him his knee. From today's perspective, however, Howard thinks Truman was one of our best presidents. He liked that "He pulled no punches."

Howard reflected on the many changes in society brought by W.W.II. "Things in 1945 and 1946 started to open up. People had a chance to go back to work . . . It was different than before the war . . it was the last of a depression; people had virtually nothing." Howard's adoptive family hadn't had electricity, but after the war because of the technology and companies getting back into business, everyone seemed to be light-hearted and happy. "It's amazing that we just seemed to like what we were doing. We enjoyed living and we showed it."

It was Howard's Korean war injury that brought him to Colorado for treatment at the VA Hospital. Following treatment he worked for the State of Colorado for nineteen years. He was a park manager at Boyd Lake State Recreation Area and later with Game and Fish. He was in charge of law enforcement and once again his Marine training served him well - "you have to be firm, but you have to be just." Howard has been active in Veterans Service, helping to organize this program to provide transportation to the Veteran's Hospital. Another program serves homeless vets, and perhaps Howard's favorite is educating kids in respect for the American flag. He wrote a poem about the flag.

His wife's name is Neva and is a "very, very good woman-she's a patriotic woman."

My Name is Old Glory

by Howard Schnauber

Mr. Schnauber provided the poem to the Fort Collins Local History Archive as part of his oral history interview, indicated that he had written and copyrighted it, and gave the Fort Collins Local History Archive permission to use it. However, at least two other individuals also claim to have authored it and have copyrighted "My Name is Old Glory" under the following names and registration numbers from the United State Copyright Office: Don Stewart Miller, PAu000540162 / 1983-08-29, and Ray M. Coach, TXu000350470 / 1988-12-19. Howard Schnauber's copyright registration number is at TXu000695891 / 1995-08-28. The City is not able to license others to use the poem. Anyone wishing to use or reprint the poem should seek legal advice on how best to obtain permission for such use.

I am the flag of the United States of America.
My name is Old Glory.
I fly atop the world's tallest buildings.
I stand watch in America's halls of justice.
I fly majestically over great institutes of learning.
I stand guard with the greatest military power in the world.
Look up! And see me!
I stand for peace - honor - truth and justice.
I stand for freedom
I am confident - I am arrogant
I am proud.
When I am flown with my fellow banners
My head is a little higher
My colors a little truer.
I bow to no one.
I am recognized all over the world.
I am worshipped - I am saluted - I am respected
I am revered - I am loved, and I am feared.
I have fought every battle of every war for more than 200 years:
Gettysburg, Shilo, Appomatox, San Juan Hill, the trenches of France,
the Argonne Forest, Anzio, Rome, the beaches of Normandy,
the deserts of Africa, the cane fields of the Philippines, the rice paddies
andjungles of Guam, Okinawa, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Guadalcanal
New Britain, Peleliu, and many more islands.
And a score of places long forgotten by all but those who were with me.
I was there.
I led my soldiers - I followed them.
I watched over them.
They loved me.
I was on a small hill in Iwo Jima.
I was dirty, battle-worn and tired, but my soldiers cheered me,
and I was proud.
I have been soiled, burned, torn and trampled on the streets of
countries I have helped set free.
It does not hurt, for I am invincible.
I have been soiled, burned, torn and trampled on the streets of
my country, and when it is by those
with whom I have served in battle - it hurts.
But I shall overcome - for I am strong.
I have slipped the bonds of Earth and stand watch over the
uncharted new frontiers of space
from my vantage point on the moon.
I have been a silent witness to all of America's finest hours.
But my finest hour comes when I am torn into strips to
be used for bandages for my wounded comrades on the field of battle,
When I fly at half mast to honor my soldiers,
And when I lie in the trembling arms of a grieving
mother at the graveside of her fallen son.
I am proud.
My name is Old Glory.
Dear God - Long may I wave.

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