The History of the poem "My Name Is Old Glory"
"As a Young Marine in Combat ... We Saw a Lot
of Things that a Human Body Shouldn't See".Howard Schnauber interview by Rheba Massey - November 17, 1995
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," Howard 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: