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Mountains of Memories

By Janie Ford Lank - momthepoet@yahoo.com

Richard (Dick) Crum was born Jan. 27, 1925 to Earl and Bessie Crum. He was born at home, just a mile east of Beard, Indiana. He was the fifth born of six children. He was raised on a farm.

“I went to school in Michigantown and graduated with the class of 1943,” Crum said. “When I was drafted, I volunteered for the Marine Corp. I trained in San Diego, Calif., then shipped to the South Pacific. It was World War II and I was sent to an island called Guadalcanal. I was assigned to the 3rd Marine Division in October 1943. Later in this article I will share some of my experiences during the war.

“As a teenager, I remember riding the interurban from Michigantown to the TPA park in Frankfort to play,” Crum said. “Another memory I have is about ‘snipe hunting.’ I wonder how many readers had an experience with this. It seems older boys liked to convince younger boys that snipes existed. I fell for this and was taken to a woods by older boys. They explained that I needed to wait and hold a bag open while they drove the snipes out of the woods. I was to catch the snipes and shut the bag quickly. But, they just went home and left me holding the bag.

“A funny memory of my Dad was that he liked to say, ‘I came from a family of 10 boys and each one of them had two sisters.’ I told this to the nurses while I was visiting my doctor. The doctor said, ‘you got my nurses thinking, were there 30 kids, or 12?’ It makes you think.”

Crum married Doris Murphy on June 2, 1946. They raised two daughters, Becky and Janet.

“We were happily married for 59 years,” Crum said. “Sadly, Doris passed away in 2005. It helps to fill my days to go to the corner convenience store to visit with friends most afternoons. Sometimes we meet for breakfast at The Bulldog, a restaurant in Michigantown.

“Continuing about the war, when we arrived on Guadalcanal, we set up camp in a coconut grove on the beach,” Crum continued. “Leaver Brothers, a soap company, owned the coconut grove and made us move. We had to work hard to clear a place in the jungle. We headed to Guam in April 1944. We had escort ships, but the U.S. Navy took our escort ships to fight the Japanese Navy. We had to wait a month to land on Guam because of the tide. On June 24, 1944 we did finally land on the island.”

Crum was in the first wave once they landed on Guam.

“The captain said, ‘Crum, you stay with the supplies, and we will be back.’ That was the last place you wanted to be,” Crum said. “It wasn’t long before I was hit by a mortar shell in the foot and leg, and I caught some shrapnel. I got low and worked on loosening my boot, while the enemy swept the beach. Once they swept past me with their gunfire, I headed inland to catch up with my battalion. It took two hours, but I caught up with them. Two months later, I was awarded the Purple Heart.

“On Feb. 20, 1945, the 3rd Division landed on Iwo Jima,” he continued. “After three brutal days of conflict, I proudly witnessed the raising of the American flag atop Mount Suribachi. In April, 1945 we left Iwo Jima and headed back to Guam. We tried to outrun a typhoon, so we spent three days below deck. Food and water were in short supply. I was on Guam when the bomb was dropped in Aug. 1945.”

During my time on the islands, I remember how we would fashion nets over our cots to keep mosquitoes out. We would let geckos inside our netting to eat bugs that made it through. However, even with the netting and quinine tablets, I got malaria and dengue fever during my time overseas. A relapse of malaria had the doctors scratching their heads when I had knee surgery in 1991. Finally, an old army nurse connected the dots.”

Crum came home from the service on a snowy Christmas Eve in 1945.

“I can remember meeting my Dad as he was going to the barn to do his evening chores,” Crum said. “When he saw me, he had tears in his eyes. We thought we would never see each other again but, by the Grace of God and the Unites States Marines, I came back alive. I had been shot at and seen men killed all around me. The Marine Corps prepared me for my life after service. I am calmer during crisis situations.

“Besides my time in the Marines, in 1969, one of the most memorable experiences was in having a foreign exchange student from Nicaragua. I remember well picking her up at the airport in December. She had only a windbreaker on and looked very cold. My daughter spoke a little Spanish, and she spoke a little English. We used English-Spanish dictionaries for the first few weeks, but we got along. Later she went back to Nicaragua and married. We keep in contact today.

“In 1979, during the revolution in Nicaragua, the opposition took her home for their headquarters and held her and her family prisoners for some time,” he added. “Her husband called me one Sunday afternoon needing help. My wife and I did all we could to help them. Luckily, one of their daughters was born in California, so the American Embassy got them tickets to Panama, and my wife and I helped them to travel to California. We keep in very close contact today.

“My daughters call and visit me regularly, and we all get together as a family every July for the Crum reunion,” he continued. “But, the roughest day of my life was when the doctor told me my wife wasn’t going to make it. It about broke my heart. Since the day she passed, her picture has been on my dining room table. I remember our love as her eyes and smile seem to follow me.

“My advice is to live, love, laugh and don’t be left holding the bag!”