My Dad

My Dad, Donald B. Rearic I, was born on July 10, 1925 in Iselin, Pennsylvania. He grew up during The Great Depression, like many boys; sometimes what was on the table to eat on any given evening was killed that day in the fields and woods. He grew up on a farm and although he always told me they did not have much, being on a farm was a great advantage in some respects. There was food from the land, both grown and hunted.

He always enjoyed telling me about the one room schoolhouse that taught him so much. A story that every Schoolteacher who whines about requiring, "Smaller Class Sizes" would benefit from hearing. In many ways, I benefited greatly from having a Father who lived through The Great Depression and a tougher and smarter America…in many ways.

And I benefited from his other Life Experiences as well. You see, when he was old enough, he joined The United States Marine Corps. He told me about that lovely chunk of Real Estate known as Parris Island. Of training to maneuver Amphibious Tractors [Amtracs] in Oceanside, California…where he rolled one over in the water learning to operate one and thought he was going to die because of it…and eventually of leaving…to go off to fight in a War.

I wish he were here now so he could see his Grandson and so I could write of his experiences in greater detail than he told me…in The South Pacific.

Some of the experiences so horrible that a person that has not survived in that type of environment is not likely to ever truly understand what happened.

I cannot remember everything and I’m sure he left a lot out, but the stories of being onboard ship were always great. Funny stories of Pavuvu and a monkey he had…that managed to destroy almost everything he had in the tent.

Pavuvu was the "training" area for what would be The Peleliu Assault. I have a picture of my Dad on the ship…en route to Peleliu. He told me once, "Half of these men never made the Beach…"

His Sergeant was in another Amtrac, it never made the beaches of Peleliu. I read one Marine's account of Peleliu online where he stated that 26 Amtracs were hit in the first ten minutes of the landing and 60 damaged or destroyed in the first two hours.

Sadly, Peleliu is basically forgotten, being overshadowed by other events and possibly being an unnecessary Campaign to begin with. It remains one of the most horrific and bloody Campaigns of The South Pacific Theatre. The Marine Corps losses stood at 6,526 Casualties, including 1,252 Marines Killed in Action [approximately 73 missing and presumed dead].

I have seen other figures that were higher, but this is the one most often cited.

The drawings below, one of the Peleliu Landing and the other of Marines at night on Peleliu, were drawn by a brilliant artist and a very brave man. An Artist for Life Magazine, Tom Lea. His artwork from Peleliu is stark and not fabricated. What he has illustrated, he personally witnessed.

The Japanese suffered losses of just over 10,000 men with between 201 and 303 Japanese captured [figure varies from source to source].

When you consider the small size of Peleliu, [look at the map and the scale] and the numbers of dug in Japanese and the invading Marines, you begin to understand precisely how brutal and ferocious the fighting really was. Both groups of Combatants, highly motivated and well trained.

This first picture [below] is the one I spoke of earlier, on the way to Peleliu. Then a close up of my Dad who is [obviously] to the far left in the group picture.

Pictures of my Father on Peleliu do exist in some archive somewhere as he remembers being photographed quite a few times while on Peleliu and later on Okinawa. I have never been able to examine one.

This is right after his return home, to Pennsylvania…with an unknown friend or relative.

This next picture was taken before I was born. This would have been sometime in the late 1950s or early 1960s, I’m not sure.

This would have been around my birthday, probably 1979 or 1980. Before he became very sick with cancer. Tough old guy, you got to love those old Marine Corps Tattoos. He loved the Marine Corps and he loved America.

I think the best way to describe my Father would be, tough. He was physically tough. I found that out the hard way on several occasions. His toughness only matched by his intelligence. There is no doubt in my mind that things like this website would not even exist had it not been for him. He gave me an early love for books and reading, and of exploration. The thrill of discovery and the quietude of simply sitting on a bucket and fishing.

Every year, whatever week July 10th could be found in, we would take a camping/fishing trip to a secluded area at a creek located off of the Susquehanna River in Maryland. [Cecil County] For a whole week, we stayed in a camper and when I was not fishing, I was off exploring some area of the woods and waters.

Conowingo Dam was always fascinating to me as a child. When the Dam would not release water for hours every day, you could watch the lower Susquehanna turn to rocks from a distance, the water simply vanished. It was amazing. I would walk out probably half a mile on the rocks and catch fish by hand and put them in a bucket. They were stranded in pools of water. I would literally bring back several dozen fishing sinkers and various lures every day…a bucketful by the end of the week. The rocks having stolen, by snag, so many fishermen’s tackle.

Then the Sirens would sound. Ominous, you knew you had to start making your way back carefully but quickly, careful not to lose your footing and fall on the slippery rocks…all the way back to land. This meant the Conowingo Dam was about ready to release water for the day and where you were standing would in a matter of 60 minutes and sometimes a lot less time, be covered in 15 feet of water.

At the 15-minute mark, the water was such that you did not want to be far from land. I went out a little too far on some occasions and was promptly scared out of my skin. Trust me.

It was a great week every year and I always looked forward to it. Always for my Dad’s birthday with the exception of one year we went to a proper, more "civilized" campground on the Patuxent River in Maryland. Nothing like fried Soft Crab sandwiches with lettuce and tomato! The Jellyfish stings were a bit much though.

I have gone back to the Susquehanna since then, but never back to that particular area. I used to travel up there and fish off of the Dam’s Catwalk, not for those scared of heights…but plenty of fun.

My Dad loved the water and since he grew up on a farm with no ponds at the time, no large bodies of water, I’m sure he found his love of water from his time in Oceanside, California and in The South Pacific. He used to tell stories about barges being secured together, I believe in Oceanside, and they would have these rather risky swimming contests while in The Marines.

The barges, being tied together, would be bumping together with the motion of the water. They would swim the under the barges and come up between them for air. Sometimes swimming the length of the barges as well. And this had to be timed or you would get your head smashed.

The Marines taught a young farmboy from rural Pennsylvania a whole lot.

The Man had a love for Model 1911 .45 Automatic Handguns, the M1 Garand and the "Meat Chopper" of Peleliu, The Thompson .45 Caliber Submachinegun.

He was, of course, a Member of The National Rifle Association of America. He loved firearms in general and he was a Hunter as well as an avid Reloader.

Part of camping, fishing and hunting is knowing how to use knives. Appreciating them as tools. He appreciated them as both tool and as a weapon from his time in The Marines. Although I’m sure that he preferred the Meat Chopper to almost anything else in close quarters. He made that much clear.

He did have a fondness for the Kabar, which some have called, "The Marine’s Best Friend." Right next to a Marine’s Rifle, the Kabar has quite a legacy, deserved or not, of its own.

There were certain things that a Man was supposed to own and supposed to know how to use in my Dad’s opinion. This has carried over to my own Belief System.

You were supposed to know how to sharpen a pencil with a pocketknife. There was no "grinder" pencil sharpener in the house, if you wanted to write with a pencil and the thing needed sharpened, you took a pocketknife and you sharpened it! You were supposed to know how to do these things because that’s what Men are supposed to know. You were supposed to be able to shoot, ideally with anything you put your hands on. Why? Because that is what a Man is supposed to know, that’s why. And not only that, you were supposed to know how to do it safely and accurately. Misses were frowned on by The Old Man and a sure way to get a boot in the ass if he thought you were screwing off and not paying attention.

These are simple things to some people. Some might think these things silly. If so, it just goes to show the shallow depth of some people. Think about it. Almost everything around you is disposable out of a need for convenience while pursuing a high-speed life. Who sharpens pencils with a common pocketknife anymore? Who carries a common pocketknife anymore? Hardly anyone does. If you do, people look at you like you're a nut. You're supposed to just bite into an apple or pear and not slice it into pieces...I don't know. I just grew up differently I guess. Knives outside of the background of a Kitchen are almost taboo now in most areas.

Pocketknives were for sharpening pencils, cutting pepperoni sticks, German sausage sticks and cheese…not necessarily in that order without cleaning them, but that is what they were for! You never knew when you might have to cut something in daily life. Therefore, one should always have a pocketknife of some type on them. He was not a Boy Scout, but he should have been…

Here is a picture of some of his little trinkets, the pocketknives [Case] he carried daily, there is a keychain there with an antique car on it. Also his Marine Issue straight razor [How many of those have you seen!] and the Globe and Anchor cap device, his original one.

Men were supposed to appreciate the intricacy of machinery and interesting items such as stamps and coins. A coin or stamp was meant to be examined with a magnifying glass. That was my Dad, a lover of many things.

This too, has carried over to his Son. He gave me a Microscope when I was about 8 years old as well as a Telescope. I was supposed to explore things the naked eye could not see, because that is what you are supposed to do. You were supposed to be interested in scientific things... A couple of Rock Collections, one from The Smithsonian Store, provided a lot of exploration just at the Kitchen Table. I mentioned a friend of my Dad’s in another article on this site, Rick Jennings, if I remember correctly, I think Rick had given me one of the Rock Collections. [Rick has a fantastic Webpage, you can visit. Just do a Google Search for "The Gun Guy."]

I know parts of this story might sound sexist, you can insert "Women" or "Woman" where appropriate as well. He had nothing against Women owning firearms, fishing or anything like that, in fact he encouraged it. I’m just giving it to you from my point of view. My Mother even hunted and went fishing.

Politically, he was a Conservative Democrat. They’re almost extinct now, but that’s what he was. He had a hard time accepting a Reagan Presidency because of this, but welcomed the Pro-Gun Stance of that Administration instead of the alternative. You have to remember, Gun Control was just getting started around this time [1980] and it was a smaller issue then, but the Antigun people were very vocal. It was on the horizon, look at what we have now, 21 years later.

We would usually go hunting for Whitetail and Sika Deer on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I remember we went to Vienna, Maryland for a couple of years, then switched to Snow Hill, Maryland.

Squirrel and Rabbit hunting closer to home. Very fond memories. Just going out and shooting cans was always a treat! I always loved going shooting and just bouncing cans. My Dad had a love affair with Ruger Single Action Revolvers as well. Had a .357 Mag., .44 Mag., and .45LC, all of them Blackhawks.

That was the other week of vacation every year, the day after Thanksgiving, we would pack up the camper and go deer hunting for a week. Those were great times. Sitting in the woods, just a Father and Son.

An Ending…

After a long bout with cancer, at 12:45am on May 31, 1982, my Dad died, at home, on the couch. The last few hours were much more peaceful than the days before it. Modern painkillers made sure that he never felt the anguish of what was killing him, but watching him deteriorate after growing up around him and seeing him so strong, was a heavy burden for me. It was terrible to see him lose control of himself in the final days. He was strong and he was proud, and to see a loss of dignity like he suffered through is almost more than I can bear to write about now, almost 20 years later.

But, that which does not kill us, only makes us stronger. And we are, in a very real way, everything we have ever experienced. I was never insulated from his Death, from what was happening to him, I helped to take care of him in the final days. That’s been a mixed blessing.

I am left with the task of some how, some way, trying to explain to my Son, how great a Man his Grandfather was. Maybe one day he will be able to understand.

May 31, 1982 happened to be Memorial Day that year, how fitting.

Don Rearic

ăDonRearic.com

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