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
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
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,
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
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.