View Full Version : 'Fearless' World War II hero dies

08-19-04, 06:12 PM
'Fearless' World War II hero dies

Thursday, August 19, 2004
By David J. Kolb

One of West Michigan's -- perhaps America's -- most unsung heroes from World War II died Wednesday at his Muskegon Township home at age 79.

While a Marine in World War II, Donald J. Glover almost single-handedly stopped a massive Japanese counterattack on Iwo Jima in March 1945 and saved his decimated battalion.

"He was one fearless person who would always protect this country and the freedoms that we have with his life," said Chuck Carlson, Glover's closest friend since boyhood and a fellow veteran. "God followed him all through the battles for our freedoms."

Glover had been ill with throat cancer, finally succumbing to the disease after a long fight. He was a pipe smoker, even to the point of clenching his old briarwood in his teeth while swimming to meet the Marines' requirements as a recruit. He always maintained that God had spoken to him in a foxhole.

He was the winner of the Silver Star and Bronze Star and many decorations, awarded him over the course of four Pacific Theater campaigns from 1943-45 with the 4th Marine Division.

Glover's remarkable story about his actions to defend a lone machine gun position against a strong enemy force on the night of March 8, 1945, remained untold for almost 60 years due to the fact that he never received the Navy Cross, the Marine Corps' second-highest medal after the Congressional Medal of Honor, for his heroism. That night, his battalion's headquarters was in chaos during a vicious firefight that wounded or killed virtually every officer of consequence.

The battalion's only Navy Cross for that night's action went to a replacement lieutenant colonel, a source of chagrin, consternation and derision not only to Glover, but to many of his comrades in arms. A subsequent campaign to win Glover his medal was ultimately denied because of missing battalion paperwork and the deaths of so many witnesses.

However, Glover was accorded a rare honor in the form of a remarkable Letter of Commendation from the commanding general of the 4th Marine Division, Major Gen. Clifton B. Cates, who visited Glover's machine gun position on the beach the morning after the attack.

"With complete disregard for his own safety, he continued to fire during a strong enemy counterattack in spite of heavy enemy mortar fire and hand grenades that were directed against him," Cates wrote of Glover. "His cool efficiency and expert handling of the gun were principle factors in repulsing the enemy attack."

Glover began that night with 1,500 rounds for his machine gun. In the morning, only a handful of rounds remained. Enemy bodies were stacked up almost to his gun muzzle. When Cates asked him how many he had killed, Glover replied, "Only God knows." Official after-action reports stated that at Glover's position there were "strong infiltration attempts; sporadic mortar fire during the night (and) killed 784 en. (enemy)."

Glover didn't suffer so much as a scratch during that battle. His M-1 carbine, however, was shot to pieces. Nonetheless, he continued to carry it around and present it during rifle inspection until an officer ordered him to throw it away.

Years later, Glover received a Navy Cross in the mail sent by a fellow Marine on Iwo Jima who wrote, "Don, YOU earned it!"

Iwo Jima was only one of the four bloody campaigns in which Glover fought. He also saw action on Roi-Namur, Saipan and Tinian. Ironically, it was for his feats on Tinian that he received his Silver Star, though it was written up as if it was for action that had taken place on Saipan. Glover volunteered to go alone and attack three enemy machine gun positions that had pinned his platoon down.

He was shot in the leg during that episode, resulting in a wound that plagued him for the rest of his life. He mustered out of the Marines as a sergeant.

Glover was born in Ferry in Oceana County, but grew up in Kent City. Following World War II, he worked at the former Continental Motors Co. He was a past commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Don Rea Post 8846 in North Muskegon, as well as serving as a service officer in the 1960s to many veterans trying to secure benefits from the government.

His older brother, Paul, a World War II Army veteran, was killed in action during the Korean War. Glover was married twice, and had one daughter. His second wife preceded him in death.

Chaplain Jonathan Rager of Hackley Visiting Nurses Services and Hospice will be conducting the funeral services, the details of which remain undetermined.



Rest In Peace

08-19-04, 06:13 PM

'He was one of our heroes'

Sunday, November 09, 2003
By David J. Kolb

Don Glover heard God speak to him for the first and only time in his life at the bottom of a deep shell crater on the beach of Iwo Jima.

The deadly air above was whizzing with flying shrapnel. Exploding ordnance deafened all sounds except the screams of wounded men.

In that terrifying moment, Glover says, God told him he would be OK -- that he would have a lot of close calls, but would never die in combat.

God was right.

It was Feb. 19, 1945, just a few days after the Kent City farm boy's 20th birthday. Young he was, but Glover was no raw kid. He was a combat veteran, one of the most skilled and competent killers in F Company, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Regiment, 4th Marine Division.

Prior to landing on Iwo, Glover was promoted to corporal after winning the coveted Silver Star for action earlier on Saipan, another Pacific island hell. Glover had taken out three Japanese machine gun positions with hand grenades. He had been shot in the leg during that action.

They handed the medals out to the men months later on the ship heading to Iwo Jima. "That was a hell of a plan," Glover said, recalling with scorn the ineptness of giving a man his new medal just in time for him to carry it into another fight on yet another enemy-held island. He gave his Silver Star and Purple Heart to the ship's captain, who mailed them back to his mother in Kent City.

When Glover and Kelley were first dumped onto Yellow Beach 2, their landing zone, out of their armored amphibious tractor, resistance was very light. "This is going to be a picnic," Glover thought.

That changed shortly.

To their left was a 50-foot long, 3-foot-deep anti-tank trench dug by the Japanese. Kelley and Glover investigated. Glover crawled in at one end, but was pulled out by his heels by Kelley, who said, "Let me go first." Glover, right behind Kelley, thinks his sergeant might have been worried about a booby-trap.

Kelley didn't get more than a foot along when he was shot in the head by a Japanese machine-gunner who had been sealed up in a compartment at the other end. Glover backed out as fast as he could move.

He could fire out along the length of the trench. It was perfectly camouflaged, but a suicide mission. "They put him in there and then closed him up. He killed one Marine, so he did his job. But he got the best one of all, Sgt. Kelley," Glover remembered.

"Kelley was lucky," he added. "He didn't know what hit him. The rest of us suffered."

Moose Kelley served with Glover and most of the men of Fox Company through all three of the 4th Division's previous island campaigns: Roi-Namur, Saipan and Tinian. The worst of the battles was to be Iwo Jima, but now Kelley was gone in the fight's second hour. Many more Marines, thousands of them, would follow him into the grave that day and in the coming ones.

But things got hotter, as very accurate Japanese artillery and mortars opened up from atop Mount Suribachi, which had a clear view of the landing beach, and from high ground at the other end of the island, creating a crossfire. That's when Glover dived into his shell hole, followed by another Marine, LeRoy Surface of St. Louis, a bazooka man. "Old LeRoy," Glover chuckled. "He had funny eyes. They called him 'Old Banjo Eyes.' "

Each Marine had his own specialized weapon assignment. Glover carried a light .30-caliber carbine because he had been an ammo carrier for a partner who lugged the heavy Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR). The majority of the riflemen used the semiautomatic M-1 Garand rifle. Glover liked the smaller carbine.

"You could bring it up quick," he said.

Two Marines following Glover and Surface almost made it to the shell hole, but were cut down just short by the razor-sharp shrapnel in the steel storm above. They bled to death on the rim of Glover's hole, their lives leaking out in red rivulets that stopped just short of his helmet. "I guess they just ran out of blood, every drop," Glover recalls.

As the roar of the din increased in intensity, Glover slid down to the very bottom of the hole, reached behind his pack to shove it higher behind his neck and closed his eyes. Darkness enveloped him and all noise faded into nothingness.

Next, he said, he heard a chorus of angels singing.

Then God spoke.

At a reunion a few decades later, Glover said he met fellow Marine Earl Otworth, who told him he saw Jesus on a different part of the beach that day. They figured out they had their encounters at roughly the same time.

One fellow veteran overheard them talking. "Hey," he asked in a derogatory manner. "Did Jesus have a beard?" Then he went away laughing.

Glover said another Marine who had been in the fight got hot under the collar hearing them talk about God. "If there's such a thing as God, he's going to have to show me a lot more than he has!"

By the time World War II ended, Glover had amassed a lot of medals and ribbons, but it was the one he never got -- the Navy Cross for heroism -- that clouds his days late in life.

Glover prizes the extraordinary letter, but feels it was a substitute so that someone else could get his medal. The Navy Cross for Marines is second in official significance only to the Congressional Medal of Honor, which some who know Glover believe he also should have gotten for what he accomplished later on Iwo Jima.

One of them, an Iwo Jima veteran badly wounded in action, believed so strongly that Glover deserved his higher award that he bought a Navy Cross from a medals dealer and sent it to his friend. The card reads in part: "God bless you always. Semper Fidelis."

Glover believes he earned his Navy Cross, but that's not what's foremost on his mind. The message he most wants people to know is that God talked to him that day on Iwo Jima.

That's what he told the students of Kent City Community Schools when he was their special guest of honor during a salute to veterans on Nov. 11, 2002. He was invited by Kent City High School Principal Fred Geronke to speak before the veterans ceremony that is now a Kent City tradition.

It was the only time Glover has really told even a portion of his story publicly because he knows that many think he "cracked up in a foxhole" when he talks about God.

"The problem was," said Harold Davis of Lubbock, Texas, a former gunnery sergeant who served with Glover on Iwo, "compared to other services, the Navy and the Marine Corps were so stingy with medals. You had to be exceptionally outstanding in some situation, with an officer in authority (aware of it). So on the front lines, as hectic as it is, you don't have many people to recommend you for your actions, because they weren't there. So very few got decorated."

He added, "Don was one of our heroes, all right."

By contrast, says U.S. Army veteran Dean Chapman of Norton Shores, author of "Growl of the Tiger" about the exploits of the U.S. 10th Armored Division, the Army was more generous. "We gave out a lot of medals. It was good for morale and the men earned them."

But Glover wasn't in the Army.

These days, Glover spends most of his time in his modest home at 2236 Travelo in Arlington Park South Mobile Village in Muskegon Township, thinking about days gone by.

His second wife passed away years ago. Many of his old friends have died. An outspoken man who always says what's on his mind, come what may, he is estranged from many family members. Even some of his old war buddies have had fallings-out with him.

At least once a week, he is visited by his close friend, Charles "Chuck" Carlson of 4511 Arbutus in Egelston Township, an Army veteran during the Korean War and a Kent City native who befriended Glover and Glover's late brother, Paul, after the war. Carlson has heard all of Glover's tales of the South Pacific and stands in awe of the man: "Don Glover should have received every medal there was, including the Congressional Medal of Honor."

Those who were there that night with Glover agree.

"Don was the major factor in stopping the Japanese attack in F Co.'s area," said Ed Davis of Springfield, Ohio, a corporal who served with Glover. "Basically, he alone was responsible."

That attack resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Japanese at or near Glover's position. He won't say how many he himself killed that night.

Glover is not a religious or churchgoing man. So he really can't explain why God spoke to him at the bottom of a shell hole that day on Iwo Jima. His late father told him it was part of a plan that isn't yet clear.

He grew up in a broken, brawling, dysfunctional family in the small town of Ferry, between Hesperia and Hart. He later moved to Kent City with his mother, stepfather and brothers and sisters.


08-19-04, 06:14 PM
Life was hard and Glover remembers being constantly hungry. He worked long hours in the onion fields around the area. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Glover decided the Marine Corps was his ticket to three square meals and a new life: "Hauling onions ain't for me."

"Boot camp? I loved it. I was always the first one through the obstacle course." Although he had fired a lightweight squirrel rifle back home, he liked the heft of the Marine Corps heavy weapons.

Glover always listened intently to the Marine Corps veterans who returned from Guadalcanal, the brutal and heroic campaign of August 1942 to February 1943 that stopped the Japanese tide of victory in the early part of the war: "Stay down. Never walk along a skyline or on the top of a hill. Don't look up over a rock, look off to the side. Never **** outside your foxhole at night."

He still has his old "dress greens," his uniform with all his decorations on the chest. On the campaign ribbons below his Silver Star and Purple Heart decorations are four tiny battle stars that attest to his participation in the 4th Division's four ferocious Pacific campaigns: Roi-Namur, Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima.

Glover knows why he is still here. In that hole on the beach, after hearing God's voice, the shelling died down. His companion, LeRoy Surface, kicked his foot, and laughed at Glover for "taking a nap" during the battle. Glover insists he wasn't napping, but admits "hours passed" while they were in the shell hole.

A few days later, he decided to take God up on his promise, so he climbed, for the hell of it, onto an unexploded shell sticking out of the sand. The men with him, horrified, shrank away, expecting the worst. Glover mocked their fear, then took out a carton of K rations and calmly ate his lunch while straddling the shell.

Nothing happened, but Glover says he always has felt ashamed that he challenged God that one time. He swore never to do so again.

Instead, perhaps it was God who challenged Don Glover


Monday, November 10, 2003
Second of a three-part series
By David J. Kolb

Don Glover leans forward and peers into the black-and-white, framed photograph taken by a Marine Corps combat photographer during the bloody battle for Iwo Jima.

It's a picture of four bone-weary Marines, one of them Glover, carrying a stretcher into relative safety behind the massive bulk of an uprooted tree.

Though it was taken during World War II more than 58 years ago, "I can remember it like it was yesterday," he says, reminiscing in his home in Muskegon Township's Arlington Estates South Park Mobile Home

Dombrowski was one of two Marines caught in an open field just beyond where the photo was taken. The other Marine, whose name Glover can't remember, also was lying wounded out on the field.

That man was badly hurt. He had been hit with a bullet that pierced his heavy steel helmet but didn't exit, cutting a complete circle around his skull

so neatly that Glover recalled it looked like a surgeon had removed the top of his head. It was not an uncommon wound on Iwo Jima.

The top of the man's brain was completely exposed, but he remained calm and talking as Glover and three others made a decision as to who to take out first to safety. The man with the head injury was coherent, but he also was paralyzed.

The four stretcher-bearers were hurrying back to safety when one of the grenades rolled under the stretcher holding Dombrowski and exploded.

"All that power went up under the guy's back," recalled Glover. "Whoomp! That shrapnel probably finished him off. It hit me in the ******* legs."

By the time they got to safety with Dombrowski, they were so exhausted they could hardly walk. But, tired as they were, there was another Marine out there. Glover went back, but got confused. "I went through the wrong hole."

An enemy soldier fired at him right next to his right ear, but missed. "Point blank," Glover said. "I thought my damn eardrum was gone."

The Japanese were firing, but it wasn't an enemy shell that got Glover -- it was Marine artillery on Mount Suribachi that landed short. As Glover ran, the shell exploded, picking him up and tossing him through the air, knocking him out for a few seconds.

When he came to, he had to figure out where his fellow Marines were. He jumped up, startling a few Japanese who thought he had been killed by the blast. His men thought he was dead, too. "Here comes Glover's ghost!" one yelled as he ran past them to safety.

Under a smokescreen laid down by their artillery, they went back for the second wounded Marine, but he already was dead. Still, they brought him out under fire. "Never leave a man behind" is a Marine Corps tradition.

When Corpsman Owen "Doc" Bahnken started to prep Crowley for evacuation, Glover said he argued against it because he believed Crowley to be in such terrible shape that letting him die would be a mercy.

Bahnken, a beloved Fox Company hero who had been with the men through all four of their campaigns, wouldn't hear of it. He told Glover he took an oath to save men no matter what the odds.

So "Doc" pumped morphine into Crowley and ordered him taken to the beach to wait for evacuation to a hospital ship. Crowley made it to the beach, but due to the crush of casualties he lay there in agony, all but forgotten, for several days.

"Bill, is that really you?" Glover said, holding back tears. He had long thought "Little Bill" dead.

As for Bahnken, his many friends in the company mounted a campaign to get their brave corpsman a Congressional Medal of Honor for his uncounted acts of heroism. The Navy turned them down, as it did a similar request to get Glover his Navy Cross for his actions of the night of March 8-9, 1945.

Every day on Iwo Jima was much like the day before for Fox Company in the period after the invasion landing and the fight on the beaches. Move out, engage the enemy, dig in for the night. One horror blended into another.


08-19-04, 06:15 PM
The Second Battalion of the 4th Marines was assigned to the extreme right flank of the advance across the length of Iwo Jima. Up and down the line in front of them, the Japanese held on grimly,...

08-19-04, 06:16 PM
They began to add replacements and retrain. The scuttlebutt was they were to be one of the spearheads for the expected invasion of Japan. <br />
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After the casualties at Iwo Jima, the company was filled...

08-19-04, 06:22 PM
Semper Fidelis Sergeant Donald J. Glover USMC, you will be miss by the Marine Corps and those fortunate to have or are wearing the Emblem of our beloved Corps.
Your passing was felt by a few, the world did not notice your passing but we're poorer by your passing.
May God grant you eternal rest, we pray...

Semper Fidelis/Semper Fi

08-19-04, 06:43 PM
oooooooooooooorahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh so it be said so it be written.