View Full Version : Four, Ever Young. Four, Ever Brave

05-26-03, 12:10 AM
"Four Ever Young, Four Ever Brave"
Dallas Morning News

ENNIS, Tx. Just a few people recall the remarkable and tragic story of the four Ennis boys. Soon, relatives and friends say, only the stones will tell the tale.

But what a tale it is friendship and dedication, bravery and sacrifice, of ties binding the boys in life and linking them in death. It unfolds in Ennis and ends on a miserable island 6,000 miles from home, where all four young men would die in a span of about three weeks.

Sixty-two years ago, Ennis was a small town of 7,000 or so, and the place buzzed with news that one of its own, a tall, lanky young man with the best hands anyone ever saw, would join the National Football League.

Jack Lummus was already a legend in Ennis and had been a football and baseball star at Baylor University before joining the New York Giants in 1941 as an end. BARBARA DAVIDSON / DMN A statue honors those from Ennis who died in American wars. The Ennis boys died on Iwo Jima during World War II.

Back home, Ennis High School put together one of its best football seasons ever in 1941. Three boys led the Lions, best friends and inseparable James Wesley "Airdale" Goodwin, so named because his curls reminded a friend of an Airedale terrier, minus the "e;" William Thomas "Dooney" Pierce, nicknamed by his little sister, Doris Mae, who couldn't pronounce his given names; and Joe Riley Crow, the team's quarterback.

But less than a month after their final games, with the Dec. 7 attack on Pearl Harbor, all four had forgotten football.

Jack abandoned sports and enlisted as a private in the Marines in Dallas on Jan. 30, 1942.

Airdale and Dooney graduated from Ennis High that May, with Airdale bound for Texas A&M and Dooney following his father and brothers to a job with the railroad. Joe had a year left at Ennis High. But on Dec. 1, 1942, the three boys enlisted in the Marines and boarded a train for San Diego. James Wesley "Airdale" Goodwin

"They were together during boot camp," said Doris Mae Gerron, Dooney's sister. "Airdale and Dooney went on to parachute training, but Joe got sick, and he was separated from them then."

Dooney and Airdale were sent to Camp Lejeune, N.C. Joe shipped out June 5 for New Caledonia. He'd make two invasions in the next year and contract malaria.

Joe came home on a furlough early in 1944, and his youngest sister, Ginger Boon, recalled the last time she saw her big brother.

"I came home from school one day and he was there. And I remember him being yellow because of the malaria, and he and my mother were having coffee, and his hand was shaking," she said.

Ginger was the youngest of eight children, and Joe doted on her, she said. And when he went back to San Diego, he sent her a teddy bear for her birthday.

"A month later, our home burned to the ground. We lost everything," Ginger said. "But I was sleeping with that teddy bear, and I still have it."

Soon, all four of the Ennis boys were part of the new 5th Marine Division, in California and then at Camp Tawara in Hawaii where they trained for their assignment Iwo Jima.

In all the fighting across the Pacific, there would be nothing like this place. Iwo Jima was 8 square miles of rock and ash and more barren than ever after more than 10 weeks of bombing.

But below ground, in a warren of connecting tunnels, 20,000 Japanese soldiers waited. Joe Riley Crow

Pete Wright of Austin, who has spent 12 years assembling letters, documents and war records for a biography of his uncle, Jack Lummus, provided details of the Ennis boys on Iwo Jima:

At 8:59 a.m. on Feb. 19, 1945, the first Marines reached the beach below Mount Suribachi, with more troops arriving in waves every five minutes.

Both Dooney and Jack were part of that initial assault, Mr. Wright said.

As Marines struggled to the beachhead, Japanese defenders had swarmed out of the caves and tunnels to gun emplacements on Suribachi, and fire rained down.

Joe, a sergeant and leader of a demolition team, landed shortly before 1 p.m. in rising surf that swamped some of the landing boats. Airdale, a private first class, followed two hours later in rough surf beneath heavy Japanese fire.

At 5 p.m., the commanding general ordered the Marines to "button up" for the night, with some objectives met but many still to be completed, Mr. Wright said.

The next morning, Joe led his squad through heavy rifle and automatic weapons fire to three adjacent pillboxes. They attacked and destroyed the first, and then the second. Joe had just set a satchel charge at the third and turned to run to his men when a machine gun opened fire.

Joe's friend, Cpl. Merrill "Bud" Crippen, was 10 feet away. By the time Bud reached him, Joe was dead, hit twice in the arm and four times in the chest.

Sgt. Joe Riley Crow was 20 years old.


05-26-03, 12:10 AM
Battle rages on Jack Lummus

The battle for Iwo Jima raged for weeks, with only a few bright spots for the Marines. One came on Jan. 23, when a platoon scaled Mount Suribachi and raised a small American flag.

A second morale boost came the next day, with mail call, and the men scribbled notes to their families back home.

"I'm OK and still full of vinegar," Jack wrote. "Will write again soon as I can. Love, Jack."

Airdale wrote of the flag flying on Suribachi. "It is the most beautiful thing here," he said.

Dooney mentioned that he hadn't seen Airdale yet, though he knew he was on the island.

"The fighting has been so fast I have not had time to find out if he's all right or not," Dooney wrote.

Airdale sent two more letters home. On Feb. 28, he wrote, "Tell everyone hello for me and tell Dooney's and Joe's parents not to worry about them."

On March 5, he wrote again, telling his family he met Dooney that day when Airdale's battalion replaced Dooney's on a stretch of U.S.-held land.

The Japanese didn't give away an inch of Iwo Jima, rebuffing assaults on March 6 and 7. So on the evening of the 7th, Maj. Gen. Harry Schmidt ordered the 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine Divisions to seize the remainder of the island, Mr. Wright said.

Airdale was at the center of the U.S. line, with Dooney and Jack to the right. It was Airdale's 16th day of combat, and his unit was to be replaced on March 9. That proved a day too late.

During the fighting, Airdale was shot in the abdomen. Today, his injuries wouldn't seem too severe. But during World War II, almost 70 percent of stomach wounds ended in death.

He would die the next morning, March 9, 1945. Pfc. James Wesley Goodwin was 21.

At the right end of the Marine's line, Jack's platoon led the charge at Japanese positions.

Pushing platoon ahead William Thomas "Dooney" Pierce

With a carbine and fragmentation grenades, Jack Lummus attacked three concrete and steel pillboxes on his own, shoving the barrel of his rifle through the gun ports and firing in every direction, then tossing grenades through the slits. He was twice knocked down by Japanese grenades. Though wounded, he pushed his platoon forward, breaching the Japanese defense.

And as Marines surged around him, Jack stepped on the detonator of an anti-personnel mine, the explosion severing his lower legs. According to documents collected by Mr. Wright, Jack shouted, "Don't stop now! Keep going!" and his platoon pushed forward nearly 400 yards before stopping to regroup.

According to documents from Dr. Brown and Jack's commanding officer, Maj. John W. Antonelli, Jack managed to whisper a few words, Mr. Wright said.

"Well, doc," Jack said, "the New York Giants lost a mighty good end today."

He was transferred to the 5th Division Field Hospital and rushed into surgery, dying on the operating table on March 8, 1945.

First Lt. Jack Lummus was 29.

The Marines continued their slow, brutal drive across the island for the next several days. And on the morning of March 13, two companies of Marines followed a line of Sherman tanks in what officers hoped would be a last assault.

Dooney's unit advanced quickly through the morning but ran into strong resistance about 1:30 p.m. With casualties climbing, Dooney took charge of a weapons platoon along with his responsibilities as chief of his own mortar squad. He was searching for targets when a sniper's bullet struck his head, killing him instantly.

Sgt. William Thomas Pierce Jr. was 20.

The fighting continued for almost two more weeks, until March 26, 1945. Of all the Marines killed in World War II, one-third died on Iwo Jima, 6,821 men.

'Don't remember'

Carl Cope, a World War II veteran and a survivor of campaigns in North Africa, Sicily and Italy, came to Ennis in 1962 and has lived there since.

He joined the Jack Lummus Memorial Post of the Veterans of Foreign War and knows the story of Ennis' Medal of Honor winner. But he'd never heard the story of the other Ennis boys and said that in 40 years, he'd never heard anyone talk about them.

"But that's about the way it is," Mr. Cope said. "People don't remember. Unless you're a celebrity or the president or something, there are very few who are remembered compared to those who are forgotten."

Each of the Ennis boys was brought home after the war, and each is buried in Myrtle Cemetery beneath a plain military stone that lists name, rank, date of birth and date of death.

Airdale's adds "For God, for country, for all." Joe's includes "Killed on Iwo Jima." Jack's, flanked by a small American flag, notes "Medal of Honor." Dooney's is otherwise unadorned.

The stones can't begin to tell the stories of these men. But for now, their memories are held close by family members.

Ginger Boon remembers Joe Crow with flowers at church and at the cemetery. One year, she bought a flag at the church bazaar, and U.S. Rep. Joe Barton arranged for it to fly over the Capitol on Joe's birthday.

"So Joe is still very much alive in our family," she said.

His memory lingers, but so does the loss.

"He was just 20 when he died," Ginger said. "He'd never even voted. Dooney and Airdale never voted, either. They were still boys.

"But that war was won by kids."

And when Doris Mae Gerron remembers her brother, Dooney, he's young and strong, a handsome man filled with promise.

"I'm a little prejudiced there," she said, "but he was my idol."

She's dedicated a corner of her living room to Dooney, and his portrait, in his Marine uniform, smiles down on her.

"He was one month and one day short of 21 when he was killed," Mrs. Gerron said. "In my mind, he'll always be that way."

06-05-03, 10:24 AM
Bones MyBrother Joe was on Iwo. He also was a 18year old. He survived two seperate wounds He never talks about the hell he went thru. The Battle of Iwo Jima was won by a bunch of kids who 17 to 20 years old. If U were above 20 U were consdidered an Old Man. God Bless our Youth.
Semper Fi LOL