Clarence Pleake, 92 of Tulsa
BY JERRY WOFFORD World Staff Writer
Sunday, November 11, 2012
It’s been 67 years since World War II ended
and the Greatest Generation returned
home, but their memories survive. Read
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veterans from the Tulsa World.
helped storm Iwo Jima and then came to see a different side of the Japanese.
It didn't seem fair to Clarence Pleake to be living and working with his wife and children in Kansas City as young men all around him were heading to war.
"All my friends were being drafted and going into the service, and I just couldn't stand it," Pleake said. "It wasn't good to see all those guys going off, and here I'm sitting there making money and a good living and they're out there fighting for us."
He enlisted in the Marine Corps and was sent west to the Pacific Theater. He was assigned to the 5th Division after boot camp. After more training in Hawaii, he went to Guam and then on to the siege of Iwo Jima.
"We anchored offshore, and there were a lot of shells going off everywhere," Pleake said. "I was scared to death. But then you have things to do, and the fear goes to the back of your mind and you do things automatically.
"There's so many things I try to not think about because ... they come back to you. It never leaves you. So terrible."
The 5th Division sustained the highest casualties during the Battle of Iwo Jima.
He stayed at Iwo Jima for more than a month to secure the island. He went back to Hawaii while the Marines rebuilt the 5th Division and prepared to sail to Japan in the summer of 1945. But the atomic bomb ended the war before the military invaded Japan.
Instead, their mission in Japan turned into a humanitarian one. They went to Sasebo Harbor in southern Japan and began dismantling the war infrastructure there, he said. They also got to interact with the locals, a surreal experience for Pleake so soon after the war had ended.
"When we landed, they were all hidden, they were out of sight," Pleake said. "After about the third day, the kids started coming out, because they learned I guess we were just there doing a duty and we were not there to hurt them."
Then the adults came out and warmed up to the Americans, asking for candy and cigarettes, he said. They would eventually start offering the Americans food and sake, Pleake said.
"Well, you don't drink sake when you're on duty. That's booze!" Pleake said. "But we ate those (sweet) potatoes, and they were so good."
STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World