(KERO) — Bill Medlin followed his older family members into war. Split between the Navy and Marines, he enlisted at the age of 17 and chose the sea.
He headed for boot camp in San Diego. Following two weeks of boot camp, he spent several more weeks training.
Bill was eventually assigned to the U.S.S Mellette transport ship right out of the shipyard. They headed for Maui taking part in maneuvers in January of 1945. Once it was over, the guys took a moment to relax in the clear blue water.
It was long after that the fun ended.
The U.S.S. Mellette headed for Saipan in advance of the Battle for Iwo Jima. In fact, the amphibious attack vessel sent boats in the night before the attack to mark underground rocks for the landing craft.
The shooting began the next morning when Bill headed for shore on blue beach. He never talked about that moment before, a memory that he relives every time he hears ‘Taps' being played.
It wasn't long before he was setting up communication on the beach, directing traffic, and working on boats.
That’s when he and a friend named Jack came upon a machine gun nest with a handful of Marines in it.
That night the Japanese 'shelled' the beach, one mortar hitting toolboxes that were positioned between Bill and Jack.
Miraculously, Bill was dazed but survived. He pulled Jack to safety and a short while later he returned to the beach and discovered all the Marines in the other foxhole had been killed.
That was just the first day.
He witnessed the raising of the American flag on Mt. Suribachi. From there the Mellette would take part in the battle for Okinawa, once again, providing some distraction a couple days before the invasion.
Once the marines went ashore.. the Mellette was given a special assignment, landing the 24th Regiment on a nearby island to capture Japanese soldiers that escaped from Okinawa.
Finally, the Mellette was preparing for the invasion of Japan when the war ended.
One of the final missions, dropping Marines in Nagasaki to help with security.
An unexpected photo-op came a few days later when the crew of the Mellette spotted the surrender ceremony on the U.S.S. Missouri and dropped anchor to watch the signing.
A lifetime of memories in just over a year he won't soon forget.