Uncommon Courage, An Interview With WWII Veteran, Don Whipple Part 2: Join us today for part two of a special interview with World War II veteran, Don Whipple.  Mr. Whipple tells the amazing story of his time in the Marines during World War II.  Today we’ll learn more about his time on Iwo Jima, his being in Nagasaki shortly after the bombing, how he holds no bitterness, and his ministry to Marines since the war – including leading others to Christ! Tune in now for more!

Air Date: 03/27/2018

Guest: Don Whipple

On-air Personalities: Rick Green


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Transcription note:  As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast. Transcription will be released shortly. However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers. Additionally, names may be misspelled or we might use an asterisk to indicate a missing word because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.

Faith And The Culture

Rick:

Welcome to the intersection of faith and the culture. This is WallBuilders Live! Where we’re talking about the day’s hottest topics on policy, faith, and other areas of the culture. Always from a biblical, historical, and constitutional perspective.

And one of the things we get to do here on this program is often look at those issues in the culture through the eyes of someone who’s been through some incredible things. In this case, the horrific sight of war. In fact, one of the most horrific battles in the history of America. It happened at Iwo Jima in World War II and Don Whipple is the guest that we have with us today. Yesterday we had Mr. Whipple on and it’s one of the most amazing stories that I’ve ever had the privilege of hearing and getting the chance to visit with one of these guys.

Now, if you missed yesterday it’s available on our website – WallBuildersLive.com. Go there today and look on the archives and you can get yesterday’s program. But today we’re going to get the conclusion of that interview. There’s so much that he’s sharing with us. It’s the first time we’ve done a veteran interview and carried it over the course of two days – it was just that good, so we’re going to jump in.

When we come back from the break we’ll jump right back in where we left off yesterday. And again, if you missed yesterday, Don Whipple, World War II veteran, a Marine, his story from Iwo Jima, absolutely incredible and something you will definitely want to share with your friends and family. I also encourage you get the stories of your family as well. Get those veterans in your family to sit down and tell their stories and get them recorded so you can pass them to the next generation. This isn’t at all to glorify war. This is to be thankful for the sacrifice that others have made so we could be free.

We’ll be back in a moment with Don Whipple, a veteran of World War II.

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Don Whipple:

This guy crawls over and he says, “We’ve just run into a * here and the * has some machine gun nests in them. We need you guys to knock it out if you would.” So, he gave me a * on the phone with a * and I then called it back to our fire direction center where it was at. When we got into our foxholes, the first thing we did was call back to the guns and they would fire a shot, and they had a target on a map and we would take that out – it was on their map and on my map and they would just blow a tree stump or something and they would shoot.

Then from that target, wherever that hit, we would tell the fire direction center what to do to knock that whole tree stump out. The target would be 2 millimeters to the left and one millimeter down for the range and they’d fire again. And you would hit it on the second or third shot. Once they hit that target that we had on our maps, that became our base point and everything else we measured from there. And then I called back and told them they needed to go another three millimeters to the left or right, or whatever– I don’t know, I don’t remember what it was– to this machine gun nest. And I told them over there and they shot a couple shells in there and knocked it out.

The Raising of the Flag

Don Whipple:

This guy that was going up the hill called back and said, “Hey, man, you guys scattered those guys all over the mountaintop. We’re going up the hill.” So, I just talked to him in small talk and they went up the hill, asked them how things were going, what he was seeing and all that. And he was just telling me along the way and he got up to the top and he said, “We’re at the top. We’re getting ready to– we’re looking for a * to put the flag on.” A minute later he said, “Well, we found a * and we got the flag tied on it and they’re getting ready to raise it. In fact, there it goes.” And I looked up and must admit that.

Rick:

No kidding.

Don Whipple:

Up through this big crack in this mountain here.

Rick:

Wow.

Don Whipple:

And so–

Rick:

So, every time you’ve seen that picture or gone– Have you been to the memorial, I assume, in Washington D.C.?

Don Whipple:

Yes, I have.

RIck:

Yeah.

Don Whipple:

Every time I’m like the astronauts that went to the moon. I heard one of them say one day that he said, “When the moon comes up and I look up there and see that moon I can’t believe I was actually up there.”

Rick:

Wow.

Almost Like a Dream

Don Whipple:

And that’s every time– I’ll see that picture ten times a day. There’s three pictures every floor in the hospital, the V.A. hospital. I see an advertisement on TV or something. That flag raising will be on and I’ll see that and I just think, “Man, it just seems almost like a dream. I actually was watching that thing when it went up.”

Rick:

Oh, man.

Don Whipple:

It’s kind of like that.

Rick:

That’s incredible.

Don Whipple:

Three of those guys were killed the very next day. That was just the beginning of things. Because lot of people think that was well on the way to winning the island, but the real bloody battles were up ahead yet.

Rick:

And you were– So, how long were you on the island after that?

Don Whipple:

Well, I was on the island 36 days and I was able to walk off of there and we hadn’t had a shower or a hot meal for 36 days.

Rick:

Wow.

Don Whipple:

Man, we were grungy. That old mountain was a– Iwo means “sulphur” and Jima means   “islands”, so it’s a sulphur island. That old sulphur was stinking, and, oh, we stunk terrible. We didn’t have a shower, and it was grungy old stuff, and the smells there were terrible.

Three or Four Smells

Don Whipple:

We had three or four smells that I still can’t get out of my head today. One’s the smell of diesel fuel from boats, and tanks, and stuff like that. The other was gunpowder – the whole air was just kind of an orange color from the gunpowder. So, there was diesel fuel and gunpowder and then there was the smell of this sulphur which is raising up from the island all the time, a gas raising up from the island.

That sand is so porous that we could even here the Japanese in the tunnels down underneath in the island in our foxholes at night. We’d lay in there and we could hear the Japanese talking down there.

Rick:

Oh, wow.

Don Whipple:

And–

Rick:

That had to be nerve wracking. How did you sleep? How could you sleep knowing that they could tunnel up to you at any time or anything could happen?

Don Whipple:

Well, you didn’t sleep too good because you had a firefight almost continually. It was almost one continuous fire fight. The Japanese general told those guys, his army, the Japanese, he said, “You guys are never going to leave this island. All of you are going to die there, so I want each one of you to take 10 marines before you die.”

He wrote his wife and told her he said, “I’m not going to ever see you again. I want to thank you for being a great wife.” So, it kind of makes you– he was with the Japanese Embassy here before the war and he loved America. He said, “We were really wrong when we started this war with America. They’re good people.” And then he told his wife and she wrote a letter back. He said, “Get in touch with the Salvation Army because they’re good people. I met some of them in Washington when I was there.

Rick:

Wow.

Don Whipple:

“They’ll help you.” She was– seeing how sad she was and she became a Christian.

Rick:

Wow. So, when they met together after the war, the Japanese and Americans kind of met together as a group meeting, and his wife was there and there was a couple of nurses whose father was a lieutenant on Iwo. They got to know his wife and they became good friends and she invited them to come to Japan and spend a month with her. And then she came here to Denver to spend a month with these nurses. So they– she sent a lot of these letters over with them * could just read. So, that’s how we know some of this.

Rick:

Yeah.

The American Samurai

Don Whipple:

But this old general, he said, “If we did ever fight the Americans I always hoped we would fight the army rather than the Marines.”

Rick:

No kidding.

Don Whipple:

He said, “The Marines are American samurai.” This old general was a samurai -seventh generation and he said, “The Marines are the American samurai and I don’t want to fight them.”

Rick:

Oh wow.

Don Whipple:

So, that was a pretty complimentary remark from our enemy.

Rick:

No kidding. That’s a fantastic compliment. So, I’ve got to ask you how– and we haven’t talked about just how bad it was, and the nastiness, and just the death, and everything, and how brutal it was. But I know I’ve talked to a lot of guys that they weren’t able to forgive. I can hear in your voice that you have and that you don’t harbor–

Going Back

Don Whipple:

I don’t. We went back to Iwo Jima two years ago. The university of the Ozarks paid our way and let us go back and see the island when there was no fighting there. I really felt sorry. I always have had a kinship with the Japanese.

While we were there in Osaka we went to a museum and we walked in that museum and they had a big piece of plywood, it looked like, painted black with white lettering and said, “Japan created a lot of grief throughout the countries throughout the Pacific Rim.” And they didn’t say “we’re sorry”, but “We feel bad” or something about that that we’ve created all this sorrow and this sedition, the ruckus in the Pacific Rim. But they said, “It was hard on us too.”

So, I had this Japanese man running that could speak American and I said to him– we had on our caps “Iwo Jima” survivors. And I said to him, “Does this offend you [us] coming here?” Because I thought it was like we were putting our finger in their eye. Not only did we * them, but we put our finger in the eye. And he said, “No we’re just glad you guys came down and got us out of the 12th century.” He said, “When they raised that flag, that’s the first foreign flag that had flown over Iwo Jima since the 12th century.”

Rick:

Wow.

Don Whipple:

I always had a kinship with the Japanese and I felt so sorry for them. There’s so many stories that I could tell you, but I don’t have time to do it.

Rick:

Yeah.

Don Whipple:

I was in Nagasaki right after that. Three weeks after the bomb was dropped we had gone back to Hawaii and gotten replacements, and new equipment, and come back, and we were getting ready to land on *. It was a spearhead for MacArthur’s 10th army who invaded.

And bless his heart old Truman had the gumption to drop the atomic bomb. If he hadn’t of done it, people can say what they want to say, but it would have cost a lot more lives if we would have had to fight them through. Because they had really– that figure that America would have lost, I think, one million more more men and that the Japanese would have lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 million people.

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Don Whipple:

So, we landed there and we were in * for a few days and then they shipped some of us to Nagasaki and I was over there helping. We were on guard duty guarding the epicenter where the bomb was actually exploded to keep– there was a refugee camp just beyond that a little ways– to keep those people from coming back and trying to get stuff. There was nothing there – it was just melted.

Guard Duty in Nagasaki

Don Whipple:

And there was a refugee camp there and it was cold and, boy, I had a lot of clothes on, I was guard duty. At 3 o’clock every morning this train would come in and it stopped right there because the rails were just knocked out from then on through the epicenter and on into the old Nagasaki epicenter. And these women and children, thousands of them it looked like, there in that camp. They had a big old flame going over them shooting about 100 feet high to try to keep warm. And those mothers and babies were crying, and they were dying, they didn’t have food and water.

Oh, I would stand there and cry like a baby and I would hear them and they would walk by there and they would start– that train would whistle at 3:30 and they would * back off and turn around and take off north to northern Japan and these people couldn’t get on. I don’t know how long they had been there, but I know that it is quite a while I’m sure. When that train pulled out and they couldn’t get on again those mothers would start wailing, And boy to hear a mother wailing, and the kids would start crying when they would hear their mothers wailing. It was the most mournful sound I ever heard in my life. I would just sit there and cry like a– stand there and cried like a baby. Oh, I felt sorry for those people, dog gone I did.

Rick:

Is that part of what motivated you to go back to the South Pacific as a missionary?

Don Whipple:

No, I was headed for a missionary anyway sometime. When we were in Okinawa we spoke in a school there. After we spoke in the school – it’s where the military kids went to school and Americans who lived there, missionary kids and all that, and government kids. They went to school there and they had us speak there. And after we spoke to them they lined up in the front of the stage and the kids asked us questions. One of the questions they asked was, “Are you bitter against the Japanese?” And one of our guys was real bitter and he said, “Yeah, I hated those.” And I said, “No, I was never bitter. I always had– I always felt a kinship with the Japanese.”

That’s the Guy

Don Whipple:

As a result of that, the vice president of the college that sent us over there told me later, he said, “When I heard you say that”, I said to the other authority there, the other vice president, he said to her, “That’s the guy we want to speak at our * service. And I said, “You know, I always had a good feeling with the Japanese and had a kinship with them because they were there not because they wanted to be, but they were there because they were told to go there and so forth.”

Rick:

Yeah, yeah.

Don Whipple:

So, I said I felt sorry because we had some terrible instruments of war. That artillery when it would go off, one of those artillery shells, 105 millimeter, boy, it would just scatter parts of people all over the place.

Rick:

Truly devastating.

Don Whipple:

It was. So, I always had a good time with the Japanese and when they surrendered they really surrendered. Man, we felt as safe as I feel right here when we would walk around in * and Nagasaki. Those guys would not– those old people would invite us over to their homes and all kinds of things there. And it was just a– when we were in Sasebo we were there to help destroy some of the equipment they had in caves there in Sasebo.

We would * with telescopes, and telephones, and radios, and things like that. We would bring them down into the street and then burn them. At night we would sit there on the curb burning these things. The first night we were burning it, why, a lot of kids came out. Pretty soon– and we’d give them chocolate and stuff like that. They were sitting on our lap and we were hugging them – we were all eager to want to hug a little kid again. They would hug us and pretty quick, the women came out and last them all the men would come out to see what was happening there.

Folk Song Lessons

Don Whipple:

The women started singing songs, folk songs, Japanese folk songs. And we started singing American folk songs. We were on one side of the street and the Japanese were on the other side, and they were teaching us Japanese folk songs and we were teaching them American folk songs.

Rick:

Wow.

Don Whipple:

And I thought, “Isn’t this crazy?!” Here we were in desperate war against each other a few days ago and here we are now singing here and holding their kids and–

Rick:

That’s amazing.

Don Whipple:

And it was so sad. I just thought that it– so many people–

Rick:

Yeah.

Don Whipple:

That place was just destroyed by fire because those B-29 bombers would drop those firebombs in there and that city was just– Those fire storms would be just like whirlwinds, like tornadoes, and that fire would just be going around, and around, just like a tornadic condition. So, I had a real feeling for the Japanese.

Rick:

Well, let me fast forward you to when you went back to be a missionary in the South Pacific. Now, you didn’t go to Japan though you went to Indonesia – is that right?

Don Whipple:

I went to Singapore is where we lived and I worked in that Southeast Asia area – Malaya, Indonesia, on up into Bangkok, and even over in through Vietnam, and over in that area. I would go– and I was with youth full time, so I worked with young people, basically helping missionaries and Chinese with their youth and folks in those countries.

Share a veteran’s story

We Want To Hear Your Vet Story

Rick:

Hey friends! If you have been listening to WallBuilders Live for very long at all,   how much we respect our veterans and how appreciative we are of the sacrifice they make to make our freedoms possible. One of the ways that we love to honor those veterans is to tell their stories here on WallBuilders Live.  Once in awhile, we get an opportunity to interview veterans that have served on those front lines that have made incredible sacrifices have amazing stories that we want to share with the American people.

One of the very special things we get to do is interview World War II veterans. You’ve heard those interviews here on WallBuilders Live, from folks that were in the Band of Brothers, to folks like Edgar Harrell that survived the Indianapolis to so many other great stories you heard on WallBuilders Live.

You have friends and family that also served.  If you have World War II veterans in your family that you would like to have their story shared here on WallBuilders Live, please e-mail us at [email protected]  Give us a brief summary of the story and we’ll set up an interview. Thanks so much for sharing here on WallBuilders Live!

Rick:

Well, let me ask you, I’ve got to ask you one more thing before I let you go.

Don Whipple:

Okay.

Rick:

And that is the ministry you do now going to the airports and hospitals and looking for veterans. What do you tell them when you get a few seconds with them?

Don Whipple:

Well, I just say I want to congratulate you for the great job you guys are doing. I was in a * office the other day and this boy walked in and I knew he was a Marine. He was out of his uniform, but I could tell. He still had a Marine shirt on and I recognized that and his hair kind of, and a few other things. I said to him, “Are you a veteran of the sandbox over there in the Middle East?” He said, “Yes, I am.” And I said, “I want to shake your hand. I’m so proud of you guys for the job you’ve done with the rules of engagement you’ve had to work under.”

Touching Lives

Don Whipple:

And this kid, the tears just started rolling down his cheeks. I went over to shake his hand and he got up and put his arm around me and they all do the same routine. I get up and they just hug me and they don’t just give you a little hug – they’ll stand there for five minutes and won’t let loose.

Rick:

Wow.

Don Whipple:

The shrink came out and said okay Mr Whipple I’m sorry I’m late, but I’m ready for you now. And I just thought in my mind I’m not ready for you yet. Yeah, I’m not going to turn loose of this guy until he turns loose of me.

Rick:

No doubt.

Don Whipple:

And this kid whispers in my ear between sobs and he says, “You’ll never know what it means to me to have an Iwo Jima amrine tell me he’s proud of me.”

Rick:

Wow.

Don Whipple:

Because they feel like they never won anything and it was just kind of a backing down. And for a Marine, that’s hard stuff to do that. So, anyway–

Rick:

I’ll bet you Mr. Whipple that few seconds he had with you will do more for him than any any counseling from anybody else. That had to have meant a lot to him.

Don Whipple:

Oh. it does. Because I *, boy, they’re just loving me. They’ll follow me around like a little kitten. And then I say to these kids, “How are you doing on your journey with Jesus?” And invariably these kids will say the same thing.

Homesick to Get Back to Afghanistan

Don Whipple:

I was in Tokyo Airport going to Okinawa and as a boy got on the plane and he had a sea bag I knew he was a Marine. I said, “How are you doing Marine?” And he said, “Not very good. I’ve never been so down in my life. Totally alone, and worthless, and empty in life as I am right now. I’m just so depressed I’m just homesick to get back to Afghanistan where I can talk to people that will understand me.”

He said, “I was just in Emporia, Kansas to see my parents on the way home and I’m just here for my break from Afghanistan. I saw my parents and I couldn’t talk to them, they couldn’t talk to me, I didn’t want to unload on them what I experienced over there. And all the people I knew otherwise, they’re just in a different world than I am.” I said, “Well, come on down. Let’s sit down a while.” I said, “You know, I became a follower of Jesus.”

I usually don’t tell people I’m a Christian because everybody is a Christian when you talk to them. I just say a follower of Jesus. And I said, “I accepted Jesus as my Savior in the Marine Corps and let me tell you some things that were helpful for me. That kid said to me, “I’ve sinned so much, God could never forgive me.” And I said, “Well, just look what it says here in the Bible – ‘All have sinned–’ How much is all, Kagin? And he said, “That’s everybody.” I said, “That includes you.” And he said, “Yes, it does.”

I said, “See, you’re not the Lone Ranger. I wouldn’t come in your house without you inviting me and you wouldn’t come into my house without an invitation. And Jesus wants you to invite him in. There is a verse that’s been a great help to me. It’s Jesus talking to the old Apostle John, one of the 12 apostles, and He says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I’ll come into him.” I said, “Does ‘anyone’ include you?” And he said, “Yes, it does.”

So, I just let him think for a moment and I finally said to him, “Kagin, any reason why you wouldn’t want to just open the door and let Jesus into your heart and ask Him, invite Him in?” He said, “I want to right now. I want to right now.”

Rick:

Amen.

He Just Started Praying

Don Whipple:

That kid started to pray and I didn’t have to coach him, I didn’t have to drive him or show him what to do, he just started praying.

Rick:

Oh, wow. Well, God bless you and thank you for spending time with me this evening.

Don Whipple:

Thank you for the opportunity.

Uncommon Courage, An Interview With WWII Veteran, Don Whipple

Rick:

Well, friends that was Don Whipple, a Marine veteran in World War II and we were just so thankful that we had time with him today and yesterday. I encourage you to go to our website today – WallBuildersLive.com and share both those links with your friends and family. These are the stories we need to tell, these are the heroes that defended liberty, that preserved freedom, so that you and I could live in freedom. We sometimes are just spoiled and we aren’t thankful for the sacrifices that took place in the founding era and throughout America’s history. We’ve always had men and women willing to lay down their lives for the next generation.

“No Greater Love–” Jesus said, “No Greater Love can you have than to lay down your life for your friend.” And in this case, for your fellow countrymen. We’re so thankful for them. Thanks to Don Whipple for joining us today. Thank you for listening to WallBuilders Live.