Uncommon Courage, An Interview With WWII Veteran, Don Whipple: Join us today for part one 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.  Learn about his conversion, how he was injured after only an hour on the beach at Iwo Jima, but not only that – how he came back the next day.  Tune in now for more!

Air Date: 03/26/2018

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 culture. This is WallBuilders Live where we talk about the day’s hottest topics on policy, faith, and other areas of the culture. But we’re always doing that from a particular perspective. We look at it from a biblical, historical, and constitutional, perspective. We believe if you take those three perspectives you’re going to get the right position on any issue that’s being discussed in the day.

Normally, we have David Barton with us. He’s America’s premier historian and the founder of WallBuilders. And Tim Barton, national pastor and speaker and the president of WallBuilders. But today it”€™s just me, Rick Green, a former Texas legislator and I’ve got a very, very, special guest coming on for the entire program today and tomorrow.  

We get the privilege of interviewing a lot of our World War II veterans, Korean veterans, Vietnam veterans, all kinds of folks – men and women serving in every branch in different areas of protecting our nation. And I’ve got to tell you, when I get to interview these World War II veterans there’s something special about that. We know we’re losing, them and we want those stories, and we want to share them with the next generation. Because they are so powerful, and the level of sacrifice was just incredible, and the attitude that they have, I’m just always amazed.

Before I jump into the interview and introduce this gentleman to you. I want to encourage you to visit our websites today – WallBuildersLive.com, you can actually scan the archives there and go to some of the other veteran interviews that we’ve had over the previous months.

You can also get some of our Good News Friday’s, that’s always a great pick me up. I tell you what, it’s great to hear those good news stories from David and Tim Barton. Things that you don’t hear typically in the media and they gather these stories and share them with us every Friday. So, check out those Good News Friday’s they’re on the website. And then also Foundations of Freedom Thursday. It’s a great time to answer your questions so be sure and send those into us – radio@WallBuilders.com.

And also go to our main website – WallBuilders.com. That”€™s where you can get actually a CD with a lot of the best interviews that we’ve had over the years with the veterans and a lot of other great materials. Check all that out at WallBuilders.com and WallBuildersLive.com.

What To Look Forward To

Rick:

Now, the man I’m about to have on with us, his name is Don Whipple. He was in World War II, a Marine. And I tell you what, a lot of these stories that I hear they’re amazing, but this one, this one there’s something special about this guy’s attitude. I want you to just imagine, I know sometimes we tend to– maybe in our movies and whatnot sometimes, I hate to use the phrase, but glorify war. Sometimes we think that we would all step up, and do what’s necessary, and be heroes.

And I haven’t been in war, I don’t know what I would do, I would hope that I would, but I don’t know, I haven’t faced those bullets flying past my head. George Washington said in the battle of Monongahela when those bullets were whizzing past his head he said it sounded like music to him and he stepped up and rode three hours back and forth right there on the front lines trying to save his men. So, no doubt at 23 years old, for him, he definitely stepped up. Don Whipple did the same thing.

And I just– it’s amazing to me I just want you to imagine that if you were storming one of the beaches in World War II, in this case a Pacific island known as Iwo Jima where some of the worst carnage happened in the entire war. Just imagine that you were storming that beach. Now, imagine that you have faced battle before, you know how horrible it is, you have seen men die around you. Imagine that you have been injured in a horrific battle on the beach, you’ve watched those men die all around you, you”€™ve watched the carnage, you’ve been injured, you’ve been evacuated to a medical ship, but you want so bad to get back with your men that you sneak off the Med Ship and get back in the battle even though you’re injured.

Now that’s not an illusion of some delusions of grandeur, “€œI just want to be in battle and I don’t know what it’s all about.”€ That’s someone that’s been in the battle, scene how horrific it is, and yet still wants to go back in to be with his brothers and his comrades.

That’s the kind of marine that Don Whipple was. His story is absolutely incredible. He’s going to be with us when we come back from the break. Stay with us. You’re listening to WallBuilders Live.

Moment From American History.

This is Tim Barton from WallBuilders with another moment from American history. American Patriot Paul Revere road to alert Americans of the impending arrival of the British. But he also sought patriot leader Samuel Adams and John Hancock to warn them that the British were seeking their execution.

Adams and Hancock were staying with the Reverend Jonas Clark in Lexington. When they asked Pastor Clark if his church was ready for the approaching British he replied, “€œI’ve trained them for this very hour. They will fight and, if need be, die under the shadow of the house of God.”€

Later that morning 70 men from his church, and several hundred British in the first battle of the War for Independence. As Pastor Clark affirmed, “€œThe militia that morning were the same who filled the pews of the church meeting house on the Sunday morning before.”€

The American church was regularly at the forefront of the fight for liberty. For more information on this pastor and other Colonial Patriots go to WallBuilders.com.

Rick:

Welcome back to WallBuilders Live. Thanks for staying with us. We are honored today to have World War II veteran Marine Don Whipple. Mr. Whipple, thanks so much for joining us today.

Don Whipple:

Yes sir, my honor.

Rick:

Alright, so you joined up in 1943.

Don Whipple:

Correct.

Rick:

This was right after you graduated. So, you were what – 18?

Don Whipple:

17.

Rick:

  1. And so what– tell me a little bit about that. Why did you choose the Marines?

The Best Outfit

Don Whipple:

Well, I thought it was the best outfit and I proved it to be so. I had three brothers in the Navy and I didn’t want to follow in their footsteps and be a *, so– I had one brother that used to give me a bad time. One brother in the Navy and he said, “€œYou Marines are always spouting off about the Marine Corps. After all, you’re just a department of the Navy.”€ I said, “€œYeah, we”€™re the * department.”€

Rick:

That’s pretty good. That”€™s pretty good. Well, tell me about when you first shipped out. Now, so you’re 17. I mean, you’re leaving home to go to the big war. What was that like saying bye to mom and dad?

Don Whipple:

My mom had pretty well crossed that border. But my dad– they had to sign for me to go in at that age and my dad took it pretty hard. I was at the train station and he came on the train with me and we tried to have a little chatter there, but it was kind of a stilted conversation. He didn’t know what to say and neither did I. And so he had a– pretty quick his eyes began to get moist and he reached down– I had set down in the seat there and he had reached down and he put his arm around me and said, “€œWell, I think I’m going to say goodbye to you, son. We may never see each other again.”€

And he began to cry and he thought it would be me not him. He just almost had convulsions, he was just crying so hard. And he was right – I never did see him again. I was shipped overseas shortly after that to the Big Island of Hawaii and dad was killed in a car accident. We were lined up in formation to go to evening chow just before shipping out to go to Iwo and the first sergeant came out and said, “€œWhip, I need to see you in the tent.”€ So, the guys were all wondering why am I getting called in – I never got in trouble. I was wondering the same thing.

The first sergeant came in and handed me my telegram. Dad was killed August– I think about August 28th or something like that. And a letter to follow. So, I kind of got myself together and first sergeant and I walked back out of the tent and he said, “€œListen up, guys. Whipple”€™s father was killed and buried two and a half months ago and he just now found out about it.”€ Those guys broke rank and gathered around me. One guy in there was a real Christian and he said, “€œWe’re having a thinkspiration over here in the old intelligence building tonight. Why don’t you come on over.”€

I Had Been Searching Everywhere

Don Whipple:

I’d been searching everywhere to find the rest of the story. I just thought if I was good enough and worked hard enough I could make my way to heaven. And I was searching for somebody to give me the rest of the story. I believed in the birth of Christ, the crucifixion, and the resurrection, and all that, but I didn’t know how to apply that to my life.

He got up and I knew from the looks on its face he knew something I didn’t know. And he began to share how that we just need to open our hearts and He wouldn’t come into my house and I wouldn’t come into His house if I didn’t invite Him in. He said, “€œJesus is standing at the door knocking and if any man would open the door, He would come in, and sup with him, and be with him, and one with him.”€ I said, “€œI’ve been looking for that all my life.”€

Rick:

Wow.

Don Whipple:

Jesus paved the way. I just need to accept that by faith. That day I prayed and received Christ as my Savior. I tell you, life was different from then on.

Rick:

And that’s before you shipped out for Iwo.

Don Whipple:

That was just before we shipped out for Iwo. That’s right.

Rick:

For that to have happened just the day after you found out that your earthly father had died. And then the very next day you come to know your heavenly Father, that had to have been powerful.

Don Whipple:

That was powerful.

Praising the Lord

Rick:

And I asked my mother afterward. I said– Dad never had gone to church that I could never remember. He was a good man, but he just never went to church. I’d never seen him in church – only in a funeral. I said, “€œMom, did dad ever have any kind of a spiritual experience before he was killed? And she said, “€œYes, he did.”€

There was an old fashioned Methodist preacher came through town and he had a tent meeting and dad and some of my brothers and sisters went to a meeting. She said dad went forward that night and she said he really became a Christian, his life was so different. He was always a good man, and a wonderful father, and a wonderful husband, but she said he was just a saint. From then on.

Rick:

Wow.

Don Whipple:

Until he was killed. So, I was praising the Lord for that.

Rick:

So, that was just a couple of months before you were on Iwo.

Don Whipple:

Yes, it was. We sailed right after Christmas.

Rick:

Now, was Iwo your first combat?

Don Whipple:

That was my first combat.

Rick:

Oh man.

Don Whipple:

We were in Pearl Harbor and there was a boy had been shipped into our outfit as a replacement because they knew a lot of us were going to get killed or wounded and he was sent to our outfit as a replacement. And I had always dreaded the idea of being put into an outfit just in the middle of battle or something as a replacement – you didn’t know anybody, you didn”€™t know the routine, or anything else, and to be shoved in there.

They Had Already Seen Battle Together

Rick:

And they’ve already seen battle together, so it’s harder for them to accept you.

Don Whipple:

That’s right.

Rick:

Yeah.

Don Whipple:

That”€™s right. And so anyway I just thought, “€œI’m gonna stick with this guy and introduce him to everybody.”€ and we became good friends. So, we went to Honolulu and we had a day there in Honolulu as we shifted a bit of cargo from one boat to another * match up with the team that was on the boat. Some of this cargo that they needed for their unit. And I said to him, “€œYou want go on liberty with me today?”€ And he said, “€œWell, I have a brother here in Honolulu. He’s a Navy pilot. I”€™d like to see if I can find him.”€ I said, “€œWell, I found two of my brothers who were in the Navy through the Red Cross. Maybe I could help you out. I kind of know the ropes.”€ He said, “€œThat would be great. Let’s do it.”€

So, he and I went on liberty, and we quickly found his brother, and we visited with his brother. And this boy says very quick– after awhile he said, “€œWell, I’m going to tell you goodbye now because I don’t think I’ll ever see you again. I just know I’m not coming back from wherever we’re going. I have no idea where we’re going, but I’m not coming back, I just know that.”€ And we tried to assure him that he had just as good a chance as anybody else, but we couldn’t do it. And so he and I went back on the ship and sure enough, a few days later that boy was killed. He took my place because I was hit with a mortar the first day.

As we landed, I was in the second wave as we landed at Iwo, we landed and they had these terraces here, they stopped tanks, and trucks, and all that stuff right on the beach and they were about 15 feet high. And I just got to the top of one of these terraces and I thought, “€œWell, I’ll look and see what’s on the other side.”€

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Don Whipple:

I went on the other side and just started walking over there a little bit and then mortar came and hit about five feet in front of me. And it knocked me down and out and I got shrapnel in my leg. * of the mortar round and the rounded part of the nose and the broken part where it broke off as it exploded.

An Hour and a Half In

Rick:

So, this couldn”€™t have been– you”€™d have been, what, 15-20 minutes into your first battle and boom–

Don Whipple:

Yeah. We landed at 9 o’clock and this is about 10:30, I think, or 10:00.

Rick:

An hour and a half in.

Don Whipple:

I laid there for a while, I don’t know how long I was knocked out with the blast. Started to get up and fell down and my old captain was there who was a dear man. And he said, “€œWhip! You’ve been hit.”€ And I looked down and saw the blood on my leg. He said, “€œI’m going to get the corpsman to get you out of here. And I said, “€œI don’t want to get out of here, captain.”€ So, he said, “€œNo, you’ll put yourself at risk and the guys that will want to be helping you out. So, I want you out of here.”€ He was pretty definite about it.

I was in and out all day that day – most the time I was out. But it was about 6:00 o’clock in the evening, the sun was just going down, and we had an air raid from the Japanese * from an island north of us. The ship they were going to put us on was a troop ship * transferred to a temporary hospital ship. Destroyers came in and set up a smokescreen around all these troop ships so that the airplanes couldn’t see them.

Rick:

Because that was a target they wanted to be able to hit.

Don Whipple:

That’s right. And so after a little while they had me on one of these landing that lands caterpillars, and tanks, and big equipment, they had a big flat bottom. And they put us on that thing and the guy next to me– I don’t know what happened, he didn’t have any kind of skin on his chin, or chest, neck, or anything. He would try to talk and I just knew this guy couldn’t last too long.

You”€™ll Have to Move On

Don Whipple:

We went to the first ship and they said, “€œWe can’t take you.”€ We went to six different ships and every one of them said the same thing. And the last one, we drove up beside this last ship and they called down with a megaphone – they didn’t have amplifiers and they used a megaphone to call down. They said, “€œWe can’t take you. You”€™ll have to move on to the next ship.

Rick:

These were hospital ships that you all, as wounded, were trying get on the hospital ships.

Don Whipple:

Right. And the old Lieutenant J.G. in charge of the landing craft that was hauling us and he said, “€œI”€™m not moving. I’ve got guys that need help.”€ The captain came on and said, “€œThis is the captain speaking. Move out – we can”€™t take you, we”€™re loaded.”€ Then old Mr. J.G. said, “€œI’m not taking it, Captain. I’m not moving, Captain.”€ And I remember saying, “€œYay!”€ and I put my hand up in the air. Because I knew this guy needed help.

So, I prayed for him, they took us aboard then, and I got up to one of the crew’s quarters where they were going to put me, and the bunk that they were putting me in, there was a boy underneath me and he a funny color. I just didn’t know what the deal was. I just thought he was knocked out or doped because of pain. Because he had a blanket over him and this blanket went from his neck down to the end of his torso and from then on it fell flat. So, I knew he didn’t have any legs, he had had both legs blown off.

The next morning I– the Captain spoke up on the loudspeaker and says, “€œSmoking lamp is out. We”€™re going to have a burial at sea.”€ And so I wanted to get up and honor this kid that was getting buried at sea because this kid didn”€™t look much older than a junior high school student. I knew that *– and I got down there and he was gone.

Nothing Matches The Camaraderie

Don Whipple:

So, apparently, he was in this group being buried at sea. So, I wanted to honor these kids, and I stood there, and I just thought this is the loneliest * place to die I can ever imagine. Ten thousand miles from home, not a family member, not a loved one around other than just a bunch of Marines that he was very coupled up with, I’m sure because there”€™s great camaraderie in the Marine Corps. And I’ve never seen in any organization has that kind of camaraderie, that kind of bonding among each other.

Rick:

Yeah.

Don Whipple:

And so I heard somebody spoke up behind me and I recognized his voice. It was the kid from my– I was a forward observer for an artillery gun and I recognize this boy’s voice because he was from my outfit. I turned around and said, “€œThomas, I didn’t know you were here.”€ And he said, “€œYeah.”€ He said, “€œWe”€™ve got to get off the ship someway.”€ And I said the same thing just as he said it and we said it in chorus.

Rick:

Wow.

Don Whipple:

We looked around, there wasn’t a single landing craft left on that boat, they were all out hauling cargo from other ships ashore. Finally, we saw one little landing craft up in the bow of the ship. And there was the driver of that landing craft, he was up there with a cloth wiping something that looked like the spark plug or something, I don’t know. He was wiping that off and so we hobbled up there. He had been hit in the back and he was as bad off aws I was and we just kind of hobbled along.

We got up there and I said to him, “€œYou going ashore?”€ He said, “€œI”€™m going tomorrow morning.”€ I said, “€œCan we go with you?”€ He said, “€œYeah, you better get different clothes than that.”€ By that time we just had on Navy pajamas and going up there we saw this big pile of gear they called the deadman’s pile – all of stuff that came off a dead man and badly wounded guys.

We Outfitted Ourselves

Don Whipple:

And we didn’t have any kind of rifle or anything. We outfitted ourselves with a rifle, and with a helmet, mess gear, and canteen, and *, and a uniform, and we went on down and the next morning we were out there and we didn’t ask anybody. I was scared of nothing going back in. We went right back in on the same landing, and the same beach, right at the foot Mount Suribachi that I landed at before.

Rick:

Now, wait, let me let me ask you, Mr. Whipple, before you pick up right there when you went back in. Because most people would be afraid to go in even if they hadn’t seen battle. You had already been on that beach, you had already seen how bad it was–

Don Whipple:

Yeah.

Rick:

–and how many people, how many of your guys were falling around you, and everything else.

Don Whipple:

Oh, they were laying all over the beach, and floating in the water, and everything. There were dead guys, dead Marines, everywhere.

Rick:

And yet you were willing, with your buddy who was also injured, to still go back in.

Don Whipple:

You just don’t want to leave your other guys behind. And I couldn’t stand to think I’d be sitting on a beach in Guam somewhere out of a hospital or someplace, and sitting on a beach drinking lemonade, and the best friends you”€™d ever had in your life – there’s a bond there that you cannot realize between Marines that you– these guys *, they”€™d die for you any day. And I just– I couldn’t stand to think I wasn”€™t back there. I would have had such a guilt complex that I would have really been in bad shape if I had never gone back.

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Don Whipple:

So, I was scared about what my captain was going to say because I just really loved that man and I didn’t want him to just think I deliberately thumbed my nose at him or totally disobeyed him.

Rick:

Because he had told you to go to the hospital boat.

Don Whipple:

That’s right. And so we got back there and I got to find– we found our com section was, the communications section, and we started walking up the beach up on one of these terraces that had been kind of plowed down by a caterpillar. We walked up there and there our communications section was. I saw one guy and he was part of our outfit too and part of our observation team.

Rick:

And this is only one day after you’d been hit by that mortar.

Don Whipple:

That was the next day after. That”€™s right.

Rick:

Wow.

Not Scared of a Thing

Don Whipple:

And I got up there and that guy said, “€œWhip! I thought you were dead. I asked about you on the beach and I thought you were dead.”€ I was knocked out and these guys all thought I was dead. And anyway I said, “€œNo, not yet.”€ And anyway, I wasn’t scared of a thing going back in there, I honestly say that. The only thing I was scared of was what’s Captain Austin going to say.

Rick:

Wow.

Don Whipple:

My old Captain. I just didn’t want him to think, “€œHe deliberately disobeyed me. You rascal.”€ And I got up there and he just came around a bunch of ammunition boxes, and he held out his hand and said, “€œWelcome”€. Oh, I was so at ease when that happened.

So I ran a switchboard on the beach for a day and the next day was the raising of the flag, a couple days. It was the twenty third of February the flag was raised.

Rick:

Yeah.

Don Whipple:

It was our outfit that raised the flag, the 5th Division guys, 28th combat team.

Rick:

That famous image that Bradley writes about in the book and that the movie was made about.

Don Whipple:

Oh yeah.

Rick:

That was that was the most famous photo, right, for years.

More Than Any Other Photo

Don Whipple:

That’s right and it has been reproduced more than any other photo ever made.

Rick:

Now, could you guys see it from the beach when they raised it?

Don Whipple:

Well, I was right there on the side of Mount Suribachi and I was– their communications guy call– I had a foxhole just at the foot of Mount Suribachi. And there was a crack in that mountain – kind of a big sliver out of that mountain, it looked like. I could see right up to the top.

Uncommon Courage, An Interview With WWII Veteran, Don Whipple

Rick:

Friends we are out of time for today. We’re going to come back to Don Whipple tomorrow, so don’t miss it. Don Whipple, amazing World War II veteran, he’ll be with us again tomorrow. And if you’d just tuned in halfway through the program today, go to WallBuildersLive.com and you can get the entire program. Then, after tomorrow, you can get both programs and you could e-mail them out to your friends and family.

Thanks for listening. You’ve been listening to WallBuilders Live.