WCVG 1320 AM 11/15/2021

USMC Don Grraves

Photograph by D Clarke Evans

Our guest today is Veteran USMC Don Graves. He tells us his story today as a proud Marine. Donald “Don” Graves, US Marine Corps, has led an unparalleled life, serving his country, his family, and his God to the fullest every step of the way.

He entered the United States Marine Corps at the age of 17 on August 17, 1942, then served two tours in the South Pacific. His 5th Marine Division served with the occupation of Japan. On February 19, 1945, his division hit the beach on Iwo Jima and secured Mount Suribachi in three days, thus the famous flag-raising on Mt. Suribachi. Over the next five weeks of heavy fighting, the island was secured, and he was discharged on January 12, 1946. Since then, Donald has been a singer and performer in Detroit and Hollywood, followed by his calling to Christian ministry as a pastor where he has worked with the federal prison system and gospel rescue missions. As a result of his distinguished military service and far-reaching ministries.

He has a dynamic voice that has led to singing at many military-related events. Locally, he has sung the national anthem twice at Ranger Stadium in front of 40,000 fans, at the opening of a Veterans Day celebration at the Hilton Anatole (see YouTube video), and he has been invited to sing the national anthem at the Armed Forces Bowl at TCU on December 23rd.

Originally Don was from Detroit, he quit high school to join the Marine Corps. He was 17 in August 1942 when he joined. Always the Marine Corps. His dad was in the Corps.

It took 4-6 months to form, then to Hilo, Hawaii. No one knew about Iwo Jima. They knew we wanted that island because we could provide air support for our bombers. One day before we got to Iwo they brought a clay model out. Here is Iwo Jima, this is where you are going to go. They went through everything. You’re going to be doing this, you’re going to be doing that. You’re going over the top, turn left, take Suribachi and then you will join the rest of your division going north. That’s what we did.

The Marines made him a flame thrower at Pendleton. Don was the only flame thrower in the Second Battalion that came off. They had 335 Marines going in, only 18 came off.

He landed on February 19th at eight o’clock in the morning. He was in the Third Wave. On the beach, He knew this wasn’t going to be easy; they couldn’t move, they couldn’t get up. The kids were getting killed. Every time they would go over the top, they’d drop. Don was on the beach for at least two hours. It took them three days to get to Suribachi—540 feet. Three days, inch by inch, foot by foot. Shell hole by shell hole; you couldn’t dig a fox hole. Those shells from bombers left a beautiful hole. On the morning of the 3rd day, they finally made it to the foot and they had a grenade fight going up Suribachi, He burned out a few pillboxes. Don saw one Japanese going into a pillbox. He yelled at him. All of a sudden he came out. He had a beautiful uniform on, he had a beautiful sword. I thought this guy is going out in style. He looked at Don, he had something in his hand, then boom! He was gone; there was nothing left of him. It took them all day to climb Suribachi. The first flag went up around 10:05. (Looking at group picture) That’s Ira right there (left front sitting sideways.) That’s Bradley there (with pole coming out of head). Don was just right out of the viewpoint of the group photo. For more information go to D Clarke Evans Portfolio

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