SHARE Holt Oral History Program
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David Greene, Corporal

After graduating high school, David Greene enlisted in the Marine Corps, training as a Radio Operator for the 5th Marine Division before being sent to the Pacific Theater of Operations, specifically Iwo Jima.

David Greene was born in Waterloo, Iowa, on March 8, 1925. His father was a banker and later an accountant, while his mother was a Baptist missionary. Growing up during the Great Depression, Greene sold magazines at age 11 and was good at squirrel hunting. He joined the Boy Scouts of America at age 12, which prepared him for military service. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, his two older brothers joined the Marines and the Navy. After graduating high school, Greene followed his brothers and enlisted into the Marine Corps in late December 1942. All four Greene brothers served in the Pacific Theater.

Greene went to boot camp at Camp Matthews in San Diego. He was trained to become a radio man for the 5th Marine Division. His regiment, the 26th, was deployed for battle February 19, 1945, at Iwo Jima. His job was to relay ship-to-shore communications during the invasion. Greene was supposed to be part of the Reserves, but he ended up on the front lines replacing fallen radio men. At one point, he was nearly buried alive when an artillery shell collapsed the roof of his foxhole; he also unintentionally evacuated wounded soldiers through a minefield. Greene served on the frontlines for 36 days, without showering, and his body shed 22 pounds; he also celebrated his 20th birthday on Iwo Jima. Half of his regiment suffered casualties. Greene was shot at from afar, and constantly being shelled, yet he never saw the Japanese soldiers, nor did he ever fire his rifle.

Greene was then sent Hawaii to prepare for the invasion of southern Japan, but the war came to an end, and he was stationed at the village of Haiki near Sasebo (just 40 miles from Nagasaki). He was sent to Peleliu to attend to the captured Japanese soldiers and civilians.

After three years of service, Greene returned home, worked for a construction company, and got married. His family participated in the AFS international exchange program, allowing Japanese students to live with them from 1968 to 1971. Greene returned to Japan several times to revisit these students and families, and they also visited the U.S. in return. In 2008, Greene returned a Japanese flag from Iwo Jima to the family of the soldier who carried it. Greene made a return visit to Iwo Jima and other islands in 2012, along with 10 veterans and 10 OSU students.

He was awarded a half dozen medals for his service, and is on the board of the Sullivan Brothers Veterans Museum in Waterloo, IA.