A U.S. Marine who fought in some of the most deadly and infamous World War II and Korean War battles, including the battle at Iwo Jima in Japan and North Korea’s Chosin Reservoir, recently celebrated his 100th birthday at the Pacifica Senior Living Center in Vista, California, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.
First Sgt. John Farritor, spent 30 years in Corps ― 20 on active duty and 10 in reserves, the Union-Tribune reported. He is one of the few surviving Marine veterans who in September 1942 marched 55 miles from Camp Elliott in San Diego to the newly opened Marine base near Oceanside, California.
Celebrating his birthday in his dress blue uniform, Farritor was joined by a group of Marines from Camp Pendelton, California, July 9. Friends, senior center residents and Marines listened to Farritor’s Marine Corps experiences in a slideshow presentation by friend and a local historian Linda Dudik.
Farritor sang along to his “Happy Birthday” song and said, according to the Union-Tribune: “I enjoyed the first 100 years. But I don’t know what I’ll do from here on out."
The time and the place were prophetic. It was early 1945, and the place was Pearl Harbor, site of the surprise attack that plunged the United States into World War II.
Farritor was 20 when Germany invaded Poland in 1939. He was taken by the look of the Marine Corps uniforms and its “first to fight” mission. A year later, he left his family ranch in Nebraska and enlisted, the Union-Tribune reported. He arrived for boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego in July 1941. He subsequently was stationed at Camp Elliott and finally Camp Pendleton, where he served in the 3rd Marine Division field artillery.
He described the 1945 battle of Iwo Jima in Japan as one of the deadliest battles he was in. Farritor recalls rising at dawn the next day to make sure the U.S. flag was still flying, the Union-Tribune reported.
In 1950, Farritor was part of the defining Korean War battle at the Chosin Reservoir. As Marines fought their way over 17 days in an impossible escape to the seaport at Hungnam, Farritor suffered his only war injury: a hand wound from flying shrapnel, to which he refused a Purple Heart, the Union-Tribune reported.
“When I hear people calling me a hero, I say I’m not,” he told San Diego Union-Tribune. “All of the real heroes were buried over there.”