Tuesday, May 29, 2007

In Memoriam - Jacob J Phend (1920-2006)

Jacob J "Jake" Phend (my first cousin twice removed, i.e., my grandfather's first cousin) passed away Wednesday, May 31, 2006 at Elkhart General Hospital. He was born May 11, 1920 in Elkhart County, Indiana to Jacob J Phend and his second wife Elizabeth Gast Corpe. Jake's father was 61 years old when Jake was born and 63 when Jake's sister, Sophia Elizabeth, was born. His father passed away in 1929 when Jake was 9 years old and his mother died five years later, when Jake was 14.

Jake was another distant cousin that I met while researching the Phend family. He didn't know much about his Phend relations since he was so young when his father died. But he soon found that he had a lot more relatives than he ever dreamed he had. Jake was a regular attendee of the "extended" Phend Family Reunions that have been held on the "even" years since 1992.

He had a great sense of humor, with a streak of orneriness thrown in for good measure. At each of the reunions he attended he brought me a gift - a "puzzle" made of wood or metal. One year it was a small heart with an arrow through it, with no indication of a cut line in the heart. I never have figured out how he got that arrow through the heart! Another year it was a "Quarter Pounder". I saw him coming across the yard with a McDonald's carry-out bag. He just grinned and handed it to me. I tentatively opened it and inside was a small "spring-loaded" clothespin with a miniature "hammer" positioned on top of a quarter coin.... he was definitely one of a kind.

Jake always got a kick out of introducing himself at the reunions... he was Jacob J Phend, his father was Jacob J Phend, and his father was Jacob Phend. He was thrilled when one of his grandchildren named his first child Jacob. Jake had two sons, I don't know why he didn't name one of them Jacob. Two of his grandchildren have the middle name of "J" so that is carried on also. The picture below of Jake, me, and his wife Evadean, was taken at the reunion in Kalona, Iowa in August 1998. That's the "Quarter Pounder" in the upper right corner of the post.

The following is Jake's story, in his own words, written March 23, 1991. . .
Dear Becky, I am probably the worlds worst letter writer. When it comes time to write a letter, I can usually find at least ten things that should be taken care of, and a hundred things I would rather do.
About my Dad. I don't remember much about him. He was a farmer, and seemed to always have a lot of nice horses around. He had an artificial leg but I didn't know how he lost it until one day, Surelda [1] told me about it. He was hauling material to build the dam in Elkhart and the horses ran away. Some of the timbers fell on his leg and smashed it. They had to take it off. Now, they probably could of saved it. You talked with Surelda, and she probably told you more than I can about Dad.
About myself, do you want a long or short story. Since you are not here to tell me, I'll give you a story some where in between a long and short, and you can decide for yourself what to use in your book.
I was born May 11, 1920 in Elkhart County, Indiana. Attended a one room school (Oak Grove) in St. Joseph County until the 6th grade. Went to Granger Consolidated school up to the 9th grade. Then went to Washington Clay High School at Roseland, Indiana and graduated high school in 1939. Not much work available in 1939, so I joined the CCC [2]. Went to the state of Washington and worked with the forestry department for two years. I enjoyed that kind of life.
After two years I came back to Indiana but was not satisfied, so I joined the Marines and then I started to see the country. Went through boot camp at San Diego Marine Base. After training at San Diego I was put in Fleet Marine Force and sent to Samoa, for jungle training. When the 1st Marine Division was sent to Guadalcanal we went along. This was the first offensive action of American Forces in World War II.
On Guadalcanal I got malaria and jungle rot but did not get wounded. When the Guadalcanal campaign was over our unit was put back into the 2nd Division Assault Forces and was sent to New Zealand to re-group and train for the next landing.
In New Zealand our unit was formed up into assault teams of four marines to each team. We was trained to use flamethrowers and T.N.T. demolition charges. When we left New Zealand our next assault landing was on Tarawa. During that campaign our team was credited with knocking out 32 pill boxes and machine gun nests. The casualties was very high on Tarawa. The assault troops suffered 60% casualties, wounded or killed. Again I did not get wounded. I'm sure someone was taking care of me.

From Tarawa we went to Hawaii to re-group and train for the next landing. When we left Hawaii we landed on Saipan. This campaign was different than Tarawa. They had caves on Saipan. We used demolition and flamethrowers to get the Japs out of the caves. Again the casualties was high for that assault force.

Tinien was a fair size island south of Saipan and after Saipan was secured we took Tinien. Tinien was a breeze compared to the other landings. The CB's built an air field on Tinien and the bomber that dropped the atomic bomb on Japan took off from that air field. After Tinien we went back to Saipan. There was a group in our company known as the "Old Ones" not because they was old, but because out of the 250 original men who had started in Samoa, there was only 35 of the original bunch left.

The Marine Corps made provision for those Marines with over 32 months overseas duty to return to the states. So from Saipan I went back to the states for a 10 day furlough and was then sent to the East Coast to report into Marine Base at Paris Island, N. C. for a refresher course in assault engineering methods. After looking through the training manuals we found that most of the training was what we had developed in the islands through personal experience. So I was sent back up to Norfolk Naval Base, put on a ship that went through the Panama Canal and back out into the Pacific.

We joined up with a task force at Hawaii and left Hawaii. After two days out of Hawaii our task force was joined by another task force, the ocean was full of troop ships, battle ships, and aircraft-carriers, cruisers and destroyers, as far as you could see on the horizon was ships. We landed on Okinawa. This campaign was a real mess. Lots of casualties, but they kept me out of the hot spots. My sole duty on this campaign was advisor to a company of assault engineers. This was the last American offensive action of World War II. I had seen action in the first offensive and the last offensive action of World War II, with a few campaigns in-between.

My assault team has four Presidential Unit Citations from President Roosevelt and two from President Truman. After Japan signed the peace treaty I left Okinawa for the states, and after nearly 5 years in the marine corps, I figured I would get discharged and find out what civilian life was like. I never got wounded, had malaria and jungle rot on Guadalcanal. On Saipan I had dengue fever, but was never wounded. For the most part, I enjoyed my hitch in the Marines. It was a very exciting time, and I did get to see a lot of the world.

After I got out of the Marine Corps I returned to South Bend, Indiana. Got a job in a small factory that made folding cartons and started enjoying a peaceful civilian life. I met a girl at a church supper that they had for returning service men. The girl finally became my wife. My mother-in-law told me later that when Evadean [3] saw me at that supper, my goose was cooked. We lived at Lydic, Indiana and had two boys and one girl, Tom, Jim, and Linda. Eventually the company I worked for transferred me to St. Louis, Missouri. By then I was a supervisor. I worked for Packaging Corp. of America (a subsidiary of Tenneco) 36 years, retired in 1982. The company was good to me and I enjoyed my work, but retirement has been very good, I recommend it for everyone.

I like to camp and travel, hunt rocks, I'm a half way rock hound, and make things with wood. Every other year the "Old Ones" from the Marine Corps get together and talk and talk. Only about 20 of the bunch is left [4]. After all, we're all getting older. Evadean says each time they get together the stories get bigger. Well our memories are getting older too.

Becky, I did not put any dates down because I can't remember them. If you can use some of this in your book, good. If none of it is any good for your book, that's o.k. too. You asked for something about Jake Phend so here it is. Will see you in Osceola this fall [5], and good luck with your book [6]. Jake.

[1] Surelda was Jake's half sister.
[2] CCC was the Civilian Conservation Corps.
[3] Jake married Wilma Evadean Hardy on February 15, 1947.
[4] 20 of the "old ones" were still living in March 1991.
[5] Osceola, Indiana was the site of the 1991 Phend Reunion.
[6] The Phend Family History was published in August 1991, and Jake's story was used in it's entirety. It's a story that everyone should read. It's amazing that he made it all the way through the war, through all of the battles he was in, without getting shot. Thanks Jake, for everything.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great article...