One of the side benefits of writing World War II stories is the opportunity to stand next to one of the dwindling number of veterans who were there, who witnessed the war up close and personal, and who are here to remind us about the war’s purpose.
James Stockton is one of those veterans. He is a former marine–if there is such a thing. I’m beginning to believe once a marine always a marine. James served with the Marine Corps for twenty years and during the war was a tank gunner and played a role in capturing the island of Iwo Jima.
He spoke recently at a gathering of the Atlanta World War II Roundtable and offered to pose for photos afterwards. You don’t have to ask me twice!
When I asked James if he had been to Hiroshima or Nagasaki as part of his role during the Army of Occupation, he whipped out his cell phone and spun to a photo of the devastation. The spry 90 plus year old also has a website where he has posted twenty-seven pages worth of his memoirs, titled “Shimpai Nai” which he translates as No Worry.
The exploits he relates cover hitting a land mine as his tank drove onto the shore at Iwo Jima in 1944, exploring some of the caves on the island and running into three Japanese soldiers who, thankfully, surrendered without a fight, returning to Japan after the Korean War and serving once with none other than Steve McQueen, and later still becoming an instructor for the Atomic, Biological and Chemical Warfare School at Camp LeJeune.
Despite his website’s name, there was plenty to worry about during the war. In answer to one audience member’s question about how he dealt with fear during the battle, James replied. “You didn’t. I was scared for the entire time.” And, he added, the often repeated phrase “If someone says they weren’t, they’re lying.”
Thanks are due to James and it was a pleasure and a privilege to stand by his side for a few brief minutes and to offer my thanks in person.
Read more about James here: James Stockton Shimpai Nai