We're not lost, Sergeant, We're in … France

Improvise, Adapt, Overcome
9 January 2012, 18:49
Filed under: Marines, Veterans | Tags: , , , ,

Vester Elvin “Puci” Blevins passed away recently. He’d spent over 30 years serving as the Superintendent of the Oneida, Tennesseee, Water Department and on the local school board, but what struck me most was his determination. No, I’d not met Puci, but I did read his obituary in Leatherneck this month.

The Battle of Iwo Jima included some of the fiercest fighting in World War II. Some 21,000 Japanese soldiers stationed there fought ferociously, with only about 1,000 of them surrendering. Puci Blevins landed on the first day and fought there for all 38 days of the battle. He would have landed on either the Red or Green beaches and may have assaulted up Mount Suribachi – at the very least, he would later say that he “saw the first Iwo Jima flag raising from the foot of Mt. Suribachi.”

Blevins must have transferred from the 5th Marine Division, as he was in the 2nd Marine Division for the occupation of Japan, with his obituary noting Sasebo and Nagasaki.

The part that really caught me in his obituary in Leatherneck was that when Puci enlisted in 1943, it was his third attempt to enlist. He’d been rejected twice due to his poor eyesight. When he went in for the third time, Blevins followed a Marine mantra. Marines are often at the tail end when it comes to new equipment, so many units use “Improvise, Adapt, Overcome” as their mantra.

  • Not being able to see the eye chart clearly, Puci improvised.
  • His adaptation was memorization of the eye chart.
  • A true leatherneck in his heart, he overcame the obstacle.

Semper Fi, Puci.

Captain Reginald Augustine answers his last tattoo
7 July 2011, 21:13
Filed under: Officers, Veterans, WWII | Tags: , ,

On occasion, I read the obituaries in the Washington Post and I always find someone interesting. The sad thing is, if they’re commemorated there, I’ll never get to meet them. Today’s obituary for Reginald Augustine made me wish that I had met him.

Augustine served as a Captain in the US Army at the end of World War II, racing around France and Germany, securing both scientists and nuclear materials. While searching a warehouse near Toulouse in southern France, Augustine found 31 tons that made the Geiger counter spike. He participated in Operation Epsilon, escorting several German physicists seized near Stuttgart to American territory. After the war, he had a career in operations for CIA, including time in Germany and a post in Saigon in 1968.

What makes Augustine truly interesting is his adventurous youth. After he garduated from Northwestern with a degree in Latin (minoring in German and studying Greek), he spent 16 months touring Europe on a Harley. That included ‘a Nazi party rally in Heidelberg that he later described as akin to a “Fourth of July” celebration with scarlet swastika banners and leather-booted storm troopers.’ While Augustine may not have been able to talk about his post-war career, I’m guessing there were a barrel of stories about traveling footloose and fancy-free in mid-1930s Europe. One wonders if he crossed paths with Hemingway.

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