Uncle Bob's Story
Robert Wayne “Bob” Lauritsen was born on August 29, 1926 to Milton and Edith Lauritsen in Omaha, Nebraska. He was educated in the Omaha Public School system graduating from Central High School in 1943 where he was an outstanding athlete, especially in football. Bob was all of 17 years of age when World War II was at its height and he badgered his parents for permission to enlist in the US Marine Corps. On December 8, 1943 he left home for eight weeks of boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at San Diego.
After basic training Bob was consigned to Camp Pendleton and entered artillery training with the then forming new 5th Marine Division. Fourteen months later he made the D-Day landing on Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945. Bob’s best friend in the Marine Corps was Cpl. Cliff Ryan of northern California who drove a radio jeep. Cpl. Ryan landed on Iwo Jima three days after the initial assault - a detail that Bob had kidded him about. On his first day on Iwo, Cpl. Ryan received an order to drive a forward observer as close to the front as possible. During the drive up to the line he was shot right between the eyes and died instantly. Bob was devastated by the loss of his friend.
On Feb. 23, when the “famous” second flag raising took place on the top of Mt. Surabachi, someone in Bob’s gun pit saw it happen and yelled out to the gun crew. By the time Bob looked up to see it the big flag was already waving. Bob recalled that it was no big deal at the time - but it meant that the Marines were winning. About seven days into the battle, the Japanese hit one of the battalion’s ammo dumps and all hell broke loose. Bob recalled that it was the best fireworks show he ever saw. Their 105 Howitzers were close to the ammo dump so their gun crew was showered with all kinds of schrapnel and debris. Bob said it suddenly felt like someone kicked him in the hip and when he reached down his right leg was all wet. There was no blood. So he took off his pistol belt to find that a piece of schrapnel had tore through his canteen. A corpsman patched up his hip and Bob was back in the fight. Wounds were so common during the battle that you had to be evacuated off the island to qualify for a Purple Heart.
Another horrific incident occurred when a Japanese soldier snuck his way into Bob’s gun pit. Unable to reach his carbine, Bob immediately grabbed has entrenching tool and swung it so hard that it decapitated the Japanese soldier. Bob ended up miraculously making it through the entire Iwo Jima campaign in one piece. Of the 164 men in his unit, he was one of only four who wasn’t killed, wounded or missing in action. Shortly after the Iwo Jima campaign his regiment landed at Sasebo on the southern tip of Kyushu. Bob stayed there for ten months in the occupation of Nagasaki, Japan with the 2nd Marine Division.
After the war, Bob was sent home for discharge and immediately returned to the young girl he always described to his family as the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. He fell in love with Anita while training at Camp Pendleton in 1944 and they were married on September 22, 1946 in Pasadena, CA. Bob had to have his mother’s signature on the marriage license because he was still a minor. After the war, Bob and Anita had two sons, Robert and Jack.
Bob was called back to the Marines in 1951 and served with the 7th Regiment, 1st Marine Division as part of a Special Weapons Company. Bob enjoyed an eventful life after Korea. He was a 50 year life member of the Masonic Order with long and rewarding activities with the Shriners and the Royal Order of Jesters. He was an accomplished commercial pilot, and became involved with his two sons in outboard hydroplane racing. After powerboat racing the family got into sailing. They owned a Catalina and spent several years in the Pacific off the Southern California coast. Anita and Bob became empty nesters after Robert joined the Air Force and Jack was in the planning stages of getting married. Convinced that they had had it with the fast lane of Southern California they bought a rundown 125 acre apple ranch in western Colorado. After 2 1⁄2 years of steady crop failure they threw in the towel and moved back to Southern California and Bob rejoined his old company as sales manager.
Bob spent the remaining years of his working life in marketing eventually rising to president and general manager of his company and retiring in August 1988. With all those wonderful retirement years he got his fill of playing golf. He and Anita spent many happy days touring the United States, Europe, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. He had a great life. Bob passed away at his home in the company of his dear wife, Anita, on October 22, 2009 after prolonged and extensive health problems.
Please check out the article below that the Idaho Statesman did on Bob.