Harry L. Martin commemorated at special Veterans Day ceremony

A special Veterans Day ceremony Friday at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church paid special tribute to the winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, 1st Lt. Harry L. Martin.

“Few communities can boast of having a Medal of Honor winner,” Mayor Jeff Reser said in his opening remarks. Martin, a Marine killed March 26, 1945 while fighting the Japanese on Iwo Jima, paid the ultimate price for his country and will not be forgotten. “It is fitting that we come together to keep his memory alive. Much of this responsibility for keeping his memory alive is carried out by the Bucyrus Historical Society.”

The ceremony served a dual purpose, both commemorating Veterans Day and celebrating the opening of the historic group’s upcoming exhibit honoring Martin. It was originally planned to take place outside the Scroggs House Museum, which is across the street, but was moved to the Church Sanctuary due to rain.

Dr. John Kurtz, president of the historical society, noted that such commemorations “do not happen by chance”. He thanked Randy Fischer and the Society’s Events Committee for organizing it; and the surviving members of Martin’s family, who “graciously donated so many of Harry’s memorabilia and artifacts to our museum”.

Retired Marine Corps corporal Ty Bowers, left, reads a letter Harry L. Martin's mother received after his death, written by his commanding officer, Captain Mason H Morse.  The letter details Martin's heroic actions.

Lt. Gen. Norman Smith talks about Iwo Jima

The keynote speaker for the day was retired United States Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Norman Smith. Smith graduated from Bucyrus High School in 1951 and attended the Reserve Officers Training Corps, or ROTC, in college before being commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. He served for 36 years, retiring in 1991.

Smith, 89, spoke by phone from his home in Virginia. He traveled to Iwo Jima several times and described the conditions under which Martin fought.

“Iwo Jima is a 4 by 8 mile volcanic island; it’s sort of shaped like a pork chop,” he said. “The landing beach is over a mile long; consists of black volcanic sand arranged in terraces. The Marines had enormous difficulty moving through the sand, as their feet sank deep into it.”

Doug Wilson, left, and Ty Bowers listen to closing remarks during a special Veterans Day ceremony Friday at St. Paul's Lutheran Church.  The event included a special tribute to the winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, 1st Lt. Harry L. Martin.

The island was heavily fortified by Japanese troops. “The gruesome, intense and brutal fighting was characterized by close quarters fighting on the island,” Smith said. Nearly 7,000 Marines died in the battle and many more were injured. The Japanese lost about 22,000; almost the entire garrison.

Smith also explained why the island was so important.

“Iwo Jima is 600 miles from mainland Japan, which is the perfect safe place for battle-damaged American warplanes to land after sustaining damage in the bombing of Japan,” Smith explained. “An estimated 25,000 American airmen were rescued on the runways of Iwo Jima when the warplanes they were flying could not make the long return flight from missions over Japan to their bases. home base in the Marianas.”

They may have landed at Iwo Jima instead of flowing into the Pacific Ocean, he said.

“It was at the end of the 36-day battle that Lieutenant Martin was killed, repelling a last-minute suicide attack by the Japanese defenders,” Smith said. “It is he we honor today; and it is fitting that we have come together to do just that. We can all be proud that Bucyrus is the home of the great American hero and patriot.”

The special exhibit also includes Martin’s actual Medal of Honor, on loan from Bucyrus High School; and items on loan from Bucyrus Town Hall and the collection of retired Lt. Col. Doug Wilson, former Mayor of Bucyrus, who read Martin’s Medal of Honor citation later during the ceremony.

After a special Veterans Day ceremony on Friday, a special exhibit honoring Congressional Medal of Honor winner 1st Lt. Harry L. Martin opened at the Bucyrus Historical Society's Scroggs House Museum.

Ty Bowers, a retired Marine Corps corporal, read a letter Martin’s mother received after his death, written by his commanding officer, Captain Mason H Morse. The letter details Martin’s heroic actions.

Members of the American Legion Post 180 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1078 also participated in the ceremony. United in Harmony, a male choir based in Bucyrus, performed the national anthem and other songs.

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