At 100, U.S. Marine First Sgt. John Farritor, who fought at Iwo Jima in Japan and North Korea’s Chosin Reservoir, celebrated his birthday at the Pacifica Senior Living Center in Vista, California, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

The Union-Tribune reported that Mr. Farritor spent 30 years in Corps – 20 on active duty and 10 in reserves. He is one of the few Marine veterans survived after marching 55 miles from Camp Elliott in San Diego to the newly opened Marine base near Oceanside, California in September 1942.

A group of young Marines from Camp Pendleton, as well as friends and fellow residents,  gathered to hear about Farritor’s Marine Corps experiences in a slide-show presentation presented by Dudik, a longtime friend, The Union-Tribune reported.

Farritor sang along to his “Happy Birthday” song and quipped to the audience: “I enjoyed the first 100 years. But I don’t know what I’ll do from here on out.”

Farritor was born on July 9, 1919. At the age of 20, Farritor was taken by the look of the Marine Corps uniforms and its “first to fight” mission. He then decided to leave his family ranch in Nebraska and enlisted. In July 1941, he arrived for boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. He subsequently was stationed at Camp Elliott and finally Camp Pendleton, where he served in the 3rd Marine Division field artillery, according to The Union-Tribune.

Farritor described the 1945 battle on Iwo Jima, Japan as so violent and the weapons so destructive, that many Marines were blown to bits and their body parts sunk deep in the island’s black volcanic sand. Farritor recalls rising at dawn the next day to make sure the U.S. flag was still flying, according to the Union-Tribune.

After the war, Farritor joined the 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Battalion at Camp Pendleton, which in September 1950 participated in the surprise amphibious landing at Inchon in South Korea. As Marines fought their way over 17 days in an impossible escape to the seaport at Hungnam, Farritor suffered his only war injury: a hand-wound from flying shrapnel, to which he refused a Purple Heart, the Union-Tribune reported.

To this day, Farritor says he doesn’t like being called a war hero. He says he was just a Marine getting the job done.

“When I hear people calling me a hero, I say I’m not,” he said Tuesday. “All of the real heroes were buried over there.”

Categories: U.S.