As we close in on Memorial Day, I want to tell you about a 19 year old U.S. Marine who was fighting for his life on the night of September 15, 1944 on Peleliu, a 3-mile by 6-mile island 500 miles east of the Philippines. That was the first day of the amphibious assault by the First Marine Division so we could wrest the airport on this coral speck from the Japanese and safeguard General MacArthur's right flank as he took back the Philippines.
The issue was in doubt that first night on Peleliu, and the Marine was in a foxhole not far from the beach as rounds passed by overhead, listening to the land crabs who shared the hole with him scuttle about. Suddenly something plunked into the hole from above in the darkness.
Grenade? The Marine clambered about the bottom of the hole frantically, feeling the ground with his hands for the object so he could pitch it back out.
"I was never so afraid in all my life," this strong, brave man said decades later. It turned out to be a coconut, clipped off an overhead tree by passing bullet.