Amelia Island resident Cal Atwood is one of those rare Americans who has lived a historic chunk of our country’s past that is prominently portrayed in school texts, had numerous books written and movies made about it, a statue exclusively dedicated to it and is represented in one of the most instantly recognizable photographs ever taken.
Cal, a very healthy, witty and entertaining 90-year-old, who doesn’t need glasses and sports a head-full of white hair, is very reluctant to talk about those days when he was a 20-year-old Marine Corps Corporal in February and March 1945 on Iwo Jima, the only Marine battle where American casualties, 26,000, exceeded the Japanese – most of the 22,000 defending the island. The 6,800 American servicemen killed were double the deaths of the Twin-Towers of 9/11 and the American casualties on Iwo were one third of all Marine Corps casualties in the war.
Cal was one of those statistics when, after three weeks of fierce fighting on the eight-square-mile island that had no front lines, no rear, and was every inch a battle ground, he was wounded and evacuated after experiencing the loss – dead or wounded – of 95 percent of his company.
Over lunch and a pint of cold beer at the Florida House’s Leddy’s Porch I managed to drag a few scant words about his Iwo Jima experience out of the normally effervescent Marine, who was more interested in talking about his pretty blonde wife, Carol Ann, and the latest book he’s reading – one of three he devours weekly – than he was in discussing his WWII activities, particularly the horrific fighting on Iwo Jima.
Almost 70 years ago Cal and his fellow Marines landed on Iwo Jima February 19 and initially attacked Mount Suribachi where they discovered a fanatical Japanese defense with Suribachi finally taken on February 23rd after five days of fighting, resulting in the flag raising and Pulitzer award winning photograph that today serves as a tribute to America’s armed forces. A sculpture of the five Marines and one Navy corpsman raising the flag stands adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery.
“I wasn’t up on the mountain but we were just a short ways from Suribachi and saw it and cheered and raised general exuberant hell when the flag went up,” is about all I could get out of Cal, who was discharged from the Marines in 1946 and went on to lead a distinguished career in academia. Despite taking Suribachi in the first few days, fighting on Iwo Jima would last another five weeks ending with the island’s eventual capture March 26.
Cal, along with many other young men at that time, dropped out of high school to join the war effort, went back to earn their diplomas and in Cal’s case become class president. “When I was in high school before the war broke out all I was interested in was playing baseball and chasing girls,” says Cal, “but the discipline I learned in the Marine Corps had an impact.”
And that discipline has served Cal well over the post-war years. After receiving his high school diploma he attended Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, where he was also elected class president. Following graduation there he went on to earn a masters degree from Columbia and then taught at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC, which many president’s children have attended including President Obama’s two girls, and then to Istanbul, Turkey, where he was dean of students at Robert College. Prior to his retirement and move to Amelia Island, the modest Marine veteran, who is also a proud member of our local American Legion Post 54, was Director of Corporate Liaison and MBA Placement at Atlanta’s prestigious Emory University.
Does he have any regrets following this long and illustrious career? “One.” He says, “I wish I had stayed in the Marine Corps.”
America needs more Cal Atwood’s. Semper Fi!
Question for the News-Leader: When folks ask me why my weekly “Dave’s World” column is no longer in the paper I tell them to ask the Fernandina Beach News-Leader, but what I don’t understand is why the folks that run the News-Leader won’t tell them what they told me about why they dropped it. Over coffee at the Amelia Island Coffee Shop this past January I was told by Publisher Foy Malloy the column was axed because “it generated too much heat and caused some 30 cancelled subscriptions.” If they won’t repeat that to others their silence makes it appear as though there was another reason of which I am unaware. However, I do appreciate them directing folks to this blog when letter writers ask where I went, but feel their silence on my column’s absence implies that I committed some ominous act. Mr. Malloy told at least one letter writer: “Out of respect for Mr. Scott I will not discuss or share the reasons for no longer publishing his column.” And when I told him he had my permission to tell folks what he told me, he said his response was: “…simply my standard HR (human resources) boilerplate response with inquires into internal matters… with no implied messages. It’s professional, courteous & respectful … that’s it. I will not discuss or share the details of the situation with anyone.” What? Human Resources? It’s not like I harassed the help, hit on the ad sales lady, was consistently late for work, or pilfered office supplies. I was only in the building twice in more than two years, was not an employee, and wasn’t compensated a dime for the column. I didn’t even get a free newspaper, so what the heck is this “standard HR” stuff all about? I think I’ll write a letter to the editor. Oh wait….
A Sidewalk To Somewhere Soon? Pretty blonde wheelchair bound Jennifer Niles who brought the Americans for Disability Act (ADA) into play over the sidewalk to nowhere situation that is embroiled in a lawsuit between Fernandina Beach and the Marina Restaurant, was in town Wednesday morning to meet with federal inspectors about the incident where she was propelled out of her chair while attempting to cross Front St. She showed the visiting feds how attempting to traverse the “sidewalk” alongside the Marina is almost impossible for those on foot and IS impossible for wheelchairs, walkers, baby buggies, etc. The railway moved to fix their tracks while the city and Marina waste time and money with lawyers, and it looks like the feds might take action to get this part of the ugly situation resolved and hopefully that action involves getting a real sidewalk where it belongs along Front St. for access to the wildly popular Salty Pelican alongside the stubborn Marina owner’s eatery. The city should be ashamed of itself for not moving on this issue sooner and resolving it without spending our tax money foolishly on law suits. Ask anybody at town hall, including elected commissioners, about it and they look bewilderment and confused and are stumped for answers. So now we’ve got the feds here and from what I’ve heard they were pleased with the railroad stepping up and doing its part but are very disappointed with the city’s disregard and indifference. Good grief!
Hey, That’s Me: This blog was named “web site of the week” by the wildly popular think tank Georgia Public Policy Foundation in its Friday Facts column as GPPF’s Benita Dodd and Kelly McCutchen posted the following May 2: “Web site of the week: Former Atlantan Dave Scott relocated to sunny Fernandina Beach, Fla., near Amelia Island. Find his blog at www.davescottblog.com. His witty news and views are worth the read, and not just because he mentions the Foundation on a regular basis.” Thanks folks, I’m indeed flattered and you can check out the GPPF at www.georgiapolicy.org.
What the….? I can only assume that so many Americans celebrate Mexican Independence Day, May 5, because it gives them a reason to swill large amounts of cerveza and tequila but it also provides unhinged politicians an opportunity to make outrageous statements such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) who said House Republicans on Cinco de Mayo should be as courageous as the Mexican militia that defeated the French army in the Battle of Puebla to pass amnesty legislation. Maybe nutty Nancy over did her celebration by hitting the tequila bottle a little bit too hard.
Amelia Fireballer: Robert Hanrahan, Amelia Island resident and dad of baseball flame thrower Joel alerts us that the Detroit Tigers have a deal with his two-time All-Star closer son who is recovering from year-old Tommy John surgery having signed the hard-throwing star to a one-year major league deal for $1 million guaranteed and a chance to make it $3 million with incentives. Sports writers say the Tigers are a World Series favorite that have struggled out of the bull pen so far, so Hanrahan will represent a chance at a major improvement and he would appear to be the logical set-up man for them. The Yankees, Rangers, Red Sox and Rockies also showed interest in the 32-year-old who has 100 career saves and was an All-Star closer for the Pirates from 2011-12. I’m already a Hanrahan fan but when he eventually steps on the mound against the hated Yankees, I become an even greater admirer.
A Well Deserved & Preserved Award: Ernie Saltmarsh, who owns downtown’s Florida House, Green Turtle, the trolleys, and more was once again recognized for his historic preservation and restoration efforts when in a joint effort between the city and the island’s museum, Mayor Ed Boner, Museum Director Phyllis Davis and Restoration Foundation President Adam Kaufman presented him the 2014 Historic Preservation Award for his Beech Street Grill building work at a city commission meeting Tuesday, May 6. He was similarly honored for his efforts with S. 3rd St. Florida House Inn. Nominations are solicited every two years in a variety of categories relating to historic preservation and the program is a joint partnership of the Museum, the Restoration Foundation and the City of Fernandina Beach. Historic District homeowner Foye Waldrip’s new home was recognized for outstanding new construction while local Architect John Cotner was cited as this year’s Preservation Champion for his years of work on projects in the city’s Historic District.
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: Nick Hartley is back at Sandy Bottoms running that establishment’s Main Beach kitchen after a long hiatus but is still running his Kritt R Done business, trapping pesky squirrels, armadillos, raccoons, rats, etc. that take up residence in local homes. But, don’t worry about seeing an armadillo blue plate special on the menu folks, as Nick humanly releases the animals back into the wild. However, the pizza recipe that Nick perfected in his previous tenure at the restaurant can only get better and believe me when I say that even though the beach-front eatery isn’t a pizzeria, the pizza ranks as one of the best thin sliced I’ve ever eaten anywhere and I particularly like the fact it is cut into little squares and not slices. Also, this past Tuesday was the last appearance of the Amelia Crescendo Big Band at Sandy Bottoms until this fall I’m told but the summer features plenty of good music on the beach-front patio and inside. Call ‘em at 904/ 310-6904. Discovered while reading the informative Search Amelia website the other day were three specials that jumped out at me including the Amelia Hotel at the Beach package that starts at $420 and includes a two night stay, dinner for two at the Crab Trap Restaurant in historic downtown Fernandina Beach, two tickets for Amelia River Cruises and a daily breakfast buffet. To book the package for your Uncle Dick and Aunt Kris go to www.ameliahotel.com or call ‘em at 877/263-5428. The Hoyt House is also offering my kind of special this summer, a $115 value that includes a six pack of ice-cold beer delivered poolside daily, a cruise around Amelia Island for two, and late check-out, and guests can also try the cleverly named “Hoytie Toytie” martini at a special rate of $4 in that B&B’s cozy bar just off the parlor. The Hoyt House also serves a gourmet breakfast each morning. To get this deal a four-night minimum is required so visit www.hoythouse.com for more information or call ‘em at 904-277-4300. If you have relatives with deep pockets that you don’t particularly want hanging around your house tell ‘em about the Ritz-Carlton’s $489 per night deal that includes deluxe accommodations, daily American breakfast for two at Café 4750, $100 hotel credit to spend at selected outlets, Salt amenity and a VIP invitation to participate in the daily Infused Salt Tasting at The Salt Shop. Rates don’t include taxes, gratuities, fees and other charges but if they can afford the nightly rate, they won’t care. Visit www.ritzcarlton.com/ameliaisland or call ‘em at 904/277-1100.