Iconic Picture Stirs Recollections of Grace During Wartime

To the Editor:

Your tribute to Joe Rosenthal and his Pulitzer Prize- winning photograph of the flag-raising on Mount Suribachi was especially meaningful to us. It called to mind Dad’s connection to that event and a very special engraving that hung in his office. 

Our dad, James (Jim) Grealish ’42, enlisted in the Navy right after graduating from USF. His ship (USS Waters, APD-8) carried Marine Raiders to the landing at Iwo Jima, which entitled him to a free lunch at the Marines’ Memorial annual Iwo Jima Day commemoration. One year the Marine Corps presented Dad with an engraving of the flag-raising in recognition of his recruiting efforts. The plaque reads: "James V. Grealish. The United States Marine Corps appreciates your assistance in obtaining ‘a few good men.’” Also in attendance that day was former combat photographer Joe Rosenthal who autographed the engraving for Dad. The attached picture confirms it.

Dad obtained copies of the USS Waters’ deck log (in which the officer of the deck noted all important events that occurred during his watch). One entry from Feb. 23, 1945 read: "1035 American Flag hoisted at summit of Surabachi [sic] mountain, Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands. [signed] J. Grealish, Lt. (jg), USNR." (Attached photo of the USS Waters deck log.)

Dad’s experiences serving with the Marine Raiders in the Pacific had a profound effect on him. For the rest of his life he had the greatest respect and admiration for the Marine Corps — in particular for the Marine Raiders and especially for his classmates: Kenneth Houghton  ’42 (later major general USMC) and Malcolm McCarthy ’42.

USF was involved in an experience Dad wrote about on the occasion of the death of another of his personal heroes, Rear Adm. Charles J. McWhinnie, USNR, his skipper on the Waters:

“As a nervous young ensign, a year out of college, I reported aboard the USS Waters (APD 8) on 8 June 1943 and served aboard this four-stack destroyer transport until July 1945. Two weeks after reporting aboard we took Company P of the Fourth Marine Raider Battalion to Segi Point, New Georgia. Then Captain Tony Walker USMC was the troop commander and the chaplain aboard was Father Redmond, the revered chaplain of the Marine Raiders. As we entered the small bay to disembark the Marine Raiders, a canoe came out from the beach. Along with four natives in the canoe was LT Malcolm McCarthy, USMC, my classmate at Most Holy Redeemer School and the University of San Francisco….”

When Dad told this story he said that given the circumstances of a night operation in an unfamiliar area in a war zone, the sailors and Marines were understandably tense. So when they observed a strange native canoe approaching the ship, weapons were drawn and they prepared to take it under fire. At that point a shout came from the canoe: “Don’t shoot, it’s McCarthy.” So Dad and Mal McCarthy enjoyed their own personal USF reunion in the middle of the South Pacific.

Dad stayed in the Naval Reserve after the war, was recalled to active duty for the Korean War, and eventually retired as a rear admiral (upper half). But he always considered the Battle of Iwo Jima and his ship’s rescue of the USS Helena (CL-50) survivors from a Japanese-held island to be the two most important events in which he was involved. And for the remainder of his life he regarded being named an honorary Marine Raider to be one of his most treasured achievements.

Thank you for bringing back those memories.

Kent Grealish ’70
Kathleen Grealish Ciardella ’95, MS ’99
Susan Grealish Flanigan ’95, MS ’99