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Navy vet proud to receive medals — after 62 years

Navy vet proud to receive medals — after 62 years
Navy vet proud to receive medals — after 62 years | navy vet receives medals

AT LONG LAST — Eighty-three-year-old James Lyons of Obion reported he was surprised and pleased to receive a packet in the mail recently containing some of the medals awarded to him for active duty service in a Seabee battalion in the South Pacific in W
By JOHN BRANNON
Messenger Staff Reporter
James Lyons of Obion came home from the war in December 1945. Last week, his medals followed him home.
“I told Glenn (Parnell), ‘They ought to be good. I waited 65 years for them,” said Lyons, 83, a U.S. Navy veteran who served with the famed Seabees in the South Pacific in World War II.
A mixture of medals and pins arrived at his residence Sept. 24 via U.S. Mail from the retired records section, U.S. Navy Personnel Command, St. Louis. The shipment includes the Navy Good Conduct Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, the Navy Occupation Service Medal, the Combat Action Ribbon, the Honorable Service lapel pin and an honorable discharge button.
According to a transmittal included in the shipment, Lyons is also entitled to the American Campaign Medal and the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal. Neither were shipped because they are no longer issued by the Navy. He was advised those two medals may be obtained from a civilian dealer of military supplies.
Even so, Lyons is proud of the ones that were shipped. He plans to have them mounted in a display box.
Lyons, son of the late Walter and Edith Lyons, entered active duty in 1942 and was honorably discharged in 1945. He served in the Pacific with the Eighth Naval Construction Battalion, one of several referred to as “Seabees.”
He recalled that his unit waited offshore three days while U.S. Marine landing forces breached the beaches of Iwo Jima, which was heavily defended by Japanese military forces.
On shore, he was in a demolition squad. One of the Seabees’ missions was the destruction of hundreds of caves where Japanese had holed up in a fight-to-the-death stand.
Lyons won’t talk about it much. Instead, he summarizes the experience with just a few words. “We blew up a lot of caves,” he said.
That, and more, according to a statement by Commander W.T. Powers, the officer in charge. A formal statement by Powers is included in Lyons’ official records. It reads:
“During the period from March 3, 1945, through May 3, 1945, at Iwo Jima, you have by your untiring efforts and fortitude despite long hours, ofttimes interrupted by enemy action and under most adverse conditions, carried out your assignment in an outstanding manner.
“Through the cooperative efforts of you and other members of your battalion, valuable cargo has been brought ashore, enemy mines have been removed, and the various construction projects have been prosecuted most expeditiously, thereby enabling the air forces of our nation to launch early and devastating attacks upon the enemy in his homeland.”
As a demolitions man, Lyons had a formidable task routing the Japanese from the caves on the island.
This background:
• Iwo Jima is one of several small islands in the western Pacific known as the Ryukyu Islands. In World War II, heavily fortified, “Iwo,” as veterans refer to it, was the last two Japanese-held islands — the other being Okinawa — the Allies planned to take before launching an all-out invasion of mainland Japan.
• A Japanese garrison of 22,000 held the island, which was 4 1/2 miles long and 2 1/2 miles wide, at its widest point. Many of the Japanese were holed up in mountains honeycombed with interconnecting caves. After a punishing Allied bombardment of 6,800 tons of bombs and 22,000 rounds from 5- and 8-inch guns, the caves were virtually untouched.
• According to the book, “War in the Pacific,” by John Winton, the battle of Iwo Jima began on Feb. 19, 1945, with a full-scale invasion by U.S. Marines. Prior to the iinvasion, it was “softened up” with two weeks of aerial and naval bombardment.
• On March 16, 1945, the Allies island was declared secure. The price of victory was high. U.S. Marines and Navy casualties included 5,931 killed in action and 17,292 wounded in action.
In later action, Okinawa also fell. Although the Allies had a battle plan for the invasion of thethe Japanese mainland, it remained only a plan because of a new weapon — atomic energy and its military byproduct, the atomic bomb.
In early August 1945, U.S. Army Air Corps B-29 bombers dropped atomic bombs on two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The atomic age had arrived; Japan surrendered on Aug. 9, 1945. On the other side of the world, Hitler and his Nazi minions had been defeated by the Allies in May 1945. The atomic bombs dropped on Japan brought the war in the Pacific to an end, and with it the entirety of World War II.
Like about a million other servicemen, Lyons was happy the war was over.
“We got back to the states in December 1945,” he said. “A bunch of us went to Millington (Naval base) and got our discharges. I got discharged on December 24, 1945, and I made it home for Christmas. It was the first Christmas at home in years. I haven’t left Obion since then. You know, when I was a kid, I wanted to get out and see the world. As it turned out, I saw more than I wanted to.”
Lyons was assisted in acquiring his World War II medals by former Obion mayor and U.S. Army veteran Glenn Parnell.
“James and I have been friends a long time. He’s a special man; he went through a lot in the war,” Parnell said. “The veterans monument we erected in Eddie Huey park in 2006 is dedicated to men like him. He’s on our monument committee. We are proud of him.” Published in The Messenger 10.02.07

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