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Veterans Day 2009: Serving with HONOR

Published: Wed, November 11, 2009 @ 12:01 a.m.


TWO PURPLE HEARTS: Glenn Buzzard of Hubbard was wounded twice during World War II, the first on Tinian Island and the second on Iwo Jima. He was a member of D Company, 1st Battalion, 24th Regiment, 4th Marine Division all through the war.


REMEMBERING: Paul Sovik of Youngstown looks through some old pictures that bring back memories of the battles he fought in during World War II in the Pacific. He enlisted in the Marine Corps on Dec. 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Two Valley Marines, both Purple Heart recipients, recall the World War II horror of fighting in the Pacific Theater.



The best part of the war was the friends you made. The worst part was the friends you lost, say two World War II Marines.

“That’s why Veterans Day is so important. We can’t forget those guys who gave up their time and their lives in their youth so we can have the freedoms we have today,” said Paul Sovik.

Sovik, of Youngstown, and Glenn Buzzard of Hubbard, both Purple Heart recipients, fought the Japanese in World War II in the Pacific Theater in some of the fiercest and most deadly battles.

Buzzard enlisted in the Marine Corps on Aug. 19, 1942, in Pittsburgh at age 16 and went straight from working in a pottery plant in Chester, W.Va., to boot camp at Parris Island, S.C.

“When I enlisted, they told me to bring signatures from my father and the police chief of Chester. Right before the end of boot camp, they asked me if I wanted out of the Marine Corps. I guess they had found out about my age. I said no,” Buzzard said.

He trained for about a year at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and went from there to Japanese territory and the island of Roi-Namur as a machine gunner with D Company, 1st Battalion, 24th Regiment, 4th Marine Division, the unit with which he stayed throughout the war.

“We didn’t have that many casualties there,” said Buzzard.

But that was to change.

After going to Hawaii for more training and to build up strength, his unit took part in the invasion of Saipan.

“A lot of our replacements came straight from boot camp just a few weeks out of high school. It was pretty tough on them. They didn’t have the training and had to learn on the job,” Buzzard said.

Saipan was terrible, he recalled: There was a lot of collateral damage.

Buzzard said he witnessed the horror that was Marpi Point, located at the northern tip of Saipan. “Mothers threw their babies onto the coral below and then jumped themselves. It was a terrible thing to see,” he said.

Buzzard got his first Purple Heart from shrapnel wounds suffered on Saipan during a mortar attack. He was moved to the beach for treatment, but went back to the front line as quickly as possible.

“I felt safer on the line than on the beach. The Japanese had their weapons zeroed in on the beach. That was the worst place to be. Sometimes it took a long time to get the wounded to the hospital ship,” he said.

Buzzard, who also participated in the attack on Tinian, received his second Purple Heart for shrapnel wounds suffered during the during the battle for Iwo Jima, which he said was “by far the worst” battle in terms of American casualties.

“It was two armies face to face,” he said.

He said a shell exploded near him, and about 10 or 12 people just disappeared. He was injured on his left side and “completely blown unconscious” by the concussion of the blast. He was transferred to a hospital ship for treatment. Buzzard was discharged in November 1945 as a corporal.

Sovik went to the Mahoning County Courthouse to enlist on Dec. 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. “I was mad at the Japanese,” he said.

He fought on three Pacific islands, including Guadalcanal, which he described as a “cupcake” compared to Peleliu, where he saw his last combat in the Pacific and where he was wounded.

On the ’Canal, it was survival of the fittest, he said.

“You had to live with the elements and the centipedes and millipedes, all kinds of rodents and flies and mosquitoes by the millions, and crazy birds, one of which sounded like a shell coming in. I got malaria five times.

“We ate Japanese rice with worms in it, but they were cooked. You just didn’t look down into your mess kit.

“One night we heard we were getting goodies for supper. Besides our scoop of Japanese rice and Spam, we each got one-fourth of a canned peach. That was our goodies.

“After the war, I swore I’d never be hungry again. I had a wonderful wife who was a wonderful baker and cook. But for four people, I kept two refrigerators and two freezers full of food all the time,” he said.

Sovik also saw combat at Cape Glouscester on New Britain, landing on Christmas Day 1943: “We lost two captains on the first day.”

And then came Peleliu in September 1944. “You didn’t take your finger off the trigger. It was constant,” he said.

In his first two invasions, Sovik was part of a mortar platoon. On Peleliu, his captain made him a rifle platoon sergeant.

He responded that he didn’t know anything about being a rifle platoon sergeant, but the captain just pointed to the bars indicating his superior rank.

“You had to do what you were told. I just did my job as a staff sergeant. Some things were brilliant, and there were times you made mistakes. You just have to live with it. It is still in your mind 60 years later,” Sovik said.

When they finally captured a heavily fortified place called The Point, out of the 200 men in his unit who landed, 18 were left, Sovik said. He was a member of K Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Division.

After The Point was captured, Sovik and another man were in a foxhole when a mortar shell exploded in front of them.

“It blew us out of the hole, and I got a lot of little holes, and my wrist was dislocated and at a 90-degree angle. Some of the shrapnel is still in there,” he said.

Buzzard and Sovik did not know each other during the war, even though they fought in the same part of the world at about the same time. They met and became friends years later as members of the Tri-State Detachment of the Marine Corps League.

“World War II guys, we’re interested in each other. We just like to sit in a room and BS,” Buzzard said.

“We had a job to do, and we did it. We relied on each other because that’s all we had to rely on,” he said.

Sovik, who served as a drill instructor at Parris Island in 1945, said: “I was never a hero.”


SEE ALSO:YSU honors former students killed in wars, AREA VETERANS DAY EVENTS and Businesses closed today.


1ront(119 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

i salute these two veterans along with all the other millions who served. it's people like them that have made the usa the country it is today.

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2benedems(1 comment)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

Paul Sovik is my father; I'm so proud of him! But he doesn't have any problem with the Japanese NOW; as he points out, that war is over, and we won.

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3Millie(192 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

On Veteran's Day - take a minute and watch what this single individual has done to honor our deceased verterans.

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4leaveusalone(103 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

Thank you to all our vererans - for your courage in battle, and your courage to live on, showing us how to forgive.

And thank you Millie for that link. A very moving video.

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5RFederer(116 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

People like Hope4thevalley make me shake my head in amazement. So should we also not buy.......

Germany based on WWI and WWII
Korea based on the Korean war
Britain based on the revolutionary war
Mexico based on the Mexican American war
Vietnam based on the Vietnam war
Russia based on the cold war
China because they are commies
Southern states because of the civil war...........?

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6RFederer(116 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

Hope4thevalley has it all wrong. The Vets did not GIVE me any rights. The constitution gives me the rights. Vets simply went to war to protect them. Not buying Japanese cars is silly really. Basing your purchases on something that happened 70 years ago. Hey Hope, do you drive? I suspect yes, which means you are FUNDING the same terrorist who toppled the world trade center towers!!! I'll bet your bias is only against the Japanese though.

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7JeffLebowski(953 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

Glad to see we're all staying on-topic...don't make this story into something it isn't, show some respect for these men and their brothers & sisters.

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8ELVISNIXONdotCOM(10 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

Mr. Sovik and Mr Buzzard are true American heroes and deserve more than what our President is giving them.


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9paulydel(1607 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

When you look at our flag just remember why we have 13 stripes on that flag. I do every time I look at it. I served 26 years and glad I made it home from my missions never knowing when or if we might get a rocket in our exhaust pipe. Take a good look around you but our freedom is slowly slipping away. This is one American that the *President doesn't represent because I don't need him making apologies to other countries for our actions. He sure in the hell doesn't represent me.

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10Nonsocialist(710 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago


I'll take it a step further. Mr. Obama is openly scornful and mocking of non-liberal Americans. He is a divider, not a uniter. Non-liberal Americans have a President in name only.

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