Jack Snyder graduated at age 17 from Monessen High School in 1942, joined the Marines, and soon after became a machine gunner with the 4thMarine Division.
He wouldn’t hesitate if you asked whom he thinks of on Memorial Day: Marine Sgt. George L. Barlow of Verbank, NY. Barlow was a 21-year-old platoon leader on Iwo Jima on March 1, 1945, when he saved Jack’s life. Casualties were so heavy that companies of over 200 men were whittled down to 50. Ten days after the invasion, Sgt. Barlow was with Jack’s squad in an old Japanese anti-aircraft position.
“We were silhouetted against the evening sky. [The Japanese] noticed our spot. They threw a hand grenade. It hit the parapet wall and rolled in. Sgt. Barlow shouts, ‘Grenade!’ He’s on all fours, moves toward the grenade, covers it with his body, and it explodes.” Barlow absorbed the explosion, saving the lives of the four other men in the hole.
Not a day goes by that Jack doesn’t think of George Barlow, the man who gave him the gift of a long, full life. He believes Barlow deserves the Medal of Honor, or at least the Navy Cross. But, by the time the battle was over, and Jack was interviewed about the incident, he was the only witness left alive or mentally capable of testifying to Barlow’s heroism. One witness isn’t enough for such awards, the Marine Corps states. Nevertheless, Jack has spent decades petitioning the Marines for some kind of recognition for Barlow. He’s hoping Barlow receives at least a Bronze Star for Valor and expects to get a final determination from Marine Corps headquarters this year.
On August 10, 2013, Jack Snyder visited Todd DePastino’s “The United States in World War II” class at the Cranberry campus of Waynesburg University’s Graduate and Professional Studies Program. Todd greeted Jack as he emerged from his car with a photo album and assorted artifacts. “Thank you for taking the time and effort to visit my class,” said Todd. “Sure thing,” replied Jack, “that’s what we’re put on this earth to do, to help others, not ourselves.” Jack’s lesson had started. He held the class enthralled for two hours with his story of service in World War II. It was a day the students and teacher will never forget.
KEYWORDS: 3RD MARINE DIVISION; 4TH MARINE DIVISION; 5TH MARINE DIVISION; 6X6 TRUCK (2 1/2-TON); AMMUNITION DEPOT; B-29 SUPERFORTRESS; BARLOW, SERGEANT GEORGE; BATTLE OF BOUGAINVILLE; BEAR MOUNTAIN; BRADLEY, JOHN; BRUNSWICK 51 LANES; CLARK, H. ERNEST; COATES, THOMAS; FLAG RAISING (IWO JIMA); HAND GRENADE; HIGGINS BOAT; HILL 382 (IWO JIMA); HONOLULU, HAWAII; HUDSON RIVER; IWO JIMA; LANDING CRAFT VEHICLE PERSONNEL (LCVP), LEATHERNECK MAGAZINE; LINDBERG, CHARLES; MARINE CORPS AWARDS BOARD; MAUI, HI; MCCARTHY, CAPTAIN; MON VALLEY LEATHERNECK ASSOCIATION; MONESSEN, PA; MT. SURIBACHI; NAVY CORPSMAN; SALT LINE; SCREAMIN’ MEEMIES; SKRANK, MICHAEL; SMITH, GENERAL HOLLAND MCTYEIRE “HOWLIN’ MAD”; SPIDER TRAPS; STAR SHELLS; TYPE 98 320 MM MORTAR (JAPAN); USS BECKHAM (APA-133)
In My Own Words
“The B-29s bombed the island daily for seventy-two days,” Jack Snyder recalls. “The navy circled Iwo Jima and shelled it.
They said the island was soft, so the battle would only last a week. They got it wrong.”
Listen to this abbreviated audio version of Jack Snyder’s interview.