In the quiet of his Marysville home, Farlan Dubarry thinks back and back and back. At 17, he wanted to join the Navy but his mother wouldn’t let him sign the papers. By 18, he was in the U.S. Army. His 19th birthday was spent in a foxhole on Okinawa.
“Every day since I walked off that island is an in-the-gravy day,” the 94-year-old World War II veteran said Tuesday.
Seventy-five years ago Wednesday, Sept. 2, 1945, is one day etched in his memory forever.
Dubarry was on Mindoro, an island in the Philippines, when Japan’s foreign affairs minister signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender aboard the USS Missouri. The ceremony on the U.S. Navy battleship in Tokyo Bay officially ended the war.
“It is my earnest hope, and indeed the hope of all mankind, that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past,” Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Allied Commander, said that day.
On Mindoro, “there were a bunch of happy guys,” Dubarry said. “You can’t imagine the joy and happiness. They knew they were going to live.”
In celebration, a division band went from unit to unit. “And there were an awful lot of guns fired into the air,” he said.
A widower, Dubarry was invited to be in Hawaii this week. Before COVID-19 forced changes in plans, veterans from around the nation were to have been honored in person in Honolulu. Instead, the official 75th anniversary Commemoration of the End of World War II is being live-streamed starting at noon PDT (9 a.m. HST) Wednesday at 75thwwiicommemoration.org and on Facebook Live.
The event was authorized, through legislation, by the Department of Defense, with Bob and Elizabeth Dole acting as chairpersons and the Bob & Dolores Hope Foundation’s Bob Hope Legacy leading the effort.
On Tuesday, Dubarry shared a video interview of himself. It was conducted last year by Scott Davis, then a Gonzaga University student who chronicles veterans’ stories through an oral history project called Faces of Valor.
Dubarry served with H Company, 2nd Battalion, 382nd Infantry Regiment, 96th Infantry Division. During a 2001 reunion in Nebraska, the division was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for heroic action during World War II. Nicknamed the Deadeyes for marksmanship skills, the division showed extraordinary heroism and gallantry in action, from April 1, 1945, to June 30, 1945, in the conquest of Okinawa in Japan’s Ryuku Islands, according to the citation.
The Battle of Okinawa was the largest amphibious landing in the Pacific Theater during the war. More than 12,000 Americans were killed.
Dubarry, part of a machine gun squad, had been with the 96th Infantry Division in the Leyte Island campaign before landing on Okinawa with the second wave of the invasion.
“My division was the first one up on Hacksaw Ridge,” he said, adding that a Mel Gibson movie of that name didn’t get it all right.
He recalled that after a “foxhole buddy” was killed, he went to join others in the next hole — only to see the one he’d just left hit by an artillery shell. “They would have found pieces of me,” he said. At times, he could only flatten himself to the ground. “Mother Earth was my best friend,” Dubarry said.
The horrors haven’t left him — the bodies, the horrible smell, the flies and maggots. Helmets were used as “a wash basin and a crapper,” he said. About that, “we weren’t worried too much.”
Dubarry believes his generation’s early years, as children of the Great Depression, toughened them up for battle. “I was born in Twin Falls, Idaho. We lived the life of ‘The Grapes of Wrath,’” he said. By 1933, his family had lost a farm and come to Seattle, where he and his father both would eventually work for a baking company. “I started working for the bakery at 16,” he said.
He worked more than 40 years for the Continental Baking Company, the maker of Wonder Bread and Twinkies. That work, not the war, cost him a finger. During the Korean War, he served in the Army Reserve with the 104th Infantry Division at Fort Lawton in Seattle.
Dubarry’s wife Bobbie died in 2016, the same year they wed. He said he outlived three wives. A father of four, Dubarry said he also has “some really good stepkids.”
On the Faces of Valor video, he offers advice for the young: “Get your nose out of the cellphone.”
He is saddened to see his country “divided like it is.” And he can hardly believe it’s been 75 years since the war that, in many ways, has never left him.
“It went fast,” Dubarry said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
75th anniversary event
Information about the 75th anniversary Commemoration of the End of World War II, which is being live-streamed starting at noon PDT (9 a.m. HST) Wednesday, Sept. 2, is online at: www.75thwwiicommemoration.org/
It will also be live on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/75thwwii/