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Marple Willard Landes
1923-1945

"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."

Nelson Mandela

Marine Corporal Marple Willard Landes was born on October 27, 1923, to parents Jonathan Siron Landes and Maude Ellen Douglas Landes. He was born in Evergreen, French Creek, Upshur County, West Virginia. The 1930 Federal Census lists Marple as a farmer prior to his military service, an occupation he would pursue after graduating from Buckhannon High School in the class of 1941. As was the case with many rural families in West Virginia at the time, he came from a large family. Margel’s siblings included Fred, Harlen, Flora, Margel, Malissa, Anna, Marley, and French.

French Creek, West Virginia, is a very small, mostly Protestant, unincorporated farming town, producing primarily beef cattle, located in Upshur County, West Virginia. In the 1920s, this area was home to a variety of industries, including tanneries, printing companies, coal mines, glass plants, and even some chemical companies. The locals of this area typically attended Buckhannon High School, as it was the closest to the small town. In the 1930s, the production of this town was relatively unchanged, and students continued to attend Buckhannon High School; however, in June 1936 the Strawberry Festival began in Buckhannon as a way to encourage the production of strawberries in Upshur County. This festival originally lasted one day, but after six years it grew to include two parades, a pageant, an air show, a marble tournament, and fiddlers. The festival continues to this day, with it being held in late May each year. In the 1940s, the area’s production grew to include strawberries with the promotion of the festival. High school aged students continued to attend Buckhannon High School, and Upshur County’s population was near 18,360. (Sources: Philip Mallory Conley, “Upshur County,” The West Virginia Encyclopedia [Charleston, WV: West Virginia Publishing Company, 1929: 930-33]; Noel W. Tenney, “Upshur County,” e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia, 4 June 2013, accessed 9 June 2016, http://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/842.)

West Virginia during World War II was a very war-supporting state, boasting the fifth highest rate of servicemen enlistment among states. During the war, West Virginia produced 600 million tons of coal; manufactured steel for warships; rationed food, butter, and gas; and citizens purchased $208,997 worth of war bonds. Also, the Greenbrier Resort served as a detention center for Axis diplomats and as a hospital for wounded soldiers specializing in vascular and neurosurgery. The United States during World War II had a vast labor shortage due to the colossal numbers of men in the armed services. This shortage caused women (the Rosie the Riveters) across America to work in factories to aid in the wartime production efforts. West Virginians, as well as all Americans, understood the sacrifices that required the rationing of food, butter, and gas to aid in supplies overseas. This rationing resulted in a massive upswing of backyard gardens to aid in food production for families. (Source: West Virginia State Archives, “From Every Mountainside [early 1942 film made by the West Virginia State Road Commission to show West Virginia's part in the war effort],” 31 July 2015, accessed 8 June 2016, https://www.youtube.com.)

Cpl. Marple W. Landes, U.S. Marine Corps, was a member of the 4th Marine Division of the V Amphibious Corps, deployed to the Pacific Theater during World War II. Though no enlistment date or terms of enlistment can be found on him, it is possible both the date and terms are the same or similar to those of his brother Margel, who enlisted in the Army on January 26, 1944. Margel’s terms included the period of the war and six additional months under the discretion of the President. It is also possible that Marple enlisted some time before Margel, as Marple was the older of the two brothers.

In the week before his death, Cpl. Landes and his division approached and landed on the island of Iwo Jima, making small advances and taking Korean and Japanese prisoners. The division caused major enemy casualties despite heavy resistance. On the night of March 9, 1945, enemy forces infiltrated Marine lines, subjecting the 4th Division to heavy mortar and sniper fire. Cpl. Landes’ exact cause of death is unknown, but it is likely he was killed in action during this attack.

The battle for Iwo Jima lasted from February 16 through March 26; as one historian put it: “Thirty-six days of unremitting hell on a small, wretched, reeking island.” This particularly grueling battle was “the only major battle in the Pacific War in which the U.S. Marines suffered greater casualties than they inflicted on the Japanese defenders.” The losses and sacrifices of Iwo Jima were so great that the military strategy leading to the final securement of the island remains controversial to this day. In large part, Iwo Jima is remembered for the iconic flag-raising over Mount Suribachi. (For further reading about Iwo Jima, see Col. Joseph Alexander, “Battle of Iwo Jima,” HistoryNet, accessed 3 June 2016, http://www.historynet.com/battle-of-iwo-jima.htm. This article originally appeared in the February 2000 issue of WWII.)

Cpl. Marple Willard Landes is buried in Waterloo Cemetery, French Creek, Upshur County, West Virginia, with both of his parents and some of his siblings. Despite the fact that his death occurred in 1945, it would be three years before his remains were returned to the states. A burial notice in The Buckhannon Record notes: “The body, along with more than 3,000 others, arrived at San Francisco, Calif., the latter part of March aboard the Walter W. Schwenk, U.S. Army transport. Fifty-four of these bodies were returned at instructions of next-of-kin residing in West Virginia. The great majority of the remains were placed aboard the Schwenk at Tanapag, Saipan, on Feb. 28.” (Source: “Military Funeral Held for Landes,” 30 April 1948, p. 5.)

In 2015, the West Virginia Legislature named the bridge on County Route 32, Evergreen Road, in Upshur as the “USM Cpl. Marple W. Landes and U.S. Army PV2 Margel S. Landes Memorial Bridge” in memory of Marple and his brother Margel.
marker

Grave marker for Cpl. Marple Willard Landes, Waterloo Cemetery. Courtesy Ben York, Find A Grave



Article prepared by Katie Martin, Charlie Payne, and Savannah Reese, George Washington High School Advanced Placement U.S. History
May 2016

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Marple Willard Landes

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