Sunday, August 09, 2009

Pvt. Ira Richard Stanfield Story by Mark Taylor

Exclusive: From Arkansas to Okinawa – the Pvt. Ira Richard Stanfield Story, By Mark Taylor

As many people across the nation enjoy a day off for July 4th, the grills will be fired up and the fireworks will light up the night sky. It is a time for celebrating our nation’s freedom from the British government’s tyranny and control over a group of independent patriots, determined to build a nation based upon individual freedoms and rights. While the current trend in Washington is to move toward the oppressive, suffocating monstrosity of big government (which is spawning TEA Parties across the nation), it is a time for my family and me to reflect, not only on the sacrifices of those in 1776 who left their homes and families to fight to build this great nation, but also on those who, generations later, advanced that courageous mission.

From the Stanfields and Reeps in the American Revolution to the Taylors, Stanfields, Nichols and Reeps in the Civil War to those family members who fought from World War Two to Iraq, mine is an ancestry of men whose love of God, country and family kept them on the front lines.

On June 13, 1944, a young man from rural Bradley County, Arkansas, Ira Richard Stanfield – as with so many like him during World War Two – enlisted in the United States Army. Leaving his job with the Bradley County Lumber Company, he said good-bye to his young wife and 3-year-old daughter and headed to Camp Wolters, Texas for basic training and an uncertain future as war raged at once in the Pacific and a world away in Europe. Stanfield’s skill with a gun made him an expert rifleman with the 36th Infantry (Texas) Division.

It was an undated letter, however – sent to his wife, Morie, who tended to the family farm and their young daughter – that gives us a glimpse into the man who left the quiet life of South Arkansas to venture into the violent, unknown territory that was the Pacific theater. In the letter, the “place” was “at sea”, the date censored. Stanfield wrote, “It is really a pleasant thought to know the good Lord is over here even when the war is going on. Darling, I am receiving blessing from your prayers. I want you to keep on praying for me and the other boys that are away from home and their loved ones, and I am sure this war will soon be over and me and the rest of the boys will be coming home to a free and civilized country.” They were words written in faith and love of God and his precious family.

Stanfield fought the war like he lived his life – with courage, determination and good old-fashioned Southern will to survive. On April 28, 1945, while it was that will and determination that inspired Pvt. Stanfield, his wife received a Western Union telegram bearing the dreaded news: “The Secretary of War desires me to express his deep regret that your husband, Pvt. Stanfield Ira R. was seriously wounded in Okinawa 28 April 1945…” From the Bradley County Eagle Democrat – August 9, 1945:

Injured by shrapnel from a Jap tank on Okinawa, Pvt. Ira R. Stanfield, 26, of Ingalls, was decorated today during a parade celebrating the 170th anniversary of the Army Medical Corps by Brig Gen Larry B. McAfee, commanding general, Bruns General Hospital, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Into a single week starting the night of April 22, 1945, Pvt. Stanfield crammed his share of battle experience. His company had dug in for the night and was sending up flairs for the security of their defense parameter when he saw two Japs a few yards away setting up a machine gun. He called to a buddy who was closer to the enemy soldiers. His comrade tossed one grenade at the Japs and removed the machine gun threat.

Three days later, two Japanese crawled up to the American lines. One was killed as the other began throwing grenades and jumped into their foxhole, stabbing Stanfield’s buddy through the forearm. Pvt. Stanfield grabbed the Jap while his comrade shot him through the head with a B A R (Browning Automatic Rifle).

On April 28, accompanying a flame throwing tank as B A R man, Stanfield ran into intense small arms, grenade, mortar and tank artillery fire. He threw himself into the middle of the trail as a 77 mm shell from the enemy tank burst ten feet from him, throwing shrapnel into his right knee and foot and back of his left knee and ankle. He managed to crawl back 76 feet to a point where his medics could see him. Before going to Okinawa, he served on Saipan.

Pvt. Stanfield enlisted June 13, 1944, taking basic training at Camp Wolters, Texas. In addition to the Purple Heart, he wears the Good Conduct Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with two bronze clasps and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

Before joining the Army, he worked as a logger for Bradley Lumber Company of Warren. He attended high school at Vick. His wife, Morie K. Stanfield, lives in Warren. After he is discharged, Ira Stanfield hopes to return to his previous job.

During his hospitalization at Bruns, Chaplain (Major) A. Morgan Jenkins told Mrs. Stanfield in a letter dated June 11, 1945, that Pvt. Stanfield was “cheerful and contented and is looking forward to his recovery,” and assured Stanfield’s wife that he was being given the best of care. Major Jenkins continued, “Allow me to congratulate you on having such a fine husband in the service of our Country, especially at such a time when all are needed to preserve those principles of liberty which are so dear to each one of us. May God bless each of you.”

Pvt. Stanfield did return to his family in Bradley County, Arkansas, and, with the same determination that sealed his survival in Okinawa, overcame the injuries that left his legs scarred, even though memories of war haunted him until his death in 1996. A successful businessman, he raised not only his daughter, but two sons, presiding over an extended family that included grandchildren and great-grandchildren who loved and admired the man who gave so much so they – and America – could continue to be free.

Papaw Stanfield once told me that, when the explosion ripped through his legs severely injuring them, it was the corpse of a Japanese soldier lying across his body that saved his life in Okinawa. But we know that it was also the hand of God – a God that knew Ira Richard Stanfield had much to do in his life – that brought him back to us.

This Independence Day, as we celebrate our freedom and the birthday of the United States of America, let us learn from the stories of men like Pvt. Stanfield and of his many generations of forebears who also went to war to keep us free. The freedom and liberty we hold dear must be defended and treasured at all costs and each generation, in turn, must earn its own liberty.

May God bless you all this July 4th – and may God Bless America. Contributing Editor Mark R. Taylor served in Iraq from January 2004 to May 2005 as a civilian convoy commander, and is a private contractor/intelligence analyst for The Taylor Company

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