It’s always exciting when a new work of established literary talent finds its way into the world. When that work is based on actual events, specifically World War II and Korean War accounts, then the excitement multiplies. The New York Times bestselling graphic novel, ” ,” written by author and illustrator and released yesterday has struck a chord with the public. http://www.whatsonstage.com/news/stage-news/latest/stage-news/126719/world-war-ii-korean-war-marine-s-stories-brought-to-life-in-new-graphic-novel/
Fifty years after the end of World War II, the Korean War, and the Marine Corps’ effort to save as many men as possible from being killed, Marines are now looking back at the time through the eyes of those who fought in the conflict.
The Korean War was one of the bloodiest conflicts in history, and the conflict which took place on and around the Korean Peninsula has been characterized as the most brutal war in human history. This graphic novel, “The Marines” by Korean-American author David B.L. Kwok, is a collection of fictional stories told through the eyes of the United States Marine Corps. The conflicts in this graphic novel are based on historical events such as the Inchon Landing, Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, the Battle of the Punchbowl and the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. This comic book was released by Pantheon Books and is available in both print and digital formats.
Marvin Strombo stood in front of his Montana home’s mailbox and opened the letter. He came to a complete stop, gazing at the picture in his palm. A tombstone in the picture bore the name of an old acquaintance, as well as the dates: Martin Russell Dyer Jr., June 14, 1923 – June 30, 1944.
He hadn’t seen Dyer in more than seven decades, when the two Marines were bunking next to one other on a troopship bound for the Battle of Saipan. However, when Strombo read through the accompanying letter from an author who’d previously interviewed him about his experiences, his picture reappeared, bringing back old recollections.
Strombo, who was trained as a scout sniper, had recently returned from battle on Tarawa before going to Saipan during WWII. Dyer had previously fought — and almost escaped — the battle of Guadalcanal nearly two years before, setting the scene for Marines and troops to battle their way across the Pacific en route to mainland Japan.
Strombo, who shared his experiences with inquisitive author Joseph Tachovsky, would later do the same with graphic novelist and Air Force veteran August Uhl, who compiled them, along with a slew of other tales, in the newly released third volume of “Full Mag: Veterans Stories Illustrated.”
When Strombo spoke with Uhl about what was to come, he noticed that Dyer had no phony swagger.
“He’d speak about fear and how some people could handle it while others couldn’t,” Strombo said. “It was a difficult feeling to control.”
Dyer told Strombo his own secret just before they arrived on the beaches of Saipan. On Guadalcanal, he hadn’t handled battle as well as he’d anticipated. He couldn’t take it anymore.
“Then he told me that the reason he volunteered for the scout snipers was to test whether he could handle it better than he could in Guadalcanal,” Strombo recalled.
Dyer’s officer ordered him to take his unit and examine a ravine on their left flank as they moved inland on Saipan.
“I was almost shocked when I glanced over at Dyer as he was leaving,” Strombo added. “His face was as white as a sheet of paper. ‘He was terrified to death,’ says the narrator.
Russell Dyer, a Marine Cpl., on Saipan. In a comic book titled “Full Mag: Veterans Experiences Illustrated,” fellow Marine Marvin Strombo shares his memories of his loss, as well as other stories. (Fernando Ruiz, Marcus Eskow, and Kim Demulder are among the artists.)
Nonetheless, Strombo would discover later that his close buddy was everything but fearful on that patrol. Officials recalled in Dyer’s Navy Cross citation how, after two unsuccessful efforts to take out a machine gun nest, he ordered his squad mates to keep their eyes on the tree line right before he rushed into the open, drawing enemy fire so his Marines could identify the objective.
Dyer led a third attack on the position while being wounded before dying to his injuries.
Strombo, on the other hand, would battle until the conclusion of the war on Saipan and other fronts. He would subsequently return to normal life until being summoned to battle in Korea once again. He kept a seized Japanese flag and other mementos in a locked closet at home, but the memories didn’t remain closed up with them.
Strombo returned to Montana, although he went for employment on many occasions, even marrying an El Salvadorian woman while constructing roads in Central America. He’d often take her back to cold Montana, where they had three children, whom he reared alone when she returned home.
Sandra Williamson, his daughter, stated, “He never remarried, he simply concentrated on us.”
Strombo worked and cared for his family as the years passed. He never really spoke about his wartime memories, according to Williamson, but she recalls him consoling friends and family whose sons were serving in Vietnam.
However, her father did tell the son of his late platoon commander, Lt. Frank Tachovsky, about the Marines’ unconventional work on Saipan. The platoon commander’s son, the aforementioned Joseph Tachovsky, wrote the book “40 Thieves on Saipan,” detailing the unit’s adventures after interviewing surviving comrades like Strombo.
In a December 1944 issue of Leatherneck Magazine, the Marines of Strombo’s unit were dubbed “Tachovsky’s Terrors,” but it was the Marines of the 6th Regiment who dubbed them “The 40 Thieves,” a moniker earned due to the snipers’ preference for sneakers over boots, which allowed them to slip quietly through the jungle.
Strombo revealed additional personal experiences for the new “Full Mag” tales, including a horrific war-induced nightmare that tormented him throughout his life and near calls he experienced in both World War II and Korea, during which he said he heard a strange voice among the carnage.
The flag is returned by Marvin Strombo. (Fernando Ruiz, Marcus Eskow, and Kim Demulder are among the artists.)
“Someone or something said, ‘move back,’” he claimed as he laid in a prone posture. “I took a step back right away. A gunshot struck the sand where I had moved just as I moved.”
The pictures also show a world of reconciliation, such as when Strombo gave to the soldier’s family in Japan the Japanese flag he had recovered from a dead opponent.
Those tales encapsulate the spirit of what “Full Mag” creator August Uhl hopes to convey in each of the volumes, which he estimates will take 13 to 15 months from start to finish following interviews, research, and artwork.
They cover a wide range of topics, from World War II to the current day.
Early efforts featured interviews with a variety of people, including David Thatcher, the last of the two Doolittle Raid survivors at the time. A local article about Uhl’s conversation with Thatcher, who died in 2016, caught Williamson’s attention, and she contacted Uhl to ask if he’d want to hear about her father, a fellow Montanan.
Strombo consented, and for the first time, he let his daughter go through his notebook, which was full with tales he’d penned in his latter years, stories he couldn’t let go.
Later, Strombo reviewed Uhl’s manuscript and gave his comments. Williamson recalls her 96-year-old father laughing as he looked over.
He replied, “Well, I suppose I’m famous now.”
On June 23, 2023, Marvin Strombo died in his Missoula home, surrounded by his family.
Uhl’s next project is a historical graphic journal called “Saved Rounds,” which will include both factual and fiction veteran tales. It will most likely be released next year at the earliest.
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