Foreword on Captain John R. Martin’s Veterans Story…
Dear SCV Signal readers,
It is with great sadness I report that we have lost another of the Greatest Generation. An American hero in our midst…John Martin passed away peacefully in his bed with his wonderful wife Mary, Esther of Visiting Angels and John’s dog Marley at his side November 1, 2016 at 4:49am. As Mary stated, “he sailed away into the rising sun into the safety and protection of our Heavenly Father.” Funeral arrangements with Eternal Valley Memorial Park and Mortuary are pending.
John R. Martin was born as John Rosenblatt, but his family soon changed their surname to Martin, which was the first name of John’s father.
John was born Jan. 7, 1923, in San Francisco, and he attended Lowell High School graduating at age 16 in 1939. John was an extraordinary student who managed to advance two grades and was his class valedictorian. He followed in his father’s footsteps at the same high school.
After high school, John attended the University of Southern California, earning his bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1943. Upon graduation, he enlisted in the United States Army Air Force May 27, 1943, at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he completed basic training and qualified for navigation school. On July 2, 1943, John married Helen Holden at Fort McClellan, Alabama.
Once John completed navigation school at Selman Field in Monroe, Louisiana, he attended advanced navigation school in Boca Raton, Florida. Next, he was assigned as navigator to a crew who flew Boeing’s new state-of-the-art B-29 Superfortress in training at various locations around the United States.
The B-29 Superfortress was capable of flight altitudes up to 31,850 feet at speeds up to 350 mph. This was its best defense as Japanese fighters could barely reach that altitude, and few could catch the B-29 even if they were able to climb that high.
By 1945, John and his crewmen were flying their B-29 Superfortress out of North Field, Guam, conducting a record-setting 30 raids over Japan, bombing airfields, oil refineries, ammunition arsenals, etc. They were an integral element of the famous 330th Bombardment Group known as “Empire Busters.”
Their task was to cripple Japan’s Air Force to enable the Enola Gay to perform its highly critical mission with minimal interference by enemy fighter planes. It was clear that even with Japan’s devastating losses in the South Pacific during 1944-45 Emperor Hirohito would not capitulate.
Meanwhile, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Admiral Chester Nimitz and the joint chief of staffs were planning a major invasion of Japan, code named Operation Downfall. A study for Secretary of War Henry Stimson estimated that conquering Japan would cost 1.7 to 4 million American casualties, including 400,000 to 800,000 fatalities, and five to ten million Japanese fatalities. The key assumption was large-scale participation by Japan’s fanatical population.
As many as 1,000 Superfortresses at a time bombed Tokyo, destroying large parts of the city. Finally, on Aug. 6, 1945, the B-29 Enola Gay dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, and three days later, B-29 Bock’s Car dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki.
On Aug. 15, 1945, Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s unconditional surrender. Just imagine the countless lives saved by those B-29 Superfortresses, the Enola Gay and their crews.
John R. Martin’s role as navigator was simply one by so many of our Greatest Generation’s heroes who saved America’s freedom along with numerous other countries.
On Nov. 9, 1945, John R. Martin was honorably discharged in San Bernardino. His military awards include Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal and Distinguished Flying Cross for extraordinary achievement.
Following the war, John worked one year for his uncle who manufactured “Cole” bathing suits for women and then three years in sales with Trans America Insurance Company.
John returned to the University of Southern California earning his master’s degree in business administration in 1951. Along the way, John and Helen had one son and one daughter.
In 1948, John established Insurance Administration Corporation in North Hollywood. He owned and operated the business for 50 years. Upon retirement in 1998, John turned his highly successful business over to his son.
Sadly, Helen had several strokes and John devoted his time and energy taking care of her every need until she died Nov. 19, 2001. John had been an avid sail boat racer, winning over 100 trophies with his boat named “Scrimshaw.”
In 1990, John donated his boat to the University of California at Irvine. On June 4, 2009, in Norwalk, John married Mary Leao who has stuck by his side through thick and thin.
Sadly, John has dementia and Parkinson’s disease. Mary cherishes John and his outstanding military service.
Bill Reynolds is one of the “Boys of ’67,” Charlie Company, 4th/47th, 9th Infantry Division and is the director of Veterans Affairs for The Signal.