From the Desk of Director Rusty Rutherford USMC Retired.
I am writing this to be a warning of things to come and things that have been; I am an unwitting veteran of the Federal Immortality Project or Program depending on the years of service now simply referred to as the FIP Program for short. I was born on June 6th, 1923 in Asbury Park NJ and would grow up within a blue collar family; I was the youngest of three sons, my eldest brother Robert Rutherford would be killed in the trenches of World War One, my middle brother Malcolm Rutherford would go onto be an iron worker like my father and grandfather before him and his life would be taken during the Asbury Park Race Riots of 1970 and I would volunteer for the US Navy just after I graduated from High School in June of 1941. I would enter the Navy at the rank of Seaman after basic training do to my achievements of reaching the rank of Eagle Scout within the Boy Scouts of America at the age of 16. I would end up be stationed at Pearl Harbour within Hawaii arriving at my new post in November of 1941 and what would be only a few weeks before the Day That Would Live On In Infamy December 7th, 1941 when the Japanese would ambush Pearl Harbour and thrust us directly into the Second World War.
Now prior to my arrival at Pearl Harbour I would not know of the FIP Program and would have never been alerted of this program, though I know understand that a few of my trainers where veterans of such program; seeing I was instructed by now Captain Dover Barton. For a working class Jersey boy being stationed within the tropical paradise of Hawaii was a dream come true seeing before my naval service I never left my beloved New Jersey…..why would you It’s got everything. Though once at Pearl Harbour thats when my life would change forever and I am not complaining but I really would have liked to have been told what I was being injected with and not just given a injection in my rear that would forever change my life. When I stepped off the ship within the port after basic I was pulled aside with twenty other men to be given our Island Inoculations and vitamins……little did I know that this was my involuntary enrolment into the FIP Program that occurred on November 10th 1941, and would forever change my life and forbid me the right to leave the service and would automatically re-up my enlistment paperwork. One good thing was the injection came with an automatic promotion to the rank of Petty Officer Third Class….though in reality I was already owed that promotion do to earning the credits through basic and graduating number one in my class.
My time in Hawaii would be basically uneventful till December 7th, I would stationed on the USS Arizona and I was a gunnery officer, it would be job to command the ships guns and relay the orders from the brass to the enlisted as well take my seat in the Gun Officers chair. Now for anyone that understands history the USS Arizona would be one of the first ships to go down when she was hit by an enemy torpedo, our guns where belching but the ammo depot was hit and it was game over; over 1,000 men and officers and toss me into the waters of the harbour. I would be one of the lucky one’s that day and survive the initial strike, though being in the water during the chaos was not a cake walk either, fire burned all around us, bullets from the Zero’s tore into the men and ships, submarines bombarded the base and those in the water simply became shark food. The crystal clear water would be stained red from blood and as I clung onto floating wreckage seeing I was badly injured having piece of the USS Arizona through my leg and weighing me down. I figured it was all over and this was how I was going to die, for a moment I wondered if this is what went through my brothers mind before war took his life.
Now I am lucky that the weight of the metal in my leg was pulling me down seeing that at one point I went under the surf and suddenly extreme burning pain coursed through my body as a bullet from a Zero tore through my shoulder and ripped out the other side; I am lucky to both be alive and not loose my arm in the process. I can tell you salt water and fresh wounds is not pleasant but it would be that very water that would save my life; after being shot I don’t remember much till I woke up in a medical unit with bandages on my leg, knee and shoulder nurses in white uniforms milled around and looked after my injuries. I was told that we were now at war with both Germany and Japan and I was one of the lucky ones, I wouldn’t learn of the date till after I was discharged from the medical ward barley recovered and having received zero therapy. I still had stitches in my arm and leg, walking was painful and I didn’t have a full range of motion…..all concerns that should have sent me back to Jersey not off to war.
Remember when I told you I was a Naval NCO well when I was released on May 4th 1942; I would be given a new uniform the marine pink and tans, a new rank of Sargent and new mission orders. I would be told Sargent welcome to the USMC this is your new home, I wasn’t given an option to leave nor object, I was told this is where your needed now and you will fight for God and Country against the Yellow Heathens. I would initially be stationed back with the Navy to aid the gunnery crew as I was experienced and a well trained gunnery officer and come June of 1942 I would be partaking in the Battle of Midway; this battle would end up being a walk in the park compared to whats to come. My injuries still healing but pumped full of morphine and antibiotics I would command the guns aboard the carrier and take down many of Japan’s Zeros and ships…… I was playing a live action game of Battleship and I was one of the lucky ones on that day. Though come August of 1942 I would be called to action again to storm the beaches like all good marines at the Battle of Guadalcanal; this would be the first time I had a rifle in my hand and charging the coast through the surf to fight for my life and defend liberty.
August 7th is Purple Heart Day.