Two WWII Marine Legacies
Jack Snyder was a man who understood the importance of legacy. Jack was a husband, father, grandfather, and businessman in the Pittsburgh area. He was also a veteran of the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima. For the majority of his life, Jack made it his mission to convince the United States Marine Corps to officially recognize the man who saved his life during the battle. Jack wanted the world to know the story of Sergeant George Barlow and the legacy George left behind.
Jack graduated from high school in June 1942, at the height of World War II, and enlisted in the Marines. On February 19, 1945, nineteen-year-old Private First Class Jack Snyder landed on Iwo Jima, one member of a seven-man machine gun crew sent in among the second wave of troops. Jack was part of the successful effort to establish a beachhead on the first day of the battle.
Nine days later, as night began to fall, Jack and three other Marines received orders from their twenty-one year old Platoon Sergeant, George Barlow, to occupy a damaged Japanese anti-aircraft position as part of their unit’s overnight defensive line. Barlow, as Platoon Sergeant, could have returned to the safety of the Marine Company Command Post for the night, but the hardened combat veteran, who had already fought in some of the toughest battles of the Pacific Campaign, opted to stay with the teenage Marines for the night.
Unbeknownst to Jack, George, and their fellow Marines, there was a cave underneath the anti-air position, and hidden inside was a small group of Japanese soldiers. At some point during the night, the Japanese lobbed a grenade from inside the cave, which bounced off the wall of the anti-air position and rolled toward the Americans. Before anyone else had a chance to react, Sergeant George Barlow yelled “Grenade!” and dove on top of the explosive. Then, the grenade detonated…
Sergeant George Barlow died during the night of February 28, 1945, giving his life so that Jack Snyder and the other teenage Marines could live. And Jack Snyder did live! Snyder survived twenty-six days of combat on Iwo Jima. After returning home, he met his wife, Eleanor. They were married for over 60 years and had four children. Jack pursued a career for many years in the construction and supply industry, was active in his church, and was involved with a veterans group called the Marine Corps League. He also loved to sing and was a member of a community barbershop quartet.
Jack lived a long, successful life, but he thought about George Barlow almost every day. Jack believed that George deserved to be honored for his sacrifice, and that George’s actions were worthy of official recognition by the Marine Corps. The American military has an award meant to recognize acts of extreme heroism like George’s, the Medal of Honor. However, the Marine Corps requires that there be two eyewitnesses for any awarding of the Medal of Honor, and the other Marines from that fateful night were either killed later in the battle or were otherwise unable to provide testimony. As a result, Jack Snyder spent decades by himself petitioning the Marine Corps to grant Barlow the posthumous award he deserved.
The Marine Corps never did recognize Barlow, but Jack’s efforts were not in vain. Jack’s decades of work on George’s behalf gave him a forward-looking perspective on the importance of preserving and sharing memories. Jack wanted to ensure that his memories of George Barlow and others who served would live on.
Jack passed away in 2016, but the stories of Jack Snyder and George Barlow are preserved with FOREVER.com and will continue to be shared for many generations. As a result, thousands of people will be inspired by the courage, sacrifice, and remarkable legacies of these two young Marines. This was Jack’s gift to George and to all of us. The United States Marine Corps could not have honored George better. For more information about Jack Snyder and George Barlow, you can also watch this short video about their time in the Pacific.