One incident on Iwo Jima did have repercussions for Nummer years later. “One night,” he recalls, “off in the distance, I could see somebody running around. This figure kept coming closer, and it was getting darker. Pretty soon he got close enough to where he could hear me. I yelled out, ‘Tree!’ If he’s another Marine, he’s supposed to yell back, ‘Oak!’ or whatever. Nothing. ‘Car!’ I yell. He’s supposed to yell back, ‘Ford!’ or whatever. So I told him to drop his weapon. But he kept coming. Guys said, ‘Shoot!’Go read the whole thing. This part of his story allows me more admiration of our servicemen. I hope today's veteran's display the same prudence as this old WW2 vet. Happy memorial day!
“My finger just froze on the trigger—and down he went.”
The next morning, a lieutenant congratulated Nummer and told him he could have any artifacts found on the body.
“I got his wallet and bayonet.”
Four decades later, these mementos of his 36 days on Iwo Jima haunted Nummer. “I had this wallet from this guy that I shot. It was no good to me, so I thought: I’ll send it back.”
He met three Japanese men at a car show in Denver, and one offered to take the papers to Japan.“About a year later, I got a letter from the daughter of this guy that I’d shot. She was 40 years old, born 10 days after he left. Never knew her father. She was so happy that she finally knew what happened to her dad.”
The letter said:
Dear Mr. Nummer:
My name is Mrs. Kimie Sato, a daughter of Siguo Kubo, who was a soldier who died on Iwo Jima. I received my father’s papers from you... How I wish I could...see you and thank you. My heart was choked with memories of my grandparents and my mother...when I was handed the articles left by my father... They are treasures for me now... Thank you very much for your kindness.
Later, “I went to Iwo Jima—1995, the 50th anniversary,” Nummer says. “Our plane landed late, so we were the last ones to get to the ceremony. They announced my name on the loudspeaker to come to the podium. So I went, and there was a package for me. Kimie had a nice tie for me, coasters, a tablecloth, different stuff she was so proud for me to have.
“Some people thought I was wrong by sending those papers back, but I don’t think so. They were no good to me, but to her they meant the whole world.”
Did she know Richard Nummer had killed her father?
“No,” he says. “I never did tell her that. Couldn’t do that.”
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