From Brooklyn to Normandy: War hero shares story, advice 

World War II vet Marvin Marks, 91, shared stories and advice with students in a celebration of Veterans Day. He was one of the veterans who visted Richland on Nov. 2.

Marks enlisted in the Navy in 1943, served in both the Atlantic and the Pacific theaters of the war, then was discharged in 1946.

“I started off in boot camp,” Marks said.  “We were Navy gunners on these merchant ships. I made one crossing. I decided to get on a fighting ship – the USS Doyle, a destroyer.”

Marks said he was with the USS Texas when, on June 6, 1944, they picked up some survivors. 

It was a landing ship and they transferred them to a bigger ship.

Veterans Melanie Brandow, left, and Marvin Marks at the Richland Veterans Resource Fair on Nov 2.

Veterans Melanie Brandow, left, and Marvin Marks at the Richland Veterans Resource Fair on Nov 2.

“I didn’t know who the survivors were,” he said. “Our ship was only 1,600 tons.  It was considered a 1600 class destroyer.  Close to 300 men were on it.”

Marks had family members who also served. He lost a brother in 1944, and his father was in the Navy in World War I.

“He was in the 101st Airborne,” Marks said of his brother. “He was killed in Gascon during the Battle of the Bulge.”

Marks said that in 1946, “My hitch was up. I decided I was going to sign off.”

He was injured and got the Purple Heart though. He was in the English Channel during  the invasion of Normandy when radar picked up an unidentified aircraft. The ship’s crew were told to go to general quarters.

“Someone yelled out, ‘Friendly aircraft, don’t fire!’ Marks said, but it turned out that the friendly fire was a German FW 180. It opened fire on the ship. Marks was hit in his legs by shrapnel and has eight scars to show for it.

“I still got my scars,” he said.  “We didn’t have a doctor aboard.”

They taped up his legs and took him back to port where there was a doctor who took out the shrapnel and put in some stitches.

“He says to me, ‘you know, you got the Purple Heart’ I said, ‘Is that a ticket home?’  He said, ‘You wish’.”

Marks then went back to the ship where he had one day of light duty and that was it. When he left the Navy, he was unemployed for a year.

“I went to work for Hercules Powder Company in Kingston, N.Y.,” he said. “I was driving a pickup and asked them what my salary was – it was $15 an hour. I asked them, ‘Who do I have to kill?’”

 At that particular time, Marks said, that was good money.

Marks didn’t know what to expect when he began driving a pickup filled with nitroglycerin from Kingston to Jersey City, N. J., but it was part of his job. 

“I had to be off the highway by 4:30 p.m., he said.

 Marks was born in Brooklyn and has lived in Dallas since 1950.  He moved to Texas when he married his wife, a Texan.

“I went to work for the sheriff’s department. Bill Decker hired me in 1960,” he said.  “I put 25 years in with the sheriff’s office. Then I worked at the Dallas Police Department as a policeman for 15 years.  I retired in 2000.”

Marks had a bit of advice for students who are interested in a military career.

“I’m from the old school, so I can’t say too much,” he said. With today’s situation, he advised others to join the military. You never know what’s going to happen.  Benefits are good. Take the Navy because you get three square meals a day.”

His response to the food?

“Pretty good – can’t complain,” he said.  “We had an open galley.  You can order what you want most of the time.”