When the hospital ship USS Solace docked at Pearl Harbor in February, 1944, more than doctors and ambulances were there to meet her patients. Reporters and cameramen were on hand as well, hoping to capture human interest stories from the latest Pacific battlefield. News from the Marshall Islands was making headlines; while the American public struggled with names like Kwajalein, Eniwetok and Ennylabegan, the group meeting the Solace was after true tales of the fighting on regal-sounding Roi-Namur.
One reporter was drawn to a husky young marine from Buffalo. PFC Walter John Parcheta was confined to a hospital bunk; shrapnel in his hip kept him from standing. How that shrapnel got there, though, was an item worth publishing: it was from his own grenades.
Although the photographer’s caption called Parcheta “a victim of really tough luck,” it was nothing short of miraculous that his wounds weren’t more serious. As it was, the incident spelled the end of the young man’s combat career; he was discharged the following year and lived happily in Buffalo until his death in 2012.