John Pope: Stateside

John Charles Pope
Acworth, Georgia

johncpope

When I was a kid growing up in Acworth, I was the scrappy type. It was not that I always started fights, I just happened to be there when it was going on. I remember being told, “When you grow up you should join the Marines because you seem to like to fight.”

James [Rainey] and I hitched a ride from Acworth to the big city of Atlanta to join the Marines. We had no idea what lay ahead of us. It was August 1942, and World War II was now about eight months old. A good part of the United States Pacific Fleet was lying on the bottom of the ocean at someplace we had never head of called Pearl Harbor. The country was frantically getting geared up for war. James and I were concerned it would be over before we had a chance to get into the fight.

John Pope was in his fourth day at Parris Island when he got into his first fight, a preemptive strike against a much bigger man who had it in for his buddy Jim. He learned two swift lessons: “you don’t get in trouble in the Marines for fighting” and, mor importantly, to stick by your friends. Although his “Georgia Platoon” was comprised half of Atlanta boys and “Yankees” – natural enemies – Pope quickly discovered the beginnings of the “special comradeship known to exist only among fighting men in the combat situations that lay in our future.” The buddies he made in training would be the ones he would fight, suffer, and kill for in the years that followed.

The war would wait for John and Jim, just like it would for Shuffler and Mike, for Pic and Tony, for Blackie and Pinkie and Chuck and Bernie and Charlie and Captain Webster and Lieutenant Carbeau. First they had to make it from Parris Island and New River to Camp Pendleton – and then overseas.

All photographs courtesy of John C. Pope.