Donald G. Hawkins


Photo courtesy of Donald G. Douglas

NAME:
Donald George Hawkins
NICKNAME:
SERVICE NUMBER:
988510
HOME OF RECORD:
296 West Adams Street, Marengo, IA
NEXT OF KIN:
Parents, Edwin & Margaret Hawkins
DATE OF BIRTH:
2/22/1924
SERVICE DATES:
1944 – 3/7/1945
DATE OF DEATH:
3/7/1945
CAMPAIGN UNIT MOS RATE RESULT
Iwo Jima C/1/24 610 Private KIA
INDIVIDUAL DECORATIONS:
Purple Heart
LAST KNOWN RANK:
Private

Donald Hawkins was born in Manchester, Delaware County, Iowa on 22 February 1924, the fourth child of Edwin and Margaret Hawkins. The Hawkins’ were farmers, and as their family grew they moved from county to county, eventually settling near Iowa City. By the time Florence, the ninth and final Hawkins child, was born in 1939, the family was well established in the small township of Oxford, in Johnson County. At the time, Donald was fifteen and about to begin his third year of high school. All of the Hawkins children were well educated and active in Scouts, church, and extracurricular activities at the Brown School in Oxford. Evidently quite adept at recitations and public speaking, their names appeared in the Iowa City Post-Citizen for numerous holiday plays and programs.

Shortly before the war broke out, the family moved one final time and took up residence at 296 West Adams Street in Marengo, Iowa. The three men of military age – Edwin, eldest son Robert, and Donald, all registered with the Selective Service board in Marengo. Edwin, who was engaged in the war-vital work of farming (and was nearly sixty when he registered) would not serve in the coming conflict. The Army called Robert Hawkins into uniform on 13 January 1943. He would see overseas service with a hospital unit and return home three years later as a private first class.

Donald’s turn came on 5 June 1944. He likely heard about the invasion of France while en route to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, and he almost certainly heard about the massive Pacific battles of Saipan, Tinian and Guam while sweating out his first weeks of Marine training. After completing boot camp, Private Hawkins received additional training as an anti-tank gunner, and practiced hauling a 37mm gun around the boondocks of Camp Pendleton, California. On 8 November 1944, he left the continental United States for service with the 27th Replacement Draft, attached to the Fourth Marine Division. Hawkins’ unit did not train (and barely crossed paths) with the Marines assigned to the Division’s combat units – they were strictly to serve as replacements for casualties sustained in the next operation. This lack of cohesion would become a massive problem on Iwo Jima.

Hawkins’ unit boarded the USS Newberry on 1 January 1945 for several weeks of rehearsals, maneuvers, and general boredom as a fleet assembled at Pearl Harbor. They sailed west by way of the Marshall and Mariana Islands, where the Fourth Marine Division had fought the previous year. On 19 February, many of the replacements gathered at the Newberry’s rail to watch the landing operations on Iwo Jima. At first, the gunners were told they would not be needed – Iwo would be over quickly, and they could participate in some of the mopping up as preparation for the rumored invasion of Okinawa. This notion quickly proved false – casualties were so overwhelming, in fact, that medical stocks of blood began to run low. Hawkins may have joined a line of men eager to donate blood for transfusions.

A few days after the initial landing, Donald Hawkins himself landed on Iwo Jima – perhaps on 22 February, his twenty-first birthday. He likely spent some time at the beach, pressed into service as a stevedore or a stretcher bearer, before having his name called to join a group heading for a battalion reserve area located near the Quarry on the right end of the Marine line. Hawkins was one of about twenty-five men from the 24th Replacement Draft assigned to Charlie Company, First Battalion, 24th Marines. Charlie Company was a rifle unit; Hawkins’ special training as an anti-tank gunner would do him no good.

Muster rolls state that Private Hawkins joined C/1/24 on 24 February 1945, however the exact date was probably closer to 27 February, while the battalion was in reserve. He was most likely assigned to a rifle squad where he knew nobody; he would have precious little time to make new friends. The battalion went back into action on 1 March 1945; in their introduction to what would become known as “the Meatgrinder,” Company C alone suffered eight killed and nineteen wounded, including two company commanders and a number of the new replacements. Hawkins survived that day, and a few more besides, but his luck was short-lived. He was killed in action on 7 March 1945, along with fellow anti-tank replacement Private Dominic W. Lomoro.

Hawkins was buried in the Fourth Marine Division Cemetery on Iwo Jima. His remains would lie there until 1948, when they were brought home to Iowa for burial. Today, he rests in Keokuk National Cemetery.