Sumner Iwo vet devoted life to service after hell of war

Posted by Pat Kinney on Friday, November 30, 2018

A longtime Sumner dentist and veteran of the battle of Iwo Jima in World War II has died.

Richard C. Haw, 92, died Monday at Regional Health Services of Howard County in Cresco, where he had lived the past several years. 

Dr. Haw told of his experiences in an oral history for the Grout Museum District in 2011 and an interview with the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier in 2015.

Haw, 89, a Sumner dentist for 54 years, was a U.S. Navy pharmacist's mate and medical corpsman attached to a "beach party" advance unit at Iwo Jima in February 1945, guiding waves of landing craft carrying troops.

They were under enemy fire immediately, he said. A commander sent him to deliver a message to a beachfront communications center to be radioed to the troops. He never made it. Enemy shells destroyed the communication center, killing five of the six men there.

"I was blown 20 to 30 feet," he said.

And when he regained his senses he heard the sixth man calling, "Corpsman!" That man had part of his ear missing and was bleeding from the carotid artery on his neck. He was bleeding to death.

Haw tried to get up. He couldn't. His back had been injured in the explosion. He crawled to the wounded man, put a clamp on his neck and the severed artery, saving his life.

Haw spent the balance of his time in the battle on the beach. Unable to walk, he crawled or clambered from stretcher to stretcher "doing IVs" — tapping veins of wounded men for plasma transfusions until they could be evacuated off the beach to ships offshore. He was good at it, and there was plenty of work.

His ship, the transport USS Hansford, evacuated some 400 wounded to Saipan. Haw underwent surgeries and walked again, with assistance. He also later participated in the landings at Okinawa. But eventually the old war injury took its toll. He had been using an electric wheelchair for the past several years. The shell blast that injured his spine also robbed him of much of his hearing.

Asked if he wonders why he survived, he said, "Yeah, I wonder why. And I thank the Lord for that. I said I'd work for him if he let me get through this." Haw and his late wife, Ruth, performed years of mission dentistry work in Haiti, accompanied by their two children, both now in dentistry.

Haw appeared on a Life magazine cover with other troops on the beach in 1945 (pictured below). In the photo, Haw said, he was raising his head and yelling at the Life photographer to get down because he was drawing Japanese fire upon himself and the troops.

Funeral services for Dr. Haw were scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, at United Methodist Church in Sumner, with military rites. Becker-Milnes-Rettig Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. An obituary may be found and online condolences may left at www.beckermilnesrettig.com

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