East Texan remembers fallen brother

By Bob Hallmark - bio | email

LONGVIEW,TX (KLTV)- In 1945, U.S. naval and marine corps units were winning the war against the empire of Japan in what was known as the "island-hopping campaign".

Two east Texas brothers who were part of that campaign, one marine and one sailor, and only one would come home.

There's not a day that goes by that 84-year-old Melvin Sparks doesn't remember the U.S. island hopping campaign against Japan in 1945.  He and his brother were both gunners.

"Whenever planes came in my job was to be on a quad 40 and keep them from hitting the beaches which is what they were bad about. They give it all," Sparks says.

Sparks was a quad gunner on the amphibious assault ship U.S.S. Highlands. Brother David was a marine on the U.S.S. Tennessee.

"He wanted to be a gunner on the Tennessee. Of course, their job was to soften up the beach before they did land," he says.

Both were part of the savage fight for Iwo Jima. "We lost 6 on the beach party, the whole crew on number 13 the whole crew we lost it. We landed before on several islands already and of course you had adrenaline," Melvin says.

They never got to see or talk to each other during the campaign. "Never got to see him at all , we were with him several times," he says.

They both participated in the fight for Okinawa, and as Melvin fired against Japanese fighters, he happened to look back and see an image that haunts him today: a plane crashing into the Tennessee.

"I seen the explosion, one of them kamikazes, that kamikaze hit that quad forty and knocked it off in the water. Every plane they had in Japan was over there trying to eliminate all of us," says Melvin.

38 men were killed in the attack, 130 more were wounded.  David Sparks did not survive the attack.

Melvin's voice chokes as he honors his brothers sacrifice with a single phrase. "No Regrets," he says.

In the end the Japanese were beaten, something Melvin says would have meant everything to his brother, "Thats what we all fought for", Sparks says.

Spark's ship was among those that were scheduled to be used in the planning stage of the invasion of mainland Japan, until the atomic bombs at Nagasaki and Hiroshima ended the war.

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