Facing Cancer, Waltham WWII Vet Keeps War History Alive [VIDEO]
World War II veteran Ralph Langill, of Waltham, recently donated his Marine Corps gear for display at a local recruiting station.
Long after Ralph Langill is gone, his images and memories of World War II will be on display to educate Waltham residents.
Langill, an 86-year-old World War II veteran living in Waltham, recently doanted several items he brought back from his war service to the U.S. Marine Corps Recuriting Station in Waltham. Langill, who originally hails from Newton, is facing terminal liver cancer and other health problems.
Knowing he might not live long after receiving his diagnosis in 2011, Langill said he wanted to do something to keep the war's memory alive. So, he turned to his friend, Bruce Narasin, to help him arrange donating the items to the Marine station until they can find a permanent home at a Marine Corps Museum. For now, the items — discharge papers, a foot locker and other memoribilia — are on display at the Marine station.
“For one thing, World war II people are dying off … I'm 86 myself right now, I don’t have long to go. I just wanted to keep the World War II [memory alive].”
The bayonet Langill donated evoked vivid memories of how he took it and other items off Japanese soldiers who were surrendering as the war was ending. Langill, a water treatment specialist attached to a Marine Air Group deployed to the Marshall Islands, Guam and Japan, said he was one of the first soldiers to arrive in the area to complete the surrender process. Langill, a Private First Class, recalled how Japanese soldiers put down their rifles, bayonets and swords. Langill said he brought some of the gear back to the United States upon returning in 1946.
Langill stored some of his battle gear in a beautiful wooden chest, also now on display at the Marine station in Waltham. Langill had the chest made out of California Redwood trees around 1944 and later had it shipped to him overseas, according to Narasin.
Langill's enlistment and discharge papers, along with replica photos of General Douglas MacArthur signing the final surrender document aboard the U.S.S. Missouri, are also on display.
The items will help current and future Marines better understand war and the committment they face in serving their country, said Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jonathan Weibring, a recruiter at the Waltham station who helped arrange the donation.
"Outstanding spirit. He is definitely a fighter and a true Marine at heart," Weibring said.