In February of 2019, I had the privilege of publishing a book (with the help of the team at 1106 Design) about John I. Unger called, The Last Corpsman. John was a Navy corpsman who served in the Pacific during WWII and later in the Korean War. He volunteered to go to Wake Island on October of 1941, as part of the Marine and Navy contingent stationed there. He was one of seven corpsmen who valiantly supported the Marines for 14 days before being overrun by the Japanese. John then supported the Marines in his capacity as a corpsman for 44 months in deplorable conditions as prisoners of war. During their captivity, they would be moved to China, then Korea, and finally Japan. John was the recipient of several individual and unit citations for his bravery and service.
Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, was born and raised in Fredericksburg, Texas. Nimitz was an understated but forceful leader who guided the U.S. Navy to victory over Japan in WWII. In the early 1960’s the citizens of Fredericksburg, Texas, sought to honor their hometown hero with a museum recognizing his accomplishments. True to his humble character, Nimitz declined but instead agreed to a museum honoring all the people who served with him in the war. A section of this solemn and incredible museum is a beautiful Garden of Peace that includes plaques of hundreds of military personnel who served in the Pacific Theater during WWII. Interestingly, the garden was donated by the Japanese, and among those recognized are 10 American Presidents who served in WWII.
John passed away in May of 2019, and in 2021, a plaque in his honor was added to the Japanese Garden of Peace. My wife Randi and I visited the museum this past summer and had the opportunity to see John’s plaque. It was a very special moment for us, as we grew to love John during the time we had with him, in the course of writing his incredible story.
ABOUT THE BOOK
The Last Corpsman chronicles the life of John I. Unger from his birth in Austria in 1920, his immigration to the US, joining the Navy, his training as a Corpsman, and his subsequent assignment with the Marine 1st Defense Battalion on Wake Island. His first-hand knowledge of the attacks on Wake Island on December of 1941, and, subsequently, 44 months as a POW, are captured in detail. The book brings to life the harrowing experiences of battle and life as a POW, along with key events of World War II. John retired from the Navy as a Chief Corpsman and the book highlights his career and family, supported by almost 600 pages of hand-written letters to his wife Alice Unger, a relationship that spanned 75 years. The letters and excerpts appear as originally written. Her meticulous filing of every correspondence takes this book to a unique level of historical significance and romantic adventure. John assisted regarding the book’s texture and accuracy. The Last Corpsman is a book for anyone interested in love, courage, and the human spirit.
The Last Corpsman: The Story of John I. Unger, Chief Hospital Corpsman U.S. Navy and Former WW II Prisoner of War in the Pacific
Author: Juan Carlos Marcos
Genre: World War II, Love Story, Memoir