SDBB – 2 Special Observances of Memorial Day Weekend, 2017 – Part #1

All too often we give lip service to our recognition of Memorial Day.  Oh, we can be assured of TV war movie marathons, local VFW events, parades, and this is the day cemetery gravestones receive new flags if they don’t on Flag Day, but unless we have a Veteran in our family, I’ll bet we don’t know of another. 

We’d like to change that this year. 

Thanks to a good friend of SDBB, regular contributor Bill Wheeler, we are connected to 2 very special men, with links to Duke University Sports.  These are not names that roll out of anyone’s consciousness, so we wanted to turn over SDBB to Bill for the weekend, and let him tell you about these members of “The Greatest Generation” you’d otherwise probably never hear of.

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By Bill Wheeler

Etched in my mind are fond memories of the summers I spent at a camp run by the infamous University of Richmond Baseball Coach, Malcolm Pitt and his son Malcolm “Buck” Pitt, Jr.

“Buck” served in the Navy in WWII and was seriously wounded in the D-Day invasion of France. My appreciation for veterans began with Buck’s influence.  It has immensely grown during the last 4 years of my volunteer activities at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond, VA.  The Memorial honors Virginians who sacrificed their lives in conflicts beginning with WWII.  Whenever the opportunity arises, I try to share stories of veterans.  The following article is about one of two young men who attended Coach Pitt’s camp, ultimately exchanged their athletic skills and college education to serve our country in WWII.

 James “Jimmy” C. Trimble, III

 James C. Trimble, III, was born October 25, 1925 to James Trimble, Jr. and Ruth Alverson.  He grew up in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and by age 4, his parents had separated and eventually divorced.  Without a father figure around, Jimmy gravitated to playing baseball on the streets with older boys where he developed solid athletic skills.  He often rode a streetcar with his friends to Griffith Stadium to see the Washington Senators, and on one of his trips, he saw Bob Feller pitch as a Reliever.  The popping sound of Feller’s pitches hitting the Catcher’s mitt resonated in his mind.

As a teenager, Jimmy attended Pitt’s summer camp, attended and graduated from St. Albans School.  Jimmy was an All-District end in football, captained the basketball team, and was an outstanding baseball Pitcher under the direction of Bill Shaw, a member of the 1932 US Olympic baseball team.  By Jimmy’s Senior year, Washington DC Sports Reporters were following his baseball prowess.  He threw 3 No-Hitters at St. Albans and his team went undefeated as a Senior.   His baseball abilities drew the attention of Clark Griffith, owner of the Washington Senators, who wrote a letter to Jimmy in May 1943.

Griffith wrote Jimmy a letter inviting him to a tryout, he was so impressed with Jimmy’s skills that he wanted to sign him to the Senator’s Farm System, but his mother insisted he finish school.  In June 1943, Griffith gave Jimmy a $5,000 Signing Bonus and agreed to pay for a 4 year scholarship to Duke University.  In exchange, Jimmy would play for the Senators in the summers.  Jack Combs, a former professional Pitcher, coached Duke.  Jimmy entered Duke and played fall baseball, yet Service to his country remained forefront in his mind.

Jimmy tried to join Officer Training but was disqualified because of defective sight in one eye. Instead of getting a waiver, he chose to enlist in the Marines in January 1944.  After Basic Training, he stayed two additional months and played for the Paris Island baseball team.  He was shipped to Guam to work on Reconnaissance Patrols that routed out any remaining Japanese on the island.  While in Guam, Jimmy shared Griffith’s letter with his Commanding Officer and got a tryout and spot on the Third Division Baseball Team.  He achieved a record of 21 straight victories and played for the Marine All Stars where he earned a 6-2 record against many fellow soldiers who were professional baseball players.  He often wrote letters home to his mom and his girlfriend.  As the time passed it was evident that his belief in God grew and asked for their prayers.

Jimmy was shipped off to Iwo Jima.  Officers had estimated this battle to last 4 days, but it turned into more than a month.  Torrential rains made the volcanic ash on the island into mud, and bodies were scattered everywhere when the Third Marine Division’s landed on Iwo Jima on February 24, 1944.  The Third Marine Division took heavy casualties from Japanese rockets and on February 27, a Platoon Commander asked for 8 volunteers to find the location of the rocket sites. Donald Mates had been with Jimmy on Guam and remained with him on Iwo Jima.  He and Trimble were 2 of the 8 volunteers.

At midnight, Mates and Trimble were in a foxhole when a Japanese flare went off.  Peering into our hole was a Japanese soldier, who struck Jim in the back right shoulder blade with a bayonet.  As flares lit up the sky, 2 grenades landed in the foxhole, one between my legs.  The brunt of both explosions hit Jim and one blew part of my thigh off.  He was still alive with his back, upper arms and the back of his head a mass of wounds.  Just then, another Japanese soldier jumped into the hole with a mine strapped to his stomach and proceeded to wrap himself around Jim.  Both of them were killed.

Two months after Private Trimble’s death, a ceremony was held on Guam and the Third Division baseball field was named in memory of Trimble.  Trimble was buried in Rockcreek Cemetery in Washington, DC.   He was remembered at a Veterans Day 2000 tribute to the baseball heroes of WWII. Today the Young Marines offers the Jimmy Trimble Scholarship for the outstanding male and female applicants.

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References:

  1. Ancestry.com
  2. Camp Virginia notes and WWII Memorial
  3. Albans history
  4. The Legacy of Jimmy Trimble by James C Roberts – Special to ESPN

 

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