Meredith Winter - Private First Class
Meredith (Tim) DeRoy Winter was born on 26 February 1919 in Dysart, Iowa. He graduated as the valedictorian of his high school class in 1936 and enrolled at Iowa State College in 1938. While at Iowa State, Winter played on Iowa State's baseball team. He graduated Iowa State with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry on 18 December 1943 in absentia. Winter enlisted in the Marine Corps in September of 1943.
In July of 1944, Pfc. Meredith Winter arrived in Guam as part of G Company, 2nd Battalion, 21st Marines, 3rd Marine Division. In February of 1945, after two months of naval bombardment, the Marines led the invasion of Iwo Jima. On 21 February 1945, the 3rd Marine Division landed on Yellow Beach, Iwo Jima where Winter participated in combat operations until killed in action on 28 February 1945, two days after his 26th birthday. Winter was initially buried in the 3rd Marine Division Cemetery on Iwo Jima. On 5 May 1948, his body was returned to the United States for permanent burial in Dysart Cemetery, Dysart Iowa.
More of Meredith's story...
Imagine for a moment the year is 1940. You are driving west on Highway 30 through Tama County. As you approach a stretch of road south of Dysart, Iowa, you see an athletic young man standing along the side of the road. He is holding a suitcase with his thumb extended, trying to catch a lift. You stop to pick him up and discover he is on his way to Ames. His name is Meredith DeRoy Winter, and he is a chemistry major at Iowa State College who needs to get back to campus. He tells you that his family drove him to the highway from their home in Dysart so he could try to hitch a ride. He is the oldest of seven children born to Thomas and Lennora Winter. Once in the vehicle, Meredith may have asked you to call him “Merd,” as his family affectionally did. Or he may have requested that you call him “Tim,” which was the nickname he acquired from his college buddies. Regardless, along the way you discover more about the young man you are chauffeuring.
You ask Meredith how long he has lived in Dysart. He tells you pretty much his whole life, with the exception of four years when the Winter family moved to New York after their father lost his job as a result of the Great Depression. They tried their luck as dairy farmers before moving back to Dysart after Meredith graduated as valedictorian of his high school class. The drive to Ames from eastern Iowa is long, so you have time to ask Meredith about his childhood. You discover he loved sports, especially golf, and that he hated losing! He also tells you about the time he built a pole-vaulting station in the front yard. He set the bar set so high that he often hit his head on the ground attempting to clear it, and would knock himself unconscious in the process. You find out that his passion for knowledge was instilled in him at a young age from his mom who was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse.
As you approach campus, Meredith mentions that he works as a janitor, and use to work in a campus cafeteria so he could earn money to pay for college. But his face really lights up when you ask if he is escorting anyone. He glows with joy when he tells you about the love of his life: Betty Ewing. He met her at Iowa State, and was so head-over-heels for her, that he asked his sister, Helen, if she could teach him how to dance so he could impress Betty. He tells you that he plans to marry her someday. After you drop Meredith off at his destination and drive away, you have no idea that you just spent the last few hours in the company of a war hero. You would not realize until later that you just gave a ride to a man who died fighting for America.
After he proposed to Betty, Meredith did not marry her. Instead, he enlisted in the Marine Corps in September of 1943. He also turned down a civil service position in Washington D.C. to serve his country during the Second World War. He surely made his mother proud when he received his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Iowa State on 18 December 1943. However, he was not present at the ceremony since he was at already in San Diego training for service. In fact, all of Meredith’s younger brothers served. James joined the Navy in 1939 and survived the attack on Pearl Harbor; Paul served in the Army Air Corps; Robert was a drill sergeant at Lackland Air Force Base; and Don was a USAF weatherman in Japan and Korea. The Winter family proudly displayed four Blue Star flags in their front window, but they also had to add one Gold Star flag for Meredith.
On 6 November 1943, Private First-Class Meredith Winter was ordered to active duty. He arrived in Guam as part of G Company, 2nd Battalion, 21st Marines, 3rd Marine Division. He was tasked with patrolling against Japanese forces while stationed there. Although the United States had Japan on the defensive by the fall of 1944, the Japanese army still held strategic areas that prevented U.S. B-29’s from completing bombing missions over mainland Japan. The American bombers kept getting intercepted by Japanese fighters taking off from Iwo Jima island. Iwo Jima had to be captured so the United States could continue operations to defeat Japan. On 19 February 1945, after two months of naval bombardment, approximately 70,000 Marines led the invasion of Iwo Jima. On 21 February 1945, the 3rd Marine Division landed on Yellow Beach where Pfc. Winter participated in combat operations.
On 26 February, Winter penned a letter to Betty. He had just turned twenty-six, and he wanted to let his fiancée know that he was “still in one piece.” He went on, “It’s been really rough the last few days to be truthful. I feel fifty-six instead of twenty-six.” He also had a request for Betty, “Drop the folks a card and tell them where I am and that I’m all right. Will you please?” He closed the letter with “I think I will say good-bye for now.”
This was the last letter Pfc. Winter would send. Two days later, while involved in heavy fighting, a Japanese mortar killed him and five other Marines. Fighting remained fierce until the island was declared secured on 16 March 1945. The Battle of Iwo Jima was one of the bloodiest in Marine Corps history claiming 7,000 American lives. Meredith’s ultimate sacrifice in the mission to take Iwo Jima helped save the lives of an estimated 24,000 U.S. airmen. The island served as an emergency landing site for over 2,000 B-29 bombers whose missions were crucial to bringing the war in the Pacific to an end.
Pfc. Meredith Winter was initially buried in the 3rd Marine Division Cemetery on Iwo Jima. On 5 May 1948, Meredith hitched his last ride home. His body was returned to Dysart, Iowa for permanent burial.