Note: To continue honoring the Greatest Generation, the Bulletin is featuring Baldwin area residents who gave their lives in the Second World War.
Allen Jansen was born on March 27, 1923 in Howardin, Iowa.
He moved to the Baldwin area sometime in the early 1930s and graduated from Baldwin High School in 1939. After high school he worked on several farms in the area and then at Baldwin Produce for three years, before enrolling in Calvin College in the fall of 1942 as a pre-medical student. He stayed in school until June 1943, when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Because of his interest in medicine, after basic training Jansen was shipped to back to Farragut Idaho to begin training as a medical corpsman. Unlike the Army, the U.S. Marine Corps’ combat medical personnel were supplied by the Navy, and following his
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training as a pharmacists mate, Jansen was assigned to the 4th Marine Division. He sailed to Hawaiian Islands in July 1944. After six months in Hawaii he was shipped out for combat duty in January 1945. One month later, on Feb. 19, 1945, Jansen landed on Iwo Jima with the rest of the 4th Division.
The Bulletin article from March 23 doesn’t give a specific date of Jansen’s death, and the letter his parents received from the War Department is equally vague. It read “no information is available at present in regard to disposition of remains but by reason of existing conditions, burial at sea or in locality of death is highly probable.”
The battle of Iwo Jima was still raging when Jansen’s parents received word of his death, and the chaos of a situation that war correspondent Robert Sherrod called “a nightmare in hell” most likely lead to a delay in details about Jansen’s death.
U.S. forces suffered 26,040 casualties on Iwo Jima, and it was Jansen’s job to save as many of them as possible. The daunting task was not lost on Jansen, whose selflessness was displayed in the last letter his parents ever received.
“As for myself, I’m not worried so much — but the thing that scares me is that I won’t be able to do enough for those who need me,” he wrote. “I hope and pray when it becomes necessary, I shall have at my command every detail of learning, every scrap of training, every natural instinct, and every God-given talent which I may have heard, seen or read of.”