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Witness to history: An Oklahoma family keeps alive the wartime memories of late patriarch

The late Col. Raymond Scoufos, of Oklahoma City, served in the Marines during WWII, the Army in Korea and the 45th Infantry National Guard. His family remembers their war hero this first Memorial Day without him.
by Heather Warlick Modified: May 27, 2014 at 11:31 am •  Published: May 26, 2014

The late Col. Raymond Scoufos was a keeper of things — not materialistic things but of memories, photos and friends.

He filled multiple albums with the photos he had taken throughout his life — photos of his family, his fellow Marines and veterans. He sneaked a 35 mm camera into his bag as he fought in World War II.

From that camera, dozens of little square black and white photos illustrate Scoufos’ experiences as his company moved through Guadalcanal, Guam and Iwo Jima.

“We have all these little snapshots somewhere in this house of pictures he took but wasn’t supposed to be taking,” said his son, Vince Scoufos.

Memories etched in time

Four generations of Scoufoses gathered in the Oklahoma City home Raymond and Billie Scoufos shared for half of their 66 years of marriage. The family recalled stories and thumbed through many, many photos, remembering the family’s patriarch, who died June 18.

This will be the family’s first Memorial Day without their military hero.

Scoufos enlisted in the Marines on Aug. 6, 1943, at age 18. He wanted it to be his choice. He didn’t want to wait to be drafted. After boot camp at Camp Pendleton in southern California, Scoufos was sent to fight.

Scoufos started all his war stories with a dateline: Iwo Jima, the morning of 24 Feb. ’45. His company had been on the island four days.

“There was no safe place on Iwo Jima,” Vince Scoufos said. “Everywhere you went, you were within mortar range or artillery range. Dad fortunately wasn’t fighting hand-to-hand and hole-to-hole to kill Japanese.”

Raymond Scoufos was standing on an airstrip with a superior, looking up as several other Marines raised a large American flag atop Mount Suribachi, the volcanic high-point of the island.

“There was Old Glory — waving in the breeze. I was so happy and excited that I started yelling and pointing and soon all my fellow 3rd Recon Marine buddies joined in because we knew what it had cost since D-Day, 19 Feb. ’45, to secure Suribachi, much less raise our American Flag on top,” Scoufos wrote in a 2006 letter to The Oklahoman.

It had been a bittersweet triumph after a bloody battle. That moment of joy was tempered by the sight of graves registration troops hauling bodies of dead Americans. The truck beds were covered in canvas, but boots of dead men stuck out the ends.

“There must have been 12 bodies in there. It wasn't just one (truck); it was several,” Scoufos said in a 2007 interview with The Oklahoman.

“They just kept coming, kept coming.”

Telling the stories

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by Heather Warlick
Life & Style Editor
Since graduating from University of Central Oklahoma with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism, Staff Writer Heather Warlick has written stories for The Oklahoman's Life section. Her beats have included science, health, home and garden, family,...
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