Jahue Irwin Mundy, age 97, of Vinton, passed away on June 19 at the Salem Veterans Medical Affairs Center. He was originally from Indiana but moved to the Roanoke area in 1979 with his wife June to work for Grumman.
Mundy was a distinguished World War II veteran of the United States Marine Corps serving from 1942 to 1946, deployed in the South Pacific. He was assigned to a small demolitions squad that hopped from island to island to destroy enemy communications and fortifications in advance of regular combat troops. He served on both Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
His job in demolitions came about through his father’s part-time job and the skills he taught Mundy— the use of explosives.
Mundy shared several years ago that he grew up in Indiana during the time of the Great Depression. His father owned a farm, which kept the family fed, but he also had a job using dynamite to blast rock at a stone quarry, where his son often assisted him.
“We ate good on the farm, but Dad had to work to pay the taxes,” said Mundy. “Blasting was dangerous work, but we didn’t think about that; we had to make a living.”
His father was killed during a lumbering accident when Mundy was a sophomore in high school. He was forced to take over many of his father’s responsibilities on the farm while still attending school and working part-time for the railroad.
His uncle found him a job at the Howe Fire Apparatus Company in Anderson, Ind. He married June, his high school sweetheart, in June 1941, and enlisted in the Marines in December of that same year, thinking he was soon going to be drafted. However, the factory had a government contract to produce military vehicles for England and Australia, so the owner got a deferment for Mundy until the contract was completed.
As a high school student, Mundy had met an ex-Marine from a neighboring farm who talked with him about the Marines, so when it was time to enlist, that’s the branch of service he chose— because of its reputation as an elite fighting force, “always trained to do their best, dedicated to Corps and country.”
In 1942, he was sent to San Diego for basic training. During a boot camp interview, he mentioned his background in explosives with his father— drilling holes at the stone quarry, placing dynamite in the holes, and blasting limestone to make gravel for roads.
“The lieutenant yelled out, ‘We found our demolition man,’” said Mundy. At Camp Pendleton, he trained for four weeks in the nearby mountains on the use of explosives and “the next thing I knew I was on a ship heading to the South Pacific.”
At the time the Allies needed more bases in the South Pacific to step up the bombing campaign against Japan and chose Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Mundy conducted demolition work on Iwo Jima prior to the invasion in February 1945. The Japanese had buried steel beams in the black sand, making it difficult to land American tanks. His small battalion’s job was to remove the beams with explosives. He said he landed on Iwo Jima with a .45 pistol and a backpack loaded with C-2 explosives.
On Okinawa, his group followed the Marine Division and blew up caves and tunnels abandoned by the Japanese as they were forced to the end of the island.
He was on his way to participate in the invasion of Tokyo when the atomic bomb was dropped. Mundy was then reassigned to China as a member of the occupying forces to help remove the Japanese and reinstate the Chinese.
The highlights of Mundy’s military service in Iwo Jima and Okinawa were highlighted in the book, “Respect: Forgotten Heroes” by Bob VandeLinde, whose mission it was to make sure “no veteran is forgotten.”
After the war, Mundy returned home to his wife in Indiana and the Howe factory. He worked in Indiana for many years and then in California. He even returned to China as part of his job. He retired in the early 1980s. His wife passed away in 1990.
He was in the news in recent years for the recovery of his military “dog tags” which he had somehow lost along with way when discharged from the Marines in 1946. In June 2013, some 67 years later, Mundy received a call from a woman in Mooreland, Ind., whose husband had unearthed the dog tags when digging in his mother’s garden. She shared the information on her Facebook page, which eventually led to Mundy being reunited with his dog tags.
Mundy was active in the Vinton VFW and often shared his experiences in the Marines with local veterans groups and with students at William Byrd High School on Veterans Day.
He was a faithful member of First Nazarene Church of Roanoke and a Gideon for many years.
Survivors include his sons, Michael Dean Mundy of Indianapolis and Ronnie Mundy of Vinton, along with three grandsons and six great-grandchildren.
He was buried on June 22 in Indiana with well-deserved military honors accorded by American Legion Post No. 250 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 9107.