He was an 18-year-old private first class on Sept. 15, 1944, when the 1st Marine Division attacked the Japanese on the island of Peleliu, midway between Guam and the Philippines.
Now 85 and living in
We went in to Peleliu on a landing craft. It was exciting, and I was eager -- until I got there and saw what happens when you run into an enemy that was making sure you didn't get ashore.
When I saw guys I trained with for weeks all blown away, I realized what I was in on.
The Japanese had pillboxes set up all along the beaches and had you focused in as the barges came in. They were dropping mortars, everything. Some were landing right on the boats. You had to climb over the side to get off, and that's when the Japanese would zero in on you.
I didn't believe it at first, but after a while I realized I might be one of those that wouldn't make it.
On the beach, I saw friends that I was with a long time. I saw them not there anymore. I saw a lot of wounded, really torn to pieces. It was almost like looking at a movie, but I knew it was real.
For some reason, I was spared and was able to push on.
I came ashore with just an M-1 rifle. As the fellas you were trained with got wiped away, you'd fill in with another weapon. They'd call you forward with mortars or machine guns. I fired the bazooka, the .30-caliber machine gun, the .50-caliber machine gun -- and the flamethrower. We had a Ka-Bar knife that we carried in our leggings. I used it to open C-ration cans and to do stuff I don't want printed. And I had a bayonet but never used it.
We pushed as far ahead as we could, then they gave you a certain time as to when you started digging in for the night.
It was digging into coral.
On your knapsack you had an entrenching tool. It was a shovel that folded up and became a pick. And you'd dig into this coral to get this little dip so you wouldn't be above the ground when the Japanese fired at you at night.
You were usually two in a foxhole, because with one it was a pretty eerie feeling at night on a strange island where you couldn't dig in. The holes were maybe 6 or 8 feet apart. As the men were wiped away -- and reinforcements were few and far between -- they had one man in a foxhole and they started moving you farther apart, and that got a little scary.
The Japanese would have banzai charges at night, and they'd come charging in banging on tin cans, anything they could bang on, to scare you and try to get into your foxhole. On one occasion, they came charging into our area and I shot one who was maybe a rifle length away.
The next morning you'd see a guy you were with the night before, and he'd have half his arm blown off. And the only thing you had to help him was little packets in your first-aid kit -- sulfa powder -- and you just dumped those on the wound and got him back to a hospital ship.
The heat was unimaginable, with hundreds and hundreds of bodies rotting, maggot-infested.
That's what it smelled like.
You came ashore, if you were lucky, with two canteens of water. After you ran out of water, you'd see these shell holes with water in them and bodies floating there, Japanese. Your packs had halazone tablets. Supposedly two in a canteen of water purified that shell-hole water to drink. After maybe the fifth day, they got tankers in and you'd go back to the beach and get refills.
I was in L Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. There was a cave on Peleliu where the Japanese had us stopped. It had to be some kind of office for Japanese troops. There was a huge rock in front of it. They had a Nambu machine gun -- the fastest-firing weapon the Japanese had -- in front of the cave. I got the machine-gunner with the flamethrower. He was one guy who wasn't going to go back and tell any stories.
Then I laid the flamethrower on top of the rock and put a burst in the cave. What the flamethrower does is dry up all the oxygen and wipes you completely out. It takes your skin off down to the bone. Nothing left. No matter who was in there, how many, they were gone.
I didn't hear much screaming. Everyone that was inside the cave was fried.
One guy got brave. He was ahead of the flame, just behind the rock, and he took off after I shot the burst. He ran by me, heading for an old shell crater with water in it. As he went by me, I let him have a spurt. He was screaming for a little bit.
I made sure he was dead.
Parks, one of 11 children, got through the battle on Peleliu and later Okinawa without injury. His brothers Frank and Warren, both Marines, and Harry, a sailor, also got through the war unharmed.
Stanley Parks went on to serve with occupation troops in China for about six months before coming home.
An inactive reservist, he was called to duty during the
"Waste of time," he said, because he merely tended a generator that lighted officers' tents in Puerto Rico.
Another of his brothers, Edwin, served in the Army during the Korean War. Later, his brother William was a Marine stateside, and his brother Robert served in the Army in peacetime Germany.
Their father was business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Stan worked as an electrician for IBEW Local 375. He met Barbara Kach at the Arena Gardens skating rink in south Allentown and they were married in 1955. They have three sons: Gregg, an Army veteran; Kevin; and Todd, an Air Force lieutenant colonel soon to be a colonel.
Eugene Sledge served in Parks' battalion, wrote "With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa" and was portrayed in the HBO series "The Pacific." Reminded that Sledge thought he was going to lose his mind on Peleliu, Parks said:
"Well, I beat him to it. I went crazy on there. Things that happened, things you saw, like people blown away."
Still, Parks said his training and his youth helped him endure.