MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO --
After four decades of service to the Marine Corps, 34 years as a Marine and more than 10 years as a docent teaching thousands of recruits Marine Corps history at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot’s Command Museum, an impressive story has come to a sad ending, as James "Gunner" Carroll passed away at the age of 82.
Carroll’s chronicle started in 1943 when he enlisted as an active duty Marine. He was assigned to 5th Tank Battalion, 5th Marine Division and survived 36 days on Iwo Jima, where he witnessed the historic raising of the flag on Mount Suribachi.
It was commonplace to see Carroll standing next to an Iwo Jima display in the museum, where he brought history alive by telling his account of the events, said Barbara McCurtis, museum director.
Even though his actions on the island did not seem significant to him at the time, McCurtis said he was later awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his bravery and extraordinary service.
"We didn’t know we were making history," said Carroll.
After World War II, Carroll was discharged in 1946 and returned to Phoenix to begin teaching. He earned his bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Southern California.
He taught at an elementary school in Burbank, Calif. for two years before he reenlisted in the Marine Corps in 1953. As a reservist, he taught in elementary schools in San Diego until 1965.
He then volunteered for active duty, was promoted to warrant officer and was deployed to Vietnam with Company A, 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division. Carroll served as a platoon leader in Danang and Hue City, where he found himself in another historic battle, the Tet Offensive. He was wounded by shrapnel and received the Purple Heart Medal.
He resumed his reservist duties in 1969 when he returned to San Diego. He retired from teaching in 1981, finished career in the Marines and retired in 1987.
Since his retirement he was active in several organizations that were devoted to teaching Marine Corps history. He was chosen as a docent in 1997 for his combat experience, dedication to the Marine Corps and expertise in Marine Corps history. Docents are in charge of taking Marine Corps recruits on tours of the museum and teaching them about the displays and history that goes along with them.
"The depot lost a great Marine and a great teacher when Carroll passed away," said McCurtis. "But, we have to do what he would’ve wanted us to do and march on. He taught us the best he could, and now it is our responsibility to continue his legacy and teach like he did."