Carl Muskopf knew the importance of his role in World War II.
"They had to have communications to know how well things were going and some times it wasn't going so well," said the U.S. Marine Corps telephone electrician.
Muskopf, who fought in Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima, said the most dangerous part of his job was trudging ahead of the U.S. lines to string telephone wires along the ground. The wires would connect to a generator and then to a 72-pound switchboard, which he once dropped on his toe.
The heavy piece of equipment witnessed one of his bravest moments in the war.
He was awarded the Bronze Star for his "cool and efficient" manning of the switchboard during an overnight attack March 8-9, 1945, in Iwo Jima. Despite being under fire and a target for grenades, Muskopf continued to operate the switchboard without relief while his guard lie on the floor crying out of fear.
Muskopf said he was too busy to be scared for his own life: "It was a long, darn night."
Japanese troops were instructed to shoot telephone men so U.S. troops would not be able communicate.
Although, "it was not my function to look for Japanese to be killed," Muskopf said, he was armed with a carbine, a small rifle that he used just about three times to shoot at the enemy.
The 87-year-old Belleville native enlisted in 1942. He didn't want to join the darn Army because he didn't think the group trained troops well enough.
"If we're going to be in the war, we'd better be prepared," he said, recalling the physical and mental strains of boot camp.
After training in Maui, Muskopf was sent to Saipan.
During his first day at battle, he was hit by mortar, which wounded his leg. He wasn't evacuated, but the attack opened his eyes to the reality of war.
"That made me smarter than ever," he said. "That woke me up: Them damn fools were trying to kill me."
He received a Purple Heart for his injuries.
Muskopf fondly recalled Walter Krysel, a fellow telephone electrician whom he "considered a brother."
One night, Krysel was ordered into a battle that exposed him to "unnecessary harm," Muskopf said.
Krysel died that night.
"I wasn't much of a Marine for three days," he said. "I was grieving."
Muskopf was discharged March 8, 1946. He married his bride Mary Virginia, known as "Ginny," seven days later. The couple lives in Belleville where they raised their three children, Larry, Paul and Laura.
Contact reporter Maria Baran at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2460.