John Farritor was among the first Marines to step foot at Camp Pendleton in September 1942. On his 100th birthday in 2019, the spirit of Camp Pendleton remained by his side.
On Sept. 1, 1942, members of the 9th Marine Regiment stationed at Camp Eliot readied themselves for a 55-mile march to the newly built Marine training base, Camp Pendleton. Among the first Marines to partake in this trek was John Farritor, then 23 years old. For four days, Farritor and his fellow Marines trudged through the hilly landscapes of San Diego County. Farritor arrived at Camp Pendleton exhausted and did not think much of the new facility. Unknown to him, he would be making Camp Pendleton memories for the rest of his life.
Farritor’s first few years of service with Camp Pendleton’s 3rd Marine Division Field Artillery in the Pacific Theater exposed him to a side of humanity he had never seen before. On Nov. 1, 1943, his division fought the Japanese to occupy the island of Bougainville. He later recalled this as the first time he had seen a fellow Marine die. In the years following, he was sent to liberate Guam and fight in the Battle of Iwo Jima. In each battle, Farritor witnessed harrowing scenes of human life being destroyed around him. When asked about his Iwo Jima experience in a 2019 interview conducted by Camp Pendleton, Farritor said, “I feel lucky. I never believed I would leave that island, but I did.”
Farritor’s service following World War II centered on the Korean War. He was among the Marines who launched the successful surprise landing at Inchon, South Korea, in September 1950. At this time, he and his fellow U.S. service members faced subzero temperatures on the Korean peninsula. He survived the cold, but many of his peers did not. A few months later, Farritor also took part in the retreat from the Chosin Reservoir. While retreating, he sustained his only wartime injury when a piece of shrapnel struck his hand.
Due to his injury at the Chosin Reservoir retreat, Farritor met eligibility for a Purple Heart. Yet he refused to accept the award. Rather, he believed he did not deserve such an honor. In a 2019 interview with the San Diego Tribune, he proclaimed that “all the true heroes were buried over there.”
In 2001, Farritor recounted his years of service and published a memoir, “Through It All: Stories from the Top.” In it, he spared no detail describing his thoughts and feelings toward war.
While Farritor does not view war favorably, his experiences in war reaffirmed his devotion to the Marine Corps. He continues to admire the Marines’ “first to fight” motto. He never considered a second career since retiring from the Marines in 1961. Even half a century after he retired, he told Camp Pendleton interviewers the Marines Corps was the “best dang outfit in the world!”
On July 9, 2019, Farritor celebrated another milestone in his life with the spirit of Camp Pendleton right beside him. For his 100th birthday, Marines stationed at Camp Pendleton visited Farritor at his senior living facility in Pacifica, California. They and several of Farritor’s friends celebrated his birthday and years of service with Camp Pendleton.
We honor his service.
Writer: Calvin Wong
Editor: Elissa Tatum
Researcher: Raphael Romea
Graphic designer: Brandi Muñoz