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Springfield centenarian served at Battle of Midway, Iwo Jima and the Korean War

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Michele Skalicky
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Ed Fox, a centenarian and veteran of the Battle of Midway, Iwo Jima and the Korean War.

Ed Fox turned 100 in January.

Ed Fox is one of the few remaining veterans of World War II.

According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, only 167,284 of the 16 million Americans who served in the war were alive in 2022.

Fox turned 100 on January 7. The Springfield man served at the Battle of Midway, Iwo Jima and Korea.

He was a machine gunner for the Marines at the Battle of Midway June 4-7, 1942. Approximately 362 men lost their lives during the battle, and Fox works hard to make sure they are not forgotten.

"The men that died covering my back so I could be here and talk to you — those were dedicated people," said Fox.

The day after his birthday, dozens of Fox’s friends and family gathered at the Veteran’s Event Center in Springfield to celebrate the centenarian.

The crowd applauded as Fox stepped up to the podium and talked about his time in the service.

He choked up as he finished thanking certain friends and others who he said made the celebration possible.

"One last reminder for you and me," he told the crowd. "My brothers at Midway, Iwo Jima, Korea and Vietnam — they gave their last full measure of devotion, making it possible for me to be luckier than they to be here today."

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Ed Fox
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Rebecca Chuck
Ed Fox as a young soldier

Following the Battle of Midway where Fox served with the 6th Marine Defense Battalion, Fox was assigned to the 4th Marine Division as a forward observer for the 28th Marine Regiment at Iwo Jima. He later enlisted in the U.S. Army Signal Corps and served as a motion picture cinematographer covering the conflict in Korea. After completing other assignments, Fox served as a recruiter in Springfield from 1964 until 1966. He retired that year as a sergeant 1st class after nearly 27 years of service.

As Fox spoke from the podium to his friends and family who came to celebrate him, he talked about his time as a recruiter.

"I was sending high school grads in their teens to Nam (Vietnam)." said Fox. "One pointed day in '66, a mother, father and a daughter entered my office and said, 'please join us for our memorial for our son that you had recruited.' In so doing, I would like to direct your attention to our MIA/POW table."

Bill Webb is a longtime friend of Fox’s and a fellow member of the Marine Corps League 993. He said he and other members of the detachment consider Fox a hero.

"He's who I learned about in boot camp," said Webb. "He's part of the greatest generation that made the Marine Corps what it is, you know, or at least carried it on."

When celebration attendees were invited to step up to the podium to honor Fox, Webb was one of the first to do so.

"We are so proud to have Ed in our detachment, and Ed is one of the guys that makes me very proud to be United States Marine," said Webb.

Another who spoke about Fox was his friend of about 45 years, Rick Hughlett, who escorted Fox on an Honor Flight to Washington D.C. to visit the World War II Memorial. Hughlett said the trip made such an impact on Fox that he immediately signed up to volunteer when they returned to Springfield.

"From then on, he was there at three o'clock in the morning on the day of the flights helping park cars out in the cold, out in the parking lot," said Hughlett.

Fox has volunteered for many other projects, including the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots.

As the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Midway was approaching, Fox reached out to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and the Battle of Midway Memorial at the site. He wanted to have a flag flown at the observance that he could gift to the person in charge of a Battle of Midway Memorial at Midway Airport in Chicago.

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
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Ed Fox attends an anniversary observance at the Battle of Midway

Ann Bell, who worked for the USFWS at the time, went a step further and helped make it possible for Fox to fly that flag himself.

"What Sgt. Fox did that day when he came down those steps was he gave life to the memories of all those who we lost during the battle," said Bell.

Fox also worked to have a Japanese comrade present for the ceremonies so they could be honored as well, Bell said. Yogi Koda, a retired vice-admiral for the Japanese Navy was present at the 70th anniversary, and he and Fox kept in touch by email for years.

Since the 70th anniversary in 2012, Fox has returned to Midway for other anniversary observances.

What helps him cope with the loss of so many lives during the war are the folks who thank him for his service. He recalls one time not too long after the war when he was out in public.

"I can see in the past a small child in a grocery cart seeing me in a store and my hat — he saluted me from that grocery cart," said Fox.

Hughlett said Fox is revered to this day by many, including those who frequent Café B-29 in Ozark.

"It's based on the B-29 bomber, and, you know, it's all World War II memorabilia, and he's got his picture on the wall, and he's got — there's a bomb out there you can sign," said Hughlett. "When he comes in, they will announce him and people will stand up and clap for him."

It was clear that Fox was the loved and respected by those who attended his 100th birthday celebration.

Steve Helms, district director for Congressman Eric Burlison, presented a letter from the politician honoring Fox on his birthday along with an American flag. He received a proclamation from the Missouri Governor’s Office recognizing his years of service.

And Springfield Mayor Ken McClure proclaimed January 8 as Ed Fox Day in the city.

Fox said he hopes to make it back to Midway Atoll this spring.

Michele Skalicky has worked at KSMU since the station occupied the old white house at National and Grand. She enjoys working on both the announcing side and in news and has been the recipient of statewide and national awards for news reporting. She likes to tell stories that make a difference. Michele enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking, camping and leisurely kayaking.