As their high school years came to a close, however, Bob and many of his classmates came of age for military service. Patriotism ran high in Manhattan’s senior class and, rather than wait to be drafted, Bob was among ten students who went off to Leavenworth to enlist.
Most of the boys wanted to join the Navy but one of the ten held out. Colman Eichman wanted to be a Marine. Unfortunately for the others, the recruiter refused to allow only one of the group to join the Marines – he insisted that Colman be joined by one of his friends. With none of the others jumping at the chance to join the rough-and-tumble Marine Corps, the Manhattan boys were forced to draw straws. In the end it was Bob who lost the drawing, and, true to their agreement, he signed up with Colman for the Marines.
Not long later Bob and Colman left for the Marine Corps’ basic training in San Diego California. After a hard six weeks of training the two newly-minted Marines returned home one last time to Manhattan before being shipped off to war.
In the spring of 1945 Bob and Colman found themselves on the Pacific Island of Okinawa, part of the Marine Corps’ island-hopping campaign to get closer and closer to Japan. It was the waning days of the war and the Japanese defenders were becoming desperate. American soldiers and Marines on Okinawa faced some of the harshest fighting the American military has ever faced.
Ultimately, the U.S. military suffered approximately 80,000 killed, wounded, and missing during the Okinawa campaign. Tragically, Manhattan’s Bob Srack and Colman Eichman both died in battle on the same day – May 11, 1945.
After the battle Bob and Colman were interred together with their comrades on Okinawa. In 1949, however their bodies were retrieved and brought back to the United States. They now rest in the National Memorial Cemetery in Honolulu, Hawaii.
The following information regarding the battle for Dakeshi Ridge was contributed by Liu Evan in March of 2019:
"Depending on the time zone reflected in the recorded date of his KIA, May 11, 1945, Eichman would have likely died in one of two locations. If his KIA is the local Okinawa time zone, then he died on Dakeshi Ridge (depicted in included map). The southern slope of Dakeshi Ridge was defended by Japanese 62 Div., 15th Independent Infantry Battalion (cmd Iitsuka Toyosaburou), 2nd Company. That morning F Company started an assault on the western section of Dakeshi Ridge with 2 platoons from “Yomei Hill” at about 7 am. F Company was mopping up as it went and about 2 hours later it successfully crossed the ridgeline and into Dakeshi Village where they were repelled by intense Japanese fire at close range, not only from the heavily defended Dakeshi Village, but also from the hill further south: the notorious Wana Ridge. F Company retreated north around 50 to 100 meters, just over Dakeshi Ridge line where it established a defense position. At about 3:00 – 4:00 pm several Shermans came up to support F (and E) Company, providing them the ability to resume the attack. At the end of the day F Company suffered 25 KIAs and 35 wounded. Statistically speaking there is a high probability that this defensive position is the place where Eichman was killed. One of the 25 KIAs at this location.
"If however, the date of his KIA is New York time zone (EST), then that puts his F Company about 700 meters almost due north of the previous position, on a hill with no name, but was one of two Japanese strongholds that guarded the western entrance into Awacha Pocket, the objective given to the 7th Regiment, 1st Marine Division. So, the actual time zone used for his date of KIA will determine where he was killed."