ELLICOTT CITY, Md (WMAR) — At 101 years old, Colonel Lou Schott is a wealth of knowledge. He still vividly recalls his service in World War II and he shares it with Marines young and old, and anyone who will listen to inspire more people to join the military.
The veteran, who lives in Marriottsville, gets a hero’s welcome at Mission BBQ in Ellicott City, where he spoke with WMAR and friends about his life.
“I’ve learned through the Col. that being a Marine is the most important thing,” said his friend, Vietnam veteran Lt. Col. Ed Hall.
In 1941, Col. Schott was in D.C. playing goaltender in a college ice hockey game when he heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor over the radio. He immediately knew he wanted to enlist.
“I was a junior at that time so I wanted to get in the war. I didn’t want it to pass me by,” said Schott.
Shortly after, he went to basic training and boot camp, and was commissioned in 1943, at 22 years old.
“That was the proudest moment of my life when I put the gold bars on my shoulder,” said Schott.
He was deployed to the Pacific theater where he was assigned 44 marines to lead in the Battle of Peleliu on September 15, 1944, which would become the deadliest amphibious assault in U.S. military history.
“The most defining moment of my life was when they gave me 44 marines to lead into combat. Then I found out what kind of a guy I was,” said Schott.
He served as the rifle platoon leader, and recalled getting caught taking a break to whistle just before the attack.
“He says, ‘Why in the hell are whistling? You have to go into all of that fire and all that metal flying around and so forth,’ and I said ‘Well I might have maybe an hour or so to live so make the best of the time you have left,” said Schott.
Over the next several weeks, ferocious Japanese resistance inflicted heavy casualties on U.S. troops before the Americans were finally able to secure the island.
Only 10 of his 44 Marines made it to day 11 with him, and then he was hit by explosives. Hall described how lucky his injuries were.
“He was scratching his armpit and he’s giving directions to his Marines that are left and an explosive goes off and hits him right here [motioning to his armpit]. If he wasn’t scratching the flea, it would have probably killed him,” said Hall.
He spent months in the hospital and when he was recovered, he was promoted to First Lieutenant and sent to Okinawa. He became a Company Commander and executed a dangerous solo mission, exposing himself to enemy fire to secure a hill with no casualties, for which he was submitted for a Silver Star.
“You think of trying to get as many people home as you can,” said Schott.
He continued to serve until the end of the war in 1945, contracting Malaria seven times and being hospitalized again.
He said coming home was a rude awakening.
“It was a struggle,” said Schott. “When I got home, I did nothing but drink for about six months.”
He went into the Marine Corps Reserve and attended law school, but was too distracted and dropped out. He got a job for the Social Security Administration, bringing him from his home state of New Jersey to Maryland.
He later retired after being promoted to a Colonel in 1967. It was right at the same time Hall joined the Marines, but they didn’t meet until a WWII event at Mission BBQ six years ago.
“I walked in and saw the red hat and I said ‘Red, that usually signifies Marines’,” said Hall.
They never served together but rather Hall took over Schott’s watch. They had all the same positions in the beginning of their military careers.
“He’s been a real friend and a good person to know,” said Hall. “To find somebody who has been there in the same place you’ve been, knows somebody you know. It’s pretty unique.”
They’ve since built a friendship based in their unwavering pride for the Marine Corps and for America.
“We have the greatest country in the world,” said Schott.
Now Hall helps him share his experiences with Marines young and old at speaking engagements all across Maryland and D.C. with the hopes of inspiring more dedicated service members.
Schott said looking back on his life, he can’t help but feel betrayed by the current divisive political climate.
“All we did in WWII then is blacked out. It’s a waste,” said Schott. “They’re enemies… the Republicans and the Democrats. They are at war with each other rather than working together for the good of the country.”
He wants respect for the Constitution, which he and so many others have sacrificed to defend.
“We have one of the greatest documents ever written, our Constitution, and we want to be governed by that,” said Schott.
He will celebrate his 102nd birthday in August.