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SALT LAKE CITY — At the age of 97, a retired U.S. Marine finally received the promotion many of his colleagues said he deserved.
A group of present and past Marines gathered last week to bestow retired Lt. Col. Robert Shaffer with the honorary title of Colonel.
“I can’t say enough to say thank you for this,” Shaffer said in front of the Marines and his family. “I appreciate it.”
Shaffer served during World War II and the Korean War in a career as a Marine officer spanning from 1940-61.
He was stationed on the USS Hornet during the first strike on Tokyo following the attack on Pearl Harbor. He also survived the Battle of Midway.
Shaffer later served as the senior Marine investigator looking into Japanese war crimes on Chichijima Island from 1943-45.
“He retired at lieutenant colonel and many of his recognitions may not have been awarded to him, and that’s because some of the work that he did was classified at the time,” said retired USMC Capt. Scott Montefusco.
Montefusco said Shaffer’s work remained classified until the book “Flyboys,” by James Bradley was published.
Shaffer, who turns 98 in August, grew emotional at times interacting with his fellow Marines.
“It means the world to him to actually have this camaraderie with the Marines,” said Leslie Baltodano, Shaffer’s daughter.
The presentation seemed to have the same effect on some of the Marines.
“It chokes me up,” Montefusco said. “When he saw us in uniform and he saw those Marines in dress blues, he said ‘there is no finer fighting force than Marines,’ and it gives me great pride, and I know that he appreciates it.”