Melvin S. Kabik, who as a young Marine Corps corporal fought at Guam and Okinawa during World War II and later had careers in the grocery and real estate business, died Feb. 12 from congestive heart failure at Sinai Hospital. The longtime Pikesville resident was 95.
“My Uncle Mel was a great guy and so proud of having been a Marine,” said a nephew, Jerry Gordon of Reisterstown. “He never really opened up to me about the war. He wanted to talk about the grocery business and real estate.”
Melvin Simon Kabik, son of Herman Kabik, a grocer, and his wife, Rachel Kabik, who worked in her husband’s business, was born in Baltimore and raised on Violet Avenue near Park Circle.
He attended City College and enlisted in 1943 in the Marine Corps becoming a radio operator and expert rifleman with the 4th Regiment of the 6th Marine Division.
Mr. Kabik fought on Guadalacanal and joined the battle for Japanese-occupied Guam, a U.S. territory in the Mariana Islands, in July 1944. The campaign raged for nearly a month, leaving 3,000 Americans dead and more than 7,000 wounded, while Japanese losses amounted to 18,000 killed.
In April 1945, Mr. Kabik and the 6th Marine Division landed at Okinawa, where they encountered some of the fiercest fighting of the Pacific war.
Mr. Kabik was the radioman for Daniel B. Brewster, a Baltimorean and future congressman and U.S. senator. In 1995, on the 40th anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa, both men were interviewed by the Towson Times.
“On Okinawa, we ground it out yard by yard,” Mr. Brewster said in the interview. “They [Japanese] were the enemy; we hated them; they started it at Pearl Harbor. It was brutal, cruel; it was hatred; it was a battle for survival. ... We had seen so many of our own killed.”
“The mental attitude about the Japanese was that they were subhuman,” Mr. Kabik explained in the interview. “There was no feeling about the hundred dead bodies. We’d sit around eating lunch surrounded by dead Japanese. We just used to bury the bodies with bulldozers.”
Years later, Mr. Kabik expressed remorse for what he had participated in.
“Even the civilians that we killed — I feel badly about that now — we killed them like nothing — men, women, children,” he said.
In the interview, Mr. Kabik said that 2,500 people a day died on Okinawa during the 82-day battle.
“It was savagery and people don’t have any remorse. Somebody had to do it,” he said. “I think about it often. It never really leaves your mind.”
Mr. Kabik was on a ship preparing for the invasion of the Japanese home islands when the war ended.
“I knew I was going to die” if the Japanese homeland were invaded, he told the Towson Times. “The atomic bomb saved me. I wouldn’t be here, except for that. I tell my grandchildren that.”
Mr. Kabik was in Tokyo Bay on Aug. 30, 1945, as a member Tokyo Bay Occupation Task Force 31, which was preparing for the Japanese surrender aboard the battleship USS Missouri. He was in the group that boarded the HIJMS Nagato, the last enemy battleship afloat.
The Nagato had an emotional as well as a tragic connection to the American forces, having been the flagship of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who coordinated the attack on Pearl Harbor from its bridge.
Mr. Kabik and the other members of the boarding party were told they could take a memento, and he chose the vessel’s Rising Sun flag, which measured 14 feet by 7 feet and still remains with his family.
Mr. Kabik was discharged from the Marine Corps the day after Christmas in 1945 and returned to Baltimore to go into the grocery business with his brother, Leonard. In the 1960s, he joined his father in opening an Eddie’s Supermarket on Frederick Road in Catonsville.
“The trouble was that Mel wasn’t an enthusiastic grocer. He gave me a job and I worked there in 1972 after getting married and thinking I was going to be a dentist,” said Mr. Gordon, owner of Eddie’s Market of Charles Village on St. Paul Street.
“But Mel found a niche in commercial real estate in the 1970s and sold the business to a manager and became a very successful real estate guy,” Mr. Gordon said.
At his death, Mr. Kabik had not retired and was active involved with Melvin Kabik Enterprises.
“My dad was the most patriotic person I have ever met,” his daughter, Terry K. Reamer of Canton, wrote in a biographical profile of her father.
“There are always flags on his property. We always had to have a flagpole, and all of his birthday parties had a military or patriotic theme. He was always so proud to have served his country,” Ms. Reamer wrote.
“Whenever he gave big parties, there were always several Marines there as an honor guard,” Mr. Gordon said. “He must have had some connection to get them there.”
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In addition to his daughter, Mr. Kabik is survived by his wife of 70 years, the former Ruth Newberger; a son, Jeffrey Kabik of Pikesville; seven grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. Another son, Marc Kabik, died in 2017.