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thedrifter
01-16-04, 05:51 PM
Navy Corpsmen were the Unsung Heroes of Iwo Jima



Joe Rosenthal's photograph of the flag raising on Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima--as subsequently memorialized in sculptor Felix deWeldon's bronze statue in Arlington National Cemetery--is probably the most famous military image in the world.


Joe Rosenthal's photograph of the flag raising on Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima--as subsequently memorialized in sculptor Felix deWeldon's bronze statue in Arlington National Cemetery--is probably the most famous military image in the world. It is appropriate that one of the six men straining to lift the flagpole was a Navy corpsman, Pharmacist's Mate 2nd Class John H. Bradley. Like his Marine buddies, Bradley was a member of the 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division.

Each of the three divisions engaged in the struggle for Iwo Jima included roughly 100 Navy surgeons and nearly 1,000 corpsmen in its ranks. Most of those emergency medical specialists deployed forward with the maneuver elements or worked in improvised aid stations just behind the front lines. The nature of their work required continuous risk-taking. They retrieved wounded Marines, performed initial life-saving measures, evacuated severe casualties back to the beach--always under fire. Navy medical crews paid an exorbitant price in the savage fighting at Iwo Jima. Twenty-three doctors and 827 corpsmen were killed or wounded in action, a casualty rate twice as high as bloody Saipan. One of the wounded was John Bradley, a casualty of heavy fighting in the northern part of the island 17 days after the historic flag raising.

Typical of the Navy corpsmen who served at Iwo Jima was Pharmacist's Mate 2nd Class William B. Jett of Batesville, Ark. Jett came ashore with a replacement draft and joined the 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, veterans of Suribachi, a unit that had already lost a disproportionate share of corpsmen. Jett was a company aid man assigned to a rifle platoon operating along the northwest corner, an area dubbed "the jungle of stone." In the next three weeks of fighting, Jett survived four platoon commanders--a lieutenant, a platoon sergeant, a sergeant and finally a corporal. But Jett, in his turn, was not immune to the heavy fire; shrapnel hit him in the left arm and wrist as he leaped out of a shell hole. He stayed in the lines. "Coming out alive on Iwo," he said, "was like going through a rainstorm without getting wet."

Four Navy corpsmen received the Medal of Honor for conspicuous bravery on Iwo Jima: Pharmacist's Mates (1st Class) Francis J. Pierce, (2nd Class) George Wahlen, (3rd Class) Jack Williams, and (1st Class) John H. Willis. The last two were posthumous awards. Small wonder that most Marine infantrymen traditionally regard their accompanying corpsmen with special respect and affection.


Sempers,

Roger
:marine: