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Thread: Iwo Marines visit depot
02-07-05, 05:52 AM #1
Iwo Marines visit depot
Iwo Marines visit depot
Submitted by: MCRD San Diego
Story Identification #: 200524112038
Story by Cpl. Edward R. Guevara Jr.
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Feb. 4, 2005) -- Eight Marines who fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima attended the depot's Friday morning Colors ceremony and a recruit training company's graduation last week.
The former Marines were invited as part of the depot's annual recognition of the famous 1945 battle immortalized by photographer Joe Rosenthal and his Feb. 23 picture of five Marines and one corpsman raising the American flag atop the island's Mount Suribachi.
These living Marine Corps history icons visited with depot Marines in a private setting after the colors ceremony.
"They talked about their stories and experience in combat," said Sgt. Jose D. Muniz, depot color sergeant, depot ceremonial detail. "It was a history class of what they went through, not what the book says. It's better to hear it out of their mouths than out of a book."
Brig. Gen. John M. Paxton Jr., the depot and Western Recruiting Region commanding general, revisited the epic battle through his words at the colors ceremony and gave visitors some insight to what these former Marines accomplished.
The Japanese did not give up the small, volcanic island as easily as Saipan, Tarawa or Peleliu, according to the University of San Diego History Department. The Japanese fought for a precedence to show the United States that it would not overtake Japan. Historians say the Japanese soldiers did not plan on living through the battle.
The United States sent more Marines to Iwo Jima than to any other battle before it -A convoy of 110,000 Marines in 880 U.S. ships sailed from Hawaii to Iwo Jima in 40 days. The Marines fought for more than a month with about 25,851 casualties and killing about 22,000 Japanese. Nearly 7,000 Allied forces members were killed in action on Iwo.
Although the battle had been declared a U.S. victory, the fighting was far from complete as occupation of the island turned over the Army, according to Iwo Jima vet and retired 1st Sgt. Glen L. Kanig, who was also the parade reviewing officer for Company D's graduation.
Marines remember the bloody battle and reference it as a famous time in Corps history where Marines epitomized perseverance and tenacity.
(From left) Iwo Jima Veterans Master Sgt. James Childs, 1st Sgt. Glen Kanig and Sgt. James A. Earle share stories with Brig. Gen. John M. Paxton Jr., depot and WRR commanding general. Photo by: Cpl. Jess Levens
02-13-05, 09:40 AM #2
Hell on Earth
By Richard Robbins
Sunday, February 13, 2005
Sixty years can't dim the memory -- not if the memory is of a hell on earth known as Iwo Jima.
An 8-square-mile dot in the middle of the vast Pacific, Iwo Jima -- literally, Sulfur Island -- tested the mettle of three Marine divisions (70,000 men) hurled against the island's 22,000 heavily dug-in Japanese defenders in the final months of World War II.
The fight for the island, which got under way in earnest on Feb. 19, 1945, represented not so much a turning point in the Pacific war as confirmation of the violent, last-ditch nature of Japanese opposition.
By killing and wounding so many Americans, Iwo Jima -- and a few months later, Okinawa -- led policy makers later in 1945 to an inescapable conclusion about the planned invasion of Japan in the spring of 1946: better to drop the bomb and unleash the nuclear genie than permit the slaughter and maiming of countless millions, including an estimated 1 million American dead and wounded.
The U.S. offensive in World War II, drawing an ever-tighter bead on the Japanese mainland, exploded in unsurpassed bloodletting on Iwo Jima. As novelist John P. Marquand, covering the invasion for Life magazine, said at the time: "About the dead, whether Japanese or American, there was one thing in common. They died with the greatest possible violence. Nowhere in the Pacific have I seen such badly mangled bodies."
James Foley, of Lower Burrell, attached to the 24th Regiment of the 4th Marine Division during the war, has his own memories of Iwo. Much of it is framed in the person of Pfc. Roy Hamilton Giles, Sr., otherwise known as "Pinky".
Giles handled a BAR, a Browning Automatic Rifle, and Foley was his assistant. The two men didn't know each other well. Foley, who, at 79, exemplifies the motto "once a Marine, always a Marine," recalled that Giles was a "Southerner." In fact, Giles' hometown was Atlanta, Ga.
Foley was not completely ignorant of his mate. He knew Giles was a father, and that on the day he died he received three letters from home. Giles read one letter immediately. He put the other two in his shirt pocket. He told Foley he would read them in the evening
Of course, he never did.
Practically everyone who was on Iwo Jima agrees on the mad, topsy-turvy quality of the place. Twenty-fourth Division marines went left when they should have gone right, said Marine Corps veteran John Snyder, of Monessen, recalling the first wave of Leathernecks coming ashore on the morning of the 19th.
According to Joseph S. Frantz, of Charleroi, the disarray seemed as natural as Iwo's deep crevices and volcanic black sand. "Think of it," he said. "There were 70,000 Marines on top of Iwo and 22,000 Japanese living underneath."
Too small to remain orderly under the weight of so many men, the island literally sank into confusion.
Giles, and to lesser extent Foley, fell victim to the chaos. At some point, just before sunrise on March 7, Giles ordered Foley to get himself to the other side of the gully they were sharing. Foley did as he was told. At practically the same instant a hand grenade exploded, shattering Foley's collarbone and spraying shrapnel into his neck.
Closer to the blast, Giles' left side was obliterated.
Of his own survival, a result of Giles' order, Foley said, "For some reason, I was meant to live."
Of the men who fought on Iwo Jima, Navy Adm. Chester Nimitz famously said, "Uncommon valor was a common virtue."
One of the bravest of the brave, Capt. Joseph J. McCarthy, commanded Company G, 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Division -- John Snyder's outfit.
During the Marines' approach to Motoyama Airfield Number Two on Iwo, McCarthy led the assault on a Japanese gun emplacement. Hurling hand grenades, McCarthy fearlessly charged across 75 yards of open terrain. After gunning down two Japanese trying to escape, the captain advanced under even heavier enemy fire to a second emplacement.
There, McCarthy ordered a demolitions attack. Entering the ruins, McCarthy found a Japanese taking aim at one of his men. He jumped the enemy, disarmed him and then dispatched the bushido with the fellow's own weapon.
For all of that, Snyder said the most courageous act he saw McCarthy perform was to stand straight up with binoculars in hand and scan the horizon for the enemy.
An officer or enlisted man foolish enough to try such a stunt usually didn't live to tell about it, Snyder said.
The Marines and Navy lost 7,000 men on Iwo Jima with another 19,000 wounded -- more than the Japanese losses. The caveat is that nearly all Japanese losses were killed in action.
Twenty-seven Congressional Medals of Honor were awarded for the battle -- more than were awarded to Marines and sailors in any single engagement in the nation's history. McCarthy was one of the honorees.
According to Snyder, another man who deserved this singular tribute has never been recognized. Squad leader Sgt. George Barlow saved Snyder's life and the lives of five other Marines, Snyder said.
Unable to get a second Marine to corroborate his story, Snyder, 79, waged a long but ultimately unsuccessful battle on Barlow's behalf. A man of uncommon determination, Snyder conceded he was not happy about his failure to persuade higher-ups to his way of thinking. Barlow's actions cry out for recognition, Snyder said. The facts, he believes, speak for themselves.
The evening of March 1, 1945, on Iwo Jima was a night like any other night during the fighting. Which is to say, spooky, nightmarish.
Barlow led his squad to a crater opposite a disabled Japanese artillery piece. Suddenly the black night was reddened by the flash of an exploding hand grenade. The impact of the explosion was strangely muffled, however. Barlow, either by instinct or by a conscious act of courage, managed to smother the explosion with his body.
Two members of the squad suffered minor wounds; two others, reports Snyder, became instantly unglued, sobbing, sick from the strain of battle.
Barlow, incredibly, was still alive, but only for a while longer. Snyder, who was unhurt, recalled his sergeant's final words: "How bad am I hit?"
"Pretty bad, George."
"Don't let me here to die."
The Japanese were everywhere but nowhere on Iwo Jima. They lived like moles: The Americans did not so much penetrate the enemy's underground defenses and staging areas as seal them with hand grenades and other explosives.
What couldn't be sealed was incinerated. Flame throwers inflicted a terrible price on the enemy.
In the final months of the war, the Japanese strategy was simple: Take casualties, inflict casualties, hoping against hope that the Americans might punch themselves out and thus be dissuaded from marching on to Japan proper. The Japanese, mistaken about Pearl Harbor, guessed wrong this time, too.
The United States upped the ante. The mushroom clouds that enveloped Hiroshima and Nagasaki sealed the fate of the Japanese empire.
Charleroi's Frantz, an aerial photography analyst and a ground observer for the Marine Corps throughout the Pacific, has no illusions about the suffering on both sides of the battle in World War II. At 82, Frantz gratefully acknowledged that his job rarely required him to shoot to kill. He aimed and fired a couple of times. He missed. He is thankful.
"They were human beings, too," Frantz said of his country's former enemies, "and they were doing what they thought was right."
At the same time, Frantz believes the United States was right to wage war -- remorseless war -- against the Japanese.
"Thank God we were victorious," he said.
02-13-05, 09:43 AM #3
Iwo Jima veterans recall death and destruction
By STEVE CAHALAN
La Crosse Tribune
Wilford "Bud" Garves of rural Sparta, Wis., can still picture the dead Marine, looking like he was crouching down.
Dr. Paul Dunn of rural Ferryville, Wis., remembers seeing lots of Marines arriving at his unit's receiving tent with horrible wounds.
And Russell Severson of Arcadia, Wis., recalls seeing the famous flag-raising atop Mount Suribachi on Feb. 23, and the fireworks that night as Japanese airplanes attacked U.S. ships and Marine positions.
Those are some of the most vivid memories of three area veterans of the World War II battle for Iwo Jima.
Garves, 80, was raised and still lives near Sparta. He enlisted in the Marines in 1942, and in 1943 was sent to Samoa to help defend it in case of a Japanese invasion.
He later returned to the United States to train in a Joint Assault Signal Company in the Third Marine Division. Garves served in that company on Iwo Jima, helping direct fire from U.S. naval batteries on Japanese positions.
He was a forward observer on the front lines. "Occasionally we'd get ahead of the front line," he said. His team would string wire and use a telephone to feed target information to a radio
operator at the rear, who would forward the information to ships.
The team used binoculars to look for Japanese artillery, tanks and soldiers. "The Japanese were pretty well hidden," Garves said. "They had caves all over the place."
At night, Garves' team would call in star shells, flares fired from ships that illuminated the sky and helped defend against night attacks by Japanese soldiers.
His most vivid memory of the battle?
"A Marine was hunkered down, crouched down like he was going to charge over the hill," Garves said. When he got closer, Garves saw the Marine was dead. "I can still see him," he said softly.
He also remembers seeing captured Japanese soldiers being hauled on a truck. Although they had been captured, Garves said, "They were calling us names in Japanese. The Japanese fought hard."
Garves saw the famous flag- raising on Iwo Jima, from a Liberty ship while he was waiting to go ashore.
Whenever he sees Joe Rosenthal's picture of the flag raising, Garves said, "It reminds me of all the guys that got killed."
Garves was a private first class at the time of the battle, and was a corporal when he left the Marines in December 1945.
A hospital corpsman helps the wounded
As a Navy hospital corpsman, Dunn was stationed at the receiving tent at the Fifth Marine Division field hospital on the island.
"Some of them died right there" in the receiving tent, Dunn said.
"There were the most horrible injuries you can imagine," Dunn said. "They were mostly 17, 18 and 19-year-old kids, and you'd never hear any of them complain.
"It went on all day long, and well into the night, for the whole month," Dunn said of activity at the receiving tent, where he worked to stabilize wounded Marines before they received further treatment. "If they needed a blood
transfusion, and most of them did, we gave it to them. And we'd change their battle dressing, whatever needed to be done."
The Marine hospital treated some Japanese prisoners during the battle, Dunn said. "But there were not a lot of them," he added, because most of the island's defenders fought to the death.
"Iwo was bombed for weeks before we landed," Dunn said. "But that whole island was full of tunnels and caves - it was like a city, but all underground."
Dunn, now 85, grew up in Kentucky and enlisted in the Navy in 1942. After the war, he was part of the U.S. occupation force in Japan until December 1945. Dunn later became a physician in the Chicago area, and retired to rural Ferryville.
'You never saw such fireworks'
Severson, who was a private first class in the Third Marine Division, and a sergeant were in a foxhole near an airfield on the island, when they saw the famous flag raising.
"We were just happy to see that," said Severson, who is 78. "We knew we wouldn't be catching all that fire from Suribachi" anymore.
That night, he recalled, Japanese bombers attacked U.S. ships and Marine positions. "You never saw such fireworks," he said of the Navy and Marine gunfire directed at the Japanese aircraft.
Severson, who was part of a machine gun crew, landed on the island Feb. 21, two days after the invasion began. "We were supposed to be reserves," he said of his unit. "They wanted to save us for another island. But the casualties were so heavy, they called us in." Severson had participated in the Marine invasion of Guam in 1944.
On Iwo Jima, he said, "The shells and bullets were flying over your head, and creating such a racket that you could hardly think. And the sand was so hard to dig into - it would cave in around you."
Severson was carried from Iwo Jima Feb. 24 after a Japanese mortar shell broke one of his ear drums and shrapnel hit him in the neck, right hip and right knee. He was sent to a hospital ship, then to hospitals in Guam, Hawaii and the United States.
Severson has never returned to Iwo Jima, or seen the Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington, D.C., which depicts the flag-raising on the island.
But he hopes to finally see the memorial, and the new World War II memorial in Washington, D.C., when he attends a Third Marine Division reunion this fall.
02-13-05, 11:39 AM #4
Blood and guts
Marines fought with valor on black sands of Iwo Jima
By Hugh A. Mulligan
SPECIAL TO THE NEWS-TIMES
The World War II battle for Iwo Jima, a desolate, 8-square mile volcanic island, was the costliest in the history of the Marine Corps. It claimed the lives of 5,931 Marines and 195 Navy corpsmen. Nearly 20,000 Marines were wounded in five weeks of what was often hand to hand fighting.
Among the dead, 97 were from Connecticut. Their names are inscribed on the larger-than-life Iwo Jima monument in Newington. In coming weeks, Marine veterans will observe the 60th anniversary of the historic battle in the Pacific, which for valor and dedication ranks with Valley Forge, Gettysburg and The Bulge as defining chapters in our history.
Several events are scheduled throughout Connecticut; the Marine Corps League of Ridgefield on Friday, Feb. 25, will hold a formal Mess Night, honoring two members who survived the battle: Emil Samuelson of Danbury and Ray Bouchard of Pound Ridge, N.Y.
The guest speaker will be Bill Gallo, a sports cartoonist at the New York Daily News, a former Marine and an Iwo Jima veteran.
Much of what follows derives from the vivid memories of vets like them, In horror and heroism, Iwo is unforgettable, even after six decades.
Although big bombers and battleships pounded the island incessantly, Iwo Jima all too soon became a primitive battle of hand grenades and flame throwers, of knives and bayonets and samurai swords.
In several instances, combatants resorted to bashing in a foe's head with the mini-shovel used to dig fox holes and latrines.
On Monday morning , Feb. 19, 1945, some 70,000 Marines hit the black sand beaches of the narrow, pork-chop shaped island. Rising at the bone end loomed cone-shaped Mount Suribachi.
Iwo Jima was not like other Pacific Islands. It had no jungles, no coral reefs, no sleepy lagoons. It was a bleak rock fortress of ridges, ravines and ditches, shrouded in mist and sulfur fumes. The terrain was honeycombed with deep caves, tunnels and hundreds of pill boxes and spider holes that concealed a well-armed enemy.
The two top commanders of the island's 22,000 Japanese defenders, fanatically loyal to the Emperor, knew and admired American culture.
Lt. Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi had served two years as deputy military attache in Washington and two more at the Canadian capital in Ottawa. Fluent in English, he had studied cavalry training at Fort Bliss in Texas, traveled widely across America and blamed his sumo wrestler's paunch on his passion for cheeseburgers.
His chief of staff, Baron Takeichi Nishi, from an old, aristocratic family, was Japan's most celebrated horseman. A dashing international playboy, the baron won a gold medal for horse jumping at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles aboard his beloved steed Uranus. He tooled around Hollywood in his gold-painted Packard convertible and had his picture taken with movie legends Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Spencer Tracy.
The three U.S. Marine divisions put ashore at Iwo were led by Lt. Gen. Holland Smith. For his furious temper and fury in combat, he was proud to claim the title of "Howlin' Mad Smith." A devout Methodist, the general hung on his dog tags a St. Christopher Medal blessed by Pope Pius X. Fighting his last campaign at age 62, "Howlin' Mad'' already was howling mad at the Navy for cutting his request for 10 days of heavy air and sea bombardment of the landing areas to only three.
The invasion plan was a marvel of interservice cooperation. Delivered on Navy ships, the Marines would take the island, the Army would garrison it and the Air Corps would use its Japanese air bases to refuel and rearm the huge new B-29 superfortresses for the final assault on Tokyo.
From the time the U.S armada of 16 carriers, eight battleships, 15 cruisers, 77 destroyers and dozens of troop ships left Saipan on Feb. 13, the Japanese knew Iwo Jima was the target, the first of their home islands to be invaded. Although 690 miles away, the island was officially part of Tokyo province and considered sacred homeland.
When Japanese newspapers headlined Iwo Jima as the fleet's probable destination, kids in school uniforms marched down to Yokohama's seafront and toppled the granite monument erected a century before to commemorate U.S. Commodore Mathew Perry's opening the door to Japan.
In his tunnel room seven floors underground, Gen. Kuribayashi devised a strategy of allowing the invaders to make the 1.5-mile long beachhead and then hit them with everything — artillery, mortars, machine guns, rockets, tanks. It was a map drawn for massacre, including that of Kuribayashi's own troops, who vowed to fight to the death.
The 4th Marine Division got ashore on the east side of the pork chop and encountered murderous fire advancing toward the first airfield. The 3rd battalion of the 25th Regiment hit the beach with 900 Marines and by nightfall only 150 rifles were still firing. Company L went from 240 men to 18.
Tanks stalled in the soft sand. The first bulldozers called in were torn apart by "horned'' mines. Others plowed over the bodies of the dead to clear a path for the tanks. Mine detectors were useless against the Japanese ceramic mines, so demolition men like Cpl. Bill Gallo probed with their bayonets.
The Marines on the other side of the island encountered similar devastating fire. As the death toll mounted, sergeants became company commanders; private first class Marines took command of platoons. Cooks and truck drivers grabbed carbines. Landing craft took in the living and ferried out the dying.
Late on the invasion day, the surf suddenly raged. Driven by a 20-knot wind, 9-foot high waves swamped and smashed incoming boats, crushing equipment as fast as it could be unloaded. A 5th Division artillery outfit, like one Pound Ridge's Ray Bouchard served in, tried to get its dozen 105-millimeter artillery ashore in amphibious boats. Eight of them sank from sight, along with a dozen officers and men. Navy frogmen swam in to dynamite wrecked boats and vehicles clogging the beach, as star shells from pitching destroyers lit up that sleepless night.
Day after day, Iwo Jima became a Super Bowl of slaughter. Marines advancing inland called a 10-yard gain a first down; 100 yards was a touchdown. Fifth Division Marines on the west side of the island scored a touchdown at the cost of 600 casualties. Some 800 pillboxes with heavy machine guns surrounded Airfield 2. Japanese snipers popped up from buried oil drums firing smokeless, flashless weapons. When their ammo ran out, they emerged from spider holes hurling bamboo lances or swinging swords with both hands.
The 24th Regiment took so many casualties attacking Charlie Dog Ridge it laid down white phosphorous smoke to provide a cover for those carrying out the wounded.
The 5th Division broke up its band to dig a cemetery and paint the white crosses. Five musician-gravediggers were killed by snipers, and their names were added to the rows of crosses. A field hospital got ashore, and an exhausted surgeon said he "performed a lifetime of operations in a day."
On Friday morning, Feb. 24, a patrol from Company E of the 28th Regiment's 2nd Battalion scrambled up the rock face of Mt. Suribachi, 600 feet above sea level, and found, along with dozens of dead Japanese, a 20-foot piece of pipe. They attached a small flag liberated from the transport office of the troop ship Missoula and raised it above the north side of the crater.
Seeing the flag flying, Navy ships saluted with bells, horns and whistles. Ray Bouchard recalls the "cheering from their foxholes. Up near the rim of the volcano, battalion commander Lt. Col. Chandler Johnson growled, 'Some S.O.B. is going to want that flag. But he won't get it. Let's get another one up there and bring ours back.'Ÿ''
His growl thundered round the world when my Associated Press colleague Joe Rosenthal climbed Suribachi with his Speed Graphic camera. Joe was 33 years old, somewhat myopic, a bit overweight and had been covering the war in the Pacific for almost a year.
On Friday morning, Joe heard a rumor that the 5th Division might take Suribachi. He made his way up the mountain and reached the top just as the first flag was being removed. "Stick around,'' a Marine tipped him. "We got a bigger one, the ship's flag off a beached LST'' — a troop landing craft. Piling up some rocks to gain a little height, the AP photographer got off one shot as five Marines and a Navy pharmacist's mate wrestled the flag into the soft crater.
"Mr. Joe,'' as the grunts called him, sent the film plate off by plane to Guam that night, convinced it was not a good news photo. Only one face was partially visible, the rest had their backs to the camera. And there had been no time to get names and hometowns for the caption. But almost immediately, film editors recognized it as a great work of military art, a masterpiece of motion and composition.
By Sunday morning, the flag-raising on Iwo Jima was front page in newspapers around the world. Like his 4th Division buddies, 19-year old Bill Gallo saw the picture for the first time when a mail drop by parachute brought "pony" copies of Time magazine printed for the troops. Joe Rosenthal's black and white photo was the cover art.
Over the years, the Iwo Jima flag raising appeared on war bond posters, on a 3-cent stamp, as a flower float in the Rose Bowl parade and was cast in bronze, larger than life, for monuments like those near Arlington Cemetery and in Newington, Conn.
"I only took the picture," Joe always told interviewers. "The Marines took Iwo Jima.''
Only three of the flag-raisers left Iwo alive. In one week, at a cost of 7,758 casualties — one out of every eight who hit the beach — the Marines had taken only one-third of the island.
They slogged on. By the time B-29s began landing on the hard won airfield and a 3rd Division platoon reached the far side of the island, filling a canteen with salt water as proof, Iwo Jima was no long big news. The big headlines were about the raids over Tokyo and President Roosevelt meeting with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Josef Stalin at Yalta.
Iwo Jima was pronounced "secure'' on March 16, but another 1,071 Marines died in 12 final days of fighting. Even as Marines were boarding landing craft to return to troop ships, there was a final bonzai suicide charge. Hundreds of Japanese stormed out of caves with swords and knives and with pistols and rifles taken from dead Marines. The Japanese attacked a U.S. field hospital, slashing tents and shooting the wounded in their cots before they all died for the Emperor.
More than 20,000 Japanese soldiers died defending the island. Marines found the body of Baron Nishi in a cave, clutching his Olympic riding crop in his right hand. In the left pocket of his tunic, over his heart, was a hank of hair from the mane of Uranus.
Iwo Jima in Japanese means Sulfur Island. To the Marines like Emil Samuelson, Ray Bouchard and Bill Gallo who survived and never can forget that smell, it still stinks.
Marine veterans who would like to attend the Ridgefield Detachment's.formal Mess Night on Feb. 25 can call (203) 433-4338 for reservations.
Hugh A. Mulligan of Ridgefield is a retired war correspondent for Associated Press who frequently writes on military subjects.
AP file photo
During the invasion on Iwo Jima, in February 1945, advancing U.S. troops spot a Japanese machine gun nest ahead of them. One of the men is establishing their location on the map so they can call in an artillery strike. This month marks the 60th anniversary of the historic battle, the costliest in the history of the Marine Corps.
02-15-05, 06:03 AM #5
60th Anniversary Marked By Japan And U.S.
February 15, 2005
TOKYO - For Kei Kanai, Iwo Jima isn't a symbol of victory or national pride. It wasn't his nation's flag, but rather that of the United States, that was raised atop Mount Suribachi. And, 60 years later, the bones of thousands of his comrades still lie unclaimed somewhere in the countless caverns that hide under its thick, prickly underbrush.
"It's a big grave," Kanai said. "The whole place."
Each year, however, he goes back.
Iwo Jima is the site of a unique annual ritual - the only war-related commemoration held in Japan that is co-hosted, on the spot, by both the American victors and the survivors of the futile Japanese attempt to hold them off in a battle that began 60 years ago Saturday and was one of the bloodiest of World War II.
It took 50 years to get the two together.
Thanks in part to Kanai, who is secretary general of the Iwo Jima Association, hundreds of Americans were joined by Japanese soldiers and their relatives on the island in 1995 to mark the 50th anniversary of the battle. Five years later, the two sides met on the island again, and they have continued to do so every March 12 - the day the island officially fell.
The groups will meet again this year. But the memorial remains a complicated arrangement.
Typically, the U.S. veterans and their families fly in on a chartered flight from Guam, while Marine Corps C-130s bring in a few dozen troops from the southern Japan island of Okinawa to handle the logistics of transporting them around. The smaller contingent of Japanese - Kanai said only about a dozen Japanese who actually fought on Iwo Jima are still alive - are flown in on a military plane from a base just outside Tokyo, 1,200 kilometers (700 miles) to the north.
The two gather at a cenotaph near the black-sand beach where the Americans landed. They offer speeches, prayers and, often, tears.
Then they split up.
The Americans board Humvees for Suribachi to see the site of one of history's most famous flag-raisings, or walk carefully to the beach to collect bottles of sand to take home.
The Japanese head north.
That's where their troops were slaughtered. It's also where, two months after the fighting was officially declared over, Kanai and two of his comrades were dragged out of a cave, too tired to resist.
Kanai, a 20-year-old petty officer in the Imperial Navy, arrived on Iwo Jima in February 1944 with a 19-man advance unit. He was assigned to set up machine gun positions and communications.
A tear-shaped volcanic crag, Iwo Jima was discovered in 1543 by the Spanish, who named it Sulfur Island, but seeing no reason to stay, moved on. It remained uninhabited until the Japanese arrived in 1891 and translated Sulfur Island into Iwo Jima. Fishing was the villagers' mainstay, but they also struggled to grow sugar cane and medicinal plants, and to mine the sulfur. There was little contact with the outside world.
To Kanai, who had already fought in China, it wasn't a tough assignment.
"It wasn't so bad there," he recalled. "There were still about 1,000 villagers. It was fairly relaxed. We had food, we even had baths. The Americans were still a long way off."
One year later, the sky fell.
For three days before the U.S. troops came ashore, B-29 bombers pummeled Iwo's 22 square kilometers (9 square miles). One explosion narrowly missed Kanai but killed two of his superior officers.
Ordered to go out on a scouting mission, Kanai was overwhelmed by the massive invasion he saw unfolding. But he said he clung to his code.
"All I had in my head was to follow orders," he said. "I wasn't afraid or confused. I thought only of following orders. I felt that this was the only way to survive. I imagine this is how a lot of the young American soldiers in Iraq feel."
As the Marines took the beaches and set up their big guns, the Japanese prepared to fight them from a labyrinth of caves and trenches on the opposite end of the island. The Americans wanted Iwo Jima's three airstrips for staging long-range bombing raids on Tokyo, and for the looming invasion of Okinawa.
"After about a month, just about everyone was wiped out," Kanai said.
Those who survived lived underground, emerging only for hit-and-run attacks, or to get water.
"It got to the point where you made the choice of whether you would prefer to die underground, or with the sunlight on your face," he said. "People went out to get water, knowing they would never make it back. They chose to die rather than stay in the trenches."
All told, 6,821 Americans were killed and nearly 22,000 injured - the highest percentage of casualties in any Pacific battle. Of the roughly 21,200 Japanese troops on Iwo Jima, only 1,033 survived.
By March 12, all organized resistance was crushed.
Kanai managed to keep fighting until May. For what seemed like an eternity, he had been fighting, running, hiding underground, watching his comrades die.
He had had enough.
"I assumed they would shoot me as soon as they pulled me out," he said. "That was what I was trained to believe the Americans did. But I didn't have it in me to resist."
To his surprise, Kanai said, he was treated well. After a couple weeks of questioning, he was shipped to Guam, then Hawaii. He saw the end of World War II in a prisoner of war camp in Wisconsin.
He returned to Japan in January 1946.
Japan holds three big annual war commemorations - to remember the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on Aug. 6 and Nagasaki on Aug. 9, and the Japanese surrender Aug. 15.
The Tokyo city government, which has jurisdiction over Iwo Jima, began commemorating the battle in 1983, but the island has never held the symbolic impact for the Japanese that it does for the Americans. To most, in fact, it has already been forgotten.
The joint Iwo Jima memorial was initiated by American veterans, Kanai said. The Japanese veterans and representatives of the bereaved families chose to be involved only if it wasn't treated as a victory celebration.
"For me, it's water under the bridge," Kanai said. "The people on the other side were fighting for their lives, just as I was. They were following orders. They had families they wanted to go home to. But there are many people, especially those who lost loved ones, who still can't forgive."
Such feelings are made more complex by the fact that Iwo Jima is still giving up its dead.
Hideki Takahashi, a health ministry spokesman, said Japan has sent search parties to the island every year since 1968, and has so far recovered 8,420 sets of remains. There have already been three such missions this year. A fourth, lasting three weeks, is to return March 2.
"The remains are mostly found in trenches," he said.
Iwo Jima continues to be inhabited only by soldiers. Several hundred Japanese troops are based there. Though a U.S. Coast Guard installation was shut down years ago, the Navy frequently uses Iwo Jima's airstrip to train fighter pilots ahead of deployment on its aircraft carriers.
Plans to develop the island's hot springs into a resort have been floated from time to time, but have never gotten very far.
Kanai believes the island is probably best left untouched.
"You can't even mention development around the bereaved families," Kanai said. "I don't think they would ever accept that option."
03-01-05, 08:43 AM #6
Medal of Honor Recipients - Iwo Jima
Editor's Note: After a 74-day aerial bombardment, elements of the 4th and 5th Marine Divisions began an amphibious assault on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima beginning on Feb. 19, 1945, 60 years ago last weekend. The tenaciously dug-in Japanese defenders fought back for more than two weeks until the island was declared secured on March 9. Nearly all of the 21,000 Japanese troops were killed, and the United States suffered 6,821 combat fatalities. Twenty-seven Marines and sailors received the Medal of Honor for heroism at Iwo Jima, the most for any single military operation in World War II. These are six of them:
Berry, Charles J., Cpl. USMC
Caddy, William R., Pfc. USMC
Gray, Ross F., Sgt. USMC
Martin, Harry L., 1st Lt. USMC
Wahlen, George E., PhM-2, USN
Walsh, William G. Gunnery Sgt. USMC
Berry, Charles J., Cpl. USMC
Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps. Born: 10 July 1923, Lorain, Ohio. Accredited to: Ohio.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as member of a machine gun crew, serving with the 1st Battalion, 26th Marines, 5th Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces during the seizure of Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands, on 3 March 1945.
Stationed in the front lines, Cpl. Berry manned his weapon with alert readiness as he maintained a constant vigil with other members of his gun crew during the hazardous night hours. When infiltrating Japanese soldiers launched a surprise attack shortly after midnight in an attempt to overrun his position, he engaged in a pitched hand grenade duel, returning the dangerous weapons with prompt and deadly accuracy until an enemy grenade landed in the foxhole.
Determined to save his comrades, he unhesitatingly chose to sacrifice himself and immediately dived on the deadly missile, absorbing the shattering violence of the exploding charge in his own body and protecting the others from serious injury. Stouthearted and indomitable, Cpl. Berry fearlessly yielded his own life that his fellow Marines might carry on the relentless battle against a ruthless enemy and his superb valor and unfaltering devotion to duty in the face of certain death reflect the highest credit upon himself and upon the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
Caddy, William R., Pfc. USMC
Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. Born: 8 August 1925, Quincy, Mass. Accredited to: Massachusetts.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a rifleman with Company 1, 3d Battalion, 26th Marines, 5th Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces during the seizure of Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands, 3 March 1945.
Consistently aggressive, Pfc. Caddy boldly defied shattering Japanese machine gun and small arms fire to move forward with his platoon leader and another Marine during the determined advance of his company through an isolated sector and, gaining the comparative safety of a shell hole, took temporary cover with his comrades.
Immediately pinned down by deadly sniper fire from a well-concealed position, he made several unsuccessful attempts to again move forward and then, joined by his platoon leader, engaged the enemy in a fierce exchange of hand grenades until a Japanese grenade fell beyond reach in the shell hole.
Fearlessly disregarding all personal danger, Pfc. Caddy instantly dived on the deadly missile, absorbing the exploding charge in his own body and protecting the others from serious injury. Stouthearted and indomitable, he unhesitatingly yielded his own life that his fellow Marines might carry on the relentless battle against a fanatic enemy. His dauntless courage and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of certain death reflect the highest credit upon Pfc. Caddy and upon the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his comrades.
Gray, Ross F., Sgt. USMC
Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. Born: August 1920, Marvel Valley, Ala. Accredited to: Alabama.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a Platoon Sergeant attached to Company A, 1st Battalion, 25th Marines, 4th Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 21 February 1945.
Shrewdly gauging the tactical situation when his platoon was held up by a sudden barrage of hostile grenades while advancing toward the high ground northeast of Airfield No. 1, Sgt. Gray promptly organized the withdrawal of his men from enemy grenade range, quickly moved forward alone to reconnoiter and discovered a heavily mined area extending along the front of a strong network of emplacements joined by covered trenches.
Although assailed by furious gunfire, he cleared a path leading through the minefield to one of the fortifications, then returned to the platoon position and, informing his leader of the serious situation, volunteered to initiate an attack under cover of three fellow Marines. Alone and unarmed but carrying a huge satchel charge, he crept up on the Japanese emplacement, boldly hurled the short-fused explosive and sealed the entrance.
Instantly taken under machine gun fire from a second entrance to the same position, he unhesitatingly braved the increasingly vicious fusillades to crawl back for another charge, returned to his objective and blasted the second opening, thereby demolishing the position. Repeatedly covering the ground between the savagely defended enemy fortifications and his platoon area, he systematically approached, attacked and withdrew under blanketing fire to destroy a total of six Japanese positions, more than 25 troops and a quantity of vital ordnance gear and ammunition.
Stouthearted and indomitable, Sgt. Gray had single-handedly overcome a strong enemy garrison and had completely disarmed a large minefield before finally rejoining his unit. By his great personal valor, daring tactics and tenacious perseverance in the face of extreme peril, he had contributed materially to the fulfillment of his company mission. His gallant conduct throughout enhanced and sustained the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
Martin, Harry L., 1st Lt. USMC
Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. Born: 4 January 1911, Bucyrus, Ohio. Appointed from. Ohio.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as platoon leader attached to Company C, 5th Pioneer Battalion, 5th Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 26 March 1945.
With his sector of the 5th Pioneer Battalion bivouac area penetrated by a concentrated enemy attack launched a few minutes before dawn, 1st Lt. Martin instantly organized a firing line with the Marines nearest his foxhole and succeeded in checking momentarily the headlong rush of the Japanese.
Determined to rescue several of his men trapped in positions overrun by the enemy, he defied intense hostile fire to work his way through the Japanese to the surrounded Marines. Although sustaining two severe wounds, he blasted the Japanese who attempted to intercept him, located his beleaguered men and directed them to their own lines.
03-01-05, 08:44 AM #7
When four of the infiltrating enemy took possession of an abandoned machine gun pit and subjected his sector to a barrage of hand grenades, 1st Lt. Martin, alone and armed only with a pistol, boldly charged the hostile position and killed all of its occupants. Realizing that his few remaining comrades could not repulse another organized attack, he called to his men to follow and then charged into the midst of the strong enemy force, firing his weapon and scattering them until he fell, mortally wounded by a grenade.
By his outstanding valor, indomitable fighting spirit and tenacious determination in the face of overwhelming odds, 1st Lt. Martin permanently disrupted a coordinated Japanese attack and prevented a greater loss of life in his own and adjacent platoons. His inspiring leadership and unswerving devotion to duty reflect the highest credit upon himself and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.
Wahlen, George E., PhM-2, USN
Rank and organization: Pharmacist's Mate Second Class, U.S. Navy, serving with 2d Battalion, 26th Marines, 5th Marine Division. Place and date: Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands group, 3 March 1945. Entered service at: Utah. Born: 8 August 1924, Ogden, Utah.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 2d Battalion, 26th Marines, 5th Marine Division, during action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima in the Volcano group on 3 March 1945.
Painfully wounded in the bitter action on 26 February, Wahlen remained on the battlefield, advancing well forward of the frontlines to aid a wounded Marine and carrying him back to safety despite a terrific concentration of fire. Tireless in his ministrations, he consistently disregarded all danger to attend his fighting comrades as they fell under the devastating rain of shrapnel and bullets, and rendered prompt assistance to various elements of his combat group as required.
When an adjacent platoon suffered heavy casualties, he defied the continuous pounding of heavy mortars and deadly fire of enemy rifles to care for the wounded, working rapidly in an area swept by constant fire and treating 14 casualties before returning to his own platoon. Wounded again on 2 March, he gallantly refused evacuation, moving out with his company the following day in a furious assault across 600 yards of open terrain and repeatedly rendering medical aid while exposed to the blasting fury of powerful Japanese guns.
Stouthearted and indomitable, he persevered in his determined efforts as his unit waged fierce battle and, unable to walk after sustaining a third agonizing wound, resolutely crawled 50 yards to administer first aid to still another fallen fighter. By his dauntless fortitude and valor, Wahlen served as a constant inspiration and contributed vitally to the high morale of his company during critical phases of this strategically important engagement. His heroic spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of overwhelming enemy fire upheld the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
Walsh, William G. Gunnery Sgt. USMC
Rank and organization: Gunnery Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. Born: 7 April 1922, Roxbury, Mass. Accredited to: Massachusetts.
Citation: For extraordinary gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as leader of an assault platoon, attached to Company G, 3d Battalion, 27th Marines, 5th Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces at Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands on 27 February 1945.
With the advance of his company toward Hill 362 disrupted by vicious machine gun fire from a forward position which guarded the approaches to this key enemy stronghold, G/Sgt. Walsh fearlessly charged at the head of his platoon against the Japanese entrenched on the ridge above him, utterly oblivious to the unrelenting fury of hostile automatic weapons fire and hand grenades employed with fanatic desperation to smash his daring assault.
Thrown back by the enemy's savage resistance, he once again led his men in a seemingly impossible attack up the steep, rocky slope, boldly defiant of the annihilating streams of bullets which saturated the area. Despite his own casualty losses and the overwhelming advantage held by the Japanese in superior numbers and dominant position, he gained the ridge's top only to be subjected to an intense barrage of hand grenades thrown by the remaining Japanese staging a suicidal last stand on the reverse slope.
When one of the grenades fell in the midst of his surviving men, huddled together in a small trench, G/Sgt. Walsh, in a final valiant act of complete self-sacrifice, instantly threw himself upon the deadly bomb, absorbing with his own body the full and terrific force of the explosion. Through his extraordinary initiative and inspiring valor in the face of almost certain death, he saved his comrades from injury and possible loss of life and enabled his company to seize and hold this vital enemy position. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
Editor's Note: If you know of any MOH recipient who is hospitalized or has passed away recently, please email DefenseWatch MOH Editor Robert A. Lynn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
03-01-05, 05:14 PM #8
Servicemembers remember Battle of Iwo Jima
by Sgt. Melvin Lopez Jr.
Henderson Hall News
Marines, Sailors, distinguished veterans and guests remembered the Battle of Iwo Jima during the 60th anniversary wreath-laying ceremony at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington Saturday.
The Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Michael W. Hagee, spoke at the ceremony, thanking the many veterans in attendance for their service and sacrifice in what historians dubbed the bloodiest battle in the Corps' history.
"All of those great Marines fought with common virtue," said Hagee, paraphrasing part of the quote made famous by Navy Adm. Chester A. Nimitz, commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific fleet during World War II, describing the Marines who fought and gained complete control of the island.
Some of those veterans were in the audience. Hagee asked them to stand to be recognized. Immediately, they received applause from everyone at the ceremony, showing their gratitude.
In 1945, the United States wanted to gain control of the small, volcanic island located in the Pacific to transform it into a base for American fighter aircraft and an emergency-landing site for bombers during a bombing campaign in World War II. On Feb. 19, 1945, after days of attacks, the Marines stormed the shores of the island, occupied by 22,000 Japanese under the command of Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi.
The Japanese commander had been expecting an allied invasion, and made use of his time to construct underground tunnels, fortifications and artillery to withstand the allied bombardment. But, despite all his efforts to thwart them off, 30,000 U.S. Marines, under the command of Gen. Holland Smith, managed to establish a beachhead on the first day.
In the next few days, the Marines would advance inch by inch under heavy Japanese fire, while also suffering suicidal charges from the Japanese infantry. The Marines continued their bloody advance across the island, responding to Kuribayashi's defenses.
On Feb. 23, 1945, Mount Suribachi was taken, and a photo, later made famous, was taken of five Marines and a Navy corpsman raising an American flag on its peak.
Over 6,000 Marines were killed and 17,000 were injured.
During his speech, the commandant also expressed appreciation for the Marines currently fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. He stated that their commitment is unlike any other and that they displayed uncommon valor, much like the Marines who stormed Iwo Jima.
"They don't want to die, but they are willing to," said Hagee. "They are willing to give up everything for a chance for a full life; a chance to be loved; a chance to love; a chance to have a family."
He asked the audience why they thought Marines would go through so much for those things.
"They do it for that Marine on their right, and that Marine on their left," said Hagee.
03-03-05, 07:38 AM #9
The Costliest Operation
in Marine Corps History
On Monday, February 19, 1945, U.S. Marines hit the sands of Iwo Jima.
The battle for Iwo Jima can be described in many ways.
Most simply, 70,000 Marines routed 22,000 Japanese in a 36 day battle. It bore little resemblance to today's modern warfare. It was a fight of gladiators. Gladiators in the catacombs of the Coliseum fighting among trap doors and hidden tunnels. Above ground gladiators using liquid gasoline to burn the underground gladiators out of their lethal hiding places.
The Marines had overwhelming force and controlled the sea and air. The Japanese had the most ingenious and deadly fortress in military history.
The Marines had Esprit de Corps and felt they could not lose. The Japanese fought for their god-Emperor and felt they had to die fighting.
The Marines were projecting American offensive power thousands of miles from home shores with a momentum that would carry on to create the Century of the Pacific. The Japanese were fighting a tenacious defensive battle protecting the front door to their ancient land.
The geography, topography and geology of the island guaranteed a deadly and bizarre battle. The large numbers of men and small size of the island ensured the fighting would be up close and vicious.
Almost one hundred thousand men would fight on a tiny island just eight square miles. Four miles by two miles. If you're driving 60 miles an hour in your car, it takes you four minutes to drive four miles. It took the Marines 36 days to slog that four miles. Iwo Jima would be the most densely populated battlefield of the war with one hundred thousand combatants embraced in a death dance over an area smaller than one third the size of Manhattan island.
From the air the island looked like a bald slice of black moonscape shaped like a porkchop. All its foliage had been blown off by bombs. The only "life" visible on the island were puffs of "rotten egg" stinking sulphur fumes coming from vents that seemed connected to hell. Correspondents in airplanes could see tens of thousands of Marines on one side of the island fighting against a completely barren side of stone.
On foot it was a morass of soft volcanic sand or a jumble of jagged rock. The Marines sought protection in shell holes blasted by the bombardment. Foxholes were impossible to dig, either the sand collapsed in on you or your shovel failed to dent the hard obsidian floor.
Bullets and mortars would come from nowhere to kill. The Marines would come across a cave or blockhouse and shoot and burn all its defenders to death. They would peer into the cavern and assure themselves no one was left there to hurt them. They'd move on only to be shocked when that "dead" position came alive again behind them. The Marines thought they were fighting men in isolated caves and had no idea of the extensive tunnels below.
03-03-05, 07:41 AM #10
A surgeon would establish an operating theater in a safe place. With sandbags and tarp he'd build a little hospital and treat his patients away from the battle. Then at night when he lay down exhausted to sleep he'd hear foreign voices below him. Only when his frantic fingers clawed through the sand and hit the wooden roof of an underground cavern would he realize he had been living atop the enemy all along.
The days were full of fear and nights offered terror. The Marines were sleeping on ground that the Japanese had practiced how to crawl over in the darkness, they knew every inch. Imagine sleeping in a haunted man- sion where the owner is a serial murderer who knows the rooms and stairways and trapdoors by touch and you are new. Then you can imagine the tortured sleep of the Marines.
Experienced naval doctors had never seen such carnage. Japanese tanks and high caliber anti-aircraft guns hidden behind walls of rock and concrete ensured that the Marines would not just be cut down, but cut in half or blown to bits.
A seventy five year old veteran of Iwo Jima would still reflexively open his bedroom window in 1999 after dreaming of the battle once again. Fifty four years after the battle the stench of death still filled his nostrils.
The bodies lay everywhere. Young boys who had never been to a funeral became accustomed to rolling another dead buddy aside. Kids full of life worked on burial duty unloading bodies from trucks stacked with death.
Mothers back home would tear open the ominous telegrams with trembling fingers. The survivors would remember sailing away and seeing the rows and rows of white crosses and stars of Davids. Almost seven thousand. Today there are still over six thousand Japanese dead still entombed under the island, dead where they fell in their tunnels and caves. Recently two hundred sixty were excavated, some mummified by the sulphur gases, their glasses sitting straight atop preserved noses, hair still on their heads.
Military geniuses predicted a three day battle, an "easy time." Some of the nicest boys America would ever produce slogged on for thirty six days in what would be the worst battle in the history of the US Marine Corps.
Generals conferred over maps while tanks, airplanes, naval bombs and artillery pounded the island. But it was the individual Marine on the ground with a gun that won the battle. Marines without gladiator's armor who would advance into withering fire. Marines who would not give up simply because they were Marines. A mint in Washington would cast more medals for these Iwo Jima heroes than for any group of fighters in America's history.
America would embrace these heroes, but they were enthralled by an image of heroism, by a photo. Millions of words would be written in the US about 1/400th of a second no one on Iwo Jima thought worthy of remark at the time. Thousands would seek autographs from three survivors who felt "we hadn't done much." Battles would be fought over that image, some dying early because of their inclusion, some living bitterly because of their exclusion.
But that would all come later. After two battles were fought on Iwo Jima, one for Mt. Suribachi and the southern part of the island the other for the northern part. And after one hundred thousand individual battles, personal battles of valor and fear, of determination and dirt.
03-03-05, 07:45 AM #11
The Heroes Of Iwo Jima
Three days after that (the flag raising), the war was over for Easy Company.
Easy's original total force on Iwo Jima was 310 young men, including replacements. On March 26, Captain Severance led his 50 survivors on a tour of the newly dedicated 5th Division cemetery. And then they traveled by a small boat to the transport, the Winged Arrow, for the trip back home. They had to climb a cargo net to get aboard. Many were so weak that they had to be pulled over the rail by sailors.
When I asked Severance, many years later, exactly how it finally ended, he thought for a moment and then replied: "We had all the real estate."
Severance was the only one of six Easy Company ofhcers to walk off the island. Of his 3rd Platoon, the one that first scaled Suribachi, only Harold Keller, Jim Michaels, Phil Ward, and Grady Dyce came through the battle untouched. Easy Company had suffered eighty-four percent casualties.
Of the eighteen triumphant boys in Joe Rosenthal's "gung-ho" (1st) flag raising photograph, fourteen were casualties.
The hard statistics show the sacrifice made by Colonel Johnson's 2nd Battalion: 1,400 boys landed on D-Day; 288 replacements were provided as the battle went on, a total of 1,688. Of these, 1,511 had been killed or wounded. Only 177 walked off the island. And of the final 177, 91 had been wounded at least once and returned to battle.
It had taken twenty-two crowded transports to bring the 5th Division to the island. The survivors fit comfortably onto eight departing ships. The American boys had killed about 21,000 Japanese, but suffered more than 26,000 casualties doing so. This would be the only battle in the Pacific where the invaders suffered higher casualties than the defenders. The Marines fought in World War II for forty-three months. Yet in one month on Iwo ]ima, one third of their total deaths occurred. They left behind the Pacific's largest cemeteries: nearly 6,800 graves in all; mounds with their crosses and stars. Thousands of families would not have the solace of a body to bid farewell: just the abstract information that the Marine had "died in the performance of his duty" and was buried in a plot, aligned in a row with numbers on his grave. Mike lay in Plot 3, Row 5, Grave 694; Harlon in Plot 4, Row 6, Grave 912; Franklin in Plot 8, Row 7, Grave 2189.
When I think of Mike, Harlon, and Franklin there, I think of the message someone had chiseled outside the cemetery:
When you go home
Tell them for us and say
For your tomorrow
We gave our today
Final Analysis of the Battle
The Naval bombardment of only 3 days leading up to the invasion was far short than what was required. The Marines had requested 13 days of prelanding bombardment but were denied this request because of commitments to MaCarthur's campaign in Luzon.
The U.S. had underestimated the Japanese strenght on the island by as much as 70 percent.
The change in Japanese tactics was not ever contemplated because of earlier invasions on Saipan, Tarawa and Peleliu. These all had early Banzai attacks that were easily defeated and turned the tide of each invasion. This would not be the case with Iwo Jima. The nature and the difficulty of the soil on the island was never examined before the invasion.
The estimates made on the U.S. casualties was underestimated by 80 percent. 23,000 Casualties out of 70,000 Marines. Over third of the total Marines who participated in the invasion were either Killed, Wounded or suffered from Battle Fatigue.
This would be a strong warning of what was to come with the invasion of Okinawa.
U.S. personnel 6,821 Killed 19,217 Wounded 2,648 Combat Fatigue Total 28,686
Marine Casualties 23,573
Japanese Troops 1,083 POW and 20,000 est. Killed
03-04-05, 07:30 AM #12
Guest Column: History Overlooked Iwo Jima’s First Flag
By Raymond Jacobs
Both the U.S. Marine Corps Historical Center and Leatherneck magazine have published and continue to distribute incorrect information about the identities of the Marines present at the first flag-raising on Iwo Jima 60 years ago today.
How this came about has its beginnings in the well-documented fact that the story and photographs of the first flag-raising were hushed up for many years on orders from the highest level of the Marine Corps.
Most of the Marines and Navy Corpsmen involved were killed on Iwo or have since died. As a result, stories in Leatherneck and the records at the Marine Historical Center describing the first flag-raising have relied on information provided by people who were not there and have no direct knowledge of the event. Specifically, Leatherneck and the Historical Center records name people who were not on Suribachi at the time and fail to identify others who were there.
Sgt. Lou Lowery USMC
Marine Radioman Raymond Jacobs, partially obscured at left wearing combat radio, was with the first group of Marines to raise the American flag on Iwo Jima
As an eyewitness to the flag raising, I have long appealed to Marine Corps officials to take a fresh look at the event. To support my plea, I have presented to them hard proof that I was with the patrol on Mount Suribachi. I have also offered corrections to the misidentifications now part of the official record.
Sixty years ago, two American flags were raised on Mount Suribachi. The second flag-raising was captured on film in a justly acclaimed photograph shot by civilian photographer Joe Rosenthal showing five Marines and a Navy Corpsman straining to raise our colors on that mountaintop. But the Rosenthal photograph was actually a picture of the replacement of the first flag raised, with a second, much larger flag more easily seen by the Marines still fighting on Iwo Jima. Rosenthal’s last-minute snapshot of that replacement turned out to be a masterpiece of composition that deservedly won the Pulitzer Prize. His picture was given a top priority, transmitted to the United States and quickly published around the world.
An Associated Press report on the San Francisco Examiner photographer ten years ago noted:
“It has been called the greatest photograph of all time. It may well be the most widely reproduced. It served as the symbol for the Seventh War Loan Drive, for which it was plastered on 3.5 million posters. It was used on a postage stamp and on the cover of countless magazines and newspapers. It served as the model for the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va., a symbol forever of the valor and sacrifices of the U.S. Marines.”
Obscured was the full account of the actual flag-raising that had occurred several hours earlier, when a combat patrol from E Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines had climbed to the top, raised the American flag and put down Japanese resistance.
The news of the patrol raising the first flag on Iwo Jima reached the United States some time before Rosenthal’s picture. The story was headlined across the country. When the Rosenthal photo reached the states, it and the story of the first flag-raising became one in the public’s mind.
Leatherneck magazine combat cameraman Sgt. Lou Lowery had shot a photographic record of the E Company patrol from its beginnings through the flag raising. Unfortunately, Sgt.Lowery’s pictures, moving slowly through Navy censorship procedures, were held up for several days then became lost in the excitement over the Rosenthal picture.
The powerful impact of Rosenthal’s flag-raising picture was not lost on the White House or at Marine Headquarters. In a decision made by then Commandant Gen. Alexander “Archie” Vandegrift, Lowery’s photographs were ordered suppressed along with the story and identities of the men involved with the initial flag raising.
This is the true story of what happened on Mount Suribachi that day and the correct identity of the Marines and Corpsmen involved.
Feb. 23, 1945 was a Friday, D+4 on Iwo. After four days of horrific fighting, my regiment, the 28th Marines, had smashed through fierce Japanese resistance to reach the base of Mount Suribachi. Our casualties were heavy.
My unit, F Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, had clawed its way hard up against the caves and boulders around the base of Suribachi. There was no enemy activity on our front that morning. Our fire teams were pushing around the left flank base of the mountain blasting and burning caves while moving toward the far tip of the island.
Shortly after 8 a.m., F Company commander Capt. Arthur Naylor called Sgt. Sherman Watson to our command post He ordered Watson to take a small reconnaissance patrol to the top of Suribachi to look for signs of the enemy. Watson, a combat veteran of several of several Pacific campaigns, returned to his platoon and picked Corporals Ted White and George Mercer, along with BAR gunner Pfc. Louis Charlo to make the climb up Suribachi.
About 40 minutes later, I saw them slipping and sliding down Suribachi’s steep sides on their return. Watson reported to Capt. Naylor that they had seen no signs of the enemy but had seen many emplacements.
Naylor phoned the information to Lt. Col. Chandler Johnson, 2nd Battalion CO, at his command post. Johnson then walked over the E Company CP in battalion reserve. He ordered company commander Capt. Dave Severance to form up a combat patrol to attack and secure the top of Suribachi.
Severance picked his 3rd Platoon, reinforced it and gave command to his XO, Lt. Harold Shrier. Lt. Col. Johnson gave Shrier an American Flag and told him to take it with him.
I was the radioman for F Company. My radio had been shut down since the previous afternoon when battalion had run a telephone line to our CP.
At about the time Shrier’s patrol began to move toward Suribachi, I was told there was a phone call for me on our CP phone. The call was from the battalion communications sergeant telling me that a patrol from E Company would soon be moving through F Company lines. He instructed me to turn on my radio and check in with battalion. I was told that when the E Company patrol came through I was to report to Lt. Shrier and go with his patrol to the top of Suribachi. I was to supply communication between the patrol and battalion.
I reported to Lt. Shrier and joined his patrol.
Climbing Suribachi was difficult. The sides of the mountain were very steep. The ground was broken, pounded into rubble by days of carrier air bombing and artillery shelling. We were often climbing on hands and knees. There was no Japanese resistance as we climbed.
Once at the top, we could see that the crater rim was broad and sloping gradually toward the crater. As I gained the top, I saw a group of Marines gathered around a piece of pipe. I watched as they tied a small American flag to the pipe. The pipe was probably a piece of the pipe used to bring water to the top of the mountain. It was holed in several places, probably from shrapnel.
Lou Lowery’s pictures clearly show Lt. Shrier, Sgts.Ernest Thomas and Henry Hansen, Cpl. Charles Lindberg and me gathered around the pipe. There is also an unknown Marine pictured holding the pipe.
That same group, now joined by Pharmacist’s Mate 2nd Class John Bradley, carried the pipe with our flag attached to the highest point on the crater. They jammed the pipe into the ground, then pushed the pipe and flag upright. The pole was unsteady, so the group of us took turns holding the pipe and stamping dirt and rocks around the base. Finally, it was up. The flag caught the strong breeze, snapping and waving and plain to see.
Almost immediately, we heard cheering and shouting from Marines on the island below. The flag had been seen and as the word passed, it seemed as if everyone on the island began yelling and cheering in joy. Boats beached on the shore and ships at sea joined in sounding whistles and horns. The roar went on and on.
Lt. Shrier walked over to me and asked me to contact Lt. Col. Johnson at his CP. I called the colonel and handed the handset to Shrier, who squatted down next to me and made his report. As he was talking, I noticed movement to my left along the crater. It was a Japanese soldier running out of a cave about 30 yards away. He slapped a grenade against his helmet, arming it, then threw it toward our group around the flagpole.
Sgt. Lou Lowery USMC
Minutes after raising the flag atop Mount Suribachi, Marines scrambled to suppress a Japanese counterattack from hidden positions on the rocky slope.
The grenade fell short and exploded, and no one was hit. Sgt. Lowery lost his footing dodging the grenade and slid a short distance down the side of the mountain. He was not hurt but his camera smashed against a rock. His film packs were not exposed or damaged so his record of the patrol was preserved.
The exploding grenade acted as a signal to the remaining Japanese around the crater. They got off a few rounds before the patrol Marines reacted, running toward the shots and taking the enemy under fire. Lt. Shrier shouted directions and soon we were firing at openings in the crater rim while our flamethrower men burned out several points of resistance.
It was intense but brief and soon over. Shrier again radioed Johnson telling him the crater top was secure.
Col. Johnson then told Shrier that a group of service and civilian reporters were asking permission to come to the top of Suribachi. They wanted to get the story of the patrol and the flag raising. Lt. Shrier approved the request.
About 15 or 20 minutes later, as we were sitting around the island side of the crater, we could see a group of people struggling over the rim. It was a mix of civilian and military cameramen and reporters. The reporters spread out approaching us, asking questions about the flag-raising and taking down our names, ranks and home town information. I was interviewed by two reporters.
03-04-05, 07:30 AM #13
Their stories, identifying me as being with Lt. Shrier's flag-raising patrol, appeared in my hometown Los Angeles newspapers the next day.
It was now getting on toward noon when the battalion communications sergeant radioed me to tell me that phone lines were being run up to the top of the mountain. He told me that when they were up and running I was relieved and should report back to F Company. A short time later, I got my gear together, reported to Lt. Shrier and started the long slip-and-slide back down Suribachi.
My time with the E Company patrol was over. I had been with them for about 2½ hours. The only name I knew, the only recognizable face, was that of Lt. Harold Shrier. I didn’t know any of the other 40 Marines and Corpsmen and they didn’t know me. Still, I was proud that one F Company Marine alone with 40 others from E Company, operated together for a brief time in what was to become a remarkable moment in Marine Corps history.
Sixty years later, I am still troubled by the official Marine Corps version of the first flag raising.
When Gen. Vandergrift suppressed Lou Lowery’s pictures of the first flag raising, he effectively stopped any inquiry into the identities of those involved. It wasn’t until September 1947, 2½ years after the event, that public pressure forced the release and publication of Lowery’s pictures and the story of the first flag raising.
By then, most of the Marines and Corpsmen involved were dead, discharged or widely scattered. Additionally, there has never been an officially sanctioned search to identify those involved in the first flag-raising as there had been for the names of the men in the Rosenthal picture. Incorrect names were thrown around. Misidentifications made, became accepted and were etched in stone as part of the official version,
As a result, those erroneous identifications have been published and distributed over the years by the Marine Historical Center and Leatherneck magazine.
In text and in captions of Lowery’s picture of the first flag-raising they state as fact that the hands of Lt. Shrier and Pfc. Louis Charlo are seen holding the flag pole upright, their faces hidden behind Sgt. Ernest Thomas. But there are at least five errors in that information:
Pfc. Charlo was never on Suribachi with Shrier’s patrol. There is not one shred of evidence placing him there. He was a member of Sgt. Watson’s four-man F Company patrol that climbed Suribachi at about 8 a.m.
Lt. Shrier was not holding the flagpole when Lowery shot his picture but can clearly be seen in the image kneeling behind my legs using the radio to talk to Lt. Col. Johnson.
PhM 2nd Class John Bradley is actually one of the men holding the flagpole behind Sgt. Thomas in that picture. Bradley has never been credited with being part of the flag-raising group.
The second man holding the flagpole is not Charlo, but is instead an as-yet unidentified Marine pictured in one of the earlier photos. I have contacted several survivors of E Company but no one has been able to identify him.
No serious attempt was ever made to identify the radioman.
I have presented the Marine Corps with specific proof from three independent sources that I was the radioman with the Shrier patrol. That proof included:
Lowery’s photographs side by side with personal pictures of me from the same time period.
A report of an examination of those pictures by a forensic photo analyst who concludes that I was that radioman.
Copies of the news stories placing me with Shrier’s patrol at the flag raising.
Why have I spent the past six decades trying to correct the record on the Iwo flag-raising?
The conquest of Mount Suribachi did not signal the end of World War II in the Pacific, nor even the fight for Iwo Jima, where it would take another four weeks of battle that killed a total of 6,821 Americans and nearly all of the 21,000 Japanese defenders. Secretary of the Navy James V. Forrestal was standing next to Marine commander Lt. Gen. Holland M. Smith on the deck of his amphibious command ship when our flag went up. As recounted by historians Normal Polmar and Thomas B. Allen, “At the sight of the first flag, bells and whistles of the offshore fleet sounded and Forrestal turned to [Smith]. ‘Holland,’ Forrestal said, ‘the raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next 500 years.’ ”
For my comrades and me, that simple flag-raising at the pinnacle of Mount Suribachi remains a defining moment not only in U.S. military history but in our own lives as well.
Former Marine Radioman Ray Jacobs can be reached at email@example.com. More information on the Battle of Iwo Jima and the flag-raising controversy can be obtained at www.iwojima.com. Send Feedback responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
03-04-05, 12:52 PM #14
You've all probably read this before but it bears repeating....
A Tale of Six Boys
Each year I am hired to go to Washington, DC, with the eighth grade class
from Clinton, WI. where I grew up, to videotape their trip. I greatly enjoy
visiting our nation's capitol, and each year I take some special memories
back with me. This fall's trip was especially memorable.
On the last night of our trip, we stopped at the Iwo Jima memorial. This
memorial is the largest bronze statue in the world and depicts one of the
most famous photographs in history -- that of the six brave soldiers raising
the American Flag at the top of a rocky hill on the island of Iwo Jima,
Japan, during WW II.
Over one hundred students and chaperones piled off the buses and headed
towards the memorial. I noticed a solitary figure at the base of the statue,
and as I got closer he asked, "Where are you guys from?"
I told him that we were from Wisconsin. "Hey, I'm a cheese head, too! Come
gather around, Cheese heads, and I will tell you a story."
(James Bradley just happened to be in Washington, DC, to speak at the
memorial the following day. He was there that night to say good night to his
dad, who has since passed away. He was just about to leave when he saw the
buses pull up. I videotaped him as he spoke to us, and received his
permission to share what he said from my videotape. It is one thing to tour
the incredible monuments filled with history in Washington, D.C., but it is
quite another to get the kind of insight we received that night).
When all had gathered around, he reverently began to speak. (Here are his
words that night).
"My name is James Bradley and I'm from Antigo, Wisconsin. My dad is on that
statue, and I just wrote a book called "Flags of Our Fathers" which is #5 on
the New York Times Best Seller list right now. It is the story of the six
boys you see behind me.
"Six boys raised the flag. The first guy putting the pole in the ground is
Harlon Block. Harlon was an all-state football player. He enlisted in the
Marine Corps with all the senior members of his football team. They were off
to play another type of game. A game called "War." But it didn't turn out to
be a game.
Harlon, at the age of 21, died with his intestines in his hands. I don't say
that to gross you out, I say that because there are generals who stand in
front of this statue and talk about the glory of war. You guys need to know
that most of the boys in Iwo Jima were 17, 18, and 19 years old.
(He pointed to the statue) "You see this next guy? That's Rene Gagnon from
New Hampshire. If you took Rene's helmet off at the moment this photo was
taken and looked in the webbing of that helmet, you would find a photograph.
...a photograph of his girlfriend. Rene put that in there for protection
because he was scared. He was 18 years old. Boys won the battle of Iwo Jima.
Boys. Not old men.
"The next guy here, the third guy in this tableau, was Sergeant Mike Strank.
Mike is my hero. He was the hero of all these guys. They called him the "old
man" because he was so old. He was already 24. When Mike would motivate his
boys in training camp, he didn't say, 'Let's go kill some Japanese' or
'Let's die for our country.' He knew he was talking to little boys. Instead
he would say, 'You do what I say, and I'll get you home to your mothers.'
"The last guy on this side of the statue is Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian from
Arizona. Ira Hayes walked off Iwo Jima. He went into the White House with my
dad. President Truman told him, 'You're a hero.' He told reporters, 'How can
I feel like a hero when 250 of my buddies hit the island with me and only 27
of us walked off alive?' So you take your class at school, 250 of you
spending a year together having fun, doing everything together. Then all 250
of you hit the beach, but only 27 of your classmates walk off alive. That
was Ira Hayes. He had images of horror in his mind. Ira Hayes died dead
drunk, face down at the age of 32. ...ten years after this picture was
"The next guy, going around the statue, is Franklin Sousley from Hilltop,
Kentucky. A fun-lovin' hillbilly boy. Franklin died on Iwo Jima at the age
of 19. When the telegram came to tell his mother that he was dead, it went
to the Hilltop General Store. A barefoot boy ran that telegram up to his
mother's farm. The neighbors could hear her scream all night and into the
morning. The neighbors lived a quarter of a mile away.
"The next guy, as we continue to go around the statue, is my dad, John
Bradley from Antigo, Wisconsin, where I was raised. My dad lived until 1994,
but he would never give interviews. When Walter Cronkite's producers, or the
New York Times would call, we were trained as little kids to say, 'No, I'm
sorry, sir, my dad's not here. He is in Canada fishing. No, there is no
phone there, sir. No, we don't know when he is coming back.' My dad never
fished or even went to Canada. Usually, he was sitting there right at the
table eating his Campbell's soup. But we had to tell the press that he was
out fishing. He didn't want to talk to the press.
"You see, my dad didn't see himself as a hero. Everyone thinks these guys
are heroes, 'cause they are in a photo and on a monument. My dad knew
better. He was a medic. John Bradley from Wisconsin was a caregiver. In Iwo
Jima he probably held over 200 boys as they died. And when boys died in Iwo
Jima, they writhed and screamed in pain.
"When I was a little boy, my third grade teacher told me that my dad was a
hero. When I went home and told my dad that, he looked at me and said, 'I
want you always to remember that the heroes of Iwo Jima are the guys who did
not come back. Did NOT come back.'
"So that's the story about six nice young boys. Three died on Iwo Jima, and
three came back as national heroes. Overall, 7,000 boys died on Iwo Jima in
the worst battle in the history of the Marine Corps. My voice is giving out,
so I will end here. Thank you for your time."
Suddenly, the monument wasn't just a big old piece of metal with a flag
sticking out of the top. It came to life before our eyes with the heartfelt
words of a son who did indeed have a father who was a hero. Maybe not a hero
for the reasons most people would believe, but a hero nonetheless.
We need to remember that God created this vast and glorious world for us to
live in, freely, but also at great sacrifice. Let us never forget from the
Revolutionary War to the Gulf War and Iraq and all the wars in-between that
sacrifice was made for our freedom. Remember to pray praises for this great
country of ours and also pray for those still in murderous unrest around the
world. STOP and THANK GOD for being alive and being free at someone else's
REMINDER: Everyday you wake up free, IS a great day
03-04-05, 07:22 PM #15
March 4, 2005
Iwo Jima survivors visit Quantico for Iwo Jima re-enactment
by Cpl. Sara A. Carter
MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. -- Their hair is gray now. Some walk with canes; some are in wheelchairs. They came here with their wives, their children and grandchildren. Looking at their wrinkled faces, it is hard to imagine that 60 years ago they were young, strong Marines storming the beaches of Iwo Jima.
Approximately 160 Iwo Jima survivors and their families gathered on Marine Corps Base Quantico to remember the 60th anniversary of the Iwo Jima flag-raising Friday.
While most of the men with whom they served died upon arrival to the island, these veterans lived to tell their story to their family, friends and to the Marines now serving our country.
Most of the veterans are at least 80, but their memories of the 36-day war is still fresh in their minds.
"I thought the Marine Corps was the greatest outfit there was," said 79-year-old Arthur Gavlock. "I hitchhiked 70 miles to join," Gavlock said with a smile.
In November 1941, Gavlock went to join the Marine Corps. It wasn't until February 1942 that he was able to go to Philadelphia to swear in. But even then, he still had to wait for a letter to be delivered to his house to let him know it was his time to serve.
"They didn't call me until May (1943) to come in," said Gavlock. "I cried everyday when the letter was not in the mailbox."
When May finally arrived, Gavlock went to Parris Island. After finishing boot camp, Pfc. Gavlock came to Quantico for almost a year but was transferred to Camp Pendleton when the Marine Corps formed the 3rd Marines, 5th Division.
"We went to Camp Pendleton for training," he explained. "We trained there for the invasion of Iwo Jima. We didn't know what we were training for at that time."
Approximately 30,000 Marines trained with Gavlock to invade the shores of Iwo Jima.
"I couldn't get in on the first day," said Gavlock. "So I went in on the next morning. We went in on ducks."
About 500 yards from the beach, the first duck to leave the ship for the beach sunk in the water.
"Well, the first one went out and went under water and I was in the next one," he continued. "The [duck] I was on made it. I thought, 'Whew! Were gonna have to swim a long ways, buddy!'"
Before Gavlock left on the next boat for the beach, he left his weapon unattended just for a moment and when he came back, it was gone.
"One of the Sailors must have stolen it," he said with a smirk.
Although the 19-year-old had no weapon, the beach was littered with bodies and weapons so he picked one up once he hit the beach.
A couple of days into the war, the Japanese had the infantry unit pinned down, Gavlock and the Marines from the 13th Artillery came to their rescue.
"[The infantry unit] called for a 75 pack howitzer," said Gavlock. "The 75 pack howitzer was designed by the French and could be broken into seven pieces and carried to where ever you needed it.
"So we stripped it down, carried it through a minefield and reassembled it," he continued. "Within a 300-yard area we wiped out all the (Japanese). We never knew [how many Marines] we saved. We saved a lot of guys."
"That was one thing I was really proud of. I volunteered to go up there. My buddy was going and I just thought it was the right thing to do. That's just what Marines do."
While he is proud of that moment, there is one image that has stuck in his mind over the many years.
"The young faces ..." he said as he explained how the beach looked when he and his fellow Marines stormed it.
"Beautiful young kids ..."That's all the now 79 year old could manage to get out.
"When I was a kid, I was afraid of dead people. It didn't take long to get over that." he said.
Gavlock doesn't know how many Marines from his unit survived or died but he knew that one out of three Marines were either killed or wounded.
"We took the least casualties in the 13th Marines. Thirteen is suppose to be an unlucky number but it's been lucky for me." Gavlock said with a chuckle.
Gavlock doesn't have any memories of relief or joy when he left the island.
"I was glad to be off of there. There is no doubt about that," he said. "I hadn't had my shoes off for probably three weeks.
"I just hope I live up to what the Lord kept me alive for. Evidently he has a job for me to do and I hope I please him."
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