Belle Vernon resident witnessed historic flag-raising on Mount Surabaci

By Emma Jene Lelik
For The Valley Independent
Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tears filled the eyes of Loren Schoenholtz as he watched the U.S. Marines hoist the American flag on Mount Surabaci shortly after he landed on Yellow Beach No. 1, Iwo Jima, during World War II.

"There was a huge 'hurrah' from the servicemen watching the flag going up," he said.

Other than the flag raising, his recollections of service there were not pleasant.

"Some of the people lived in tunnels in that area," he explained. "They didn't realize, in all the gunfire, who were the enemy and who were their friends."

He said some feared they were going to be shot and began jumping off cliffs.

"I saw a woman clutch a baby and then jump," he said. "They didn't want to be shot or taken prisoner."

At that period of his life Schoenholtz, of Belle Vernon, was with the U.S. Navy.

"I left high school when I was 17 and joined the Navy," he said.

Stationed aboard the U.S.S. Newberry, he had an extremely important job.

"I was a water tender," he said. "I took ocean water and made it into drinkable water. Only one out of 500 persons learned this technique."

Later, Schoenholtz was sent on occupational duty in Japan.

After almost a year there, he was honorably discharged from the Navy.

But, following in the steps of his three older brothers, he re-enlisted as a U.S. Army paratrooper.

His oldest brother, Wesley Hines, made news himself during the war when a Bible in his pocket was struck by an enemy bullet that would have ended his life.

The other two brothers, all of whom are deceased, are Roy Schoenholtz Jr. and Joe Schoenholtz.

In 1949, Loren married Marie Hans. She passed away on April 2.

Loren tells a poignant story concerning his discharge from service.

"We were at a base in Maryland and they gave each of us $300 mustering out pay," he said.

"I went to sleep in one of the empty barracks upstairs and, while I was sleeping, someone stole my wallet."

The wallet turned up in the base office, but the money was gone.

Schoenholtz said he saw a Salvation Army trailer outside the gate and told them about his situatiom.

"They gave me a ticket to get home and some extra money for food and things I would need," Schoenholtz said.

That touched his heart to such an extent that he donates $50 every month to the Salvation Army and has the organization remembered in his will.