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IWO JIMA: World War II Veterans Remember the Greatest Battle of the Pacific.
The battle for Iwo Jima lasted five long weeks and involved three Marine Corps divisions (the lst, 3d and 5th). The amphibious assault began on the morning of Feb. 19, 1945, and by the time the island was declared secure, 36 days later, 28,686 men had died or were wounded in action, making it one of the costliest of the Pacific Island campaigns.
There were 27 Medals of Honor earned during the struggle for possession of the island. Much of the time, success of a mission boiled down to one or two ordinary individuals, committing extraordinary acts of courage.
Many of the stories involved in those heroic battles have never been reported. Today, most of the Marines, who fought there and survived, have passed on. Those still living are in their 80s or 90s. Many who died took their memories of the fight with them to their graves.
However, 22 of those still living agreed to be interviewed by author Larry Smith, and their stories are told in his book “Iwo Jima: World War II Veterans Remember the Greatest Battle of the Pacific.” The result is a long overdue work—one of many that should have been written to capture the first-person recollections of those who survived this and other historic fights. A few of those who were interviewed died before this book was published.
Smith’s book also gives glimpses of the fight as seen by the enemy, through captured documents and diaries, and includes an interview with the daughter of one of the island’s defense commanders, who survived the battle.
Japanese Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, the island’s overall commander, had ordered a departure from the norm in his defense of the island. Instead of trying to defeat the landing Marines on the beaches, he organized his defenses into interlocking fields of fire and myriads of interconnecting tunnels and pillboxes, which did devastating damage to each of the divisions. Also addressed is the mystery surrounding Kuribayashi’s own demise.
The book takes a look at the controversy about the two flag raisings on Iwo Jima and includes an interview with Corporal Charles “Chuck” Lindberg, who helped put up the first flag. He died a few weeks after being interviewed by the author.
One chapter tells how Private First Class Samuel Tso saw the war and gives his views on the importance of his role as a Navajo Code Talker. Two Medal of Honor Marines tell their stories in modest prose, underlying the horrors and harrowing events that earned for them, the nation’s highest decoration for valor.
The real value of Smith’s book lies in the fact that the stories we read are told in the voices of those who experienced the fight. Smith does very little editing in what or how it is said. While the memories might be dimmed or distorted by the expanding years between the event and now, most of the survivors tell their tales as if the events had occurred yesterday, instead of nearly 60 years ago.
After reading Smith’s book, I recently was dining at a local restaurant. Seated nearby were two older men and their wives. Both men wore baseball caps that were monogrammed with “WW II Vet” on the bills. As I was leaving, I felt compelled to thank the men for their WW II service. They thanked me for remembering … modest men, who undoubtedly could be the chapters in another author’s book about WW II experiences. I hope their own stories will be told before they, too, pass into history.
IWO JIMA: World War II Veterans Remember the Greatest Battle of the Pacific.
By Larry Smith. Published by W. W. Norton & Co. Inc.
320 pages. Stock #0393062341.
$24.21 MCA Members. $26.95 Regular Price.
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Today in USMC History
Historic Leatherneck Magazine Covers
Leatherneck Staff Artist, Technical Sergeant Robert Fleischauer, felt that our July cover should be commemorative of the Fourth of July. Since the members of the missile units are probably the Corps' best rocketeers, he picked them to perform a standard Fourth of July action. Whether or not the "Honest Johnny" is useful as a combat piece is a matter for debate, but you can't beat it for morale." [July 1957.]
“The Join Up on the Nick” by Major Alex Durr, USMCR, a member of the History Division, Marine Corps University, Quantico, Va.
Hospitalman Daniel T. Bobic, assigned to Headquarters and Service Company, 3d Battalion, Second Marine Regiment, rappelled at the Jungle Warfare Training Center in Okinawa, Japan, in late April, 2002.
The oldest post of the Marine Corps, Washington, DC, is celebrating 200 years of excellence. Posed near the Barracks main gate were members of the official Color Guard of the United States Marine Corps (left to right): LCpl Joseph N. Keough, rifleman; Sgt Blake L. Richardson, Color Sergeant of the Marine Corps; Cpl Gerardo A. Guajardo, organizational color bearer; and LCpl Gregory A. Serwo, rifleman.
GySgt Verlando Frazier, East Coast Food Service Management Team, looked ready to dig into some of the new items included in MREs.
This photo by Sgt Earnie Grafton of Marines from Fox Co., 2/4 shows varied emotions as they greeted the coalition forces outside Kuwait city.
A fleet of trucks was needed to transport Dr. Felix de Weldon’s original model of the Iwo Jima flag-raising statue from the sculptor’s home in Newport, R.I., to the grounds of the Marine Military Academy at Harlingen, Texas. After the statue’s arrival, a nearly around-the-clock effort by skilled workmen was required in order to have the memorial reassembled and ready for dedication ceremonies on April 16, 1982.
In April this year (1981), two squadrons of AV-8A “Harriers” sailed for the Mediterranean aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau. Purpose of the cruise was to demonstrate the Navy/Marine Corps team’s capability to augment naval forces in any area of the World on short notice and to provide at-sea training for Marine Harrier pilots.
The cover of Leatherneck’s Bicentennial issue is an oil painting by the late Colonel Donald L. Dickson, USMCR. The painting depicts General George Washington’s Colonial troops at Gadsby’s Tavern in Alexandria, Va., during the French and Indian War.
Sightseeing tours for the men of the Marine Barracks, San Juan, Puerto Rico, include a trip to the El Morro Fortress. San Juan is now retired as a Post of the Corps.
The Marines in Vietnam have found that the programs which work best are those which operate close to the people. Our July cover is a mixed media (acrylic and charcoal) by Art Editor James L. Hopewell. It catches the spirit of Marines who enjoy their relationship with the Vietnamese around them.
In Naples, Italy, Marines are responsible for the internal security of the Headquarters of NATO’s Southern European Command, while the elite Carabinieri Corpa provides external security. PFC Robert M. Mallard’s NATO shield was admired by a Carabiniere as the two men prepared to take up their side-by-side posts at the entrance of the imposing NATO Headquarters, which appears in the background of this cover.
"We've Fought In Every Clime And Place": Stamping out the Caco Insurrection in the Republic d' Haiti.
January 2002: The Marines engraved another mark in the rich history of the Corps when they came from more than 400 miles offshore to establish a forward operating base south of Kandahar in the war on terrorism. The Marine CH-46 helicopter on the cover, photographed by PH1(AW/SW) Greg Messier, USN, fought in the desert sand to land and resupply Marines such as the ones (inset) photographed by Sgt Joseph R. Chenelly.
January 2001: This firefight during the Frozen Chosin Reservoir Campaign of 1950 was painted by “Chosin Few” veteran Jack Cannon, who served with Company B, 1st Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment and resides in the warmer climes of New Mexico. The cover was part of Leatherneck’s 50th anniversary salute to the Korean War veterans.
January 1992: This cover photograph of runners during Marine Corps Marathon XVI in Washington, D.C., was photographed by Sgt Deirdre Hallett.
January 1991: This month’s cover by Ross Simpson captures the Marines’ waiting-but-ready posture in the Middle East.
January 1982: Participants in the Sixth Annual Marine Corps Marathon presented a colorful spectacle as they began the 26-mile, 385-yard run in Washington, D.C., November 1, 1981. The cover photo, by Tom Bartlett, was taken from a bridge overlooking Highway 50 about a half-mile from the starting line.
January 1981: Nearly 7,800 runners participated in the Fifth Annual Marine Corps Marathon held in northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. The oldest finisher was 78; the youngest was 10. Leatherneck staffer Ron Lunn pre-positioned himself near the Nation’s Capitol to photograph runners during their 14th mile of the 26-mile, 385-yard course.
January 1972: This month’s cover, by Marine Combat Artist Peter Gish, shows members of the New Corps sightseeing in the Old World. While on liberty in Athens, Greece, the 3d Bn, Eighth Marines, were able to tour the Erektheon Porch and Cariatides. The water color is from the U.S. Marine Corps Combat Art collection.
Originally Published December 1983 -- Something tells us that we could date the cover without knowing when it was published.
Originally Published December 1972 -- We're not sure what's more interesting, Santa or the old style gas pump.
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This November 1992 article in the Marine Corps Gazette looked at the uniform regulations of 1859 and the attempt to standardize uniforms within the Corps. Read the story and see more pics.
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