Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Give Me 50 Marines Not Afraid to Die

 

John-Keith-WellsHe thought it was a suicide mission. A full frontal attack on Mount Suribachi without supporting fire? He would not order his men up the mountain, but he would lead them. Raising his rifle above his head he climbed out of the foxhole and his men followed.

First Lieutenant John Keith Wells did not make it to the top, but his Marines did two days later. The leader of 3rd Platoon, E Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines died on February 11th in Denver. He was 94.

The citation on his Navy Cross reads thus:

When ordered to attack across open terrain and dislodge the enemy from a series of strongly-defended pillboxes and blockhouses at the base of Mount Suribachi, First Lieutenant Wells placed himself in the forefront of his platoon and, leading his men forward in the face of intense hostile machine-gun, mortar and rifle fire, continuously moved from one flank to the other to lead assault groups one by one in their attacks on Japanese emplacements. Although severely wounded while directing his demolition squad in an assault on a formidable enemy blockhouse whose fire had stopped the advance of his platoon, he continued to lead his men until the blockhouse was destroyed. When, an hour later, the pain from his wound became so intense that he was no longer able to walk, he established his command post in a position from which to observe the progress of his men and continued to control their attack by means of messengers. By his courageous leadership and indomitable fighting spirit, First Lieutenant Wells contributed materially to the destruction of at least twenty-five Japanese emplacements, and his unwavering devotion to duty was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

378px-First_Iwo_Jima_Flag_Raising
After Wells was wounded, 1st Lt. Harold Scarier took command of 3rd Platoon, who raised the first flag on Mt. Suribachi. It was subsequently replaced by a larger, more famous flag.

In 1995 he wrote a memoir, Give Me 50 Marines Not Afraid to Die.

Said his daughter, Connie, “He honored and loved the Marine Corps with all his heart and soul. He loved his family and his last words were, ‘My family.’”

Fair winds and following seas, marine. Join the ranks guarding the streets of Heaven.

There are 40 comments.

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  1. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    Well done, Lt Wells

    And well said, EJ. Thanks for bringing this to our attention and allowing us to know of this great man.

    • #1
    • February 18, 2016, at 6:49 PM PST
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  2. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member

    I can only imagine what the reunions are like with all his buddies who got to heaven before him. A place at the table of the wedding feast of the Lamb.

    Fortunately, the Marines still develop men like Lt. Wells.

    • #2
    • February 18, 2016, at 6:58 PM PST
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  3. James Gawron Thatcher

    EJ,

    The gentleman seems larger than life. What is strange is the contrast of this to our present generation of “safe space” adult infants. Why one might say that Obama and his ilk are smaller than life.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #3
    • February 18, 2016, at 7:10 PM PST
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  4. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Post author

    9thDistrictNeighbor: Fortunately, the Marines still develop men like Lt. Wells.

    Yes, but they are a dying breed. Less than 1% of our nation now chooses to serve and of the 2.48 million currently on active duty or in the reserves only 10% have the right to call themselves a United States Marine. They truly are the few.

    (Because I always wear a hat with the EG&A on it people often ask me if I was a Marine. No, I tell them, I wear it to honor my son. He’s the Few. I’m just the Proud.)

    • #4
    • February 18, 2016, at 7:30 PM PST
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  5. TKC1101 Inactive

    James Gawron: What is strange is the contrast of this to our present generation of “safe space” adult infants

    It does pay to reflect on the present generation that took Fallujah, Mosul and other battles, who still do tours in harms way. Thank God America still creates people like that.

    They are working quietly, raising families now while some of their counterparts take seven years to get an undergraduate degree in unemployable studies and get media attention. Many are in reserve and guard units. Their battles are not celebrated , we only see their victimhood on television, presenting them as needing help. We ignore their victories and give them pity.

    • #5
    • February 18, 2016, at 9:01 PM PST
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  6. James Gawron Thatcher

    TKC1101: Their battles are not celebrated , we only see their victimhood on television, presenting them as needing help. We ignore their victories and give them pity.

    TK,

    This started after Vietnam. I didn’t go to Vietnam but I could never stand this condescending crap treatment of those who did. It was just a little too easy and a little too self-serving.

    Gd is there.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #6
    • February 18, 2016, at 10:23 PM PST
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  7. Boss Mongo Member

    I dated a girl in high school (and she is still a good friend to me and my wife) whose grandfather won a Medal of Honor at Iwo.

    Without knowing who he was or what he’d done, first time I saw him I thought, “That guy looks like an old school ass-kicker who won the Medal of Honor somewhere.”

    I’m proud that I got to meet him, and humbled by the example he set.

    • #7
    • February 18, 2016, at 10:39 PM PST
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  8. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Thanks for this post, EJ. I can’t begin to imagine the courage and determination that Lt. Wells had. I bow to his love of country and family. May he rest in peace.

    • #8
    • February 19, 2016, at 6:43 AM PST
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  9. Doug Watt Member

    American Admiral Chester Nimitz reflected on the incredible sacrifice of the Marines who fought at Iwo Jima by saying, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

    • #9
    • February 19, 2016, at 7:00 AM PST
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  10. iWe Reagan
    iWe

    Heroes should always be celebrated. G-d-speed.

    On the other hand, I still openly revile and despise the unbelievably stupid “strategists” in the Pacific campaign. Japanese island cut off from the mainland? They should have let them all rot. They presented no threat in the rear view mirror.

    Only a very few islands (Marianas) were needed – or used – to stage attacks on Japan.

    But the US put Marines on god-forsaken islands to fight the Japs to the death. Pointless. Stupid. Horrible. Criminal. Evil.

    • #10
    • February 19, 2016, at 7:37 AM PST
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  11. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Post author

    iWe: On the other hand, I still openly revile and despise the unbelievably stupid “strategists” in the Pacific campaign.

    You’re one of the few I’ve heard question it.

    By bypassing strongholds like Rabul, MacArthur was able to choke off Japanese supply lines and still acquire important staging areas.

    • #11
    • February 19, 2016, at 8:20 AM PST
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  12. iWe Reagan
    iWe

    EJHill:

    iWe: On the other hand, I still openly revile and despise the unbelievably stupid “strategists” in the Pacific campaign.

    You’re one of the few I’ve heard question it.

    By bypassing strongholds like Rabul, MacArthur was able to choke off Japanese supply lines and still acquire important staging areas.

    It was a mixed bag, strategy-wise. Iwo Jima was entirely unnecessary – even if no bomb had been developed.

    When someone holds a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Far too often, the Navy looked for excuses to put Marines down. MacArthur’s desperation to return to the Philippines has been widely recognized as stupid and egomaniacal.

    Once the US Navy had control of the seas, the supply lines to the Japanese Homeland were cut. Then it was just a question of what to do next. But neither bombing or invading Japan required pouring US blood into countless little hell holes along the way.

    • #12
    • February 19, 2016, at 8:27 AM PST
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  13. Doug Watt Member

    Iwo Jima was taken to provide a place for B-29 bombers to land that had sustained battle damage or mechanical problems on bombing missions over Japan. Here is a photo of one B-29 on Iwo Jima. There were others that had to land on Iwo Jima.

    b-29

    • #13
    • February 19, 2016, at 8:29 AM PST
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  14. iWe Reagan
    iWe

    Doug Watt:Iwo Jima was taken to provide a place for B-29 bombers to land that had sustained battle damage or mechanical problems on bombing missions over Japan.

    I am aware of the stated goal.

    Do you believe that invading was worth it?

    • #14
    • February 19, 2016, at 8:38 AM PST
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  15. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    iWe:

    EJHill:

    iWe: On the other hand, I still openly revile and despise the unbelievably stupid “strategists” in the Pacific campaign.

    By bypassing strongholds like Rabul, MacArthur was able to choke off Japanese supply lines and still acquire important staging areas.

    It was a mixed bag, strategy-wise. Iwo Jima was entirely unnecessary – even if no bomb had been developed.

    Far too often, the Navy looked for excuses to put Marines down. MacArthur’s desperation to return to the Philippines has been widely recognized as stupid and egomaniacal.

    Once the US Navy had control of the seas, the supply lines to the Japanese Homeland were cut.

    It also seems like a mixed issue to me.

    First, you can make a very good argument that the Philippines campaign was strategically unnecessary.

    Leading up to that MacArthur, while initially resistant to the island-hopping strategy, did a good job on execution in the South Pacific campaign once he bought into the concept.

    In the Central Pacific campaign, island hopping was used. You can argue, as was done at the time, whether it was necessary to take Tarawa in the Gilberts, but because of logistical needs to support the advance on the Marianas, a base was needed in the Marshalls and Nimitz bypassed the most heavily defended atolls to take Kwajalein.

    The question on Iwo is whether it only looks like it wasn’t worth it, given the human toll, after the fact or at the time.

    • #15
    • February 19, 2016, at 8:39 AM PST
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  16. Vectorman Thatcher

    Doug Watt:Iwo Jima was taken to provide a place for B-29 bombers to land that had sustained battle damage or mechanical problems on bombing missions over Japan.

    I would also add that Iwo was for P-51 Mustangs to escort the B-29 bombers, as the Japanese were able to shoot them down, even at high (25,000+ feet) altitudes.

    The most effective use of B-29 bombers was the Curtis LeMay inspired fire bombings, where they dropped incendiaries from lower (~10,000 feet) at night. This reduced the need for the Mustangs, but not taking Iwo would also allow the Japanese to monitor traffic from Saipan and Tinian, helping their bomber defense.

    • #16
    • February 19, 2016, at 8:47 AM PST
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  17. Columbo Member

    Godspeed Lt. John Keith Mills. May your soul now be at rest with God for all eternity. And please, pray for the rest of us remaining here. Pray that God will bless us with “more than 50 marines like you not afraid to die”.

    • #17
    • February 19, 2016, at 8:48 AM PST
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  18. iWe Reagan
    iWe

    An example:

    Operation STALEMATE II. The islands of Peleliu and Angaur and the anchorage at Kossol Roads were invaded by the Allies in September 1944 at great cost in life. The remainder of the Palaus were bypassed.

    I am saying that the US should have bypassed almost all of them. Once we had command of the sea, manned and garrisoned islands in our rear presented no real threat. This is, obviously, quite different from how warfare is conducted on land.

    • #18
    • February 19, 2016, at 8:50 AM PST
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  19. Doug Watt Member

    iWe:

    Doug Watt:Iwo Jima was taken to provide a place for B-29 bombers to land that had sustained battle damage or mechanical problems on bombing missions over Japan.

    I am aware of the stated goal.

    Do you believe that invading was worth it?

    There are two ways to look at it. One is in the past. There were three airfields on Iwo and part of the plan was to use them to intensify air attacks on Japan and for air support of an invasion of Japan. We can look at it from what we know now. The atomic bomb ended the necessity of invading Japan.

    The question would be were the admirals and generals that drew up the invasion plans of Iwo Jima made aware of the atomic bomb project and how close it was to completion.

    Was it worth it? Certainly not for the men that lost their lives on Iwo and certainly not for their families.

    • #19
    • February 19, 2016, at 9:01 AM PST
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  20. James Gawron Thatcher

    iWe:

    Doug Watt:Iwo Jima was taken to provide a place for B-29 bombers to land that had sustained battle damage or mechanical problems on bombing missions over Japan.

    I am aware of the stated goal.

    Do you believe that invading was worth it?

    iWe:,

    This is a major topic. First, on the assumption that invasion was necessary the strategy was brilliant. Second, the only reason for not invading is not believing in the necessity of unconditional surrender.

    One of the great fantasies of modern intellectual life is the illusion that everything can be negotiated. Can you imagine WWII dragging on for 3 or 4 more years? What happens when the Chinese Communists take over China? What happens when the Russians get a piece of Japan that finally conditionally surrenders? When you assume that everything will just wait for your negotiated settlement you make a great mistake. Very much like our mistake of not invading Syria. Everything gets worse very fast as a vacuum of good power is filled by evil power.

    Sometimes surgery is necessary. If a caveman saw a surgeon cutting open somebody’s chest he would recoil in horror. He wouldn’t understand that it was necessary and merciful to do it.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #20
    • February 19, 2016, at 9:03 AM PST
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  21. Vectorman Thatcher

    iWe:An example:

    Operation STALEMATE II. The islands of Peleliu and Angaur and the anchorage at Kossol Roads were invaded by the Allies in September 1944 at great cost in life. The remainder of the Palaus were bypassed.

    I am saying that the US should have bypassed almost all of them. Once we had command of the sea, manned and garrisoned islands in our rear presented no real threat. This is, obviously, quite different from how warfare is conducted on land.

    Peleliu was taken to cover the approach to Leyte in the Philippines. It was within bombing range of Leyte and would allow Catalina floatplanes to reduce the destruction from submarines of troop ships and support vessels.

    Your point about not needing the Philippines might be correct; however, the ego of McArthur was satisfied by “I shall return.” When looking at the general strategy, personalities come into play.

    Don’t get me started on “Bull” Halsey, for example.

    • #21
    • February 19, 2016, at 9:13 AM PST
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  22. Pencilvania Inactive

    Bless the memory of this rock of a soldier. Thanks for bringing him to us, EJ, and prayers for your son’s protection.

    • #22
    • February 19, 2016, at 9:39 AM PST
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  23. iWe Reagan
    iWe

    James Gawron: One of the great fantasies of modern intellectual life is the illusion that everything can be negotiated.

    Jim – I am under no such illusions.

    Basic Sun-Tzu:

    • Attack where the enemy is NOT.
    • You win not by defeating the enemy, but by defeating his strategy.

    The US Pacific Campaign was run by men who could not examine and find the flaws in their assumptions, let alone follow basic strategic common sense.

    • #23
    • February 19, 2016, at 9:43 AM PST
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  24. Profile Photo Member

    Funny I never learned about heroes like this in school growing up. My father and mother taught me, for which I will always be grateful, as did a few friends later on, too.

    Thanks for the reminder of what real battle laedership is.

    • #24
    • February 19, 2016, at 10:10 AM PST
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  25. James Gawron Thatcher

    iWe:

    James Gawron: One of the great fantasies of modern intellectual life is the illusion that everything can be negotiated.

    Jim – I am under no such illusions.

    Basic Sun-Tzu:

    • Attack where the enemy is NOT.
    • You win not by defeating the enemy, but by defeating his strategy.

    The US Pacific Campaign was run by men who could not examine and find the flaws in their assumptions, let alone follow basic strategic common sense.

    iWe:,

    I think you are overstating your case just a bit. First, there had never been a carrier war on the face of the earth until then. Second, effective long range submarines, strategic bombing, fighter bombers, amphibious assaults, radar,..etc. were also completely new.

    As they were desperately scrambling from Pearl Harbor on don’t you think you are a bit over the top with:

    The US Pacific Campaign was run by men who could not examine and find the flaws in their assumptions, let alone follow basic strategic common sense.

    I refer to this as 20/20 hindsight.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #25
    • February 19, 2016, at 10:31 AM PST
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  26. Pugshot Member

    Thanks, EJ, for posting this moving remembrance of an American hero. I teared up reading it – how much we owe those who serve in the military. It made me think of one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies (slight paraphrase of Gene Hackman – as Sam Clayton in Bite the Bullet): “We’re not worth his spit.” Come to think of it, another speech by Hackman’s character reminds me of what Lt. Wells did at Iwo Jima. Describing his involvement in the Charge at San Juan Hill, Clayton observes:

    “We came out of the jungle and there it was – San Juan Hill. The Spanish guns lookin’ right down our throat, the sharpshooters pickin’ us off and we just charged right up that hill!

    [starts to ride off, but returns]

    “That’s not the way it happened at all. * * * No, we didn’t rough ride up that hill, ’cause we didn’t have any horses. We didn’t charge up there, either. We crawled up there on our scared bellies. There was only one horse and one rider – that was Colonel Teddy. He went chargin’ up that damn hill and they shot his glasses off. He put on another pair and they nipped him in the elbow, and he said, ‘Follow me!’ And we did, ’cause we was too damned ashamed not to.”

    • #26
    • February 19, 2016, at 12:27 PM PST
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  27. TKC1101 Inactive

    iWe:I am aware of the stated goal.

    Do you believe that invading was worth it?

    If you were not aware of the atomic bomb, and were looking at a war extending to 1947-48, with massive continuous bombing necessary, it was the right call. It is easy to look back on the conclusion we did achieve and assume they had perfect foresight. I believe the idea was for Iwo to handle the air corps and for Okinawa to be the major staging area for main island operations after an invasion. To stage the conventional assault on Japan, with over a million troops, you needed bases closeby that did not float or sink.

    The men doing the planning had seen Normandy and knew that without England as a base that would have been impossible.

    My dad was wounded severely off Okinawa when his destroyer was cut in half by a manned rocket bomb called an Oka. I have seen the after action reports and they fought off kamikazes for 24 hours straight. He never blamed the staff who put them there to man the radar picket line, knowing the Japanese were going to send their pilots on suicide missions.. The Marines and Soldiers were dying by inches on the ground and someone had to guard the approaches from Japan.

    • #27
    • February 19, 2016, at 3:15 PM PST
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  28. TKC1101 Inactive

    Sowell for President: Funny I never learned about heroes like this in school growing up. My father and mother taught me, for which I will always be grateful, as did a few friends later on, too.

    When I was growing up, the whole culture was steeped in this. People knew the battles, the islands, the strategy and even most of the weapons platforms. It permeated everything. I am sure in Russia at the same time they all knew of Kursk, and Stalingrad. I would hazard a guess that Russian schoolchildren still know of Kursk and Stalingrad while I doubt one of our kids would know the significance of Midway, or Tarawa, or Iwo.

    • #28
    • February 19, 2016, at 3:33 PM PST
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  29. Percival Thatcher

    Fifty years after the fact, a historian declares a military operation unnecessary and chin-pullers in armchairs the world over nod their heads in agreement.

    “Faulty intelligence.” “Strategic incoherence.”

    Back then, the “faulty intelligence” was all the intelligence there was. The “strategic incoherence” was the best considered opinion of men pushed to the brink of their collective endurance trying to counter a clever and resourceful enemy. It is a pity that the chin-pullers couldn’t have been there to voice their concerns and add their expertise.

    Or they could have at least made the coffee. That would probably have been more helpful.

    • #29
    • February 19, 2016, at 7:41 PM PST
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  30. iWe Reagan
    iWe

    Percival:Fifty years after the fact, a historian declares a military operation unnecessary and chin-pullers in armchairs the world over nod their heads in agreement.

    “Faulty intelligence.” “Strategic incoherence.”

    Back then, the “faulty intelligence” was all the intelligence there was. The “strategic incoherence” was the best considered opinion of men pushed to the brink of their collective endurance trying to counter a clever and resourceful enemy.

    You are making fun in ignorance.

    My grandfather was an officer on Nimitz’ staff, and he observed 7 landings. My opinion is not one I formed in a vacuum – my entire childhood was peppered with him expressing precisely the same strategic points that I have put here. There were people in the Navy at the time who thought that what we did was a horrible and useless loss of life, driven and conducted by foolish men. My grandfather was one of them.

    This is not mere hindsight quarterbacking.

    The only reason I did not point it out earlier is that, true to the CoC, the argument should stand or fall regardless of the source.

    • #30
    • February 20, 2016, at 3:51 PM PST
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