The Battle Is Over: It Is Time to Remember One Who Fell


Today is the seventy second anniversary of the end of the battle of Iwo Jima. March 26, has long been a tough day for me. My dad fought on Iwo. His best friend, Sgt. Herbert Schmaultz, age 21, died within minutes of hitting the beach, felled by shrapnel from a Japanese mortar. Pop’s been gone for sixteen years now. Among my most cherished and heartbreaking memories of him is the single tear that would roll down his face whenever he spoke of his long lost friend. I’ve sort of assumed the responsibility of keeping Herbie’s memory alive, if only in my private reflections. There is no question that my dad loved Herb, and I see it as my duty to never forget this young man who truly gave the last full measure of devotion. Somewhere in this field lie the remains of Herbert Schmautz:

Image result for 4th marine division cemetery iwo jima

Eventually, the Marine Corp moved the bodies back to American soil. I have no idea where Herbie now rests, but to me that’s of little matter. He, and the six thousand Marines killed in the thirty five days battle, have left their Americans souls on the volcano that is Iwo Jima; to some extent the dead will always remain on this foreign soil.

Which calls to mind this poem by Rupert Brooke, which I have changed to reflect the American lives given in what Admiral Chester Nimitz described as the “uncommon valor [that] was a common virtue” in the bloodiest battle ever waged by the United States Marine Corp:

The Soldier

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever America. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom America bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of America’s, breathing American air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by America given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an American heaven.

It’s really quite extraordinary what American servicemen did in World War II. The historian John Lukacs has made a good case for the proposition that America was never truly threatened by Japan or Germany. Pearl Harbor was just a prelude to the end of Japan’s empire. In the words of Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto: “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve.”

As for Hitler, at no time did he and his commanders really contemplate an invasion of the United States. It would have been suicide. After all, it wasn’t just American military power Hitler would have to face. We have the Second Amendment too.

So the fact that America sent its sons to die for the nations oppressed by the Axis powers–and that those men went voluntarily–is a deep mystery. Frankly, I can’t imagine a single nation on earth paying so high a price to defend us. But America went–and bled–for people we did not know, but whom we knew were oppressed. Herbie, and countless others, died for them without complaint.

So today I remember again Sgt. Herbert Schmaultz, and I remember my dad too. The former gave his life to crush tyranny; the latter, my Pop, never forgot his Brother in Arms. After all, they fought for each other too. May God rest them both:

Published in Group Writing
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There are 25 comments.

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  1. Judithann Campbell Member
    Judithann Campbell

    God Bless Sgt. Herbert Schmaultz, God Bless your Dad, God Bless You, and God Bless the Marine Corps.

    • #1
  2. Richard Easton Coolidge
    Richard Easton

    That was a wonderful post.  Thanks for letting us know about your Dad and his friend.

    • #2
  3. Mike-K Member

    The man I first began surgery practice with, Edward M Greaney MD, landed with the Marines at Iwo Jima as a young Navy medical officer. On the 50th anniversary of the landing, he and his wife traveled to Iwo Jima to visit the site of his experience. They toured caves carved from the volcanic rock, soft like the catacombs near Rome, and saw the skeletons of Japanese soldiers  still in the carved out bunks in military aid stations. Mike and Mary are gone now but those memories should remain.

    • #3
  4. Rapporteur Coolidge

    Love that song, and it fits so perfectly with your post. Thanks for introducing us to Herbie and your dad.

    • #4
  5. MarciN Member

    Thank you for writing this tribute to your dad and his friend.

    This clip is from the episode “Call of Silence” of NCIS in which Charles Durning plays the part of a serviceman who relives his horrific days at Iwo Jima. There’s original footage of the island and an excellent overview of the way the events played out. Durning passed away in 2012, and because he is a World War II hero in his own right, he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Durning won a much-deserved Emmy for his role in the NCIS episode. If you ever get a moment, you might enjoy it.


    • #5
  6. Grosseteste Thatcher

    Thank you for this wonderful tribute!

    This conversation is part of a Group Writing series with the theme “Endings”, planned for the whole month of March. If you follow this link, there’s more information about Group Writing. The schedule is updated to include links to the other conversations for the month as they are posted. Dates for April’s topic (Water) are now available; sign up!

    • #6
  7. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo

    Sgt. Herbert Schmaultz, hope to feast with you at the table, on the other side.  Thank you for the standard you set, we still try to hew to it.

    Thank you.

    • #7
  8. Mike Rapkoch Moderator
    Mike Rapkoch

    Thanks all. I should have included this:

    Image result for fighting fourth

    • #8
  9. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male

    Mike Rapkoch: I see it as my duty to never forget this young man who truly gave the last full measure of devotion.

    I understand this impulse. My dad lost a cousin on the Indianapolis. I wish I had asked more about him before my dad died. Since then I’ve found a few pictures and a very short letter to one of my aunts. But the rest of that generation who knew him is gone.

    • #9
  10. Patrick McClure Coolidge
    Patrick McClure

    Ah Mike, you started my Monday with a tear. Thanks.

    • #10
  11. She Member

    Thank you for a beautiful post.  Mr She is fond of saying that, “in an age of entitlement, the scarce resource is gratitude.”  We should never forget what we owe those who made, and make, it possible for us to live in freedom, and we should be forever grateful.

    A poem I love, which came to mind when I looked at that photo:

    Here dead we lie
    Because we did not choose
    To live and shame the land
    From which we sprung.

    Life, to be sure,
    Is nothing much to lose
    But young men think it is,
    And we were young.  A.E. Houseman

    God Bless them all.

    • #11
  12. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt

    “Of the Marines on Iwo Jima, uncommon valor was a common virtue.”- Admiral Chester W. Nimitz

    • #12
  13. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Thank you, Mike, for honoring your dad, Sergeant Schmaultz, and all those who died to keep us free. There may not have been a practical reason for their fighting, as in protecting our shores, but sometimes our callings are larger than we can explain.

    • #13
  14. Blondie Thatcher

    Nicely done, Mike. Your father and his friend would be honored.

    • #14
  15. Vectorman Inactive

    Iwo Jima was the only battle that had more American casualties than Japan:

    U.S.A 7,000 Killed and 19,000 Wounded. Japan 21,800 killed and 200 POW.

    There was 28 Medals of Honor awarded for the Battle for Iwo Jima, 13 of them posthumously.


    • #15
  16. Brian Wolf Coolidge
    Brian Wolf

    Amazing.  Thank you for this post and memory.

    • #16
  17. DocJay Inactive

    A worthy tribute to your dad and his good friend.  Well done.

    • #17
  18. H. Noggin Inactive
    H. Noggin

    Thank you for this incredibly touching writing.  I know how you feel.  My Dad was an AmTrac Marine at Saipan, Tinnian, and Tawara.  He spent his days after my mother’s death researching what happened to his “brothers” after the war. He had stayed in contact with some, but not all.  Most were already gone, but a few he found.  He was able to relate some memories of a few to family members. He made a few new friends who kept in touch until the end.

    God Bless Them All.

    • #18
  19. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male

    H. Noggin (View Comment):
    My Dad was an AmTrac Marine at Saipan, Tinnian, and Tawara.

    If you haven’t yet, you should read “The Fleet at Flood Tide” by James Hornfischer.  In-depth coverage of Saipan in particular.


    • #19
  20. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum

    Worthy, Mike!  Thinking of you, your Dad and his Brother-in-Arms (among so many of the few and the proud).  S/F, my friend…

    • #20
  21. Ray Harvey Inactive
    Ray Harvey

    What a moving and beautifully written post you’ve given us.

    • #21
  22. blood thirsty neocon Inactive
    blood thirsty neocon

    Beautiful! God bless Herbie and your Pops!

    America brought and still maintains stability in East Asia. We’re talking multiple generations (billions of lives) on both sides of the communist divide  saved and lifted out of poverty.

    • #22
  23. Cow Girl Thatcher
    Cow Girl

    Very fine tribute. My dad served in the Navy in WWII in the Philippines. You really brought home the amazing work that those men did. Thank you.


    • #23
  24. Trink Coolidge

    Words, truly, fail Mike.   You honor not only Herb and your dear dad’s memory, but all who’ve served or are now serving.  That poem.  I’d never encountered it.  Your post is a worthy frame for those powerful, incredibly moving words.   Thank you.

    • #24
  25. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum

    Rupert Brooke is one of many warrior-poets of WWI. Adam Driver and the late Fr. Rick Curry, SJ (among others) started programs to make sure today’s voices are heard, too.

    • #25
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