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February 23, 1945
Seventy-six years ago today.
From an article commemorating the 75th anniversary:
Pfc. Jacklyn Lucas, 17, of Plymouth, N.C., was surprised when he suddenly saw two enemy grenades at his feet. He forced them into the sand with his rifle butt and his hands, and covered them with his body. He didn’t even have the chance to shut his eyes, he wrote later.
Only one grenade went off. It blew him sky high. But he lived to be 80 and was also given the Medal of Honor.
The battle went on long after the flag was raised on Suribachi. It devoured Marines and Japanese soldiers alike. They fought over places on the island called the “Meat Grinder,” “Death Valley,” and “Bloody Gorge.” The terrain was littered with smashed banyan trees, blasted rock and mechanical and human wreckage.
At night the scene was illuminated by star shells.
War correspondent Robert Sherrod said he had never seen so many dismembered soldiers. “Nowhere in the Pacific war have I seen such mangled bodies,” he wrote in Life magazine. “Many were cut squarely in half. Legs and arms lay 50 feet away from any body.”
In one case a Marine’s severed foot was recovered still in its boot. The serial number on the boot was noted and the foot was buried in a formal grave, according to author Richard F. Newcomb’s classic account of the battle. Later, the owner of the foot was found alive in a hospital in Saipan.
It’s an anniversary my Marine, Mr. She, never failed to observe, because he remembered it. (He was slightly less than seven years old at the time. Lord, I loved to listen to him talk about his memories of World War II on the Home Front and through the eyes of a child. So different from those of my own–British–family. Victory Gardens. Aunt Sophie–a real life Rosie the Riveter in Pittsburgh. His father–a devout and destructive alcoholic. And the best welder Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation ever had. And more.)
Here’s the “Battle of Iwo Jima” fact sheet from the National World War II Museum.
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
Thank you.Published in History
Read the whole thing, but a few excerpts.
Only 3 years, 2 months, and two days before I was born, and yet It was always ancient history to me when I was growing up.
The men who fought the Japanese had to become brutal to prevail. The most amazing thing to me is how they re-civilized themselves when it was over.
They did have to fight brutally, but they never became un-civilized. It’s only a conceit of the coddled that civilized men don’t fight like animals. Civilized men do what it takes.
Great picture, She. But I like Lowery’s.
In defense. Rather than out of aggression. I think that is the often-overlooked distinction.
My father, Illustrator James E. Seward, did an oil painting of the Iwo Jima Memorial and entered it in a National Parks Art Competition, nearly 20 years ago. He signed up to be a Navy Pilot right out of high school in February 1944, but was still in training when the war ended. I guess he could have been a combat “Artist,” but he wanted to fly planes.
The Iwo Jima flag photograph and the sailor kissing the nurse are the two most iconic photographs from WW2, IMHO. It doesn’t bother me that the second flag pic is more famous, although I love them both . . .
A hero to everyone but himself:
Love that song! My wife’s eyes tear up every time she hears it.
My Dad fought on Iwo in the 4th Marine Division. He was very proud of his service and even prouder of his fellow marines, particularly of his friend Herbie Schmaultz, who was killed just a few minutes after they hit the beach. Three of his grandsons followed him and joined the Corp. Nate (three tours in Iraq), Nolan (One tour Iraq) and Nicholas (two tours Afghanistan). My daughter Constance served six years in the Navy. Pop would have been so proud.
That’s a beautiful post and tribute, @mikerapkoch.
Shooting your enemy from the sea then landing soldiers to shoot him some more is not defense. It is aggression.
Tactically, yes. That’s why I agreed with you that civilized men will do what it takes. Strategically? I’ll defer to those with skin in the game.
EDIT: For my own part, I’ve known dozens of men and (fewer) women from two nations who volunteered or were drafted into the military, from WWII forward. Several of them were members of my family. Some served their initial commitment in combat or the reserves and then left for other lines of work; others became career military, some were decorated, and they all retired at various ranks.
Not a single one of them that I can think of turned to that career, or even that avocation, because they wanted to demonstrate unmerited or unqualified aggression. (I would suggest that unmerited or unqualified aggression is not what “civilized men” do.) Every single one that I can recall who signed up, or was drafted, believed they’d been given the charge of defending the civilization, the way of life, and the families that they loved (I agree that, on occasion, politicians start stupid wars. But I’m not talking about political motives here.) And yes, those men were willing to do whatever it takes to defend us. And sometimes it took a lot. Sometimes it took too much, both from those who died and those who lived to come home.
That’s the distinction that I, a civilian, see. And that’s what I’m talking about.