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.

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  1. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    https://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/2004/06/orourke.htm

     

    Read the whole thing, but a few excerpts.

    The three of us were guests on a trip that is offered periodically to young enlisted Marines in recognition of exemplary performance and attitude. The journey is spoken of as a “morale booster.” It was July. Iwo Jima is almost on the Tropic of Cancer, parboiled by the North Equatorial Current. In the sun its rocks become charcoal-colored briquettes in a hibachi. The temperature was 100، in the daytime and 100، at night. The humidity was 100 percent. When there was wind, it was an eructation. The volcanic vents on Iwo Jima are still active. The name means “Sulfur Island” in Japanese. The visiting Marines were not allowed to smoke or swim or explore on their own. They slept on the ground. Reveille was at 5:00 A.M. They were led on hikes all day, covering the island’s eight square miles. I was never in the military, but if this is what boosts morale, I want nothing to do with what causes morale to deteriorate.

    However, young men and women do not join the Marines to get comfortable. And going to Iwo Jima is a way for new Marines to imbue themselves with the spirit of the Corps. The battle for the island was fought by what was at that time the largest force of Marines ever assembled. The casualties were shocking. More than a third of the approximately 72,000 Marines who landed on Iwo Jima were killed or wounded. The bravery, too, was shocking. Of the 353 Congressional Medals of Honor awarded during World War II, twenty-seven were given for heroism on Iwo Jima, thirteen of them posthumously.

    <snip>

    We gave Iwo Jima back to Japan in 1968. It is now, as it was in February of 1945, a Japanese military base. At sunset when I was there, the Japanese national anthem was played over loudspeakers near the Marines’ campground. Every U.S. Marine turned toward the Japanese flag, stood at attention, and saluted. A Marine sergeant major of my generation, who was leading the morale-boosting trip, said under his breath, “My grandfather would be rolling over in his grave if he saw this.”

    • #1
  2. TreeRat Member
    TreeRat
    @RichardFinlay

    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.

    • #2
  3. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    TreeRat (View Comment):
    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.

    • #3
  4. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    Great picture, She. But I like Lowery’s.

    • #4
  5. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Barfly (View Comment):
    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.

    In defense.  Rather than out of aggression.  I think that is the often-overlooked distinction.

    • #5
  6. Steven Seward Member
    Steven Seward
    @StevenSeward

    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.

     

    • #6
  7. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    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 . . .

    • #7
  8. lowtech redneck Coolidge
    lowtech redneck
    @lowtech redneck

    A hero to everyone but himself:

     

     

    • #8
  9. Steven Seward Member
    Steven Seward
    @StevenSeward

    lowtech redneck (View Comment):

    A hero to everyone but himself:

     

     

    Love that song!  My wife’s eyes tear up every time she hears it.

    • #9
  10. Mike Rapkoch Moderator
    Mike Rapkoch
    @MikeRapkoch

    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.

    • #10
  11. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Mike Rapkoch (View Comment):

    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. 

    • #11
  12. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    She (View Comment):

    Barfly (View Comment):
    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.

    In defense. Rather than out of aggression. I think that is the often-overlooked distinction.

    Shooting your enemy from the sea then landing soldiers to shoot him some more is not defense. It is aggression.

    • #12
  13. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Barfly (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    Barfly (View Comment):
    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.

    In defense. Rather than out of aggression. I think that is the often-overlooked distinction.

    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.

    • #13