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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:
He 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.More
Seventy years ago today, my father and his buddies hit the beaches on Iwo Jima. They had been told that the battle would last a handful of days. The Army Air Corps had bombarded the island for weeks. The Navy, which had amassed an enormous armada, had pounded Iwo with the big guns. The Marines were told that, although it would be a tough fight, the Japanese were so outnumbered that the worst part would be over quickly.
It didn’t go down as predicted. Instead, the 22,000 Japanese defenders had spent years building a honeycombed fortress beneath the rock, which offered not only protection from the bombs and shells but a means by which to attack the Marines up top, then disappear back into the underground safe haven. There was little cover for the advancing Marines. As my dad explained to me, Iwo was black with volcanic ash. There was almost no vegetation and the ash on the beach made it nearly impossible to dig in. The rocks that could have provided cover were far away and to venture out into the open was a deadly business. I remember pop telling me that those first hours “were something else.” My dad was a master of understatement.More