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RollTide1987
Alabama Fan
Washington, D.C.
Member since Nov 2009
46194 posts

75 years ago right now...the island of Iwo Jima became Hell on earth
February 19, 1945, a beautiful clear morning in the central Pacific.

A fleet of over 500 ships had been sitting off shore of the island of Iwo Jima for the last three days. The large warships bombarded the island at six hour intervals, stopping only to cool down their guns before starting again for another six hours. The bombardment was originally supposed to last 10 days but had been shortened, for various reasons, to just three. The man in overall command of the operation was U.S. 5th Fleet commander-in-chief, Admiral Raymond Spruance.

Image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a1/Iwo_Jima_-_Landing_Plan.jpg


The plan was very simple. Land Marines on the southwestern part of the island, drive for the airfields, and isolate and capture Mount Suribachi. The whole operation was expected to be concluded within a matter of days thanks to the constant naval and aerial bombardments. What the Americans didn't count on, however, was the fact that the Japanese had turned the entire island into an underground fortress with tunnels running for miles beneath the surface. The bombardments did little to injure the Japanese force of 21,000 men nestled safely in their bunkers.

Image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/20/USS_New_York-11.jpg

The USS New York firing on Iwo Jima (February 16, 1945)

At around 8 AM, the Marines disembarked from the naval vessels aboard landing craft and began to head for the beaches. The weather was absolutely beautiful and there looked to be no movement observed on the beaches. The Japanese, the Marines thought, had been annihilated by the big guns.

Image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/ba/Tracked_landing_vehicles_%28LVTs%29_approach_Iwo_Jima%3Bfig14.jpg

The first wave approaches Iwo Jima (February 19, 1945)

At 8:59 AM, the first wave of the 5th Marine Division hit the beaches. There was no resistance. Unfortunately for the Marines, expecting good, solid soil...they were confronted by layers and layers of volcanic ash that made advancing off the beaches a little tricky. Foxholes could not be dug and it was difficult to find footing in the softer-than-expected soil.

Image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/91/USMC-17446.jpg

The first wave hits the beach (0859, February 19, 1945)

Image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/ff/80-G-304972_%2829474492816%29.jpg

Airborne view of the landing area (February 19, 1945)

The Marines advanced steadily and cautiously off the beach and made their way inland. The Japanese, still very much alive, stayed hidden and held their fire. They were under strict orders from their commander-in-chief, General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, to hold their fire to draw the Americans further inland. Only then would they open up on the western invaders.

That time came shortly after 10 AM. From their hidden positions, the Japanese opened fire and rained unholy hell upon the Marines advancing inland as well as the Marines still on the beach.

Image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/59/Marines_with_LVT%28A%29-5_in_Iwo_Jima_1945.jpg

Ambush! Marines take cover while under enemy fire (February 19, 1945)

Image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f7/Marines_burrow_in_the_volcanic_sand_on_the_beach_of_Iwo_Jima.jpg

Marines pinned down on the beach, with dead and wounded sprawled around. Mt. Suribachi rises in the background. (February 19, 1945)

One of the few U.S. Army units in the fight, the 147th Infantry Regiment, was tasked to take pressure off the Marines on the beach to scale a high ridge about .75 miles away from Mt. Suribachi. They climbed onto the ridge using grappling hooks and quickly found themselves engaged in some of the fiercest combat of the battle. They would be in non-stop action for the next 31 days.

Image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/18/147th-inf-regt-in-combat-iwo-jima-bazooka-and-bar-team-040845-1-of-1.jpg

Men from the 147th Infantry Regiment in action (February 19, 1945)

Despite heavy resistance and heavy casualties, a contingent of Marines did manage to reach the southern tip of Airfield No. 1 by 11:30 AM. The Japanese attempted a counter-attack which culminated in a 100-man banzai charge. The Marines held and kept a toehold on the airfield heading into the evening hours.

On the left flank of the assault, the Americans actually managed to achieve their first day's objective. The 28th Marines, led by Colonel Harry Liversedge, managed to cross the island at its narrowest point and successfully isolated Mt. Suribachi from the rest of the Japanese defense.

The Marines on the right flank of the assault, however, weren't so lucky. The 25th Marines attempted to overrun a powerful Japanese defensive position known as the Quarry utilizing a two-pronged attack. 2nd Lt. Benjamin Roselle, described what happened next:

quote:

Within a minute a mortar shell exploded among the group ... his left foot and ankle hung from his leg, held on by a ribbon of flesh ... Within minutes a second round landed near him and fragments tore into his other leg. For nearly an hour he wondered where the next shell would land. He was soon to find out as a shell burst almost on top of him, wounding him for the third time in the shoulder. Almost at once another explosion bounced him several feet into the air and hot shards ripped into both thighs ... as he lifted his arm to look at his watch a mortar shell exploded only feet away and blasted the watch from his wrist and tore a large jagged hole in his forearm: "I was beginning to know what it must be like to be crucified," he was later to say.


The 25th Marines endured horrific losses. The 3rd battalion entered the fight in the Quarry with 900 men. By nightfall, its fighting strength had been reduced to just 150 men - a casualty rate of over 83%.

By that evening, the Marines had secured a tenuous beachhead on Iwo Jima. Some 30,000 men had come ashore with an additional 40,000 to follow in the coming hours. Surveying the casualty lists for the day as well as the slow progress on the beach aboard his command ship, General Holland Smith despaired. He turned to the war correspondents attached to his headquarters and said rather grimly: "I don't know who he is, but the Japanese general running the show is one smart bastard."

The first day of the Battle of Iwo Jima had ended. There would be 31 more.


kywildcatfanone
Kentucky Fan
Wildcat Country!
Member since Oct 2012
69156 posts

re: 75 years ago right now...the island of Iwo Jima became Hell on earth
quote:

The 25th Marines endured horrific losses. The 3rd battalion entered the fight in the Quarry with 900 men. By nightfall, its fighting strength had been reduced to just 150 men - a casualty rate of over 83%.



The greatest generation indeed.


soccerfüt
Location: A Series of Tubes
Member since May 2013
40324 posts
 Online 

re: 75 years ago right now...the island of Iwo Jima became Hell on earth
Failure simply was not an option.

Devil Dogs.


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370
geauxtigers87
New Orleans Pelicans Fan
NOLA
Member since Mar 2011
19318 posts

re: 75 years ago right now...the island of Iwo Jima became Hell on earth
I've been to iwo more than once. Incredibly powerful place. Just a mean island. Standing on top suribachi and looking down at the landing beaches is top 3 life moment for sure
This post was edited on 2/18 at 7:18 pm


TheFonz
LSU Fan
Somewhere in Louisiana
Member since Jul 2016
12943 posts

re: 75 years ago right now...the island of Iwo Jima became Hell on earth
One of my great-uncles entered combat for the first time at Iwo Jima. He spent a grand total of about six hours on the island before his leg got shredded by a Jap grenade. He said that was the best thing that could happen because he got to spend the rest of the war slapping pretty nurses on the arse in Guam and Hawaii.


SEClint
New Orleans Saints Fan
New Orleans, LA/Portland, OR
Member since Nov 2006
32153 posts
 Online 

re: 75 years ago right now...the island of Iwo Jima became Hell on earth
Imagine being like 18..and realizing you're in a battle that will be talked about for possibly hundreds of years.


Jim Rockford
LSU Fan
Member since May 2011
76324 posts

re: 75 years ago right now...the island of Iwo Jima became Hell on earth
The Third Marine Division commander at Iwo Jima was LSU graduate Graves B. Erskine, from either Winn or Caldwell Parish, depending on the source. He also developed the first program helping men transition from military to civilian life.


CajunAlum Tiger Fan
LSU Fan
The Great State of Louisiana
Member since Jan 2008
7320 posts

re: 75 years ago right now...the island of Iwo Jima became Hell on earth
My grandfather also lost a leg to a mortar shell on Iwo Jima and was saved by one of his men who carried him off the field like a scene from a movie. He was shot a couple of times while being carried. I loved his war stories and I miss that tough old bastard. He was/is a hero to me.


Johngotigers
LSU Fan
Seattle
Member since Jul 2009
25 posts

re: 75 years ago right now...the island of Iwo Jima became Hell on earth
My father fought on Iwo Jima with the Marine Corps. He was 18 years old and after battling on the beach he was blown out of his fox hole by a mortar somewhere inland. He never wanted to visit the island.


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170
HailToTheChiz
Auburn Fan
Back in Auburn
Member since Aug 2010
34269 posts

re: 75 years ago right now...the island of Iwo Jima became Hell on earth
quote:

Imagine being like 18..and realizing you're in a battle


Hard to even fathom


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70
Duffnshank
Member since Jan 2019
433 posts

re: 75 years ago right now...the island of Iwo Jima became Hell on earth
Funny I don’t hear any commercials about them bitching about their hearing protection wasn’t sufficient and feel the need to file suit. Greatest indeed


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394
Keltic Tiger
LSU Fan
Baton Rouge
Member since Dec 2006
12610 posts

re: 75 years ago right now...the island of Iwo Jima became Hell on earth
"A casualty rate of over 83 %. This is why President Truman dropped the 2 bombs.


go_tigres
LSU Fan
Member since Sep 2013
2811 posts

re: 75 years ago right now...the island of Iwo Jima became Hell on earth
One hell of a write up, thank you.


jeffsdad
Member since Mar 2007
11660 posts

re: 75 years ago right now...the island of Iwo Jima became Hell on earth
Uncle was there, never talked about it. Only thing he said were him and his buddies dove under some truck that had a large gas tank on it. When he realized what it was he told everyone to run, but as he looked back they didn’t. Truck exploded and killed all but him.


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91
miketiger
LSU Fan
Baton Rouge
Member since Feb 2005
1559 posts

re: 75 years ago right now...the island of Iwo Jima became Hell on earth
My mom's first cousin was kia on Iwo. He was from Baton Rouge and went to Catholic High. He received the Silver Star and Purple Heart. Harrydale Hyde was 19 years old. He died taking out a jap pillbox.


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270
NATidefan
Alabama Fan
Two hours North of Birmingham
Member since Dec 2008
30324 posts

re: 75 years ago right now...the island of Iwo Jima became Hell on earth
And Mamie Van Doren turned 14.
This post was edited on 2/18 at 8:10 pm


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32
Twenty 49
LSU Fan
Shreveport
Member since Jun 2014
12705 posts

re: 75 years ago right now...the island of Iwo Jima became Hell on earth
Nice post.

The Washington Post has a good article today about Hershel Williams, a 95 year old Iwo Jima vet who was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Of the 27 Marines and sailors who earned the medal at Iwo Jima, he said he is the last one alive

He described how he and some other Marines on Guadalcanal received crates of flamethrowers, which they had to figure out on their own how to fuel and to operate.

When they later landed at Iwo Jima, he supervised six other flamethrower men. In hours, the others were dead or wounded.

The Americans were stopped by a cluster of pillboxes. The commander asked Williams to try to help with his flamethrower.

quote:

Enemy gunners fired from small slits in the concrete walls and were almost impossible to hit as they mowed down Marines.

...

[Williams] was assigned several Marines to cover him, and a “pole charge man,” armed with a long piece of wood that had an explosive taped to the end. His job was to stick the charge into the fortification and set it off after Williams had fired, “to make sure that everybody in there is dead,” he said.

But the pole charge man was struck in the helmet by a bullet and knocked silly. The covering Marines were killed. And Williams was on his own.

He doesn’t remember a lot of what happened, a but a few scenes have stayed with him. He remembers crawling toward one pill box where he could see the barrel of a Japanese machine gun protruding from a slit. Bullets ricocheted off his flamethrower tanks. He got within 20-25 yards and “rolled a big ball of flame” at the enemy gunner, silencing him.

He recalls crawling toward another pill box when he noticed a wisp of smoke escaping from a ventilation hole in the top. He crept up, stuck the nozzle of the flame thrower into the vent and fired. “Got 'em all,” he said.

He remembers killing the Japanese soldiers who tried to get him with bayonets.

He does not remember that over the course of four hours one afternoon on Iwo Jima he went back to his lines five times for fresh weapons, and five times returned to the battle.

But that’s what he did.


Wa Post: A farm boy became a fearsome warrior at Iwo Jima. And he did it with a flamethrower.


TG
LSU Fan
Metairie
Member since Sep 2004
2718 posts

re: 75 years ago right now...the island of Iwo Jima became Hell on earth
Semper Fi


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GooseSix
Atlanta Braves Fan
Member since Jun 2012
14135 posts
 Online 

re: 75 years ago right now...the island of Iwo Jima became Hell on earth
Great post! Semper Fi!


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NPComb
LSU Fan
Member since Jan 2019
6931 posts
 Online 

re: 75 years ago right now...the island of Iwo Jima became Hell on earth
The Greatest Generation!


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