Sunday, February 19, 2012

Guest post from Officer Cynical

Today, February 19, 2012, marks the 67th anniversary of the Marines' landing on the island of Iwo Jima. 70,000 U.S. Marines and support troops went ashore against 22,060 entrenched Japanese.

On March 26, 1945, when the island was declared secured, 6,812 Americans (10%) were dead or missing, and an additional 19,217 (27%) had been wounded. Of the defending Japanese force, only 217 were captured. The remaining 21,844 (99%) were killed.

27 Medals of Honor were awarded (13 posthumously) - over one-fourth of all the MOHs awarded to Marines in all of WWII.

I recently had the honor of meeting an Iwo Jima survivor at an assisted living facility. He summed it up this way: "The Japs would not surrender. They wouldn't come out of their caves. So, we burned them out with our flamethrowers, then shot them with our rifles. It was awful".

The picture I've included is not the one you might expect - the flag-raising on Mt. Suribachi. Rather, it is a landing craft of "average" Marines, most in their 20's, throwing themselves into the raging inferno, despite their fears and trepidations. Home must have seemed like a distant planet. We owe them everything.


19 comments:

Officer Cynical said...

On a personal note: My dad had already returned stateside after spending 18 months in the Pacific, when he and two friends applied for transfers to 4th Marine Division. 4MarDiv was island-hopping their way to Japan, with Iwo Jima as their next stop, and my dad and his friends wanted in on it. My dad was turned down (slated for Japanese language school, in case of a mainland invasion), but his two friends got their transfers. Both were killed on Iwo. It reminds me of a line from Eric Idle's Galaxy Song: "So remember, when you're feeling very small and insecure, how amazingly unlikely is your birth..."

bobbie said...

A beautiful post ~ thanks for reminding us how much we owe them ~

Rick said...

the greatest generation, for sure.

Captain Foulenough said...

Goddamit. Who the hell is chopping onions in here? *sniffle

Mike said...

I met a WWII vet at the local VA clinic not too long ago. He had been in the Fourth MarDiv, and slated for the Iwo Jima invasion.

He told me, "I was lucky: I got malaria."

Anonymous said...

we are grateful. and must learn not to send our young into violent conflict.

VetGirl20 said...

Definitely the greatest generation. I had the honor of sitting on the Honor Flight from DFW to DC when I traveled to run the Marine Corps Marathon last October. WWII vets are flown to DC to visit their memorial & others. The stories one 92 year old vet shared with me were certainly inspiring for my run!

Roger said...

The business I work at was started by an Iwo Jima Marine. 3 purple hearts and a Silver Star. There are several local men who are also veterans of Iwo. One also did Tinian and Saipan. Never scratched, now he is a minister.

It is awe inspiring to listen to them talk about their experiences. Men who have actually seen the Flag flying over Mt. Suribachi.

Roger

Karen Whiddon said...

Thanks for this. I do miss Officer Cynical's blog. Sniff.

Anonymous said...

Yes, we do owe them a debt - once which we can never repay.

foffmom said...

My neighbor, who died two years ago, was one of those Marines. He was a Marine all of his life. Difficulties merely indicated the need to work harder. Convincing him to rest when he got angina was impossible. I think he at least carried his nitro more because of my lectures. They really were the Greatest Generation, they saved our world from a horror beyond imagining.

Erika said...

The 19th of February also marks the anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin. The Japanese attacked Darwin to stop Australia from blocking their planned invasion of Timor. It was the first attack by an enemy nation on Australian soil in a time of war. Until then Aussie soldiers had only ever gone overseas to aid other nations with their battles. My Great-Uncle Laurie was based in Darwin with the Royal Australian Air Force during WW2. I wonder if he witnessed the attack. He died in a Japanese Prisoner of War camp in Indonesia; executed by the guards just 2 days after the war ended.

Anonymous said...

It's a sad thing, the loss of humanity. No matter where we serve, as citizens of any society we owe a debt to all who choose to serve as warriors for a country, in defending ideals in support of a nation, its society and culture.

Cay Nakajima

amanda said...

One of my most favorite parts of working in medicine has been getting to care for these vets and listen to their stories. Modest, brave, loyal and truly, truly patriotic. We owe them, the least part is to never forget what they were fighting for.

Justin Unbounded said...

I knew a Marine who was at Guadalcanal. All I ever could get out of him was, "Yes, I was there." And then he would refuse to discuss it anymore. He would also have this pained, remorseful look upon his face. This was 50 later. So who knows what he saw.

Trish said...

We do owe them everything. My grandfather was one of those Marines - just as his grandson, my son is today. He was 19. But is it wrong for me to point out that Feb. 19th is also the 70th anniversary of the day the FDR signed executive order 9066 that sent tens of thousands of Japanese American's to internment camps? And of those interred, the ones who joined the military to fight for the country that imprisoned them - the 442nd Combat Regiment (made up of these internees) remains the most decorated regiment in the history of the US Armed Forces and includes 21 Medal of Honor recipients alone? I'm not trying to diminish the sacrifices of Iwo Jima, I just wish our rememberances were broader, and for us to remember so it doesn't happen again. Don't forget how we reacted after 9/11. It could have just as easily happened again.

Packer said...

My entire boyhood neighborhood was populated by Dads who came home. They were indeed solid citizens. When my own father died, they were dying at the rate of 1000 per day. A live bugler could not be located,such was the demand. which was ironic for my father was among other things the bugler while he served.

Hildy said...

My father was somewhere in the south Pacific. He would never say where, never had any "stories" about his time there (yet he sure had an endless supply of stories about the other 30 years he spent in the service!). Once only he remarked that neither side was totally blameless, then gave me an example which I won't recount here (too gruesome). Don't misunderstand. My gratitude and admiration for the men who enlisted and fought is enormous. It's just that inhumanity begets inhumanity, and that makes me wish there were other ways to deal with conflicts, greed, imperialism, and all the other motives that cause nations to start wars.

Anonymous said...

trish- great grandson?

 
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