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Battle for Iwo Jima

Every year at about this time, my thoughts go back to February of 1945, because it was on Monday, Feb. 19, 1945 that U. S. Marines were successful in establishing a small beachhead on the far off Pacific island of Iwo Jima. On that day, after weeks of bombing by ships of the U. S. Navy, the Japanese  troops on the island were raining down heavy fire on the invading U.S. troops on a beach that was so crowded with men and equipment that each enemy missile could not help but kill or wound an American or destroy a piece of equipment.
From the 550-foot high inactive volcano called Mount Suribachi on the extreme south end of the pork chop shaped island, the Japanese fired onto the marines, and at the same time directed Japanese artillery that fired from the north end of the island. Because of its strategic location, the occupation of  Suribachi became the number one priority of  the marines after a beachhead had been established. Holed up inside of the volcano were more than 1,400 Japanese
It was the fifth day of the battle before the great dome  was neutralized by U.S. artillery to the point that  Marines of Company E, Second Battalion, Fifth Marine Division could be sent up the steep slope of the volcano. Paths that led to the top had been torn away by American shelling, causing ascent to the top to be an almost impossible task, especially with heavy packs and weapons. By this time caves  housing Japanese troops had been sealed off by naval gunfire, imprisoning many enemy troops within. The mountain appeared to hold no human life when Lt. Harold G. Schrier and 40 men started up the steep north slope of the volcano that was to become one of the most famous landmarks in American warfare.
Before Schrier’s colonel handed him a small American flag about three feet long, with orders to seize the crest of Suribachi, and hold it, and to run the flag up. When they reached the top, they found a 20-foot section of  metal pipe. Pressing one end into the volcanic ash, the end with the small flag  was pushed by six marines to a vertical position, where the wind caught the flag, and sent it ruffling over the first American occupation of the Japanese homeland in World War II. Located  740 miles south of  Tokyo,  Iwo  Jima  was considered  a part of the homeland.
Sergeant Louis R. Lowery, a marine combat photographer for the marine magazine, Leatherneck stood on the rim of the volcano and snapped a picture as the flag went up. It is no wonder that the instant that the flag started up, two Japanese soldiers carrying hand grenades  burst forth from a cave. One grenade was meant for the flag. It missed when the man who threw it was shot, and fell back into the crater. The other one was meant for Sgt. Lowery. It missed Lowery, but in dodging it, he and his camera went sliding toward the ocean. He climbed 50 feet or so back to the top. and later his camera was recovered, and the film saved. But these films were not the ones that would show the world the famous flag raising.
The men who raised the first flag were Lt. Schrier, Sgt. Ernest  Thomas, Jr., Henry  O. Hansen, Cpl. C. W. Lindberg, P.F.C. James Michels, and Private Louis Charlo, a member of the Flathead Indian Tribe. This should have been enough of a sacrifice for these six brave men, but it was not. More fighting lay ahead. Before the battle for Iwo Jima ended, Sgt. Thomas was killed on the north end of the island on his twentieth birthday. Private Charlo was killed by enemy fire, and Corp. Lindberg and P.F.C. Michels were wounded. 
Ironically, by a strange twist of fate, these men’s names do not stand out as heroes of the battle of Iwo Jima, but the ones remembered, and who’s names are cast in bronze are the men who posed for the historic photograph made two hours later by Associated Press Photographer Joe Rosenthal.
Sixty four years ago, I stood on the deck of a troop  transport waiting my turn to be among the first Americans to set foot on the Japanese homeland in World War II. Old Glory was already waving atop Mount Suribachi, announcing to the world, “The Marines have landed.”
Sixty-one thousand Japanese and twenty-four thousand Americans fought 26 days for the five-mile long pork chop shaped island before America became the victor. Of the eighty-five thousand Japanese and Americans who took part in the campaign, one of every three were killed. One of every two became battle casualties. And people  wonder why I hate war. 

Lloyd Mathews is a retired land surveyor and a historian who lives in Pulaski.

Battle for Iwo Jima

Every year at about this time, my thoughts go back to February of 1945, because it was on Monday, Feb. 19, 1945 that U. S. Marines were successful in establishing a small beachhead on the far off Pacific island of Iwo Jima. On that day, after weeks of bombing by ships of the U. S. Navy, the Japanese  troops on the island were raining down heavy fire on the invading U.S. troops on a beach that was so crowded with men and equipment that each enemy missile could not help but kill or wound an American or destroy a piece of equipment.
From the 550-foot high inactive volcano called Mount Suribachi on the extreme south end of the pork chop shaped island, the Japanese fired onto the marines, and at the same time directed Japanese artillery that fired from the north end of the island. Because of its strategic location, the occupation of  Suribachi became the number one priority of  the marines after a beachhead had been established. Holed up inside of the volcano were more than 1,400 Japanese
It was the fifth day of the battle before the great dome  was neutralized by U.S. artillery to the point that  Marines of Company E, Second Battalion, Fifth Marine Division could be sent up the steep slope of the volcano. Paths that led to the top had been torn away by American shelling, causing ascent to the top to be an almost impossible task, especially with heavy packs and weapons. By this time caves  housing Japanese troops had been sealed off by naval gunfire, imprisoning many enemy troops within. The mountain appeared to hold no human life when Lt. Harold G. Schrier and 40 men started up the steep north slope of the volcano that was to become one of the most famous landmarks in American warfare.
Before Schrier’s colonel handed him a small American flag about three feet long, with orders to seize the crest of Suribachi, and hold it, and to run the flag up. When they reached the top, they found a 20-foot section of  metal pipe. Pressing one end into the volcanic ash, the end with the small flag  was pushed by six marines to a vertical position, where the wind caught the flag, and sent it ruffling over the first American occupation of the Japanese homeland in World War II. Located  740 miles south of  Tokyo,  Iwo  Jima  was considered  a part of the homeland.
Sergeant Louis R. Lowery, a marine combat photographer for the marine magazine, Leatherneck stood on the rim of the volcano and snapped a picture as the flag went up. It is no wonder that the instant that the flag started up, two Japanese soldiers carrying hand grenades  burst forth from a cave. One grenade was meant for the flag. It missed when the man who threw it was shot, and fell back into the crater. The other one was meant for Sgt. Lowery. It missed Lowery, but in dodging it, he and his camera went sliding toward the ocean. He climbed 50 feet or so back to the top. and later his camera was recovered, and the film saved. But these films were not the ones that would show the world the famous flag raising.
The men who raised the first flag were Lt. Schrier, Sgt. Ernest  Thomas, Jr., Henry  O. Hansen, Cpl. C. W. Lindberg, P.F.C. James Michels, and Private Louis Charlo, a member of the Flathead Indian Tribe. This should have been enough of a sacrifice for these six brave men, but it was not. More fighting lay ahead. Before the battle for Iwo Jima ended, Sgt. Thomas was killed on the north end of the island on his twentieth birthday. Private Charlo was killed by enemy fire, and Corp. Lindberg and P.F.C. Michels were wounded. 
Ironically, by a strange twist of fate, these men’s names do not stand out as heroes of the battle of Iwo Jima, but the ones remembered, and who’s names are cast in bronze are the men who posed for the historic photograph made two hours later by Associated Press Photographer Joe Rosenthal.
Sixty four years ago, I stood on the deck of a troop  transport waiting my turn to be among the first Americans to set foot on the Japanese homeland in World War II. Old Glory was already waving atop Mount Suribachi, announcing to the world, “The Marines have landed.”
Sixty-one thousand Japanese and twenty-four thousand Americans fought 26 days for the five-mile long pork chop shaped island before America became the victor. Of the eighty-five thousand Japanese and Americans who took part in the campaign, one of every three were killed. One of every two became battle casualties. And people  wonder why I hate war. 

Lloyd Mathews is a retired land surveyor and a historian who lives in Pulaski.