ded reckoning

The Militaristic, Environmental, Telecom blog that doesn't know where it's going

23 February 2005

60th Anniversary of Iwo Jima, have you heard?

You may have seen that the 60th anniversary of the invasion of Iwo Jima was a few days ago (February 19th, 1944). There was some news about it, but it mostly consisted of stories here and there about old men recalling their days in hell. Not much in the big news papers, though the WSJ had a good commentary by historian, Arthur Herman, trying to compare the fortitude needed to capture Iwo with the fortitude needed today to defeat the Islamists. You can take that or leave it, but the stories are pretty amazing if you took the time to read them. Or compare them to some of the exploits that get little if any play in the press today on what a Marine or Soldier did to earn a Navy Cross or Silver Star today in Afghanistan or Iraq.

The NYT did print a pretty good story about 1st Lt Jack Lummus, of Echo/2/27, defensive end with the NY Giants before joining the Marines and earning the MOH posthumously on Iwo. Of course they put it in the sports section.

When the advance stalled, Lummus charged ahead of his men and stormed the Japanese positions alone. He was knocked down by the explosion of a hand grenade, but he moved forward once more, firing into a Japanese emplacement and destroying it.
He was hit by another grenade, this time sustaining a shoulder wound. He rose again, killed the defenders in a second Japanese outpost and implored his men to follow him as he continued to fire.
Then came a fearsome blast, and when his fellow marines reached Lummus, they found him on the ground, both legs blown away by a land mine. He ordered his men to keep moving. Inspired and enraged, the marines swept ahead and reached their coastal objective.


Go find the story of SFC Paul R. Smith who just got recognized for doing pretty much the same thing in Iraq in 2003.

A few facts to give you some of the scale (as we learned it in Boot Camp): 77,000 Marines took the island in 36 days, killing over 20,000 Japanese, and wining 22 MOHs--the largest all-Marine Corps battle in history and the first assault on Japanese territory during WWII.

The Marine Corps news web site actually has a pretty good overview of the battle written by lowly LCpl. Daniel J. Redding; probably not even old enough to have a granddad who fought there (my own father served on Guam during the war, servicing B-29s between bombing runs to Tokyo which tells you how old I am).

Also, go to Gunny Gs Blog to read about the first flag raising (not the second, which became the model for the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington). GySgt Gaines has kind of a fetish about getting traditions in the Marine Corps right and he seems to hate the fact that Ira Hayes and his comrades got the credit for doing what another unit did (Joe Rosenthal’s famous picture was the second flag raising if you don’t know that already). Not a big deal in my book, they all lived and died on that island by themselves with their friends and enemies. I doubt the survivors would take the trouble of distinguishing who raised the first flag, just who was buried below it.

But history needs to be as right as possible, so I salute him for this and the informative links he provides about Iwo Jima. Reading these accounts and having read about Iwo since I was a young boy, it still amazes me that these men sacraficed so much and asked for so little in return.

Semper Fidelis

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