Tags: Memoriam

In Memoriam

Friday, 24 May 2002 12:00 AM

The island was well named – Iwo Jima, Japanese for Sulphur Island. In a matter of minutes, the Marines huddled in the open on the volcanic sand under intense enemy fire had another name for this evil strip of black sand – Hell!

Over 25,000 tough, hardened, fanatical Japanese soldiers held the island, concealed in the hundreds of caves that honeycombed the landscape.

Among the Marines facing them were the men of D Company, 2nd Battalion, 26th Marines, 5th Marine Division. In the weeks of bitter fighting to come, this unit would suffer so many casualties the Division history would single it out to illustrate how deadly the battle for Iwo Jima had been.

To readers of that history, the casualty list is an interesting statistic. To me, it is a mournful dirge – these men were my fellow Marines, men I'd trained with, gone on liberty to Los Angeles and San Diego with when we were training at Camp Pendleton, sailed off with into the Pacific theater – and from whom, through the grace of God, I was separated before they made their one-way journey into Hell.

Hardly any of them lived to see the end of the battle. The casualty rate for the 2nd Battalion was 95 percent of the officers and 98 percent of the enlisted men.

It was of these men and the other Marines who fought and died there that Adm. Chester Nimitz said, "Uncommon valor was a common virtue."

There was 16-year-old Paul Pugh from Salt Lake City, Utah – a sweet-tempered kid we called Chicken. My closest friends, Leo Oster from Ohio and Byron Lindsley from New Orleans. They never left Iwo. Nor did one of the Crabtree twins. His brother crawled out into heavy fire to drag his dead twin's body back.

Marty Gelshannan, a second lieutenant and a kind mentor, died there – but not before earning a Navy Cross, the Navy's second-highest decoration.

And there was the Marine who replaced me when I was brought back to the States to attend the Naval Academy Prep School. I don't know what his name was, but I know he died alongside Paul Pugh. It shouldn't bother me that another man was my proxy in death – but it does.

It shouldn't bother me that I was not there, sharing the horror of that unspeakable battle with my friends and fellow Marines. But it does.

There's nothing I can do about it but remember those men. Almost 7,000 Marines – fathers, sons, husbands – died on Iwo Jima 57 years ago. Please say a prayer for them.

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The island was well named - Iwo Jima, Japanese for Sulphur Island. In a matter of minutes, the Marines huddled in the open on the volcanic sand under intense enemy fire had another name for this evil strip of black sand - Hell! Over 25,000 tough, hardened, fanatical...
Memoriam
434
2002-00-24
Friday, 24 May 2002 12:00 AM
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