This little painting was saved in a metal box for seventy years. Tucked away with a few old photographs, a few dozen letters, and the odd newspaper clipping. All saved by Margretta Wood, in memory of her son who didn’t come home from the Pacific.
I don’t know who did the painting, or who it was originally meant to depict, but it’s plain to see who Margretta believed it was. And it does rather suggest him, anyway–the tall, skinny lieutenant from the mortar section, from Swarthmore, from Hastings.
He never made it back, died saving lives instead of taking them, and maybe there are still some families on Saipan who tell the story of the tall, skinny American who saved their mothers and their siblings from a cave up in the hills, just the way we still tell and remember it, not all the time but sometimes, and on days like today most of all.
In the cold New York winter of 1944, Margretta received a small package from the Marine Corps. It had his snapshots, his ring, his cigarette lighter, and a carefully bound stack of letters–all the letters she and her daughter had written to their son and brother for the past two years, a perfect match to the pile she was perhaps already saving in the black metal box for safekeeping.
The receipt for the package also lists “2 Paintings.”
This, perhaps, is one.
Kept because she thought her son must have liked it. Kept because it belonged to him. Kept because it reminded her of him, in that black metal box that was passed down to her daughter, and then eventually to a cross-generational cousin who never met Phil Wood, but does remember him, and shares this memento so that others can, too.
Seventy years ago today, a nineteen-year-old ammunition carrier from Sylvania, Ohio, saved a man’s life. He made himself a human shield, protecting his friend as shells rained down. He survived four hours on Iwo Jima. His Silver Star award was posthumous.
Many days later, a twenty-four-year-old mortarman from Port Arthur, Texas, picked up a rifle and joined a listening post. He was hit by a grenade, held on all night, and cried for his mother before he died. He survived Guadalcanal and twenty-six days on Iwo Jima. His only distinction was to be the battalion’s last combat casualty.
Between PFC Howard Pratt and PFC Willie Cordon were 138 other deaths. Some were old veterans, in their late teens or early twenties, veterans of three previous campaigns or more. Some were much newer, and their first battle would also be their last. And some arrived in the morning and were dead by afternoon, their time on the line so short that nobody wrote their names on any muster roll, their contribution to the war reduced to an anecdote in a veteran’s story, their faces associated with terrible memories of how they died.
Add to their number nearly 500 men who never saw again, walked again, or slept through the night again. Dozens who still carry pieces of shrapnel in aging bodies but received no recognition. The handful whose memories gave them no mercy, who lived out their natural lives in asylums and hospitals, who engineered their peace with a bottle in their hand or a gun to their temple. Those who simply stopped talking when it was over and never spoke of it again.
And finally those who returned, who lived a normal life, except there was no such thing as normal after what they’d seen and done. Because nobody who set foot on Iwo Jima in February or March of 1945 ever left completely. They all lost something to the island, and in return the island gave them an identity. Whether they wanted it or not. They are Iwo Jima’s Marines. They are proud of it, and rightly so. And they are leaving us. Little by little, but with increasing regularity, their numbers are dwindling. More and more obituaries appear listing seventy years of achievements, but careful to include a simple variation on the sentence “He served on Iwo Jima.”
Those who fought with First Battalion, 24th Marines are only a small part of the Marine legacy. Their story took place not in the famous first wave, or on the slopes of Suribachi. They worked the long slog through locations whose names are either starkly descriptive (Boat Basin, The Quarry, Hill 382) or brutally evocative (The Meat Grinder, Amphitheater, Turkey Knob). They saw the flag go up through binoculars. They thought it signaled victory too soon. Eleven of the 140 died on the day of the flag raising. They came from all walks of life, all areas of the country, and the oldest of all was a relic at thirty-six. Four men turned eighteen during the battle. One turned seventeen. One was rumored to be only fifteen, but died before the truth came out. The roles they played in the final victory ranged from the heroic to the minor, but all contributed, and all should be remembered.
Edward Curylo, late of Baker Company and Headquarters Company, 1/24th Marines, passed away in January. A lifelong resident of Michigan, Mr. Curylo was born in Hamtramck in 1923 and enlisted in the Marine Corps at the age of nineteen. He served as a rifleman in the battles of Saipan and Tinian, then re-trained as a scout prior to the landing on Iwo Jima. Prior to that battle, Mr. Curylo recalled being told “We’re sending you into the jaws of death, and we want you to bring back the jawbone.” Last year, Mr. Curylo was interviewed for the Veteran’s Oral History Project. His hour-long recollection is available online, with a brief excerpt below.
I got hit with a big piece of a shell right in the back of my leg. And I laid there while we were changing positions, we were in a single file, and I’m laying there up on the ground hollering for the corpsman. And all of these guys walking by, nobody wants to stop to help me? So I finally got nerve enough to sit up and take a look at it and I says “Goddamn, the leg is still there!” Another time, we were on Saipan maybe a few days, I had the sole of my shoe cut in half. It stung like hell. I’m laying there again calling for the corpsman, none of my buddies are stopping to help me, so I sat up and fortunately the foot was still there. The only thing was the shoe was cut in half. When I got into a rest spot somewhere, I took my poncho off my gun belt, from carrying it in the back, and the poncho was just riddled with shrapnel. Fortunately none of it reached my body—though maybe it should have. Because I come out far worse. I come out paralyzed.
On Iwo Jima—I hate to say this against the military—but I’ve got all kinds of letters from them, and one states “the military does not make errors.” Okay. They show me up on my discharge papers out of Klamath Falls, Oregon, that I hit the beach on Iwo on the 19th and they carried me off on the 20th. Well if that’s the case, how the hell did I get called in for a scouting mission on the 22nd, looking for a six foot mortar that the Japanese had?
I came back from that patrol trying to find the mortar, which we couldn’t find, reported in to my CO, told him what we saw of course. Coming back, we got into it with a few of the Japanese, four or five or six or whatever. I think we shot a few of them, if we killed them I don’t know, we didn’t stop and ask. When I came back, all my buddies were up on top of the rocks, and I said “well I’ll go up and see them guys.” I got up there, we started talking, and everybody hit the deck except me. I got hit by a shell maybe three or four feet away. I went up in the air, I don’t know how far, but when I came back down I was paralyzed. The only thing that moved was my right arm and my head. I could get up my body a little bit, but everything else was dead. That’s how I missed out on the parades they had on Maui and things of that sort.
As they lifted me up to the hospital ship, all of the guys up on the beach were in a joyous mood. Hooraying and all that kind of baloney, you know? “What the hell’s wrong with these guys, they crazy?” I managed to lift up—I was in this sort of wire cage, and I managed to lift my head up and I took a look at ‘em and they’re dancing around and things. And I looked to Mt. Suribachi, and I saw the flag. Nobody believes that I saw it. And yet how could I not see it if I was there?
And from that point on, my life was completely changed.
Mr. Curylo eventually recovered from his wounds—enough to experience “one of my greatest moments as a Marine,” dancing at the Palladium with Yvonne De Carlo—but concluded “war is hell, I would not recommend it to nobody.” He returned to Michigan and settled in Detroit with his wife, Anna, and three daughters. These photographs were submitted to the 4th Marine Division Association Newsletter by Mr. Curylo, and appeared in the October-November-December 2013 issue.
Semper Fi, Marine.
These 1/24 Marines went to their final duty station in 2014.
|Frank Vargas||Venon Ison||Dale Noyes||Norman Lucas||David Hagerbaumer||J. Murray Fox||Donald Kardok|
|Carl Weber||William Collis||Alfred Eskildsen||Carroll Stout||Kenneth Whitehurst||George May||Chester Hodge|
|Andrew Paleveda||Vincent Treccagnoli|
A little-known nickname for Charlie Company, 24th Marines – even if “dem bums” were “a vigorous minority group affecting the character of the entire outfit.”
(I live in Brooklyn, and can attest to this personality trait.)
This article by correspondent Dan Levin ran in the Brooklyn Eagle on July 29, 1945. Corpsman Haynes received the Bronze Star medal for the actions described herein. (Click the image for full size.)
(And for those wondering about cat-chasing Corporal Ciecierski: either he was a true animal lover or just fundamentally a dog person. Here he is posing with a buddy near a knocked out Japanese tank.)
Photo Source: Martindale Family Tree, uploaded by user “plaxamate1″
A neat souvenir photo of four Baker Company Marines, probably taken late in 1943, and a good representation of the casualties suffered by 1/24 during the war. None of these four men was in combat for more than five cumulative days, yet two were killed and the other two received crippling wounds.
Standing at left is Edward Duclos of West Springfield, Massachusetts. PFC Duclos was killed on Saipan, June 16 1944.
Beside him is Homer L. “Drummer” Hager. Hager, a bazooka man, was wounded in action on Namur, February 1 1944. He returned to the company as a bazooka team leader in a demolitions squad, but was hit a second time, also on June 16, and was permanently removed from combat.
Squatting at left is Ellis Thomas. “Wiley” Thomas, a rifleman, was promoted to corporal following the battle of Namur. He was killed in action on Saipan on June 18, 1944.
It’s interesting to note the coincidence that each pair, standing and kneeling, were hit on the same day, and that in each case the leftmost man lost his life. It’s also easy to imagine that each pair, as buddies and probably squadmates, were fighting close together when they were hit during the first furious days on Saipan.
For good measure, here’s a nice portrait of Everett Tackett in his dress blues from the same source.
New photos of Company A, courtesy of James Krieve. James’ grandfather, PFC Charles Milan Krieve, was born in 1919 and inducted into the Marine Corps in June, 1944. He trained as a mortarman in California before being assigned to the 36th Replacement Draft in December, 1944.
Instead of heading overseas to Iwo Jima, the majority of the 36th appears to have been diverted to Hawaii. When the wrecked 3rd, 4th, and 5th Marine Divisions returned from Iwo in March of 1945, many units drew replacements from this draft. Private Krieve was assigned to the mortar section of Company A immediately after their return from Iwo, and trained with them for the invasion of Japan. These photographs were presumably taken at Camp Maui in the summer of 1945.
If you can identify any of the Marines in these photos, please contact the webmaster!
Charles Krieve served through March, 1946 and was honorably discharged as a private first class. Following the war, he settled in Michigan and raised a family with his wife, Gail, before passing away in 1972. His full biography will be featured following some additional research.
Many thanks to the Krieve family for permission to share these photographs.
A great souvenir of Corporal Bill Logan’s service, kindly provided by his son Brad. This document was probably given to Logan shortly before the regiment demobilized at Camp Pendleton in October 1945, as it has a mix of signatures from veterans returned from rear echelon assignments plus new replacements who joined C/24th Marines just before the end of the war. Most are machine gunners, and are either Logan’s long-time comrades (Glenn Buzzard, Mike Mervosh, Don Marston, Sil Paulini, Wallace Taylor, Carl McMahan) or, probably, junior Marines from the squad he would have led into combat in Japan. A few riflemen signed the paper as well, as did the platoon corpsman, PhM2c Andrew Kane.
Many of those who signed appear in this photo below, also from the Logan family, showing the remnants of Charlie Company after the battle of Iwo Jima. The circled Marine may be Bill Logan, but as Brad Logan says “I should emphasize that the man circled on it is not necessarily Dad (I am not sure and my wife is convinced it is not). For all I know, one of us kids made the circle, thinking it was him but not confirming that with Dad.”
The identities of most of the men in this photograph remain unknown – if you have any further information, please leave a comment!
Two more previously unseen photographs of 1/24 Marines were kindly sent in by their families in the past few weeks.
Photo submitted by Pamela (Santerre) Sloope, daughter of Robert Santerre.
Robert Ulderic Santerre, born September 9, 1925, and raised in Nashua, New Hampshire. Robert enlisted in February, 1943 at the age of seventeen. He spent the first months of his service as a guard at Naval Operating Base, Norfolk, Virginia, then was assigned to the 59th Replacement Draft headed for the Pacific. PFC Santerre was intended to be a replacement for a Second Marine Division casualty of the battle of Saipan, but on July 12, 1944 was attached to the Fourth Marine Division instead. He joined Captain Irving Schechter’s veteran Company A, 1/24th Marines, and twelve days later made his first combat landing with them on the island of Tinian.
Santerre was only on Tinian for a few hours; he was shot in the back during the great Japanese banzai attack early in the morning of July 25, 1944 and evacuated to a hospital ship. The company finished up the campaign without him, and as the surviving Second Marine Division replacements were released back to their original units, those in Able Company who’d gotten to know Santerre in the two weeks before his wounding probably reckoned they had seen the last of him. However, on October 17 1944, Santerre returned to the company. This was unusual in that few of the Second Division men stayed with 1/24, and the explanation probably lay in logistics; Santerre was hospitalized in Hawaii where the Fourth Division was in rest camp, and it was easier to send him there than to ship him to the Second Division’s home on Saipan.
Santerre went on to fight in the battle of Iwo Jima, where he was wounded a second time – again, shot in the back, and in almost the same place as before. This was the end of his combat career. After a lengthy hospital stay, he was honorably discharged as a corporal in time for Christmas, 1945.
After the war, Robert Santerre returned to Nashua, took up a career as a draftsman for General Electric, and started a family. On July 31, 1983, he was brutally attacked and murdered by two individuals who broke into his house and ambushed him in his bedroom. The Nashua Police Department opened the biggest investigation in their history, and finally tracked down the culprits. Pauline Choate (18) and Barry “Bubba” Brown (22) were arrested three months later in San Diego and charged with first degree murder, burglary, and robbery. Both were convicted and sentenced to 12 and 20-life prison terms, respectively.
Santerre, gone before his time, is buried in Massachusetts National Cemetery.
Photo provided by Brad Logan, son of William C. Logan
William Curtis Logan, born August 22, 1918 in Clay Center, Kansas. “Bill” Logan enlisted early in the war, on January 20, 1942, and swept through recruit training at MCRD San Diego. He excelled on the rifle range – note the Sharpshooter’s badge he wears – and immediately after graduation was permanently assigned to the range. Although only a private, Logan was quickly made a coach and through the end of 1943 stayed at the recruit depot, teaching boots how to shoot. He also earned two additional weapons qualifications, as evidenced by the decoration on his uniform.
On February 21, 1944, PFC Logan was assigned to C/1/24th Marines as a machine gunner. He would fight through the battles of Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima with Charlie Company, attaining the rank of corporal and command of his own machine gun squad by the time of his discharge. Always reluctant to talk about his experiences, he did share two close calls with his son, Brad.
“In his 80s he finally described two close calls that he thought were on Iwo Jima, one involving what he called a “knee-mortar” attack on his position that killed or wounded (he wouldn’t describe those details) his two partners of his heavy machine gun team and bent the handle of his gun; and another where he was in a fox hole chatting with a man outside the hole who was helmet-less and killed instantly by sniper-fire. He also recalled vividly a woman wading into the ocean off Marpi Point, Saipan, among those who committed suicide.”