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The Case for Thomas Underwood: Part 1

Author’s Note: Several months ago, an editor from Military History Magazine contacted me about a discussion among his readers concerning the identity of a man on a magazine cover.

Military History Magazine, November 2013.

In recent years, the identity of the man in this iconic World War II photograph has caused a bit of debate. Some now believe that the warrior, captioned as a war-weary Marine on Saipan, is in fact an Army sergeant named Angelo KlonisIn my opinion, this is incorrect for a number of reasons. In the following posts, I will explain my reasons for stating that the man pictured is PFC Thomas E. Underwood of B/1/24th Marines.

Seven months after this photo was taken, Underwood was killed in action on Iwo Jima at the age of twenty-two. His untimely death likely meant he never knew how his chance encounter with W. Eugene Smith would live on; he had no wife or children, and whether his family ever recognized their son and brother in the photograph is also unknown. If Smith’s original notes are correct, as I believe they are, the three photographs are the only remaining legacy of Thomas Ellis Underwood.

I do not intended to tarnish the service of Sergeant Klonis or censure the efforts of his family to honor their hero. I simply wish to recognize the sacrifice of the correct young man. Part 1 will focus on the story of “Ellis” Underwood himself. Part 2 will address the specifics of the analysis.

***

In a fraction of a second, the man became immortal.

He trudged up the hill, the latest in a long string of hills he’d scaled since landing on the island of Saipan twenty-three days ago. He was tired. Hungry. Haunted by the things he’d seen. He’d been evacuated on the first of the month, then talked his way back to the lines to celebrate Independence Day with his comrades. The weather was dry and hot, the carbine he carried thumped against his back, and the snapping of rifle fire not far away told him this eighth day of July, 1944, was far from over. As he reached for the canteen at his belt, he caught the attention of a cluster of photographers. 

Soldier Drinking From His CanteenPhoto by Stanley Troutman/ACME

The man took a swig of tepid water, stolidly ignoring the snapping shutter as he passed the newsmen. One shot in three-quarters, another in profile, and the moment passed.

Underwood 2Photo by W. Eugene Smith/ACME

Then, finally, the man reached for the other essential of life on Saipan—a cigarette. He lit. Inhaled. Perhaps the photographers called out to him, or perhaps he merely glanced back to check on his squad, but something caused the man to glance back over his right shoulder. The shutter clicked a final time.

underwood 3 Photo by W. Eugene Smith/ACME

Suspecting that he’d taken a good shot, one photographer asked the man’s name and hometown, for the record. Then they parted ways, never to meet again.

The photographers were Stanley Troutman[1] and W. Eugene Smith, both shooting for ACME Newspictures. In his notebook, Smith jotted:

“…the images 6-8 on Roll 10 on July 8, final days of Saipan Invasion, were 4th Division Marine PFC T. E. Underwood (24th Bat.) of St. Petersburg, Florida. A portrait of a weary warrior who has been through one of the toughest days of his life. And still at the moment the picture was taken under fire.”

Troutman, writing his captions more poetically, noted:

 “Hot and weary after fighting on the western beaches below Saipan’s Mt. Marpi, marine PFC T.E. Underwood of St. Petersburg, Fla., takes a long, cool drink of water from his canteen. Beads of perspiration glisten on the weary leatherneck’s unshaven face.”

Saipan was declared secure the following day. The negatives traveled to publishers in the United States, where Smith’s photos of the tired man on Saipan were met with widespread acclaim—and would, in the end, outlive a young Marine named Thomas Ellis Underwood.

***

Thomas Underwood—“Ellis” to his family – was born in Parker, Florida on May 16, 1922.

He was a late addition to the family of George Alpheus and Cora (Crosson) Underwood, following Iva (1909), John (1911), Hazel (1913), and George Washington Underwood (1915); only Alpheus Edison Underwood (1924) arrived later.[2] In 1925, the Underwoods relocated from Bay County to Pinellas, and settled in St. Petersburg.

The solidly blue-collar Underwoods were a fairly typical family of the era. George supported his family by working as a mechanic, while Cora kept house. Iva married a man named John Wagner and moved to Texas, but following his death in 1931 returned to the family home with her daughter Isabelle. Hazel married and moved out in 1933. The large size of the family put greater emphasis on employment than education for the Underwood boys; John, George W. and Ellis averaged a year or two of high school apiece before going to work as carpenters, bakers, or laborers.[3]

Even in the Depression years, Florida was a haven for recreational fishermen and professional anglers; St. Petersburg, located conveniently between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico was something of a sportsman’s Mecca and a series of bait and tackle shops sprung up to cater to the demand. One of the most popular was the Florida Fishing Tackle Manufacturing Company, founded in 1923 and acquired in the 1930s by brothers Jack, Carl, and B. T. Reynolds. In the late 1930s, the shop gained fame for their handmade Barracuda brand lures, which came in distinctively printed boxes. The Reynolds brothers expanded into a complete line of equipment that made Florida Fishing Tackle a household name among Sunshine State fishermen.

One of Florida’s famous fisherman, Philip Porter Dalton in the 1940s. Dalton would later contract with Florida Fishing Tackle to produce a line of lures. 

George W. got into the lure-making business at around this time, and in 1940, eighteen-year-old Ellis became the newest Florida Fishing Tackle employee. For the sum of eighteen dollars a week, Ellis toiled over machinery making fishing rods and winding block line. His home was five miles from the factory, but only one mile from some of the best fishing in Tampa Bay, and it can be supposed that the Underwood brothers spent a good deal of their free time contemplatively casting their lures.

Alluring in a different sense, this advertisement for the Barracuda brand was photographed sometime in the 1940s. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.

By the summer of 1941, Thomas Ellis Underwood was a grown man. Although not exceptionally tall or brawny (he stood 5’9” and tipped the scales at 140 pounds), he was extremely athletic; during his short tenure in high school, he managed to participate in baseball, softball, football, basketball, and boxing. His short black hair offset a pair of piercing blue eyes set in a ruddily complexioned face, which was constantly tanned by the Florida sun as Ellis pursued his favorite leisure time hobbies of swimming, hunting, and horseback riding. Yet there were clouds on the horizon, and the first hint of the coming storm arrived in August 1941: George Washington Underwood resigned from his job at the tackle factory to enlist in the U.S. Army.[4]

***

Four months later, the United States was at war.

In the fall of 1942, Ellis and Alpheus made their way to Orlando, parting ways at the recruitment office. Alpheus stood on line to speak to a Navy recruiter, while Ellis joined the group waiting for the United States Marine Corps.[5] He was poked and examined, fingerprinted and questioned, sworn in and told to remember his service number (486672). Within days, he was on his way to Parris Island.

Thomas Underwood's enlistment photo, taken at Parris Island, 1942.

Thomas Underwood’s enlistment photo, taken at Parris Island, 1942.

 Photograph provided courtesy of  Golden Arrow Military Research.

One year later, PFC Underwood was a proud member of Company B, 24th Marines, part of the brand new Fourth Marine Division. He could march for miles, live outdoors without complaint, maneuver a rubber boat in heavy surf, camouflage a position, lead a fire team, and had appeared as an extra in the Hollywood feature film Guadalcanal Diary. He was capable with a rifle, dangerous with a carbine, and deadly with a bayonet. His disciplinary record was clean (he carried three copies of the New Testament in his pack) as was his health (although he also carried a pair of glasses). He was, by all accounts, an outstanding young Marine and ready to be tried in combat.

b_underwoodPFC Thomas Underwood, photographed in the fall of 1943. Photo appears in the 24th Marines “Red Book” published in that year.

PFC Underwood first saw combat on the island of Namur when his company faced down a Japanese banzai attack at dawn on February 2, 1944. No accounts of his actions in this fight are known to survive, but the destruction of an entire platoon—nearly a third of his company—meant many vacancies on the promotion list.[6] PFC Underwood was examined for promotion, and re-graded with the MOS of 737 (rifle platoon NCO) at Camp Maui on April 1, 1944. Although he was not given the second stripe of a corporal, T. E. Underwood could now be counted on to lead a squad—and by the time he encountered the photographers on Saipan, that’s exactly what he was doing. And he was doing it well; on July 18, he was awarded his corporal’s stripes and a commendation from his division commander, General Clifton Cates.

For excellent service in the line of his duties while serving as a squad leader of a rifle squad during the invasion and capture of Saipan, Marianas Islands, from 15 June to 9 July, 1944. His courageous leadership, initiative, and devotion to duty were an inspiration to those in whose charge he had been placed and his willingness to give battle aided materially to the success of his organization.

From July 24 to August 5, Corporal Underwood fought through the battle of Tinian; he posed for a photograph with his comrades following this third campaign. In high spirits, Underwood donned a civilian hat and held up a Japanese flag for the camera.

underwood_tinianCorporal Thomas Underwood (center rear) on Tinian, August 5 1944. Underwood was identified in this photo by B Company veteran, T/Sgt. John F. Nash.

At Camp Maui that winter, Ellis Underwood hoped fervently for the chance to go home or transfer Stateside. It was not to be: the veteran corporal was needed to train the influx of new replacements. Underwood savored the two Christmas cards he received that year; rumors about another big invasion were already swirling, but the experienced hands scarcely needed to be told something was up. Training facilities at Camp Maui had been expanded, allowing for extra emphasis on practice with demolitions. Whatever lay ahead wasn’t going to be pretty.

***

Back in Florida, George and Cora Underwood anxiously followed the news from the Pacific.

They had last seen Ellis in February of 1943; two years later the newspapers were carrying reports of a major battle at a place called Iwo Jima. The Underwoods knew that Ellis’ regiment was involved in the fighting—and having sweated out three campaigns already, they realized their son would have little chance to write until the fighting was over. As February became March, the newspapers continued to report the battle’s unprecedented fury and still there was no word from Ellis.

Finally, on March 27, a letter arrived for the Underwoods. The return address was a Marine Corps unit, but it wasn’t from their son.

Click to view at full size.

Click to view at full size.

This and all following records provided by Golden Arrow Military Research.

George and Cora’s reaction to this news can only be guessed at. Certainly they were relieved that Ellis hadn’t been seriously hurt, and may have assumed that his lack of communication was due to his injury. The news that he had been returned to the fighting instead of taken to the safety of a hospital was far less welcome. They awaited the promised communication “at his earliest opportunity.”

It never came. Two days later, a Western Union telegram crushed the family’s hopes.

Click to view at full size.

Click to view at full size. 

***

Corporal Underwood had indeed been wounded in action in February 1945,

when a blow to the head caused a serious contusion.[7] He was evacuated to the USS Lenawee for treatment; whether he was fully healed or snuck back to shore is not known, but soon he was back with his unit—just in time to begin the attack on Iwo’s infamous “Meat Grinder” complex.

On March 4, Underwood’s platoon ran into fierce opposition from Japanese troops holed up in a fortified trench. The Marine attack faltered, and as Underwood quickly deployed his squad to assault the position, a bullet shattered his trusty carbine. Throwing it aside, he picked up a discarded BAR—there were plenty, casualties had been heavy that day—and, in the words of an officer, “valiantly led a spirited attack against the fiercely defended hostile emplacement” as shells rained down on 2nd Lieutenant Charles Anderson’s platoon.[8] Replacements and veterans alike were hit; some fell wounded, others died.[9]

A shrapnel fragment tore Corporal Underwood’s back apart. One hopes that his suffering was brief, but in the end Underwood did not live long enough to see his squad destroy the enemy position, or his platoon advance through the area and on to the next objective. He was twenty-two years old.

***

Ellis Underwood was buried with as much dignity as possible.

Shortly after his death, he was laid to rest in Row 29, Grave 1406 of the Fourth Marine Division Cemetery on Iwo Jima. His personal effects were carefully catalogued and sent to his parents.

Over the next year, the Underwoods received a series of letters from the Marine Corps, informing them of the decorations their son had earned: the Victory Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the Presidential Unit Citation, the Purple Heart (with gold star; one for his head wound and one for his death) and the Bronze Star with V device for his bravery on Iwo Jima.

Click to view at full size.

Click to view at full size.

Cora Underwood never fully recovered from the news of her son’s death; she died in December 1946, at the age of sixty. The surviving Underwoods would have to wait two more years before they could finally bury their fallen Marine beside his mother in Sunnyside Cemetery.[10]

This article appeared in The Independent, St. Petersburg, Florida on Thursday, October 14, 1948.

Ellis Underwood’s journey had come to an end. His haunting face, however, would live on.

Thomas Underwood’s grave at Sunnyside Cemetery, St. Petersburg. Photo by volunteer Charles Butler.

 

NOTES:

[1] Stanley Troutman would later become known for his photographs of Hiroshima.

[2] A third Underwood daughter, Cora Evelyn Underwood, was born in 1917 but died in infancy.

[3] Underwood’s Marine records are not entirely clear as to his level of education. He appears to have left high school in 1940, having completed two years.

[4] George served from August 16, 1941 – January 3, 1946 with the 1047th Engineer Gas Generating Detachment.

[5] Alpheus served on the harbor tug USS Tuscarora for the duration of the war.

[6] It is possible that Underwood was serving as an assistant BAR gunner on Namur. Underwood had the MOS 746 (automatic rifleman) on the battalion’s muster roll for February 1944. Although his records don’t show any specific training with the notoriously complicated Browning Automatic Rifle, subsequent events on Iwo Jima indicate that he was familiar with the weapon.

[7] The dates of Underwood’s wounding conflict in the records I examined. Battalion muster rolls state he was hit February 22 and evacuated to the USS Hocking, while the letter received by the Underwood family noted February 25. Company B was in heavy action on both of these dates, so either is plausible. Similarly, muster rolls report Underwood returned March 1, while the USS Lewanee claimed he was released from their care February 26. Given the nature of head wounds, it’s possible that Underwood had light duty on the beach from February 26-28 before being allowed back to the front lines.

[8] Charles Renwick Anderson, Jr., a collegiate football star from Brule, Nebraska, had only joined Baker Company a few days before the attack; normally he served with the battalion’s Company C. His posthumous Silver Star citation suggests that he led the platoon involved in this maneuver.

[9] In all, Baker Company lost 6 killed and 27 wounded on March 4. Two of the wounded would die aboard hospital ships in the days that followed.

[10] Today, visitors to Sunnyside Cemetery in St. Petersburg can visit most of the Underwood family. George Washington Underwood was killed in a car wreck in 1957. George Alpheus, the pater familias, passed on in 1959, followed by Hazel (Goss) in 1966 and Iva (Wagner) in 2000.

Venon Harrison Ison (November 19, 1923 – January 13, 2014)

b_ison

Venon “Vic” Ison, former member of First Battalion, 24th Marines, passed away on January 13 at the age of ninety.

Born in Cumberland, Kentucky and raised by Nick and Jane Ison, Venon joined the Marine Corps in 1940 at the age of sixteen; he had wanted to go to college, but his family couldn’t afford the tuition. After completing boot camp, Ison became a member of the Marine detachment of the battleship USS Wyoming (which he was aboard when Pearl Harbor was attacked), and also served aboard the destroyer tender USS Alcor  before being posted to Company D, 24th Marines. As a private first class, Ison served as a squad leader in the battle of Namur, then joined the battalion headquarters company in the spring of 1944.

During the battle of Saipan, PFC Ison volunteered to join a patrol to recover the bodies of fallen American troops. Though he was hit by an enemy sniper, Ison stuck to his mission; he would later comment only that “We got the bodies out, anyway.” For his courage, Ison was promoted to corporal; for his wounds, he received the Purple Heart.

Following the campaign for Tinian, Corporal Ison was transferred out of the battalion. He joined the Fourth Amphibian Truck Company; if there was any hope that this new position would be safer, it was quickly dashed in the invasion of Iwo Jima. On D-Day, Ison’s truck was hit; he woke up floating in the surf with a bad concussion. After being patched up, Ison went back to the island, where he had a second close call; a damaged B-29 overshot the runway on Motoyama Airfield and plowed into his foxhole. Ison survived the war and mustered out in 1946 as a sergeant.

Instead of attending college, Ison applied for Special Services school, but dropped out to join the Army for the Korean War. Commissioned as a first lieutenant, he was on the ground in Korea when the jeep in which he was riding was hit by artillery fire. Ison’s pelvis was crushed, and his recovery was long and painful. However, he returned to the Army, and eventually retired with the rank of major.

For the next 25 years, Ison worked with the Georgia state government. He retired in 1988.

For a full obituary, please visit the Rockdale Citizen; for an interview with Mr. Ison, see the Rockdale News.

 

Frank Hernandez Vargas (August 20, 1924 – January 5, 2014)

Frank H. Vargas, former Baker Company rifleman, passed away in Chicago last month. He enlisted at the age of eighteen, trained at Camp Pendleton with First Battalion, and was badly wounded in the battle of Namur, Kwajalein Atoll, on February 1-2, 1944. Vargas spent the rest of his military career in a series of hospitals before being honorably discharged for disability in 1945, then went on to raise a family in Illinois with his wife Bernice. He has been buried in Mount Carmel Cemetery.

To read his obituary, please visit The Chicago Sun-Times.

b_vargasSemper Fi, Frank.

Dale Henry Noyes (January 21, 1923 – January 17, 2014)

Another First Battalion veteran has left us.

Dale Henry Noyes was born and raised in Victor, Iowa; he grew up on the family farm, graduated from Marengo High School in 1941, and married Jane Furlong in 1943. After receiving his draft notice, he reported to MCRD San Diego in June, 1944, for boot camp. He later qualified as an anti-tank gunner.

Private Noyes was assigned to the 24th Replacement Draft and sailed for the island of Iwo Jima; on February 24, 1945, he was ordered to a rifle platoon of Company C, 24th Marines. Noyes spent four days with the company in reserve, survived a disastrous attack on March 1, and was himself wounded the following day. He was evacuated, never to return to First Battalion; he had served with them for less than a week.

Noyes sailed back to the States aboard the USS Bolivar, spent time in Naval hospitals in Oakland, California and Great Lakes, Illinois, and was eventually deemed fit to return to duty. He spent the remainder of his enlistment at Marine Corps Base Quantico, working with the rifle range detachment, and was promoted to Private First Class before his discharge in March, 1946.

For a full obituary, please visit Kloster Funeral Home.

Baptism of Fire

Seventy years ago today, the Fourth Marine Division invaded the tiny islands of Roi and Namur in the Kwajalein atoll, part of the Marshall Islands. For the vast majority of the First Battalion, 24th Marines, it was their first battle. For a smaller minority, it was their last–physical and mental wounds sent them back to hospitals in the United States and eventual discharge. For thirty-four of them, the battle would be the last thing they ever experienced in this world.

Platoon Sergeant James Adams, 33, of 235 William Street, Orange, New Jersey. Adams left the safety of the rear area to which he was assigned, made his way to the front, and joined an impromptu attack on a Japanese pillbox. He was killed while providing covering fire for a team of trapped Marines, and was awarded the Silver Star.

PFC Frank Olen Boggs, 22, of Copperhill, Tennessee, was shot multiple times through the head and body while defending his position against an enemy counterattack. He was survived by his mother, Bessie.

PFC Edward Grant Galarneau, 23, of 134 Ford Street, Boone, New York. Grant was killed almost immediately after hitting the beach on Namur. Weeks later, Corporal Duane Galarneau was transferred with his squadron to the newly-built American base there. Out of curiosity, he stopped at the Marine cemetery, and discovered Grant’s grave – he hadn’t known his brother was dead. Grant was survived by Stella Rudnik Galarneau, his wife of two years. Mysteriously, he was noted in the muster rolls as “cause of death unknown.”

First Lieutenant Theodore Knapp Johnson, 26, of Massachusetts. “TK” was the executive officer of Company C, a fine singer, and a heavy sleeper – he had nearly missed chow aboard ship on the morning of his landing due to oversleeping. During the advance, he was shot in the leg; although he was speedily evacuated to  the USS Bolivar, Ted Johnson died of his wounds. He was buried at sea the following morning.

Second Lieutenant Donald C. Joy, 28, of 932 West 8th Street, Erie, Pennsylvania. Don Joy was musically talented, and before the war was a bandsman with the Sammy Kaye Orchestra. A sniper’s bullet cut him down as he waded ashore. He left behind a wife and a seventeen-month-old son.

PFC Carroll Robert Meyer, 21, of 400 Stout Avenue, Scotch Plains, New Jersey. Meyer left his studies at Rutgers University to enlist; he was one four Meyer children (Donald, William, and Grace) to join the service.

PFC James Marlow Morgan, 18, of Anna, Texas. Morgan was one of the youngest Marines in the battalion at the time of his death; he had been in the service for just over six months when a bullet to the head ended his life.

Corporal Gentry Deann Moss, 19, of Marana, Arizona. Despite his youth, Moss held the position of fire team leader with a rifle squad of Company B. He was nine days short of his twentieth birthday when he died.

PFC Stephen E. Navara, 22, of Wood, Pennsylvania. Navara carried ammunition for a heavy machine gun; he had been in action only a few hours before being killed.

PFC Howard Allen Parkison, 20, of 22 Hurlbut Avenue, Fairport, New York. “Parkie” was a well known and much respected young man in his hometown; a notable figure on Fairport High’s athletic teams. He enlisted in the Marines the summer after he graduated, and earned the fast respect of the other machine gunners of Company D. He was shot and killed as night was falling on February 1. His platoon leader wrote to the grieving family: “Throughout the day, Howie’s great physical energy and manifest courage was an inspiration not only to his own men, but his example encouraged me, his leader, to greater effort that I might have otherwise displayed. His gun was continually firing when at dusk his position received a sudden volume of fire, the gunner being wounded by the first burst…. I saw the no. 1 gunner wounded, and I saw Howie jump in behind the gun to keep it in action as the gunner crawled clear. A few seconds later I saw your son fall beside his gun. It took me less than 30 seconds to get there but it was too late. He died almost immediately, without pain or outcry.” Parkie was one of the first Fairport boys to lose his life in the war, and the news sent shockwaves though the small community; for years afterwards, schoolchildren would observe two minutes silence in memory of “Fairport’s Marine Hero.”

PFC George Washington Pate, 21, of Buhl, Alabama. Pate, a radioman with Headquarters Company, was a bit of a troublemaker. He was still paying off a disciplinary debt when his battalion shipped out for Namur; after spending most of the voyage in the laundry rooms of the USS DuPage, Pate loudly announced, “I ain’t gonna wash them God-damn officer’s dirty skivvies” to the wrong person, and was summarily thrown into the brig. On the morning of February 1, a sympathetic guard sprung Pate from confinement, and the young Southerner hustled off to find his gear. He attached himself to the commander of Company B and relayed messages as ordered; yet when he saw a wounded Marine lying helpless and exposed in the open, Pate ran over to help. He never made it; a bullet caught him in the neck and Pate died choking on his own blood.

Sergeant Fred Brim Penninger, 23, of 501 Hovis Circle, Charlotte, North Carolina. “FB” had a busy day; wounded in the face by shrapnel shortly after landing, he refused to be evacuated and instead kept leading his squad, blood seeping through his bandages. In his first battle, the intrepid sergeant distinguished himself by deliberately drawing sniper fire, braving enemy bullets to place marking panels for strafing aircraft, and leading a successful attack on a troublesome pillbox. When a banzai attack threatened to overrun his platoon, Penninger acted as a spotter for his company mortars, calling in rounds within 35 meters of his position – an act which some Marines believe saved their line from being overwhelmed. The gallant sergeant stayed behind to cover the withdrawal of his men; he was found the next morning with fatal bullet wounds to the head and body. Penninger was summarily recommended for, and later received, the Navy Cross.

PFC Carmen Ramputi, 19, of 109 Verplanck Avenue, Beacon, New York. A “big Italian boy who was always in trouble,” Ramputi was the lovable company clown of his Company D. His death from an exploding shell devastated his comrades; their outpourings of grief in the letters they sent to Ramputi’s mother are a beautiful testament to the young Marine’s impact on his outfit.

Brigadier General Robert Denig visits his son's grave on Namur. PFC Carmen Ramputi (D/1/24) is buried at top right.

Brigadier General Robert Denig visits his son’s grave on Namur. PFC Carmen Ramputi (D/1/24) is buried at top right.

PFC Carl Edward Cooper, 25, of Rand, West Virginia. Cooper enlisted in August 1942 – his serial number was just one off from his younger brother, Howard. The Coopers went through boot camp and advanced infantry training together, and ended up being posted to the same company of machine gunners. Carl was shot down at his brother’s side on Namur; Howard was never the same after losing his sibling, and developed a reputation for dangerous drinking and fighting. Though he survived the war, Howard never truly got over Carl’s death, and was running with a fast crowd when he lost his life in a car accident in 1947, at the age of 24.

PFC Stewart C. Donnelly, 20, of 59-64 61st Street, Maspeth, Flushing, New York. Donnelly was a graduate of PS 72 and Grover Cleveland High School, and had something of a military background, being active in the Garity Legion (American Legion Post 562) Fife, Drum, and Bugle Corps. Donnelly was shot in the stomach and died before medical help could reach him on February 2, 1944.

Sergeant John C. Drumright, 26, of 320 Tyus Street, Brownsville, Tennessee. Drumright was a spit-and-polish “old salt” Marine; he’d enlisted in 1940 and was stationed in Washington DC when Pearl Harbor was attacked. As a buck sergeant, he was the NCO in charge of the Marine detachment at Naval Air Station Anacostia before being transferred to the Fleet Marine Force. Although he had three years in the Corps by the invasion of Namur, Drumright had never been tested in battle – and never would again. A bursting shell or grenade took his life on the night of February 1-2, 1944.

Lieutenant Colonel Aquilla James Dyess, 35, of 1304 Monte Sano Avenue, Augusta, Georgia. The commander of First Battalion, known as “Jimmie,” “Big Red,” “The Old Man,” and any other number of sobriquets, Dyess was well regarded as a leader – tough, but fair. For Dyess, too, this was a baptism of fire; reports differ on his handling of combat – his radioman likened him to “a crazy person,” while others found his gung-ho leadership inspiring. (Dyess, it was noted, sported a red bandanna during the battle, which offset his copper-colored hair.) By all accounts, Dyess was a bit of a hard-charger – he elected to lead his battalion’s assault on February 2 in person, declining to take cover, “fearless to the point of being foolhardy,” with even PFCs telling him to take cover – “but he’d only wave his Tommy gun at them and say he was a lucky Irishman.” Jimmie Dyess was shot down by a Japanese machine gun just before his attack broke through the last of the Japanese resistance; his actions were deemed worthy of the Medal of Honor, the only one to be awarded to First Battalion during the war. The airfield captured on neighboring Namur is still called “Dyess Army Air Field” in his honor. Though many praised his bravery, some of his men felt that Dyess received his award “just for breathing.”

PFC Frank Fawthrop, Jr., 24, of 99 Marblehead Street North, Andover, Massachusetts. Frankie was a first generation American; his father, Frank Senior, was a British Army veteran of the Great War. Whether his experience influenced or hindered Frankie’s decision to enter the service is unknown, as are many other details of the life the young Marine lived before multiple bullet wounds brought it to an end.

PFC Stephen Peter Hopkins, 18, of 53 Washington Road, Newport, Rhode Island, had every reason not to be on Namur. His father, Harry Hopkins, was one of FDR’s most trusted advisors (Steve’s next-of-kin information was routed via the White House, much to the consternation of his company’s clerks and commander); Steve himself had been a shoe-in for Officer Candidate’s School, where he could have easily written his ticket to a comfortable, career-enhancing rear-echelon job. However, young Hopkins had no desire to simply sit out the war. He dropped out of OCS, joined the Corps as an enlisted man, and followed his DI to Company A, First Battalion, 24th Marines. Placed in the weapons platoon, he quickly earned the nickname “Hoppy” and despite his famous father quickly proved himself to be an exceptional Marine. However, he had a premonition of his fate, announcing “I don’t think I’m coming back from this one” to his close friends shortly before shipping out for Namur. Stories abound of Hoppy’s only day in combat; from running ammunition to his machine gun, to saving his comrades from a Japanese soldier playing possum, to bravely advancing with his gun long after dark to set up in an exposed position. A rifle bullet – whether Japanese or Marine is not known for sure – struck him full in the face as he tried to set up his gun; Hoppy was quickly evacuated, but never regained consciousness. He died on a hospital ship and was buried at sea – “a death that had to be reported to the White House.”

Private Mason Hurlbut, 19, of Bovey, Minnesota. Rifleman Hurlbut was killed by a shot to the head while defending his position against a banzai attack; less than a year before, he had been a farm boy in northern Minnesota. He left behind parents Rex and Josephine, and two brothers, Marvin and Donald.

PFC Arnold Eugene Kennedy, 19, of Albany, Illinois. Like his Baker Company comrade Hurlbut, Kennedy had less than a year to transition from small-town boy to Marine rifleman. And, like Hurlbut, he died in a banzai charge far from home.

PFC Cecil Graham Lewis, 23, of Bumpus Mills, Tennessee. Lewis enlisted three weeks after Pearl Harbor, and by the time of his 23rd birthday (January 27, 1944), was a senior fire team leader in Able Company’s Third Platoon. When his squad leader was struck by a piece of falling concrete, Lewis found himself in charge of ten nervous Marines. How he handled the sudden responsibility is unknown; Lewis was shot through the chest and killed by a Japanese sniper before the battle was over.

PFC Allen Winston Moler, 20, of 335 College Park Avenue, Dayton, Ohio. “Bud” Moler was close to Sergeant Fred Penninger of Company B; the two friends were killed hours apart.

PFC Joseph P. Mulcahy, 19, of 1016 Hope Street, Providence, Rhode Island. Mulcahy was a recent addition to Company B; he was with them for only three months before being killed in action.

PFC Paul Olock, 21, of 171 North Franklin Street, Pottstown, Pennsylvania. Olock was the first Pottstown resident to die in the war; when his body returned home in 1947, news of his funeral reached the front page of the Pottstown Mercury newspaper.

PFC Giustino Parente, 21, of 279 Stone Avenue, Brooklyn, New York. Giustino was born in Italy, and came to the United States as a baby. He grew up in Brooklyn, enlisted in the Marines at 19, and died on Namur from a gunshot wound to the head.

PFC Edward Pretaboir, 24, of 4040 Hydraulic Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri. Pretaboir was promoted to PFC a month before his death, and was twenty days short of his 25th birthday. He was survived by his wife in St. Louis.

PFC Edwin Walter Smith, 20, of Elizabeth Street, Patchogue, New York. Smith was a rifleman with Company B, and died in a Japanese banzai attack.

PFC Paul Glen Southerland, 20, of 627 F Street, Lawton, Oklahoma. Southerland was a child of the Depression, raised by a single mother forced to move from town to town to make ends meet. He enlisted in the Marines before the war when only sixteen, and spent several years on guard duty in California, Washington, and Alaska before joining Company A, 24th Marines as a machine gunner. Southerland was noted for his appetite for souvenirs; he shocked many of his comrades by prying a gold tooth from the mouth of a dead Japanese soldier early in the battle. Southerland is believed to have been killed by a sniper after the island was secured, reportedly while out hunting for more souvenirs.

Private Jay Stephenson, 18, of 1920 Monroe Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri. Stephenson enlisted on his eighteenth birthday; he had been a Baker Company rifleman for only three months when he was killed.

PFC Edward Ronald Vaid, 19, of 5218 Drummond Place, Chicago, Illinois. A machine gunner, Vaid was likely killed while defending against a Japanese banzai charge; little else is known about his time in the service. He was survived by his mother, Mrs. Mary Vaid.

PFC Frank Schur, 19, of Shadyside, Ohio. Frank turned 19 aboard the USS DuPage en route to Namur; a week later, he was shot in the head and chest while fighting to secure the island of Namur. Terribly wounded, he was rushed to medical treatment aboard the USS Doyen, but died of his injuries on February 3, 1944, as his company was celebrating the end of the battle. He was buried at sea that afternoon.

 

Two of First Battalion’s dead were so new to the unit that no known photographs of them survive.

Private William Joseph Warner, 18, of 1734 Florence Avenue, New Albany, Indiana, was the youngest of First Battalion’s casualties; he was six months short of his nineteenth birthday. Warner joined the unit in October, 1943, but poor health confined him to the hospital; he had less than two months of field training with Company B before being sent into combat. He died of multiple gunshot wounds shortly after landing on February 1, 1944.

PFC William Ollie Paul, 21, of 421 Richard Street, Dayton, Ohio. Paul lived only two miles from Bud Moler, but whether this was ever discovered is unknown; Paul joined Moler’s Baker Company on January 7, 1944, just four days before they boarded the ships that would take them to Namur. PFC Paul was one of First Battalion’s first draftees, having been inducted on October 30, 1943 – he was easily the greenest Marine in the unit, with just over two months in uniform. Paul also has the unhappy distinction of experiencing the battalion’s first truly horrific death. Exactly what happened isn’t known, but the battalion muster roll, usually terse and non-descriptive, notes that Paul’s body was “severed from the waist down.” The only comfort his wife at home received was the fact that whatever happened, William probably died very quickly.

Image

Cooking Morning Chow on Iwo Jima

Cooking Morning Chow on Iwo Jima

An official USMC photograph of three Marines from the comms platoon of HQ/1/24. Knobeloch and Petersen were radio repairmen; Letcher was a veteran radio operator.

In The Field

It’s difficult to identify the Marines one sees in pictures. This is particularly true when the photo is taken by someone from outside the unit. Only occasionally did a press photographer manage to record the names of the Marines whose faces he captured under fire; even more rare was the Marine who survived to recognize his photo in the years to come.

A notable exception; Al Duncan and Al Perry of Company A, on Iwo Jima. “We saw some photographers. Allen Duncan yelled, ‘Hey you guys, take our picture!’ One of the photographers asked us if there were any of us from the same hometown. Allen said, ‘Yeah, Perry and me.’ We had our picture taken and copies were sent to Allen’s wife and to my mother.” – Alva Perry Source: http://www.semper-fi.us/history_of_fourth_division_final.htm

Less common still was the Marine whose photograph became famous. LIFE Magazine photographer W. Eugene Smith snapped this series of PFC Thomas E. Underwood, a Baker Company Marine from St. Petersburg, Florida, towards the end of the Saipan campaign. Recently (and, in my estimation, incorrectly) these photographs have been (mis)identified as an Army sergeant named Angelo Klonis.

However, despite how camera-shy First Battalion seems to have been, there are photographs of them in the field. There may certainly be many more, perhaps some that are well known, or perhaps photos that only live on a photographer’s proof sheet. The following pictures are of 1/24 Marines under fire and in action; unstaged and candid. The names of the men in the photographs aren’t yet known. All of the following are official USMC photographs; most can be found in the collected works of historian Eric Hammel.

Dog Company on Namur

Official USMC Photo

Official USMC Photo

This is a squad from Company D, First Battalion, 24th Marines in the first and only battle in which they were deployed. As the battalion’s heavy weapons outfit, Dog Company’s four platoons were split between the rifle companies (one MG platoon each) and battalion headquarters (the 81mm mortar platoon). They can be identified by the “Unit Numerical Identification System” (UNIS) marking on the backs of their dungarees. The semi-circle represented the Fourth Marine Division; the number 415 indicates a member of the 24th Regiment, 1st Battalion, 5th Company. It isn’t known which platoon these Marines belonged to, but the speed with which they’ve dropped their heavy combat packs indicates they’re quickly learning about life on the front line; other 1/24 veterans have stated that only rear-echelon troops appear in pictures wearing their packs. Whomever they are, these Marines are quite happy to wait in the shelter of the sea wall, and even more happy that the Japanese heavy MG above them has been knocked out. The Marine at center has a small number inked above his UNIS marking; it will indicate his rank. It appears to be a 2 or a 3, indicating either a corporal or a sergeant.

Able Company on Tinian

Official USMC Photo.

Official USMC Photo.

Again, this group can be identified by the UNIS code – in this case, the large “412” painted on the radio handset of the communications man at front. UNIS markings were used not only to identify Marines, but their equipment as well; it is not uncommon to find them painted on boxes of ammunition, pieces of 782 gear, or on crew-serviced weapons. In this case, the paint job seems to indicate that this was a hurriedly marked walkie-talkie instead of one done by regulations. The presence of the radioman suggests that an officer might be nearby; the Marine in the middle distance whose head pokes up above the others bears some resemblance to 1st Lt. Roy I. Wood of the Third Platoon, though this can’t be definitively determined. Despite their heavy armament, these Marines have managed to spot something humorous up ahead, as evidenced by the grins on the radioman and the BAR gunner.

Mortars on Iwo Jima

Official USMC photo.

Official USMC photo.

This enterprising 60mm mortar team has taken over a Japanese emplacement on Iwo Jima. It’s a perfect setup for a mortar – well built, well protected, with a clear overhead, and plenty of space to store the ammunition to the rear. Doubtless, these men regretted leaving it behind when the call came to advance. These Marines are believed to be members of Company B; once again, the UNIS markings point them out. The helmet of the Marine in the foreground – the assistant gunner – bears a stenciled “413,” while the man next to him sports three separate stencils of the same number. He’s wearing an unusual article of clothing – it almost appears to be a light sweatshirt – and regrettably the photograph can’t zoom in to reveal what he’s written on his neckline, which could very well be his name. For some reason – and this is pure conjecture on the author’s part – I’ve thought this Marine could be Corporal Harmon Chichester, a veteran Baker Company mortarman, but again, that is just speculation.

Harmon Chichester in 1943, and (possibly) in 1945. Chichester was listed as “wounded, not evacuated” on February 20, 1945; the Marine on right has what appears to be a bandage on his left hand.

Mortars, (possibly) B Company, At Japanese Emplacement

Official USMC Photo

Official USMC Photo

This mortar team is taking a well-deserved break at a demolished Japanese gun emplacement. They’ve shucked off their gear and most have put down their weapons (though they aren’t far away) and are taking a breather while the smoking lamp is still lit. It’s interesting to note the difference in body language in this photo – the four Marines sitting close together are much more relaxed, smiling and joking, while the five on the outskirts seem much more withdrawn – particularly the three on the right, one of whom does not want to put down his carbine. And with good reason. Empty ammo boxes and spent machine gun rounds at the very upper left suggest that not long ago this ground was being fought over; an American machine gun has been here, engaged, and presumably advanced.

In another view, evidently taken a short time later, we can see that this will probably be their home for the night – at lower left, supplies of extra mortar ammunition (in the cylinders) and machine-gun rounds have been brought up; the carbine-holding Marine has taken off his helmet, and a rifle squad is taking five at right. The Marine standing in the middle is probably a squad or platoon leader checking in about a defensive setup. In all, it’s a great study of Marines in the field.

Alternate view. Official USMC photo.

Alternate view. Official USMC photo.

How to identify this as First Battalion? Historian Eric Hammel notes that this picture was taken atop a cliff “overlooking the small boat basin north of The Quarry.” This was within the 24th Marines’ zone of operations in the first week of the battle for Iwo Jima. And while the faces of the Marines tell a story of hard fighting, their equipment is positioned in such a way that finding identifying markings is not easy; some are also wearing jackets over their dungarees – it got surprisingly cold on Iwo Jima, and any Marine that could find extra clothing generally put it on, obscuring the UNIS marks on his issued dungarees. Only the Marine glaring at the cameraman has a UNIS mark visible, and it’s difficult to make out the numbers. To me, it appears to be a “413” for Baker Company; however this identity could be mistaken. maddogging

Communications

Iwo Comms

Official USMC Photo.

These telephone men on Iwo have established a communications relay station and are likely checking in with Battalion HQ. The Marine at the rear has UNIS number “411” for Headquarters, First Battalion, 24th Marines.

The Wounded

Official USMC Photo.

Official USMC Photo.

There are two “413” markings in this photograph, meaning at least two of these Marines are from Company B – the man facing away from the camera in full gear (on his shovel) and the man with the black undershirt and rosary (on his helmet.) Presumably, the wounded man and his other helper are from Baker Company as well; the helping man on the right appears to have his name stenciled on his helmet, but the photo doesn’t quite pick it out. They are also presumably moving back through the command post of either Company B or the First Battalion itself on their way to the aid station – note the officer on the telephone at center, and the rebar and concrete of a wrecked Japanese emplacement providing cover – but without the full caption it’s hard to say for sure. As Iwo Jima ground on and more and more replacements came to the front line, UNIS markings became more scarce – the original Marines who’d inked them onto their gear just weren’t around anymore. The wounded man has the look of a replacement with his carefully bloused trousers, smooth face, and general cleanliness. Again, though, without a photographer’s caption that recorded the unit, date, and location, any attempts at identification will be best-guess at their most optimistic.

Taps, 2013

Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky
All is well, safely rest
God is nigh.

hernan veteranCorpsman
Thomas W. Hernan
Oct. 13, 1925
Jan. 4, 2013
Obituary
Burial
Medical Section

d_browerCorporal
Henry S. Brower
Apr. 17, 1921
Jan. 17, 2013
Obituary
Burial
81mm Mortars

b_byerlyPFC
Lawrence C. Byerly
Sep. 21, 1918
Jan. 17, 2013
Obituary
Burial
B Company

a_jasterCorporal
Lawrence J. Jaster
Jun. 22, 1922
Feb. 10, 2013
Obituary
Burial
A Company

Fading light dims the sight
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright
From afar, drawing near
Falls the night.

hjeffery veteranSergeant
Harlan C. Jeffery
Dec. 5, 1921
Feb. 16, 2013
Obituary
Burial
B/HQ Company
xz_nopicCorporal
Martin M. Butchko
Jan. 30, 1927
Apr. 12, 2013
Obituary
Burial
B Company
hq_duncanPFC
Dwyer Duncan
Jan. 7, 1922
May 1, 2013
Obituary
Burial
HQ Company
voncalio veteranCorporal
Herbert VonCalio
Jan. 13, 1926
May 9, 2013
Obituary
Burial
A Company

Thanks and praise for our days
Neath the sun, neath the stars, neath the sky
As we go, this we know
God is nigh.

alex klinkoskiCorporal
Alex Klinkoski
Jan. 4, 1926
Jul. 22, 2013
Obituary
Burial

B Company
xz_nopicCorporal
Ernest M. Jeffery
Aug. 28, 1924
Oct. 23, 2013
Obituary
Burial
A Company
john hannahs veteranCorpsman
John H. Hannahs
Apr. 27, 1925
Nov. 8, 2013
Obituary
Burial
Medical Section
a_salazarCorporal
Lionel P. Salazar
Jun. 17, 1925
Nov. 9, 2013
Obituary
Burial
A Company

Since this post was published, word has been received of the following 2013 deaths:

Joseph E. Miller (1922 – 2013) – Medical Section.
Ralph A. Vasey (July 23, 1918 – March 28, 2013) – Company B.
James H. Dull (September 15, 1922 – April 12, 2013) – Company C.
Reeve E. Erickson (April 15, 1925 – April 15, 2013) – Headquarters.
Benny J. Gilliam (July 9, 1925 – May 2, 2013) – Company C.
William F. Stansberry (April 4, 1927 – June 30, 2013) – Company A.
William R. Hinkle (September 16, 1925 – August 17, 2013) – Company C.
Guy K. Hoefle (October 29, 1924 – November 19, 2013) – Company C.
Lawrence A. Trapp (July 27, 1921 – November 20, 2013) – Company A.
Edward Ternove (December 31, 1922 – December 11, 2013) – Company C.

Brothers In Arms

I found two obituaries today, both for First Battalion marines who passed away in 2013 – Harlan C. Jeffery (February 26, 2013) and Ernest M. Jeffery (October 23, 2013). Much to my regret, I never managed to contact either of these gentlemen, though Harlan gave several interviews in the past few years. (Harlan and Ernest will be the subject of a later entry.) There is an unusual anomaly in the 24th Marines Red Book which I use as a source for many of the personal photos on this site. It must have been a publishing error, and one which probably irritated Harlan or Ernest after the war. Although they served in different companies (Ernest with Company A, Harlan with Company B and later the assault platoon of Headquarters), they have the same picture.

a_jeffery

Ernest or Harlan?

It’s easy to imagine a harried enlisted man, under a deadline to get a sheet of photographs laid out and printed, making a mistake – the surname Jeffery, though not unique, wasn’t terribly common; there were less than twenty Jefferys in the Marine Corps in 1943 – and adding the same photograph twice. (Based on other photographs I’ve seen, I’m willing to bet the picture above is Harlan.)

Although the picture mixup is almost certainly a printer’s error, it got me to wondering if the two Jeffery boys were related. It turns out they are not, but First Battalion had an unusual number of genuine brothers serving in the ranks.

The Coopers: Carl and Howard

Carl and Howard Cooper grew up together in Kanawha County, West Virginia. Carl, the eldest, was born on November 17, 1918; John Howard Cooper Junior followed on April 26, 1924. The family patriarch, John H. Cooper Senior, passed away in 1928, leaving Carrie Cooper in charge of eight children: Sarita, Doris, Clara, Carl, Evelyn, Howard, Annabel, and Joyce. Carrie herself died on July 19, 1942; just over a month later, on August 24, the two Cooper boys enlisted, receiving sequential serial numbers (Carl was first in line with 444768, Howard became 444769). The brothers trained together at Parris Island and New River, both specializing in heavy machine guns, and were assigned to Company D, First Separate Battalion in late 1942.

The Coopers stuck together in their company, and were possibly assigned to the same crew; Carl was the first to receive his PFC stripe, while Howard cultivated a reputation as a “hard-drinking, hard-fighting, hard-charger.” The “hillbilly” boys from West Virginia had vengeance on their minds – two of their cousins went down with the Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor, and a brother-in-law was recuperating from wounds suffered on Guadalcanal. (1) Howard’s exploits in San Diego’s beer halls resulted in an Absent Over Leave (AOL) charge that stripped him of his PFC stripe on January 9, 1944, just two days before the brothers boarded the USS DuPage for their first journey overseas. On February 1, 1944, the 4th Marine Division became the first American fighting force to enter combat directly from the United States. Gunner Howard Cooper trotted ashore on the Marshallese islet of Namur toting a heavy Browning machine gun; his brother Carl close behind carrying boxes of ammunition. As members of Dog Company’s 3rd MG platoon, they deployed their water-cooled weapon to support the riflemen of the line companies.

Although the island was secured in just over 24 hours, an overwhelming American victory, several hundred Marines became casualties. Both Cooper brothers received the Purple Heart for wounds suffered on Namur – but Carl’s award was posthumous. He had been shot through the head and killed, right at his brother’s side. Howard Cooper saw his brother buried in the Pauline Point cemetery on Namur before boarding a ship that would take him back to Maui.

This notice ran in the Charleston Gazette on March 5, 1944.

This notice ran in the Charleston Gazette on March 5, 1944.

A furious rage fueled Howard Cooper’s waking moments. He wanted revenge. “That’s all he talked about: killing Japs, killing Japs, killing Japs,” remembered a squadmate. (2) He drank heavily when he could, started fights on liberty, and volunteered for the most dangerous jobs in combat; he would be badly wounded during the battle of Saipan, but happily returned to his new squad (with Charlie Company’s machine guns) and took great satisfaction in every enemy life he took while fighting on Iwo Jima. Howard could have returned to West Virginia after Iwo; two Purple Hearts and four combat landings were more than enough to send a man home. He stayed with the battalion, where his experience finally earned a promotion to corporal, and was preparing to land on the beaches of Japan itself when the war ended.

A good Marine: the Charleston Gazette of December 15, 1944, reports on Howard's exploits overseas.

A good Marine: the Charleston Gazette of December 15, 1944, reports on Howard’s exploits overseas.

Left somewhat at loose ends, Howard Cooper – who had only recently turned 21 – headed back to West Virginia, to try and resume the life he’d known before the war. His job with the Red Parrot Coal Company was waiting, and he moved in with his older sister, now Mrs. Doris Caldwell. Returning to civilian life couldn’t have been easy for Howard; rough living, alcohol, and violence had helped him survive the war and cope with the deaths of his mother and brother, but had little place in the tiny coal town of Keith, West Virginia. He collected a crowd of friends from the neighboring communities of Packsville and Marfork, and was out joyriding with them when their sedan slammed into a tractor-trailer on US 119. Four were killed; twenty-four-year-old Howard Cooper and “Miss [Marie] Thompson died instantly in the accident.” (3)

howard cooper crash

The Charleston Daily Mail (evening edition), May 17, 1947.

The Cooper brothers were finally reunited in 1948, when Carl’s remains were returned from overseas. Today, Howard and Carl rest in Sawmill Cemetery in Winifrede, Kanawha County, West Virginia.

The Marstons: Donald and Dewey

Don Marston was a typical American boy. Born in 1922 to Dewey and Gladys Marston of Baltimore, he grew up at 2717 Atkinson Street with three younger brothers and a baby sister. School either held no appeal or had no practical use for Donald; he left after the sixth grade and went to work as a laborer, bolstering his father’s stonemasonry income. The outbreak of war meant more than a chance to defend the country – it meant a steady paycheck for servicemen. Donald enlisted in the Marines in September 1942; a year later he was a Private First Class with Company C, 24th Marines.

c_marston

Donald Marston, 1943

In combat, a man’s education or background didn’t matter as much as his reliability when the chips were down. Donald carried ammunition for a .30 caliber machine gun in three major battles – Namur, Saipan, and Tinian – surviving each without a scratch. By the fall of 1944, he had moved up in seniority to become a squad gunner, and was preparing for the next big invasion when the 17th Replacement Draft arrived at Camp Maui. In the sea of fresh faces, one stood out. Eighteen-year-old Dewey Addison Marston had followed his big brother into the war.

Dewey Marston’s assignment to Charlie Company must have been the result of a favor granted. He had volunteered on June 1, 1944 (less than a month after his eighteenth birthday, and while Donald was en route to combat in the Marianas), qualified with the BAR at Parris Island, and shipped west hoping to join the Fourth Marine Division, managing to land in his brother’s company more by design than by fate. How much Donald knew of Dewey’s plans remains unknown, but the older veteran welcomed the younger “boot” and the Marston brothers were soon taking liberty together. (One wonders at the reaction of Howard Cooper, mentioned above and a member of Donald’s platoon.)

The Marstons would not go into combat side by side, as Private Dewey Marston belonged to a rifle platoon, but Donald was surely looking out for his little brother once they landed on Iwo Jima. Dewey would fall first, badly wounded in action on March 1, 1945 and evacuated by ship to a hospital in Hawaii. He spent the rest of the war in medical care. Donald was also hit on Iwo; his wounds were serious enough to merit an airlift to Guam, but not bad enough to keep him from returning to Charlie Company. Had the atomic bombs not been dropped, Donald would have landed on the beaches of Kyushu.

As it was, the Marstons were discharged within days of each other, and both returned to Maryland. Dewey passed away in 1975, while Donald lived until 1990.

The Klinkoskis: Frank and Alex

In nearly every company, there was a pair of buddies who were seemingly joined at the hip. They might have been hometown friends, or bonded over the indignities of boot camp, or simply got on well during a weekend liberty. Frank and Alex Klinkoski fit this description better than most; they were twins. Born minutes apart on January 4, 1926, the Klinkoskis grew up in Lansing, Ohio and (naturally) came of age for military service at the same time. Like the Cooper brothers, the Klinkoskis joined up on the same day, received sequential service numbers (Alex 969224, Frank 969225) and went through Parris Island with the same recruit platoon. The brothers expressed interest in and qualified to operate the Browning machine gun, were assigned to the 65th Replacement Draft, told to report to Company B, 24th Marines at Camp Maui, and promoted to Private First Class on October 26, 2944.

The Klinkoskis served together in combat for only one day. Frank was wounded on February 20, 1945 – Iwo Jima’s “D+1″ – possibly by friendly fire, as both an air strike and a naval bombardment were called down on his company’s position. Alex hung on for six more days before being evacuated to the USS Lowndes; he returned to the company on March 5 and fought through the rest of the battle. The twins would not serve together again; Frank’s wounds ended his military career (he was honorably discharged September 24, 1945) while Alex was promoted to corporal and prepared for the invasion of Japan. Fortunately, he saw no further combat and was discharged himself in April, 1946.

alex klinkoski

Alex Klinkoski, wartime photo.

Frank Klinkoski died in 1995, while Alex (as I learned while researching for this article) recently passed away on June 22, 2013.

_____

NOTES:
(1) Reported in WW2 Experiences Iwo Jima, blog entry by mundtot81. Though the entry lacks citations, the specificity of information leads me to believe this account is factually based; however, historians should approach with caution.
(2) Ibid.
(3) The young lady was also reported as Miss Vera Louise Hall of Packville in the May 18, 1947 edition of the Charleston Gazette.

Photo Identification: Corpsmen

By the time they were pulled off the line on March 16, 1945, First Battalion’s medical staff had experienced nearly a solid month of some of the worst combat conditions in American history. Between them, they had treated several hundred casualties. Twelve had been wounded themselves; five corpsmen lost their lives while attempting to rescue other wounded Marines. Nearly all would be decorated for bravery.

At the end of the battle, the twenty-two survivors gathered in a ravine—possibly their aid station in the Quarry—for a photograph.

This copy is provided courtesy of Dr. Richards Lyon, who also helped with the identifications.

HQMedTrpsIwo

There are two officers and twenty enlisted in this photograph.

Surgeons

The battalion surgeons were medical school graduates who had joined the Navy; both were commissioned officers.

portercomp

Lieutenant Richard C. Porter was the battalion head surgeon. Also known as “Big Dick” due to his stature (he was 6’5” and muscular), “Doc Porter” had been with the battalion since 1943 and had been present for every day of every campaign—he had just turned 29 six weeks before the photo was taken. His standing rule for his corpsmen was to exercise caution: “Don’t immediately respond to a call. Think and act. Otherwise, the [enemy] marksman will get you, too.” As a result, casualties among Porter’s corpsmen were some of the lowest in the entire battle. Awarded the Legion of Merit for his service, Porter was transferred out of the battalion following the battle, having earned a secure, stateside berth.

lyoncomp

Porter’s duties were assumed by the assistant surgeon, Richards Lyon (known by inevitable comparison as “Little Dick.”) Lyon, a pre-med graduate of UC Berkeley and medical student at Stanford, was a surgical intern in Boston when called up to the Navy. He volunteered to fast-track to the Pacific, and was with the battalion for about three weeks before shipping out for Iwo Jima. His first night in combat was spent comforting a crying teenaged Marine; for the rest, “my duties were just those of admiring the actions of our seasoned corpsmen. I must have done something, for sure, but can’t remember anything heroic, besides stopping bleeding and applying the wonderful new plywood leg splints.” Although he claimed “any Boy Scout” would have been as effective in helping with First Aid, Doc Lyon came up with a unique method for treating combat fatigue cases. Becoming concerned about “the rapid Jeep evacuation, placing battle fatigue [cases] on hospital ships, to live that down the rest of their lives. I’ve always been more of a ‘long-haul’ doc, and this seemed wrong. One day, most of one platoon – twelve – came in helpless and crying. I sedated them heavily with barbitals, awakened them 12 hours later, and sent them happily back to their buddies. I began laying plans to steal sodium pentathol from the main surgical center for use in our next invasion. Thanks in part to Lyon’s procedures, First Battalion’s combat fatigue cases remained comparatively low.

cochranecomp

At the surgeon’s right hand was the Chief Pharmacist’s Mate, Charles Riley Cochrane. Cochrane’s father was a dentist, and Charles enlisted in the Navy in 1941 at the age of twenty. Introduced to combat during the invasion of Namur, Pharmacist’s Mate First Class Cochrane was compelled to step up to the position of senior corpsman on Saipan, when the previous chief, Winston Blevins, was wounded. He ran the enlisted medical section throughout the Marianas campaign and earned his own promotion to chief in the fall of 1944. Though he treated countless wounds, Cochrane himself escaped injury in all his months overseas.

Pharmacist’s Mates, First Class

middlewoodcomp

Pre-war medical professional Martin Middlewood at Camp Maui and on Iwo Jima.

Although he’d only recently joined the battalion, Pharmacist’s Mate First Class Martin Middlewood was the next most experienced doctor in the section; prior to the war, he’d been an attendant at the State Hospital in Pueblo, Colorado, alongside his wife Harriet. Just as Lyon took over from Porter in 1945, Middlewood took over from Cochrane as chief pharmacist’s mate while preparing to invade Japan.

The remaining PhM1c rates were held by combat veterans. Perpetually smiling James Guyett had been with the battalion since Saipan, where he was wounded slightly; Walter Dodd’s dress blues already sported one Bronze Star ribbon (he would add a second award after the battle); Vermoine “Curly” Klauss was similarly decorated with a Bronze Star and Purple Heart from Saipan, and like Dodd would soon receive a second Bronze Star for service on Iwo Jima.

phm1comp

Decorated veterans: Guyett (left), Dodd (center), and Klauss.

Missing from the photo are:
PhM1c Frank Munski  – on duty with the battalion’s rear echelon at Camp Maui.
PhM1c Sam Susman – wounded and evacuated March 6.

Pharmacist’s Mates, Second Class

The middle rung of the pharmacist’s ladder, Pharmacist’s Mates Second Class tended to be either seasoned Navy men who had worked their way up the ladder, or younger individuals who had come from a medical school background but had not yet completed their studies. They were the workhorses of the section, capable of working either at the aid station or on the front line.

hearnbakercompCorpsmen William Baker (left) and Charles Hearn were two of the original battalion corpsmen.

William Baker and Charles Hearn had both worked their way up through the ranks. This was especially surprising for Hearn, easily one of the smallest men in the section and, at 20 years old, one of the youngest holding this rating. Experience among the others – Richard Ervin, Robert Haynes, Joseph Hazel, and Carl Zaar – varied from three previous battles to no prior combat experience. Ellsworth Blanchard, a Colorado State dramatist-turned-corpsman, was wounded in the battle but returned to the front lines to finish out the campaign.

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Ellsworth Blanchard, in college (1941) and on Iwo Jima.

 

One of the PhM2cs stood out to the surgeons – Ben Flores, currently on his fourth landing and a veteran of front line service. He was happily working behind the lines until March 8, when approached by Doc Lyon. One of the line corpsman had been killed, and a young sailor with no frontline experience and no buddies in the rifle platoons was to be his replacement. Lyon asked Flores, “who knew everyone in the platoons and wouldn’t make mistakes after four landings,” to consider going in the younger man’s place. Flores simply picked up his rifle and gear and trotted off to Company B, with whom he spent the final eight days of the battle. Lyon immediately submitted Flores for the Bronze Star, and the corpsman lived to receive it and a promotion after the battle.

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Missing from the photo are:
PhM2c William Edwards – on duty with the battalion’s rear echelon at Camp Maui.
PhM2c Virgil Deets – killed in action March 1.
PhM2c John Schmid – wounded in action March 7
PhM2c Harold Brasell – wounded in action March 7.

Pharmacist’s Mates, Third Class

The junior petty officers among the corpsmen on Iwo were generally younger than the senior rates, most were in combat for the first time, and were more often in the danger zone attached to rifle companies on the front line. Out of twelve who landed, only four are present for this picture.

Donald Carlson and William Ogden were typical of the junior corpsmen; both on their first operation and lucky to survive, they were awarded Bronze Star medals for their exploits. Unfortunately, not much else is known of them.

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If Carlson and Ogden were the examples, Donald Swartz was the exception. The 23-year-old from Holly, Michigan had marked three years in the Navy just a week before landing on Iwo, and he knew firsthand how difficult combat could be, having served on Roi-Namur and suffering a nasty wound on Saipan that laid him up in the hospital for several months. He had at one point held a PhM2c rating, but was demoted in the winter of 1944, likely for a disciplinary infraction.

Finally, there was young Danny Danhauer. Danhauer was assigned to the battalion aid station rather than a rifle platoon; the two surgeons wanted to keep an eye on him, as he was planning to attend medical school. However, as the rifle platoons took casualties, the corpsmen from the aid station had to go forward as replacements—and on March 8, when Billie Leavell was killed in B Company’s sector, Danhauer was next in line to go to the front. Knowing Danny would “find himself with strangers in a platoon” where it was “much too dangerous,” Doc Lyon made his appeal to PhM2c Flores, and Danhauer stayed at the aid station. The day after this dramatic incident, March 9 1945, was Danhauer’s 20th birthday. It is interesting that Danhauer is sitting down in this picture—having been, in his own words, wounded “in the can” as he leaned over a wounded Marine.

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Missing from the photo are:
PhM3c Norris Fulgham – wounded and evacuated February 23.
PhM3c David Pasternik – wounded and evacuated February 23.
PhM3c DeVore Gordon – wounded and evacuated February 24.
PhM3c Joseph Miller – wounded and evacuated March 1.
PhM3c Anthony Marquez – killed in action March 4.
PhM3c Howard Nowoc – killed in action March 6.
PhM3c Ronald Millhiser – wounded in action March 8.
PhM3c Ralph Thomas – wounded in action March 9.

Hospital Apprentices

The lowest rating for a qualified Naval medical practitioner was Hospital Apprentice. Most commonly, the rating designated the youngest graduates of Field Medical School, but not necessarily the least experienced in combat—half of 1/24’s eight Hospital Apprentices had prior combat experience, but none was over the age of 22. Three of the seven who landed survived to be photographed.

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Francis Felicia with Company A (left) and with the medical section.

Francis Felicia turned twenty on D+3 (February 22, 1945.) A Sioux Indian by heritage, Felicia had more experience than any other two HAs combined; he’d been promoted to PhM3c after the battle of Namur, but lost the rating again thanks to a spotty disciplinary record. He was a front-line corpsman with Company A, and although wounded on Saipan had returned for Iwo Jima. Shortly before this picture was taken, Felicia had posed for a similar portrait with his friends in Able Company—the only corpsman visible.

The other two surviving apprentices, Robert Misamore and Bennie Evans (ages 18 and 21) both survived unscathed and were awarded promotions to Pharmacist’s Mate following the battle. Evans also received the Bronze Star medal.

Missing from the photo are:
HA1c Walter Leonard – hospitalized on Saipan before landing.
HA1c Maurice Savidge – killed in action March 2.
HA2c Thomas Hernan – wounded and evacuated March 2.
HA1c Lloyd Ahlman – wounded and evacuated March 3.
HA1c Billie Leavell – killed in action March 8.

Unidentified in the photo

The pictures above are the faces of Donald Carlson, Richard Ervin, Bennie Evans, Robert Haynes, Robert Misamore, Wiliam Ogden, and Carl Zaar. Unfortunately, because no other identified photo has been located, it is currently impossible to say for certain who is who.

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