Iwo: D+11. March 2, 1945.


At 0650, the normal sounds of harassing artillery fire changed abruptly. Mortars, rockets, and machine-gun fire – most of it Japanese – ripped through the air, raising smoke and flame near Turkey Knob.


The unhappy recipients were the First Battalion, 25th Marines, and they were ahead of schedule. Their days of brutal fighting in the Amphitheater were a bloody routine. Watch the bombardment, make a frontal assault, fight like hell, up close and personal, for hours without flank support, then scramble back to the starting positions, cursing and crying and minus a few more of their buddies, only to repeat the pointless exercise the next morning. Someone suggested changing the routine and attacking without the bombardment – the shelling did little but wake the Japanese up, anyway – so Major Fenton Mee devised a daring double envelopment of the Turkey Knob. The plan required precise timing and the element of surprise – but if it worked, the 25th Marines would eliminate two of the major strongpoints in the Meat Grinder and spare themselves another bloodbath. Mee’s troops filtered quietly out of their foxholes and rushed forward 90 minutes earlier than anticipated.

An aerial view of the Meat Grinder. Turkey Knob is highlighted; the semi-circular bowl of the Amphitheater is just to the left. USMC photo.

“This was successful for the first fifteen minutes,” noted 1/25’s After Action Report. The Japanese discovered the bold move long before two key companies linked up, and Mee’s battalion once again found itself without flank support.[1] By the time the sun rose, it was too late to withdraw. Major Mee had no choice but to press on, and the din of the fight was an unwelcome preview for those Marines waiting to step off at 0800.

PFC Norman M. Lucas was glad he wasn’t with the 25th. He’d had just about had enough of the war.

c_lucasAt home in Knox, Indiana, Lucas saw plenty of newsreels about Pearl Harbor and the Philippines. It was the fall of Wake Island that really fired him up, the heroics of Marines who “shot the hell out of the Japs” before being captured. The twin desires of adventure and revenge fixed themselves in his sixteen-year-old mind. “[The Japanese] beheaded a few of the men,” he said many years later, “Oh, they’re nice people.” [2] Lucas enlisted in February of 1943; after passing through boot camp and infantry training at Camp Elliott, he reported to Charlie Company, 24th Marines, as a mortarman.

Two years later, Lucas was a changed man, no longer praying for revenge but “Praying For Civilian” – a pun on his Private First Class (PFC) rank. He was under fire for the first time at Roi-Namur; on Saipan, he learned how it felt to kill “without shaking like a leaf” and how it felt to see his friends killed. He vividly remembered the landing on Tinian, where Dawson Brewer was gunned down and died in the surf, never making it to dry land. Of his old tentmates, only Wilson Cook and Eugene Gladkowski were still with the company.[3] And Lucas felt his luck running thin. Since landing on 19 February, he’d been hit once (enough to call the corpsman, not sufficient to get him out), and on 1 March, Japanese snipers shot the handle off of his machete and punctured a precious tin of pork and beans. Lucas concluded that he was running out of close calls. Every day in the Meat Grinder shaved his chances of survival even thinner.[4]

Sergeant Kenneth Gray of Company A must also have been thinking about his odds that morning. Wounded and marked for evacuation during the previous day’s attack on Hill 382, the 28-year-old squad leader was already back with his men.[5] It was not the career trajectory he’d envisioned when enlisting as a bright-eyed teenager in 1934. Young Gray was a model citizen in an era when enlistment required good references: a solid student, Eagle Scout, Senior Patrol Leader of BSA Troop 5 in Medford, Massachusetts, and with a “pleasing personality and his smile, makes friends easily.” [6] He had no trouble obtaining the requisite letters of recommendation, and with his parents’ consent, joined the Marines “to learn the drum and trumpet.” After sweating out the summer at Parris Island and Field Music School, Musician Gray joined H/2/5th Marines as their trumpeter.

A young Kenneth Gray, aspiring trumpeter, shortly after his first enlistment in 1934.

By November 1936, the promising young man was home in disgrace. For “expectorating on the floor” and staying one day over leave, he earned an officer’s ire and a transfer from the 5th Marines to the Service Squadron of Aircraft One, Quantico. Gray attempted to start over with his new unit and repeatedly tried to enter flight training without success. On 1 September 1936, while on an authorized leave with a buddy, Gray telegraphed Aircraft One to report an automobile accident and request an extension of his leave. The two Marines were on the lam for the next twenty days before being apprehended, imprisoned, and court-martialed. Gray pleaded for clemency and was placed on probation, but blew his reprieve by going AWOL for two days in November. He was slapped with a Bad Conduct Discharge and sent packing back to Massachusetts.

The stigma of a “BCD” followed a man into civilian life as a black mark on his character. Barred from reenlisting, Ken Gray struggled to find work until the Bridgewater State Farm took him on as correction officer and fingerprinter. Gray rose through the ranks – he eventually supervised thirty other guards – and began dating a nurse named Velma Dusseault, but the sting of his dismissal from the Corps still ate at him. He sent a pleading letter to the Commandant in 1939 asking to be “reinstated,” but received a curt rejection. The peacetime Corps had no time for men like him.

The attack on Pearl Harbor gave Ken Gray his second chance. On the “day of infamy,” he wrote to the Commandant again, citing “the serious condition of the country today” as his reason for reenlisting. Faced with an immediate crisis and need for manpower, the Marines were willing to erase Gray’s problematic past, and he re-entered the service on 1 December 1942. By 3 December, he was carrying a BAR with Company A. Over the next two years, Gray maintained an exemplary record. He earned the Bronze Star and his first Purple Heart on Saipan, became squad leader to twelve young men, and father to two little boys, one of whom he hadn’t met just yet.[7] If he made it through Iwo, he’d have another Purple Heart at least, and his promotion to Platoon Sergeant was all but assured.[8] Besides, with so many lieutenants and NCOs getting hit, the platoon needed his expertise now more than ever – especially those seventeen- and eighteen-year-old kids.

Ken Gray (center) at Camp Maui, 1944. Photo from Al Perry.

To comply with Division’s operations order for another attack on the Meat Grinder while supporting 1/2 5’s salient, RCT 24 had to change its facing from due east to southeast. The previous day’s attack by 1/24 attempted to cross one of the natural corridors leading down from Hill 382; frontal and flanking fire stalled the advance. Today, they would advance down the draw, using the terrain for cover while exposing the Japanese flanks. This was good news indeed for 1/24: if all went according to plan, they would be “pinched out” of the line after about 600 yards.[9] Only 600 yards. The objective was so close – but getting there would be a problem, as it was every day.

Once again, Able Company held the left flank in the shadow of Hill 382, while Charlie Company headed straight for the Turkey Knob on the right. There would be no element of surprise; aside from the change in direction, the plan was all but identical to the previous day. After the heavy, yet predictable and (it seemed) ineffective artillery barrage, they’d have to get out of their holes and advance (walk, scurry, or run) until they hit their objective (unlikely) or the Japanese opened fire (inevitably), at which point they would stop and find cover (thinking, please let there be cover) or get hit (thinking, please let it cripple me but not too bad, just enough to get me out of here). And the Japanese, already wide awake and blasting away at 1/25, would make mincemeat out of them.

By now, the Japanese knew the Marine routine as well as their own – they experienced it every day. American units worked on a rotation system; companies, battalions, and regiments relieved each other, sharing the burden of the assault. A Japanese soldier in the Meat Grinder had no relief and no respite. Every day, he would take cover from the bombardment, wait until the Americans committed to the assault, then fight with everything he had. Medical supplies were running low, and water was at a premium. Retreating was not an option; surrender was unthinkable. In eleven days, only twelve of Kuribayashi’s men made it safely to a POW stockade – six of them, all low-ranking warriors, were taken by the 4th Marine Division.[10]

“Oscar,” a Japanese cook captured by Majors George Webster and Irving Schechter, shows obvious relief in his new POW status. Photo from the family of Major Webster.

The Japanese unwillingness to surrender was matched by the Marine unwillingness to take prisoners. Front line personnel were issued cards with Japanese phonetic phrases – “hands up,” “come out,” “you will be treated well” – but only a few Marines bothered to use them. When “a recent replacement” was placed in charge of two POWs, he “just pulled up his rifle and shot both of these guys,” according to Corporal Robert D. Price. “I never could understand anyone doing that. If a guy’s in front of you and trying to kill you, you’re gonna try to kill him the best way you can – but to deliberately shoot a human being? That’s what this kid did.” [11] One Charlie Company veteran was so notorious for shooting prisoners that entrusting one to his care was tantamount to a death sentence. Such summary executions, while officially denounced, were commonplace – and, sometimes, unofficially endorsed – on Iwo Jima and in other Pacific battles.

American intelligence resorted to other methods. Occasionally, a fighting position or a corpse would yield a logbook or military document, but these were so scarce that intelligence men badgered line Marines for any paperwork; one unit was tentatively identified based on the address on a single letter. Gradually, a picture emerged. The tenacious defenders in the area were mostly Navy men, with a few kebitai, some Imperial Japanese Army gunners, and the odd unlucky Korean laborer. They were from units with names like Otsuka Tai or 20th Special Machine Cannon Unit.[12] And they knew the situation in their homeland was growing worse by the day. Private Harold Oberheide of A/1/24 found a letter addressed to a Japanese soldier. “It was written in English from his girlfriend in Japan,” he recalled. “She was saying, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen because the Americans are bombing us every day now, we can’t last much longer.’ The military didn’t want to give up…. [The average Japanese] were just servicemen assigned to this rock. I wouldn’t have wanted to be one of them because they had been there quite a long time, there was just absolutely nothing there.” [13]

The average Japanese soldier or sailor on Iwo was exhausted, starving, determined, and knew he was doomed. His best hope was to delay the Americans as long as possible. So when the final artillery rounds detonated with deafening blasts up above, he hurried through the tunnels to his machine gun or cannons, his rifle slit, or observation posts. His strongest advantage was his knowledge of every line of approach, every fold of terrain, and every defilade where a Marine might find cover. The Japanese knew every hiding place and how to neutralize it. When the Americans appeared, they would shoot until they ran out of ammunition, out of targets, or out of time.

US Navy photo.

Holding The Left

The realignment of companies did little to alleviate the tactical situation on the left flank. Easy Company, 2/24, was now in charge of taking Hill 382 and “moved slowly against stiff opposition…. Tanks withdrawn…. Heavy enemy machine gun crossfires and unusually heavy enemy large-caliber mortar fire.” Their commanding officer went down early in the day; a single mortar round wounded the executive officer, a platoon leader, and killed two other officers.[14] The sole surviving lieutenant manfully carried out his attack orders and, in five hours of fighting “more intense than any day up until now,” finally reached the summit of the hill.[15] Eliminating the last Japanese holdouts would take several more days, leading one historian to comment that “the hill was overrun, but it was not subdued.” [16]

The natural crevices on Hill 382 hid any number of surprises – including this Japanese tank. USMC photo by Sgt. Louis Lowery.

Down below, 1Lt. Roy Wood’s Able Company was in a bind. Their job was to advance while keeping contact with the companies on either side. No problem – but Charlie Company on the right moved much more rapidly than Easy Company on the left. Instead of going forward, Able Company had to stretch their line longer and longer, over deep, steep-sided crevices that made natural fire lanes. Well-camouflaged rifle pits and machine-gun nests were sited at the ends of these defiles, manned by Japanese troops who waited patiently for an American to cross their narrow field of fire.

lynchard_t_colorCorporal Tommy Lynchard had a knack for tracking the enemy – “you can almost smell Japs,” he said, “like you can a squirrel or deer” – and as he led his squad through a tangle of blasted brush, imagined for a moment that he was hunting back home in Mississippi. Very little escaped his notice. First, he spotted a single Japanese ration can. Then another. Then more and more, all recently scraped clean. Trouble was brewing. “Lynch” turned to motion his squad into a skirmish formation, and a bullet ripped into his shoulder. He fell to the ground and rolled into a shell hole as the squad scattered for cover, yelling for a corpsman.

Luckily, the assistant squad leader was a brave man. In moments, he was bandaging the wound using his own battle dressing. “You’re not supposed to give that to nobody else,” Lynchard recalled. “You might lose your own life if you don’t keep it to yourself.” The other Marine could see what Lynch could not – the bullet had smashed through his arm, nearly blowing off the shoulder blade, and Lynch was losing so much blood he might not make it to the aid station.

A corpsman arrived, assessed the situation, fashioned a sling from a cloth ammo belt, and pointed out the aid station – five hundred yards to the rear, with almost no cover. Somehow, Lynchard made it back alive. One determined Japanese rifleman fired a dozen or so shots in his direction but missed by several feet each time. “Range must be too long,” mused the Marine as he slowly made his way to safety and out of the war.[17]

The tenacious defenders exacted a heavy price for control of each crevice and gully. Irish-born Corporal James P. Marmion, a Canisius College graduate and former officer candidate now serving as a rifle squad leader, described seeing “a mass of pillboxes” before a sniper’s bullet clipped his left eye and ear. “The Japs don’t believe in giving up a foot of ground without fighting,” he commented.” [18] It was a tough day to be a James in Able Company as two recent replacements, Privates James D. J. Herman and James B. Stewart, were also severely wounded. PFC Robert U. Santerre, a rifleman from Nashua, New Hampshire, was shot through the chest; the bullet exited his back in almost the same spot as an earlier wound.[19] Corporal Leon Roquet of Indianapolis and Corporal Laurence Palardy of Lewiston, two of the company’s most experienced demolitions experts, were both hit by fire; Roquet survived this wound (his third), but Palardy died. Manhattanite PFC Patrick T. Organ was killed in action, and Sergeant Kenneth Gray, who came back from the aid station to fight, died with a bullet in his back. The final entry in Gray’s service record book would read “Character: Excellent.”

Pushing The Right

It was my first taste of combat as a young Marine. I was scared shitless.[20]

Private Robert Owensby was right to be scared.

Four days earlier, he was aboard a transport ship off the shore of Iwo Jima, discussing the battle’s progress with his buddies in the 24th Replacement Draft. Now he was on the very front line, and two of those buddies – Sergeant Philip Baldwin and Private Jim Parker – were dead. There was no time to process his thoughts and feelings as he scurried forward from cover to cover, trying to keep up with his new squad and stay alive. They managed to reach the high ground and were within sight of the battered 1/25, but making contact seemed doubtful. Up ahead, Owensby could see the starkly ugly “Turkey Knob,” a stout hill topped by a large concrete blockhouse. This masterpiece of Japanese engineering housed a critical communications center and seemed all but impervious to damage. Marines sprayed over a thousand gallons of flamethrower fuel at its apertures to no apparent effect. Eight Sherman tanks fired scores of 75mm shells from close range; they might as well have been spitballs. The blockhouse itself squatted over a network of tunnels leading to dozens of supporting fortifications and caves. Japanese troops ducked in and out of these positions, taking cover from attacks and emerging unexpectedly to open fire from any direction. It was a formidable tactical problem.

The Turkey Knob blockhouse – with a disabled Marine tank for scale. USMC photo.

As they approached one of these positions, Owensby’s platoon leader wisely opted for a flanking maneuver, sending a small team around the side while the rest of the men provided a base of fire. “We got around on their right where we could sight down their trench,” said Owensby. “I could see three or four Japs running down the trench, trying to get into a cave.” Startled at the sight of live Japanese soldiers – his first – Owensby popped off a few rounds before his M1 jammed. As he swore and struggled with the bolt, the enemy escaped into a tunnel.[21]

A jam could happen even to the most experienced men. Platoon Sergeant Mike Mervosh recounted a similar experience while clearing out an enemy bunker. “I threw a smoke grenade into this cave entrance, and four Japs came running out, choking,” he said.

I caught the first one out. He had a big old saber, and he was going to crank that off right over my head, so I shot him right in the face. I thought I was going to get all four of them, but my M1 jammed.

This replacement, who was a few yards away from me, says, “They’re Japs! They’re Japs!” He had never seen Japs.

“I know they’re Japs – kill them!” I yelled.

With his Browning automatic, he wiped them out. “Boy, I’ve never seen any Japs!”

“Son, none of us have seen them on this island. You have got to be glad you’ve seen them.”

“Hot dog!” he says.

He was happy. An hour later, I lost him. I didn’t even get to know his name. I looked at his dog tags because I had to know who the heck he was. I didn’t want any MIAs in my outfit.[22]

After eight hours of fierce fighting and heavy casualties, Major Fenton Mee’s battalion seemed on the verge of enveloping Turkey Knob. Then, “at 1445, the enemy unleashed a terrific artillery, mortar, and rocket barrage, plus all MGs and small arms fire in the vicinity.” [23] The fire focused on B/1/25. Hit from three sides, the company fell back, which precipitated a general disengagement. Over the next three hours, 1/25 conducted a fighting withdrawal that ended, with much bitterness and disgust, in the foxholes they’d occupied that morning.[24]

US Navy photo.

When 1/25 disengaged, Charlie Company had to fall back, too. Enemy shells started falling near to Owensby’s occupied trench, and the platoon leader signaled a withdrawal.[25] Forward observers called in a rocket mission at 1530, “but the enemy fire did not decrease,” and even the efforts of a flamethrower tank were to no avail.[26] In desperation, the observers requested smoke shells to cover the evacuation of the wounded.


Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

Corporal Johana A. Parrish knew he was the best BARman in the Pacific and wasn’t shy to say so. Every recounted encounter with the Japanese ended the same way. “A magazine holds twenty rounds. I didn’t pull the trigger unless I had a target, and if I had a target, I gave him twenty rounds,” he explained. “One Jap or fifty, they got twenty rounds.” [27]

He will cover you with his feathers,
And under his wings will you find refuge;
His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

While the lack of visible targets on Iwo Jima frustrated him, “Twenty Rounds Parrish” had plenty of ways to get at the Japanese. When one taunted him, “Marine, you gonna die tonight,” Parrish taped a grenade to a mortar shell, tied the explosive to a strand of wire, and chucked the whole thing over a nearby cliff. “BOOM! We don’t know if we killed him or not, but there was no more talking.” [28]

You will not fear the terror of night,
Nor the arrow that flies by day

He feared not, but on D-plus-11 with Japanese mortars were flying, there was nothing to do but hit the dirt and hope it would all be over soon. Parrish was impulsive, not foolish, so he stayed under cover, using a favorite trick to keep his composure: endlessly repeating Psalm 91.

A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.

That was his favorite part. It was the part that was about him. Thousands of his fellow Marines had fallen in the past year of combat; he hoped ten thousand Japanese would fall by the BAR in his right hand. In all his days of fighting, Parrish had never been so much as scratched.

No harm will overtake you,
No disaster will come near your tent

And then a Japanese mortar shell landed in his fighting position. Soft sand absorbed the shrapnel, but the blast touched off Parrish’s white phosphorous grenade. Suddenly, the corporal was on fire, the burning chemicals searing into his body and setting off his illumination grenade. For the first time in his life, Parrish felt something close to panic. “I jumped up, and I started running, but my buddies threw me down. White phosphorous can’t be put out with water – you got to dig it out. And illumination is just like jelly, and that was on my face and hands. It was all over. It was around my eyes, and I couldn’t see.” [29]

You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.

A shot of morphine at the aid station calmed Parrish down; he even slept as chaos reigned around him. When he woke and started barking orders at his attendants, corpsmen covered his burned face with a poncho, loaded him aboard a jeep, and sent him back to the beach as mortars exploded across the road. Joe Parrish left Iwo Jima repeating his psalm and wondering if he would ever see anything again.


The rain of shells continued, killing veteran squad leader Sergeant James W. Swanson and new replacement Private Ralph G. Treppa. Pieces of metal lodged in Corporal Andrew Matulica’s back and kidney; he would be partially paralyzed for the rest of his life. Private Henry F. Svoboda suffered second-degree burns on his legs; a nearby blast concussed Corporal Adrian DeWitt, and several others were diagnosed with “shell shock.” A shell slammed down behind PFC Norman Lucas, bowling him over. They finally tagged me, he thought. A shattered leg was his ticket off of Iwo.

Lucas wound up on a hospital ship, where a ward attendant turned up his nose with a “My God, you stink.” “Hell,” retorted the mortarman, “I been on that island since 19 February, and here it is 2 March, and I haven’t had a drop of water on me.” The corpsman relented. “Well, get undressed and get in that shower.”

“What about all the dirt in my wound?”

“That wound’s got enough dirt in it. A little more isn’t going to hurt.”

This day marked the start of a lifelong ordeal for Lucas. His leg ballooned with infection; doctors on Guam warned him that he would likely lose the limb. Fortunately, a flight to Hawaii for treatment saved the leg, but Lucas was permanently disabled and lived with constant pain for nearly seventy years. Still, it could have been worse. When Lucas was hit, another shell fragment struck his buddy Gene Gladkowski in the heart, killing him instantly.

The battalion’s corpsmen were having another busy day, especially those attached to the line companies in the assault. HA2c Thomas W. Hernan, Jr. was a veteran of Saipan and Tinian, yet even he felt pushed to his limits keeping up with Charlie Company at Turkey Knob. “While trying to recover and treat a wounded Marine with two other corpsmen, amidst the exploding mortar rounds and machine-gun fire, I felt something like a baseball bat hit me across my lower back,” he remembered. “I fell and tried to get up but could not move.” A piece of shrapnel ripped into his back and traveled upwards, piercing his lung. Gasping for breath, the nineteen-year-old sailor fought to stay conscious. “I knew if I blacked out, I would probably be finished, as [the] other corpsmen were gone with the wounded Marine.” [30]

Help appeared in the form of PFC Bennie Peakan eighteen-year-old Kentuckian who served as the company barber. Peak could easily see that the Hernan was beyond his help – but when Hernan choked, “Don’t leave me!” there was only one thing to do. “I don’t know how I got him over my shoulder,” Peak said. With bullets and shrapnel zipping around them, he carried the unconscious Hernan to a safe place, called other corpsmen, and went back to his post. Hernan awoke at the aid station; his war was over, and he knew he owed his life to “a brave 18-year-old Marine who risked his life…. Through exploding mortars and machine-gun fire – the really rough times – a true friend and a real hero.” [31] The appellation of “hero” was given to another corpsman, HA1c Maurice D. Savidge, who earned the Silver Star Medal at the cost of his life on 2 March 1945.[32]

“Losses were average throughout the day,” concluded the battalion After Action Report. “Positions were consolidated at 1700, and all units occupied approximately the same positions as the previous night.”

Only on Iwo Jima would forty casualties in one battalion on a single day—for almost no gain—be considered anything like average.

The Fallen

xz_nopic a_gray a_palardy xz_nopic c_swanson
Maurice D. Savidge
Age 19
Cause unknown
Kenneth R. Gray
Age 28
Rifle squad leader, A Co.
Gunshot, back
Laurent R. Palardy
Age 22
Demolitions, A Co.
Cause unknown
Patrick T. Organ
Age 21
Rifleman, A Co.
Cause unknown
James W. Swanson
Age 22
Squad leader, C Co.
Shell fragment, head
c_gladkowski c_rardin   xz_nopic xz_nopic

Eugene T. A. Gladkowski
Age 23
Mortar squad leader, C Co.
Shrapnel, heart

Glen P. Rardin

Age 19
Engineer, C Co.
Cause unknown
Albert M. Fellows

Age 18
BARman, C Co.
Cause unknown
Ralph G. Treppa

Age 18
Rifleman, C Co.
Shell fragment, head
COMPANY Name Assignment Cause Destination
Headquarters HA2c Thomas W. Hernan, Jr. Corpsman Shrapnel, back Evacuated
Able Sgt. Thomas M. Hurley
Sgt. Paul Wakefield
Cpl. James P. Marmion
Cpl. Leon H. Roquet, Jr.
Cpl. Robert K. Walton
PFC Peter J. Cabrelli
PFC Ernest T. Henderson
PFC Tommy Lynchard
PFC Edwin A. Metzger
PFC Robert U. Santerre
Pvt. James D. J. Herman
Pvt. Norman F. Lamphere
Pvt. Alfred Raineri
Pvt. James B. Stewart
MG Section Leader
MG Section Leader
Fire Team Leader
Machine Gunner
Unknown (slight)
Gunshot, head
Gunshot, left eye & ear
Gunshot, left thigh
Gunshot, left shoulder
Contusion, fingers, left hand
Gunshot, right shoulder
Shrapnel, right hip
Gunshot, chest
Shrapnel, left arm
Unknown (slight)
Shell shock
Shrapnel, chest & back

Not Evacuated
USS Callaway
USS Bolivar
USS Callaway
USS James O’Hara
USS James O’Hara
USS James O’Hara

USS Whiteside
USS Bolivar

Not Evacuated
USS Bolivar
USS James O’Hara

Baker PFC George Burdin BARman Wounds, foot & right arm Evacuated

Cpl. Frank W. Ciecierski
Cpl. Adrian J. DeWitt
Cpl. Andrew Matulica
Cpl. Lilbert W. Morgan
Cpl. Johana A. Parrish
PFC Arthur A. Elzey
PFC Bill Fotiades
PFC Norman M. Lucas
PFC James F. Richburg
PFC William Schaefer
PFC Bernard H. Street
Pvt. Dale H. Noyes
Pvt. Casimir J. Pucinik
Pvt. Henry F. Svoboda

MG Squad Leader
Fire Team Leader
Fire Team Leader
Machine Gunner
Machine Gunner
Antitank Gunner

Unknown (slight)
Blast concussion
Shrapnel, back & kidneys
Shrapnel, left knee
Burns, face & hands
Gunshot, back & shoulders
Gunshot, abdomen
Shrapnel, left leg
Shell shock
Unknown (serious)
Unknown (slight)
Gunshot, left arm
Shell shock
Burns, right thigh & left hip

Not Evacuated
USS Bolivar
USS Callaway
USS Callaway
USS James O’Hara
USS James O’Hara
Not Evacuated
USS Bolivar

COMPANY Name Assignment Cause Destination
Able Pvt. Clifford W. Burnette Rifleman Sick Evacuated
Action Name From To Duty
Returned Sgt. Kenneth R. Gray Hospital A/1/24 Rifle Squad Leader
Returned Cpl. Marion E. Lyon Hospital A/1/24 Fire Team Leader
Returned Cpl. Floyd W. Lamberson Hospital C/1/24 BARman



[1] Major Fenton J. Mee, “BLT #1, RCT #25, Operation Report, Iwo Jima, Volcanic Islands,” 19 April 1945, 20. Mee’s report mentions a lack of flank support on D+10 and D+11 as contributing to the battalion’s decimation in the Meat Grinder. His anger with Major Treitel’s 1/24 is particularly evident on 1 March: 

“The positions held… were untenable because of the LT’s [Landing Team, his battalion] exposed right and left flank and the fact that the high ground to its left front and left flank was not captured. This situation gave the enemy observation and excellent fields of fire, which enfiladed our front lines. It was impossible to move forward without volumous [sic] enemy machine gun fire from our left front in the zone of action of LT #1, CT #24 [1st Battalion, 24th Marines].”

This flanking fire, coupled with frustration at the performance of the flanking units, probably contributed to Mee’s decision to attack early and without support.

[2] Norman M. Lucas, oral history interview conducted by Richard Lugar, Norman M. Lucas Collection (AFC/2001/001/30436), Veterans History Project, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress. Hereafter “Lucas Interview.” Lucas’ bitterness comes through clearly in the recording of this interview.
[3] Platoon Sergeant Wilson Leander Cook was Lucas’ former squad leader; on Iwo Jima, he served as the senior NCO of the mortar section. He was commissioned after the battle, and eventually retired as a colonel. Corporal Eugene Gladkowski took over Cook’s squad.
[4] Lucas related “sharing a grenade” on Saipan, this injury was only superficial and was not reported to medical personnel.
[5] The cause of Sergeant Gray’s wound on 1 March 1945 is not known; it was not recorded in his Official Military Personnel File or his USMC Casualty Card and was likely quite minor. Battalion muster rolls provide the dates and data for this incident.
[6] Kenneth Russell Gray, Official Military Personnel File.
[7] Kenneth Junior was born on 20 February 1943; a second son, name not known, was born 20 May 1944, while Gray was en route to Saipan.
[8] Gray was “examined and found qualified for promotion to the rank of Platoon Sergeant 24 December 1944.” Kenneth Gray Official Military Personnel File.
[9] “Pinched out” or “squeezed out” means that a unit is overlapped by its flank support– somewhat like a friendly version of an envelopment. This happened most commonly when advancing along a flank or where terrain features prevented further forward movement. In this case, the plan was for 1/24 to reach the end of a draw that terminated with the Turkey Knob; by the time they got there, 2/24 (on their left) and 1/25 (on their right) would have advanced far enough that those two units could link up and pass to the front of 1/24. This did not go according to plan.
[10] Headquarters, Expeditionary Troops, Task Force 56, “G-2 Report No. 11,” 1 March 1945, 4.. The total number of POWs taken by the end of the battle was 212.
[11] Robert D. Price, oral history interview conducted by Thomas Swope, Robert D. Price Collection(AFC/2001/001/49660), Veterans History Project, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress. Price demurred on the location and the identity of the man involved, saying “I don’t remember exactly what the terrain was…. I don’t remember whether [the culprit] was reprimanded, or what happened, he may not have made it. He was probably killed himself or wounded.”
[12] The Otsuka Tai was reported in contact with the 4th Marine Division as of 28 February 1945. The 20th Special Machine Cannon Unit was identified on 1 March.
[13] Harold J. Oberheide, interview conducted by Gary Rhay (Harold Junior Oberheide Collection, AFC/2001/001/34224), Veterans History Project, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress. 
[14] Coincidentally, the Easy Company skipper – Captain Charles T. Ireland, Jr. – had once served with 1/24.
[15] The Second Battalion, 24th Marines reported, “Enemy installations knocked out during the day’s advance: 8 machine guns, 15 cave entrances, from which fire was being received, were sealed; one 47mm gun in bunker knocked out, no count of enemy dead, estimated to be over 100.” All of this firepower was encountered over a 200-yard advance.
[16] George W. Garand and Truman R. Stobridge, History of U. S. Marine Corps Operations in World War II, Vol. 4: “Western Pacific Operations,” (Washington, D.C.: Headquarters, U. S. Marine Corps, 1971), 663.
[17] Tommy Lynchard, telephone interview conducted by the author, summer 2015.
[18] “Enshrined in the Hearts of a Grateful Nation,” The Buffalo Evening News (23 May 1945), 52.
[19] Santerre was shot in the chest during the battle of Tinian the previous year. According to family accounts, the scars made by the exit wounds were almost touching.
[20] “Robert Owensby” in Bruce M. Petty, Saipan: Oral Histories of the Pacific War (McFarland & Company: Jefferson, NC, 2002), 114.
[21] Ibid.
[22]  “Sgt. Maj. Mike Mervosh, USMC (Ret.)” in Gail Chatfield, By Dammit, We’re Marines! (San Diego: Methvin, 2008), 69. Mervosh places this incident at approximately two weeks after D-day, so likely this exchange happened somewhere in the Meat Grinder. He thought that the nameless replacement “must have been on the island an hour or two.” Unfortunately, this young man’s name may never be known.
[23] RCT 25 report, 142.
[24] 1/25 was finally relieved at 0630 the following day. Their casualties were extreme: after the final attack on Turkey Knob, A/1/25 counted two officers and 58 men present.
[25] Owensby, 114. He recalled falling back “about fifty yards.”
[26] 1/24 refers to this fire being directed against “a blockhouse to our right front” from which they were receiving heavy fire—almost certainly the Turkey Knob complex.
[27] “Sgt. Maj. Joe Parrish, USMC (Ret.)” in Gail Chatfield, By Dammit, We’re Marines! (San Diego: Methvin, 2008), 205.
[28] Ibid., 208.
[29] Ibid.
[30] Thomas W. Hernan, “PFC Bennie Peak Was a True Friend and a Real Hero,” Leatherneck vol. 89, no. 3 (March 2006), 64.
[31] Hernan, Leatherneck. For 60 years, Hernan had no idea if his savior survived Iwo. Then, in 2006, he received a phone call from Ben Peak. The two arranged a reunion and remained fast friends until Hernan’s death in January 2013. Bennie Peak passed away in December 2015.
[32] Savidge was cited for “gallant actions and dedicated devotion to duty, without regard for his own life.” A full citation has not yet been located.

One thought on “Iwo: D+11. March 2, 1945.

  1. I am a Marine, my father is a Marine, and three of my uncles are Marine. One of them was CPL Laurent Palardy, who died in the Meat Grinder on 2 March 1945. There are 3 generations of relatives of mine who are named after Uncle Larry. One of my sisters was even named after him. She was named Laurette and was called Lari. My father who I mentioned is still alive at 95 years old. Semper fi🇺🇸

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