The lieutenant was unmoving, unresponsive, and bleeding from the head when they laid him on the dead pile to await the meat wagon.
Jack Collis Manning was a quick learner. After graduating early from high school in Livingston, Texas, he spent two years at Sam Houston State before enlisting at the age of nineteen. He went to Southwestern Louisiana Institute on the V-12 program, Quantico for Officer Candidate’s School, Edgewood Arsenal for chemical warfare school, and finally Camp Pendleton for assignment. He arrived at Camp Maui with a replacement draft and was posted to the First Battalion, 24th Marines.
Patriotic and gung-ho, commissioned on the Fourth of July, Manning was anxious to prove he wasn’t just some dumb shavetail that brother officers wouldn’t trust or a ninety-day wonder for enlisted men to lampoon behind his back. All the new officers wanted platoons; that was where the real opportunity lay in a rifle company, the real leadership. He was ordered to Company C with Francis Cabrall, Jack Fansler, and Dave Griffith, but this put Charlie overstrength by two, so Manning and Albert Mitlehner shuffled over to headquarters. Someone noticed the chemical warfare training in Manning’s file; the battalion needed a chemical warfare officer. Manning cooled his heels around HQ while the other new lieutenants learned how to handle their platoons in the field, built partnerships with their NCOs, got to know their men. Then, somehow, his fortunes changed and he found himself in charge of the Third Platoon of C/1/24 just before the most significant battle they would ever fight.
The lieutenant was nervous on the way to the beach, the greenest of the green, the most dangerous thing in the world to his Marines, a boot Looie who might say the wrong thing or make the wrong decision when the chips were down. And they would have to do his bidding because he was an Officer and a Gentleman and thus, theoretically, knew best, and then they would die. He would not do this, he thought, not to these men whose lives were in his trust, men he barely knew, not to any of them. So, like the gifted student he was, he asked a good question. What am I supposed to do?
“I tell you what,” said Corporal Joe Parrish, “if I were you, I’d let the platoon sergeant handle it. You just stick with him.”
Manning appreciated Parrish for his opinion and honesty. “Okay,” he said, “I’ll remember that.”  He tried to put a note of casual firmness in his voice as the boat pitched and rocked, and the odd bullet sang overhead, but he knew Parrish was right. The senior NCO, Platoon Sergeant Samuel P. McNeal knew the platoon better than anyone, earned his rating the hard way, commanded respect with his DI voice and his Silver Star, would know what to do. Then there was a grating, a lurch, and he was ashore on Iwo Jima.
He saw wonderful, terrible things in the next twelve days. The first of the second lieutenants, Sonny Cabrall, being carried off to die with a piece of shrapnel in his face. Watching with his men as the flag went up, Sam McNeal shouting, “Look! Suribachi is ours!” before attacking a bunker with a handful of grenades, an act of insane bravery that earned McNeal his second Silver Star at the cost of his life. With McNeal gone, he relied on Corporal Parrish, sharing his foxhole at night and hearing advice and stories ending with Parrish’s catchphrase “I gave him twenty rounds.”  Every day was a lesson, and he was a gifted student. He became a real leader the day he took on a Japanese cave, hurling heavy satchel charges into its mouth until a powerful blast brought down the roof. And he learned the restorative value of a few days in reserve.
And then he spent forty-eight hours in the hell of the Meat Grinder, knowing what was coming each morning, seeing the grim determination on the face of his fourth company commander and the numb resignation on the faces of his men as he briefed them for the day, some familiar, some replacements, and every day there were fewer ones he knew. He did not get to know many at all before they were gone. Sometimes he knew what happened and wrote to their families (he was brave, he was beloved, it was all over quickly) and sometimes not; they were simply not there when the platoon scrambled back to their foxholes, panting and cursing and crying after another attack that gained them nothing. All the artillery in the world, all the bullets and grenades, all the mortars firing in close support, all the tanks and the flames and the steel, and yet the enemy fire never abated, no matter how many they killed or thought they killed. How many Japanese could there be on this island (or in this island), anyway? His advisor, Corporal Parrish, was one who fell, but by now, Jack Manning knew all that he needed to know.
On D+12, he passed the word of a new plan. Major Fenton Mee’s attack of the previous day had not worked, but it had almost worked, and that was enough reason to try it again. Instead of Major Mee’s 1/25, it would be Major Paul Treitel’s 1/24 jumping off at 0630, forsaking a preparatory bombardment in the hopes of catching the Japanese by surprise. Maybe, just maybe, the enemy at the Turkey Knob was demoralized enough to quit. So they went up over the lips of their foxholes before dawn.
It was quiet at first. Every officer or NCO or private acting in their stead knew what to do; there was no need to shout orders. Manning gathered what remained of his headquarters section – the platoon guide, a messenger or two, a comms man with a telephone and spool of wire – and took off in the direction of the Turkey Knob. And then, to his left, he heard Japanese mortar shells exploding and screams from Able Company, and then yelling from his men because the surprise was spoiled. The machine guns opened up, men dove for cover, and it was just another day in the Meat Grinder.
As he desperately cranked the handle on his field phone, Manning saw the rifle snaking out of a crevice just a few feet away. The phone fell from his hand, he fumbled for a grenade, and then he was on the ground with a bullet through his skull. He could feel two pairs of helping hands pulling him to safety; the rifle barked twice more, and those hands went limp. His vision blurred, and everything went black.
When the corpsmen found him, they thought he was gone, so they carried him back to the dead pile and laid him down next to Sergeant Merchant.
Second Lieutenant Jack Collis Manning was not yet dead. But the day had just begun.
To The Turkey Knob
Michael Francis Murray, Junior was the last remaining rifle platoon sergeant in Charlie Company.
He remembered them all; they were all old friends. Jim McSwain and Sam McNeal went down the day the flag went up, one badly hit, the other dead and buried. Philip Fagan, the old salt with stories about Nicaragua and Shanghai, got nicked in the neck on their first day in the Meat Grinder. His other colleagues Mike Mervosh, Charles Czerweic, and Wilson Cook, were still around with the machine guns and mortars, and all three had been wounded at least once since D-day. It seemed unlikely that all four of them would reach the battle’s end; they were the experienced backbone of a company led by a rear-echelon Captain and a trio of “butterbars.”  He had to give the young lieutenants credit for guts, though – most led from the front, despite the danger – but everyone knew the senior NCOs ran the show.
On D+12, Mike Murray was in his element, leading his platoon back into the trenches below the Turkey Knob. He knew their only hope lay in outflanking the dangerous positions, but the Japanese knew this as well, and were waiting when the first of Murray’s men walked into their line of fire. A pair of Nambu machine guns housed in mutually supporting bunkers sent the platoon scrambling for cover. It was impossible to attack one position without exposing oneself to fire from the other, and nobody wanted to be the first target. Murray had to choose the next move, but he had no real choice. They could not move back; the machine guns would tear them to pieces. They could not stay still; the Japanese would call in mortars. They had to go forward, and he had to lead them.
After months of training at Camp Maui, and weeks of experience on Iwo, Charlie Company knew how to take out enemy fortifications. Normally, the platoon would have employed the textbook “corkscrew and blowtorch” technique – pouring heavy fire on the target while the demolitions team got up close with explosives and flamethrowers. Mike Murray chose a different tack: like his buddy Sam McNeal, he went after one pillbox with his rifle and hand grenades. His men jumped up and followed in a mad dash as the Japanese gunners fired without ceasing. They stopped some, but not all; Murray’s assault overwhelmed and silenced the pillbox. One down, one to go.
Several of Murray’s men lay in the open, groaning and bleeding, in full view of the remaining Japanese pillbox. At any minute, the Nambu could open up and finish the job – but the gunners held their fire, using the wounded men as bait. Some cried out; others played dead. One unlucky man lay close to the pillbox’s firing port; if the Japanese started shooting, he was doomed. If he was conscious or capable of thought, he was probably praying.
There was the rapid pop-pop-pop of an American rifle, and as the Japanese gun swung around to respond, Mike Murray dropped down to reload. He shouted his instructions: get the wounded while the enemy was distracted. Again and again, the platoon sergeant stood, fired, ducked, and moved as the machine gun chewed up the rocks and dirt around him. One after another, the wounded men were dragged back to safety until only the man near the pillbox remained. I got him, said Murray, and I don’t want any of you coming after me if I get hit. And then he charged the machine gun alone, one man against a fortification, and inevitably went down and did not get up again. It took the platoon a moment to realize the pillbox was silent, that he’d taken it out alone, and so they defied his orders and went to his rescue, but he did not live long. The other wounded men were carried to the rear. Command of the platoon passed to the next senior NCO. It was just after 0900.
Iron Mike Mervosh had his second close call on the morning of D+12.
He felt like he was fighting in “a mini Grand Canyon,” or maybe the moon – a “lunar landscape” so broken and torn that he expected earthquakes at any moment. There was less of the soft, shifting volcanic ash in this northern section of the island; there were fewer fouled weapons, and walking was easier. Most Marines dropped their packs when attacking, favoring freedom of movement over personal gear. This morning, however, Mervosh kept his pack on. The decision probably saved his life.
Annoying as the volcanic ash could be, it did have one significant advantage: it reduced the deadly effects of shrapnel and concussion from nearby explosions. Shells designed to detonate on impact tended to bury themselves in the soft ash. “Thank goodness for the ash,” Mervosh commented, “or we would have had more casualties. In the northern area, it was hardtop – and we got the full blast.” 
As Charlie Company advanced through a series of gullies – cleared, fortunately, of Japanese riflemen – another barrage came sailing overhead. Mervosh sensed one heading his way and dropped to the ground, curling himself into a fetal position up against the side of a crevice. “BOOM! Something hit me in the back like a horse had kicked me, or someone hit me with a baseball bat,” he said. Mervosh kept his cool – he was not called “Iron Mike” for nothing – and when the barrage lifted, he turned to inspect the damage. “My pack was all torn up. Binocular case shredded, C-rations gone.” In the middle of the mess was a still-warm piece of shrapnel the size of a pancake. He chucked the ruined pack but kept the binoculars as a souvenir.
Charlie Company’s attack was three hours old. Two men were dead, one was soon to die, and twelve more were being treated for wounds at the aid station. Captain Klopfentine’s company numbered three officers and 110 men – about half of their landing strength – plus 26 still-raw replacements. Now, facing “an area where an enemy was well entrenched and concealed… infested with spider traps and concealed machine guns,” they reached their limit and could go no farther. And then, to their surprise, they learned they would be relieved.
Relief Under FIre
After spending two days in battalion reserve, Captain Bill Eddy’s Baker Company passed straight through Charlie Company’s line and went directly into the assault. This was an emergency maneuver; it was difficult enough to move one company in one direction while under fire, but moving two companies in opposing directions was an open invitation for chaos and confusion. As the Japanese turned their attention to Baker Company, Charlie’s survivors made their way to the rear, reassembled, and reverted to landing team reserve. “We moved back to what was called Hill 382,” related Private Robert Owensby. “However, being in reserve on Iwo was not what you would call R&R, because we frequently came under Japanese mortar fire.” From there, the Marines watch the Seabees busily fixing holes on Motoyama Airfield #1 – their reason for being on Iwo at all.
On the other side of Hill 382, Able Company was still battering away at the sector that had held them up for the past two days. Hit with mortar fire shortly after jumping off, they suffered throughout the morning as Japanese grenades and “knee mortars” fell like rain. However, D+12 would mark a turning point for 1Lt. Roy Wood’s tired men. As their neighboring unit advanced, the right of Easy Company increasingly overlapped the left of Able Company. The “pinch out” predicted for the previous day finally played out, and by 1500 hours, almost all of Able Company was behind the front line. Astonishingly, only two casualties occurred within their ranks. Corporal Virgil McNutt and PFC Leonard Forthaus not only survived their wounds but returned to the company at Camp Maui several weeks later.
The situation was far different for Baker Company. Until now, they experienced the Meat Grinder from a distance, following casualty reports and watching the futile attacks from relative safety. Now they saw it up close and personal. “The terrain consisted of numerous hillocks, mounds, and shallow cross-corridors with nearly vertical sides,” wrote Lt. Colonel Whitman Bartley. “Covered reinforced concrete emplacements, with firing ports placed to protect the front and both flanks, were cleverly located in this area, taking maximum advantage of the protection afforded by ground formations. Every avenue of approach was controlled by machine-gun and rifle fire, with enemy mortars and artillery registered to cover defiladed areas.” 
Baker Company made good use of all available supporting fire. The hard-working artillerymen of the 14th Marines were called on to shell any likely targets more than 100 yards away. At the battalion level, 1Lt. J. Murray Fox’s 81mm mortars elevated their tubes to a dangerously short 50 yards; the 60mm mortars at the company level added their bombs closer still. The drivers of Company B, 4th Tank Battalion carefully edged their Shermans along the narrow, twisting avenues of approach to add 75mm direct fire or a jet of napalm. Squads of rocket trucks wheeled into position to loose a “ripple” of 36 4.5-inch rockets, blanketing a huge target area in seconds. The infantry loved and hated the “Buck Rogers Men” – loved the speed and impact of the “automatic artillery,” hated the fact that the “rooster tails” of smoke and dust were so visible to the enemy, who always retaliated with a furious barrage. The rocket trucks learned to get in, shoot, and get out in a matter of minutes – leaving the nearby infantry to suffer the Japanese fire.
In a dramatic sequence captured by a Coast Guard cameraman, a Marine rocket truck is spotted and shelled by Japanese artillery. While the Marines survived, the cameraman and his assistant were killed by the shelling. Stills from “To The Shores of Iwo Jima.”
Captain Eddy’s men pushed ahead with vigor, outpacing their flank support and becoming victims of their own aggressiveness. The Japanese on the high ground greeted Baker Company with the same ferocity they’d leveled against Charlie Company. Mortars and artillery caused most of the wounds, with concussions and shrapnel wreaking havoc at all ranks. Two platoon leaders, 2Lt. Robert C. Euler and Platoon Sergeant Walter Shamray were wounded and evacuated, as were three veteran corporals. The inexperienced replacements suffered badly; Privates LeRoy Hultin, Peter Bachulis, Robert Gibson, and Hubert Mackey were all wounded in their first experience on the front lines.
Private James A. Moore, the draftee aircraft designer, was assigned to help evacuate the wounded. “My first real duty in the forward combat area was carrying stretchers from what they called the ‘Meat Grinder’ back to Hill 382,” he said. “This I did for two days. I was the only survivor from that group of stretcher carriers.”
During one of my last times forward, I rescued a man who was wounded and lying in a shell crater. This was after the man who was with me was shot and killed. I was able to get the wounded man back, and the captain who was in charge of that unit was so excited that he wanted to give me a medal.
Moore turned down the medal but asked Captain Eddy “to make sure I was rescued if in a similar situation someday.”  It would prove to be the wisest trade he ever made.
Private Lawrence A. Trower had a very different experience. He assisted one of the company’s BARmen – essentially a glorified mule for the ammo-hungry automatic rifle. “I was carrying 300 rounds of ammunition for the BARman, plus my own ammunition for my M1 rifle,” he said. In this attack, Trower’s gunner was shot and killed. “They brought me his BAR, and then I was the BARman,” he continued. “They told me to move out next, and I thought I hope that guy can’t do that two times in a row. Boy, I tell you, that’s fear.” 
Despite the best efforts of the brave stretcher-bearers, four Baker Company Marines lost their lives on D-plus-12. Two BARmen – Private Clarence Verlon Postell and PFC Jack Dan McCormick, a former high school football hero, were among the dead. Two replacements – Private Gernie Barnhill, who joined Baker Company on his twenty-fourth birthday, and Private Melvin Adalman, the University of Maryland pharmacology student – were killed in their first battle.
In the late afternoon, Baker Company spotted Japanese troops gathering near a cave mouth. A tank arrived to neutralize the threat, but all the combined firepower could not remove the stubborn defenders, and Baker Company “was unable to take all of the high ground to its front.”  At 1700 hours, they were forced to consolidate their position for the night, recording a gain of some 125 yards. Administrative shuffling placed Charlie Company in Regimental reserve, while Company A was attached to Second Battalion. This left Baker Company alone to represent the battalion front. Although the regiment reported a daily gain of 350 yards at the center, First Battalion’s brutal beating at the hands of the Japanese meant their gains were far more modest. The day’s efforts had cost thirty-eight casualties, including four platoon leaders. 1Lt. Marshall Salvaggio from Able Company transferred to Charlie Company; he took over the Third Platoon, which had lost its officer, platoon sergeant, and platoon guide during the day.
The battalion’s dead pile had grown since Charlie Company’s morning debacle. Headquarters troops collected dog tags and personal effects from Merchant and Murphy, Adalman and Barnhill, McCormick and Postell, and Private John Rutter. Finally, they came to Jack Collis Manning. The Charlie Company lieutenant had lain motionless since being brought to the aid station twelve hours ago. His face was a mask of blood; the Japanese bullet that pierced his skull exited through the top of his head. A dutiful clerk had already taken down the address of his next of kin, and soon a telegram would be on its way to Livingston, Texas.
And then the dead man moaned softly. A corpsman was summoned, examined the prostrate form, and looked up in disbelief – Manning was still alive. The bullet had missed his brain. Manning was pulled out, treated, and rushed back to the beach for evacuation to the USS Bolivar.
He would amaze them all by returning to duty in April – filling the billet of battalion chemical officer, vacant since his assignment to Charlie Company in January.
John M. Rutter
Assault & Demolitions, HQ Co.
Shell fragment, chest
Jack D. McCormick
BARman, B Co.
Shell fragment, head
Melvin S. Adalman
Basic, B Co.
Gernie P. Barnhill
Basic, B Co.
Clarence V. Postell
BARman, B Co.
Shell fragment, head
Frank V. Merchant
Platoon guide, C Co.
John D. Smith
BARman, C Co.
|Headquarters||HA1c Lloyd L. Ahlman||Corpsman||Unknown||USS James O’Hara|
|Able||Cpl. Virgil M. McNutt
PFC Leonard J. Forthaus
|Shrapnel, left hand & leg
|Baker||2Lt. Robert C. Euler
PlSgt. Walter S. Shamray
Cpl. Charles Gabor
Cpl. Howard W. Johnson
Cpl. Wendell C. Ricker
PFC Kenneth N. Boyd
PFC John W. Greer
PFC Edward E. Roginski
Pvt. Peter A. Bachulis
Pvt. Emile Charron
Pvt. Robert C. Gibson
Pvt. LeRoy E. Hultin
Pvt. Stanley Kozlowski
Pvt. Hubert J. Mackey
Pvt. Alvin J. Simon
Pvt. Edward P. Simonson
Fire Team Leader
Fire Team Leader
Shrapnel, left hand & knee
Shrapnel, left leg
Gunshot, right buttock
Shrapnel, left leg
Gunshot, right shoulder
Shrapnel, left eye & ear
Fracture, right leg
Shrapnel, left thigh & back
USS James O’Hara
USS James O’Hara
USS James O’Hara
USS James O’Hara
USS James O’Hara
USS President Jackson
USS President Jackson
USS James O’Hara
2Lt. Jack C. Manning
3rd Platoon Leader
|JOINED / ATTACHED / TRANSFERRED|
|Returned||Pvt. Thomas M. Hartigan||Hospital||HQ/1/24||Rifleman|
|Returned||PFC Kenneth S. Kelley
Pvt. Charles W. Smith
|Returned||Sgt. Joseph B. Cowan
Cpl. William C. Kyle, Jr.
PFC Frank F. Zebley
|Joined||1Lt. Marshall Salvaggio||A/1/24||C/1/24||Platoon Leader|
 “A sight about which no dispatch was sent: the ‘meat wagon,’ a truck heaped high above its sides with the bodies of our dead. The bodies at the top bounced lightly, as if on gentle springs, as the truck nosed carefully over uneven terrain.” Dan Levin, From The Battlefield: Dispatches of a World War II Marine (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1995), 97. Sergeant Levin served as a correspondent attached to the 24th Marines.
 Second Lieutenants Cabrall, Fansler, Griffith, and Manning were assigned to C/1/24 on 6 December 1944. The company already had two second lieutenant platoon leaders (Mitlehner and Charles R. “Scooter” Anderson), so some reshuffling took place. Mitlehner was reassigned to HQ/1/24 on 7 December 1944 for service as a liaison. The dates of Jack Manning’s transfers are not clear. Battalion muster rolls show him with C/1/24 for the rest of December, with HQ as a chemical officer in January 1945, and then back with C/1/24 for all of February. Lieutenants Cabrall, Fansler, Griffith, Mitlehner, and Anderson would all die on Iwo Jima.
 The Chemical Warfare Officer was tasked with training others in defense against gas attacks. By 1945, it was seen as something of a redundant role.
 “Sgt. Maj. Joe Parrish, USMC (Ret.)” in Gail Chatfield, By Dammit, We’re Marines! (San Diego: Methvin, 2008), 207.
 Jim Kyle, “Iwo Jima: ‘Every yard paid for in blood of Marines,’” The Baytown Sun (Baytown, TX) 22 February 1987.
 Parrish in Chatfield, 207. “What’s funny is that platoon leader, every night when we’d dig in on Iwo, he was in the foxhole with me.”
 Kyle, “Iwo Jima.” This action took place on 24 February 1945.
 Primary sources disagree about the date of this event. The battalion’s After Action Report states that Manning was wounded on 1 March 1945; this is contradicted by the (usually accurate) battalion muster roll and Manning’s USMC casualty card, both of which state 3 March. In his account to Jim Kyle, Manning gives no date but says that “I got shot around 7 o’clock in the morning” which aligns with the C/1/24 attack order for 0630 on 3 March; the AAR places Manning’s wounding at approximately 1400 hours on 1 March. Finally, the AAR notes that Manning’s “platoon sergeant and platoon guide” were killed at the same time, which is probably accurate even if the date is incorrect. Platoon Sergeant Michael Murray and Sergeant Frank Merchant are the most likely candidates for these two individuals (assuming that one succeeded the deceased Platoon Sergeant Sam McNeal).
 “Butterbar” was a derogatory term for a second lieutenant’s insignia (a single gold bar). Although Captain Klopfenstine was an experienced officer, he had not commanded a line unit since training at Camp Pendleton and most recently had been in charge of the regiment’s Service and Supply company.
 Platoon Sergeant Murray received a posthumous Navy Cross for his actions. While “he made possible the safe evacuation of his wounded comrade,” the man’s identity and whether he ultimately survived the ordeal are not known.
 Mike Mervosh, oral history interview conducted by The National World War II Museum, “Oral History Part 2,” March 19, 2008.
 Major Charles L. Banks, “Final Report on IWO JIMA Operation, Battalion Landing Team 1/24,” in Annex George to Fourth Marine Division Report on Iwo Jima: RCT 24 Report (20 April 1945), 128. Hereafter “Final Report.”
 “Robert Owensby” in Bruce M. Petty, Saipan: Oral Histories of the Pacific War (McFarland & Company: Jefferson, NC, 2002), 114.
 Lt. Col. Whitman S. Bartley, Iwo Jima: Amphibious Epic (Historical Section: Headquarters, USMC, 1954), 159-160.
 Final Report, 128.
 “James A. Moore” in Bruce M. Petty, Saipan: Oral Histories of the Pacific War (McFarland & Company: Jefferson, NC, 2002), 110.
 Lawrence A Trower, “Lawrence ‘Slats’ Trower, PFC,” in The Muted Trumpet’s Call: Stories of the Everyday Heroes of World War II ed. Chuck Knox (Chicago: Authorhouse, 2011), 140-141.
 Final Report, 128.
 Ibid., 139. First Battalion did not appreciate the constant shuffle of its companies, as the report indicates: “Companies, battalions, and regiments should definitely operate AS A UNIT [emphasis in original] with assigned zone of action for maximum efficiency in combat. The reasons are obvious. In the past operation, this battalion was often split up. On one occasion [3-4 March] we had one company on line, another company on line but attached to BLT 2/24, and the third company in Regimental Reserve. By moving the company attached to BLT 2/24 to our left flank, this battalion could have operated as such. As it worked, out we had one company only under our control, with a battalion staff about equal to the size of the company attempting to run it.”
 Manning’s parents were notified that their son was killed in action. It took some time for the mistake to be corrected.
 Kyle, “Iwo Jima.”