Iwo: D+14. March 5, 1945.

Regroup

Colonel Walter I. Jordan summoned his battalion commanders to the command post to give them The Word.

Walter_Jordan
Walter Irvine Jordan, commanding officer of the 24th Marines on Iwo Jima.

Jordan was no stranger to a fight. He was a veteran of the Nicaragua campaigns of the 1920s and commanded the first Marine Security Guard at the American embassy in London. In 1943, while observing the 2nd Marine Division in action at Tarawa, Jordan took charge of a battalion on the spot when its commander was shot down; the feat earned him a Silver Star. He’d served with the 4th Marine Division in three campaigns and took command of the 24th Marines in the fall of 1944. Jordan knew when to fight – and he knew when men were reaching their breaking point. His three battalion landing teams were in bad shape, as were those of the other regiments in the 4th Marine Division. Major General Cates wanted to hold positions, as Jordan understood, for all units to reorganize, strengthen defenses, and scout the ground ahead.[1]

The colonel passed this news to the battalion commanders at 0730. It would not be a day off, he warned, nor was the situation expected to last. Further orders for a renewed attack would be coming later in the day. The more work they put in on D+14, the easier D+15 would be. It was less of a reprieve than a stay of execution, but after recent days in the Meat Grinder, the battalion commanders must have felt a wave of relief wash over their tired bodies. Each returned to his CP and passed The Word down the line.

Major Paul Treitel had only two of his four companies under his direct command – his headquarters outfit and the overtired Baker Company, which could field about 140 men. Charlie Company was three hundred yards to the rear in regimental reserve, while Able Company occupied the summit of Hill 382 in support of the Second Battalion. To comply with Division orders, Baker Company put out patrols to explore their immediate area. The sector behind them was finally quiet. Every flame-blackened blockhouse or collapsed cave held memories of the pain and suffering of their buddies. And they well knew that any “destroyed” position might harbor a Japanese holdout or conceal a tunnel leading to other fortifications still full of fight. Everything was done cautiously.

Fortunately, few if any Japanese were left to cause trouble. With every deserted position, Baker Company breathed a sigh of relief – especially when they discovered large dumps of ammunition and automatic weapons, all ready for use, in several of the caves and pillboxes. PFC Chester R. Hodge had a close call when a bullet clipped his right ear, and Corporal Loyd Pittman and Private William Allen fell victim to the eternal mortar shells. Baker Company’s mortar squads were still firing heavy barrages quite close to friendly lines. They had been at it for nearly two days, and “their damage to the enemy was beginning to become more evident.”[2] Perhaps the Japanese in the Wilderness could be worn down after all.

Iwo_Busy_Mortars
Judging by the pile of empty ammo containers, this mortar team has been very busy indeed. USMC photo.

Meanwhile, Able Company was getting a taste of life in the Second Battalion and was not finding it pleasant. The front lines and battalion CP were subjected to “very heavy and well-directed” artillery fire, and Easy Company spent a sleepless night having hand grenade duels with Japanese troops. Part of the Division order called for the 23rd Marines to readjust their line, which meant that 2/24 had to shift position as well – by moving fifty yards forward. On Iwo Jima, this was no small distance, nor an easy task. “During this adjustment, enemy mortar and artillery fire continued to fall in front line positions,” noted the battalion After Action Report. “CP was moved as enemy artillery had it definitely registered.” However, steady supplies of rations, water, ammunition, and blankets were received, and “every effort was made to rehabilitate and reorganize troops on the line.” The day of “rehabilitation” would end with another 32 Marines “ineffective” – sick, wounded, or dead.[3] George Company was particularly short on officers, so Able detached 2Lt. George E. Burcaw to assist.

G-2-24_Sniper_127-gr-14-92-113730_001-ac
William R. Reeves, Eulan B. Williams, and Walter L. Brown – all of G/2/24 – have cornered a sniper. Seconds after the photo was taken, Reeves killed the sniper with a grenade. USMC photo by E. Jones.

Able Company was split up into its component platoons and distributed amongst Easy, Fox, and George Companies. For the most part, these platoons acted as rear guards and roving mop-up squads, taking care of any positions bypassed or overlooked by the advance. Seven of their number were wounded during the day, including two requiring evacuation by air. They were grateful to return to the high ground atop Hill 382, safe from infiltrators, and reasonably assured of not spearheading any further attacks.

Of course, on Iwo, no place was truly safe. Charlie Company passed the most restful day of all – except for the mortars. Private Robert Owensby caught a small piece of shrapnel, but the quick attention of a corpsman kept him from evacuation. Less fortunate were Corporal George W. Fullick, Jr. and Private Donald F. More. “Don” hailed from Hot Springs, Montana; in civilian life, he worked as a lumber grader to support his wife and two little daughters.[4] Drafted into the service in June of 1944, he trained as an anti-tank gunner and joined Charlie Company less than a week before his death. Fullick, a veteran mortarman, played the trombone better than most and headed a band while still in high school. He toured the towns around Cochituate, Massachusetts, playing at parties and dances, but still made time to entertain the older veterans at the Framingham VFW.[5] Their deaths, terrible tragedies at home, warranted no mention in any official account. It was just another day on Iwo Jima.

Colonel Jordan reconvened his battalion commanders at 2200. The day of reorganization was over; attacks would begin the next day. The Third Battalion would be relieved in the next few hours and moved to Division reserve. The Second Battalion would advance, again, into the snarling Wilderness that cost so many of their lives. And First Battalion would attack along its one-company front, with Baker Company taking the lead. The assault would begin at 0900 hours on 6 March.

As he dismissed the gathering and prepared to grab a few hours’ sleep, Colonel Jordan may have chanced to see a casualty report. On a day with no attack, the 24th Marines lost 17 men killed in action, 24 wounded and evacuated, eight wounded not evacuated, two sick, and one missing.[6]

The brutality would begin again at first light.


The Fallen

b_rospop c_fullick ega-xz_nophoto
PFC
Charles Rospop
Age 23
Machine gunner, B Co.
Wounds received 4 March
  Corporal
George W. Fullick
Age 22
Mortarman, C Co.
Cause unknown
  Private
Donald F. More
Age 25
Basic, C Co.
Cause unknown
WOUNDED
COMPANY Name Assignment Cause Destination
Able PlSgt. Oscar T. Hanson
Cpl. William J. Rewerts
PFC Early E. Jordan
PFC Wilford M. Goode
PFC Harold A. Stephens
Pvt. James H. Stevens
Pvt. Charles L. Tackett
Platoon Sergeant
Fire Team Leader
Rifleman
BARman
Mortarman
Basic
Basic
Unknown (slight)
Shrapnel, right shoulder
Gunshot, abdomen
Shrapnel, lower lip & chin
Unknown (slight)
Gunshot, face
Gunshot, left hip
Not Evacuated
USS Fremont
USS Samaritan
To Guam, via air
Not Evacuated
To Guam, via air
Evacuated
Baker Cpl. Jesse T. Betts
Cpl. Loyd Pittman
PFC Chester R. Hodge
Pvt. William P. Allen
Squad Leader
Fire Team Leader
BARman
Basic
Unknown (slight)
Shrapnel, right cheek
Gunshot, right ear
Blast concussion
Not Evacuated
USS Fayette
USS Bolivar
USS Fremont
Charlie Pvt. Robert L. Owensby Antitank Gunner Mortar shrapnel Not Evacuated
JOINED / ATTACHED / TRANSFERRED
Action Name From To Duty
Returned Cpl. Leonard Yush Hospital A/1/24 Rifleman
Returned 2Lt Nicholas J. Barbarotto
PFC Alex Klinkoski
Hospital
Hospital
B/1/24
B/1/24
Platoon leader
Machine gunner
Transferred 2Lt. George E. Burcaw A/1/24 G/2/24 Platoon Leader

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Footnotes

[1] Colonel Walter I. Jordan, Annex George to Fourth Marine Division Report on Iwo Jima: RCT 24 Report (20 April 1945), 10.
[2] 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), 130.
[3] LtCol. Richard Rothwell, “Final Report on IWO JIMA Operation, Battalion Landing Team 2/24,” in Annex George to Fourth Marine Division Report on Iwo Jima: RCT 24 Report (20 April 1945), 192.
[4] “Donald F. More Killed in Pacific Area,” The Missoulan (Missoula, MT) 15 April 1945.
[5] Untitled article in The Cochituate Jeep, Issue #5 (6 April 1945), 1.
[6] Jordan, Annex George