Iwo: D+17. March 8, 1945.

Breakdown

PFC John C. Pope woke up rested but resentful after spending the night at First Battalion’s 81mm mortar position.

iwo_MGCochran_127-GW-328-142289
A Marine sets up his M1917 Browning on 8 March 1945. The photographer, PFC J. B. Cochran, was formerly with B/1/24.

While he appreciated the opportunity to catch up on some sleep in relative safety several hundred yards behind the front lines, the previous night’s argument with PFC James T. Rainey bothered him. Just before dark, Rainey kicked up such a fuss that Pope was ordered to leave his team and stay with the mortarmen. He refused to say why, but Pope suspected that his friend’s self-declared ability to see the future was to blame. Pope felt guilty at leaving his gun crew, worried for the young mortarman who’d taken his place, and angry with Rainey’s attitude. The two Georgians were best friends, but in their pique refused to speak to each other overnight. Daylight did nothing to ameliorate the animosity. Rainey stomped over to Pope, snarled “You can go back now,” and turned on his heel. Pope rolled his eyes at the mortar section sergeant, gathered his gear, and made his way back to the front lines.

He found a mess when he arrived. The heavy machine gun he’d carefully tended to and emplaced the night before was a wreck of twisted metal. Bloodstains darkened the ground around the position. Corpsmen were ministering to wounded men, and two bodies lay under ponchos. The mortarman who’d volunteered to take Pope’s place was dead. He’d never fired a shot – the gunners were victims of chance, “one of those random shells we called harassing fire.” Pope felt sick and gut-churningly guilty. “My volunteer relief gunner would not get the chance to brag about being a machine gunner after all.” [1] In the back of his mind, he wondered if Rainey had seen the “strange light” and pitched a fit to save his life.[2]

cupps_SE
“Chick” Cupps

A few foxholes away, PFC Stanley E. Cupps was waiting for his regular morning visitor. PFC Thomas J. Buckley checked in every day, sometimes running seventy-five yards to look in on “Chick.” Buckley, a twenty-nine-year-old father of three, appointed himself guardian to the teenaged Cupps during training at Camp Maui. “Buck” encouraged Chick not to drink, swear, or chase women; he declared that Cupps would not only survive but return home “a gentleman.” [3] The two friends shared a moment of quiet on D-plus-17, with Buck clucking over Chick’s recent wound like a mother hen. As demolitions men, they knew a full day lay ahead.

Sergeant Attilio Centofanti was toying with the watch he got in the mail while sailing to Iwo Jima. It was his prized possession because it had a stopwatch feature. He would time anything – how quickly a buddy could climb a ladder aboard ship, how long they’d been in a chow line – and on the boat going to the beach, he planned to start the timer when the ramp dropped and stop it when he killed his first enemy soldier. Only “Shenny” knew how many times he’d clicked that timer since coming ashore.[4]

Hospital Apprentice Billie Lee Leavell checked and re-checked his harness. The webbing straps supported two bags that bulged with as many bandages, dressings, and syrettes of morphine as he could carry. Leavell was twenty-one, from Junction City, Kansas, and loved his work. He’d earned high marks in hospital corps training, served in and survived three significant battles, and earned his own Purple Heart on Saipan. At home, he worked for the family-owned restaurant and grocery – and carried books on business management in his bags – but he had his heart set on a higher calling. If he made it through, he told Lt. (j.g.) Richards Lyon, he wanted to go to medical school.

Hammel_RadioConference
A headquarters group radios a report. USMC photo.

Second Lieutenants David H. Griffith and Jack W. Fansler held conferences with what remained of their respective headquarters groups. They had landed on Iwo Jima as two of the greenest officers in their battalion; now, they were the only officers left in their company.

griffith_dh_The_Morning_Call_Fri__Oct_8__1943_“Dee” Griffith was twenty-four and famous as a footballer in his native Pennsylvania. Teenaged teams in Delaware County feared to face off against the “triple-threat back” from Park High School, who later brought his gridiron talents and academic honors to Moravian College. “A crack quarterback who could kick and pass a football with the best of the small college gridders,” Griffith was regarded as the best player Moravian could field, and Muhlenberg coach Al Julian noted his performance. Dee wanted to enter the service: V-12 was an attractive option, and while Moravian could not support such a program, Muhlenberg welcomed him with open arms. He became “one of the outstanding stars of Coach Julian’s 1943 Muhlenberg football machine” for throwing a thirty-yard forward pass in a game against Yale. A subsequent on-field injury left him benched and frustrated for the rest of the 1943 season.[5] Griffith left Muhlenberg for Quantico during his junior year, completed his OCS training, earned his commission in May of 1944, and married Sara Jean Kirkpatrick that summer. Even before his assignment to the 24th Marines, Lieutenant Griffith followed the exploits of the 4th Marine Division with particular interest: his younger brother, Donald Griffith, was serving with E/2/23rd Marines. The Griffith boys even managed a quick reunion on Iwo Jima.

c_fansler_thumbnailJack Fansler hailed from Galva, Illinois. A 1941 graduate of Altona High School, Fansler attended Western Illinois State Teacher’s College, planning to become an educator. He joined the Marine Corps Reserve in 1942 and was called to active duty the following year. Instead of Quantico, Fansler attended Special Officer Candidate School (SOCS) at Camp Lejeune, a program designed to give potential officers brief but thorough training before a combat posting. Many who received their bars were not totally equipped for the strain of command, especially when assigned to a unit comprised heavily of combat veterans. Fansler, however, was up to the challenge. “I was immediately impressed by his good-naturedness, his ability to do a good job, and the fact that the men and officers liked him at once,” commented Major Horace C. Parks. “Soon afterward, he was stamped as one of the best lieutenants in the organization, not only because his work was outstanding but because his men respected him so much.” [6] Parks was a tough man to impress: he was the original skipper of Charlie Company and held officers to a high standard. Like Dee Griffith, Jack Fansler also had a brother in the service – but there would be no reunion on Iwo or anywhere else. Corporal Walter Fansler was dead, killed in France the previous August.

These Marines and dozens of their comrades – not companies, not hundreds, but dozens – were tasked with breaking through the same defensive line that defied their efforts for the past several days. It was an exercise in the arithmetic of attrition, and equation that would balance when one side ran out of ammunition or the other out of bodies.

Up The Ridge

Iwo_ClimbingRidge
Still from “To The Shores of Iwo Jima”

Captain William A. Eddy, Jr. brought Baker Company up to the lines to relieve Easy Company, 2/24, at about 0430. Lt. Col. Rothwell’s Second Battalion headed for what they hoped would be a well-earned spell in the rear; they optimistically reported on reduced resistance to their front, and “activity during the night negligible.” When they came off the lines, though, their companies were barely larger than platoons. In fact, Easy Company’s relief by Baker was the last action it would take in the battle. That morning, Easy was disbanded and the survivors assigned to other units in the battalion – an extreme measure that spoke to the tremendous casualties suffered in the past week.

Major Paul Treitel now had Baker and Charlie Companies on the line and under his control. Able Company still faced the Japanese salient created on the previous day; throughout the morning, they would operate with 3/24 to eliminate the strongpoint. This left Captain Eddy and 1Lt. Marshall Salvaggio responsible for continuing the advance.[7] The methodical veteran Eddy was unable to recon his front line; Easy Company passed on what information they could, but it was no substitute for personal observation. For his part, Lt. Salvaggio only knew that hell awaited on the high ground; his adopted company fought for hours to make headway only to head back to their starting positions at nightfall. The two companies were about fifty yards short of a ridgeline studded with bunkers and pillboxes. The men hoped (but did not necessarily expect) to be atop the ridge by nightfall.

Demolition work defined the morning’s advance. “Numerous pillboxes and caves were gradually being overrun,” notes the battalion After Action Report. Baker and Charlie Companies expended countless rounds of small-arms ammunition, gallons of flamethrower fuel, and pounds of TNT every couple of yards as one fortification after another fired, flailed, and fell silent. This work slowed the attack, but at least the attack was progressing at all. It took nearly six hours to traverse those fifty yards, but at last portions of Baker and Charlie gained the top of the ridge. As they explored the caves, they found observation posts equipped with telephone wires – the nests where Japanese observers crouched for days on end, calling in salvo after salvo of devastating mortar fire. While “some of the caves were still occupied by the enemy,” the report made no mention of taking any prisoners.[8]

Iwo_ThreeMarines_127-gr-14-94-113653_001-ac
Fighting snipers in northern Iwo Jima. USMC photo by Dreyfuss.

The companies sustained several casualties in the ascent, including Private Robert Owensby. It was his seventh day in combat with Charlie Company, and Owensby was nursing some minor shrapnel wounds inflicted a few days before. He was down at the bottom of a cliff and heard the clink of metal on a rock as a Japanese grenade bounced down the slope towards him. “The grenade rolled down the cliff, hit my backpack, and exploded,” he said. “Cans of rations and a package of letters from my girlfriend absorbed most of the impact, but I took fragments in my neck, back, and extremities. I was able to walk back to an aid station with the help of a corpsman.” Japanese grenades tended to shatter into tiny pieces; surgeons aboard the USS Samaritan told Owensby he had more than a hundred bits of metal embedded in his body. He was classed as an ambulatory patient and went on to serve with a garrison unit on Saipan.[9]

b_bettsCorporal Jesse T. Betts, a replacement NCO in Baker Company, was leading a rifle squad up the hill when Japanese snipers opened fire. Several of his Marines went down wounded, and the platoon’s advance abruptly stopped as scouts searched for the source of the fire. Betts deliberately stood up in the open, spotted the snipers as they fired at him, and went after the nest. When the violence ended, three Japanese were dead, and Betts was bleeding from fresh wounds. He was evacuated, and his platoon leader made a note to recommend Betts for a decoration.[10]

At noon, Able Company was released from their duties at the salient and moved back into regimental reserve. Charlie Company occupied the high ground except for the right flank, where an unusually stubborn Japanese blockhouse still resisted capture. Baker Company had one platoon on the ridge with another gradually working its way forward. An advance of fifty yards may sound modest to the reader, but considering the number of casualties sustained in trying to cross this same ground over several days, scaling the ridge was a significant achievement. The terrain beyond was another endless sprawl of boulders, crags, and gullies, but for a brief moment, it seemed that First Battalion had finally achieved a breakthrough.

On The Crest

Of course, and inevitably, the Japanese were waiting. The spotters who withdrew from the ridge had new positions, and they knew the exact coordinates of the ridge. Every time a Marine showed his head, he drew fire – not just rifles and machine guns, but entire batteries of Japanese mortars.

John Pope and his buddies were lunching on some cold rations with one of the battalion corpsmen arrived. The sailor rummaged in his pack and, grinning, produced a tin of Spam saved from his last trip to Pearl Harbor. He sliced the meat and doled out slivers, waving away clusters of flies, saving the final chunk for himself. Then somebody outside the hole yelled for medical help. The corpsman gathered his belongings and tossed his share of the tinned Spam to Pope. “Keep the flies off this until I get back,” he called.

Leavell Billie L-8658147
Corpsman Billie Lee Leavell

Doctors Lyon and Richard C. Porter had a hard-and-fast rule for their corpsmen: never go anywhere without covering fire. Adherence to this rule – and a healthy dose of good luck – kept the medical section’s casualty rate relatively low. There were times when the urge to help was just too strong, and this was how Billie Lee Leavell lost his life. Summoned by a cry for help, he went out into a mortar barrage on the eighth of March. “Billie was treating a wounded Marine, a large mortar shell exploded near him, killing him instantly,” wrote Doc Porter. “There were no marks on his body, which indicated that his death was a result of the concussion of the explosion…. I can find no words to express my true feelings when I see such courageous young men give their lives in such a violent battle.” [11] Three other corpsmen were wounded; PhM2c Ellsworth Blanchard stayed on duty, but PhM2c Harold K. Brasell and PhM3c Ronald E. Millhiser were seriously hurt and evacuated from the battlefield.

These losses created a conundrum for Doc Lyon, who had to choose a man from his aid station to replace Leavell. Two corpsmen were available. On the one hand was PhM3c Daniel J. Danhauera young and gung-ho Chicagoan; on the other was PhM2c Ben R. Floresa combat veteran from Gonzales, Texas. Technically, “Danny” was next in line, but Lyon had reservations. Danny was talented (like Leavell, he was thinking about medical school) and brave (he had already been wounded once), but all of his combat experience centered around the relatively secure aid station. He had never served with a front-line platoon. Flores was “battle-wise after three invasions and known to all the platoons,” but Lyon worried about the fairness of asking Flores to risk his life again. “His job was done. His war tour would be over, and he was scheduled to be on his way back to the mainland after we left the island.” Finally, Doc Lyon “took the bull by the horns” and asked Flores to go up to the front. Flores simply said, “I’ll go,” gathered his carbine, “and disappeared over the brim of the hill into the valley of possible death. This was, to me, the ultimate bravery,” said Lyon, “based on the love that permeated our team of Navy Marines.” Lyon recommended Ben Flores for the Bronze Star.[12]

Corpsmen Danhauer and Flores as they looked before and after Iwo Jima.
For more on the medical section, see Photo Analysis: Corpsmen

When Pope realized his corpsman friend wasn’t coming back, he took the can of Spam and buried the uneaten portion in the sand. “That Spam belonged to him, and I had made a promise,” he said. “Whenever I see a can of Spam, I think of Doc.” [13]

These occasional heavy barrages continued at the slightest provocation for the next several hours. Then, at 1515, the Japanese unleashed everything they had.

“The Climax”

The battalion After Action Report, spare with language and superlatives, uses the word “extremely” only three times in all of its fifty-two pages. Two of those instances describe the afternoon of 8 March 1945. It was the point that all but ended the First Battalion’s effectiveness as a combat unit and came closest to breaking their collective spirit.

The climax occurred about 1515 when an extremely heavy barrage killed 15 men in the two companies, including the last two remaining platoon leaders in “C” Company. The only officer left in “B” Company was Captain Eddy. “C” Company had one officer, Lieutenant Salvaggio, acting Company Commander.[14]

 

Clip from “To The Shores of Iwo Jima.”

It will never be known how long this shelling lasted. The crest of the ridge exploded in a series of blasts that shook the earth and filled the air with flying pieces of metal. Countless 81mm and 90mm bombs ripped the ground, and there may have been some of the man-sized 320mm shells. The shrieks of the missiles mingled with the screams of the men who fell riddled with shrapnel.

John Pope was running in the open when a shell landed nearby. “The shrapnel missed me, but I went tumbling again,” he said. “When body parts started to rain down, an arm landed near where I was lying.” The concussion knocked Pope for a loop; his eyes swam and finally focused on a moving object just in front of his face. “It was the sweep hand of Shenny’s watch. His arm had been blown off, but the watch was still running.” [15]

PFC Marvin Opatz was trying to help a wounded buddy when his mortar position was hit. As the men around him scattered, Opatz flung his body across the stretcher, acting as a human shield. Shrapnel tore his back and legs, severing his Achilles tendon. Both men were eventually rescued; Opatz would receive the Silver Star for saving his buddy’s life. Unfortunately, not every wounded man had a buddy like Optaz. All told, Baker Company would lose 42 Marines on 8 March – a full-strength platoon – most of them to the effects of the “extremely heavy barrage.”

Iwo_Stretcher_Case_80-G-412493

The outcome was even worse for Charlie Company. They suffered 34 casualties – again, mostly as a result of the bombardment – and a count of the lines showed only 40 men able to carry on the fight. Among the dead were Lieutenants Fansler and Griffith, the last of the company’s original officer cadre. The men were in a state of physical and emotional collapse.

Second Lieutenant Jim Craig, a platoon leader serving with L/3/24th Marines, witnessed the barrage from his position on Charlie Company’s flank. He hurried over to check on the damage and found what remained of a platoon huddled behind a rock. Craig attended SOCS with Jack Fansler and recognized some of the men. “Where’s Lieutenant Fansler?” he asked.

“He got shot, sir,” replied one of the men. “He’s dead and has already been moved back to the beach.”

Craig absorbed the news as he looked over the Charlie Company men. “They looked cowed and hesitant,” he related to a biographer. “They were leaderless and scared. They had also lost their sergeants; they were just a bunch of privates and corporals. Usually, in this kind of situation, somebody naturally steps up and assumes a leadership role.” Nobody was moving, so Craig picked out a nineteen-year-old corporal for a pep talk.

“All right, McKinney, your buddies are pretty shook up. I knew Lieutenant Fansler. He was a good man and a hell of a Marine. But he’s gone, and those guys need somebody to take command and lead them through this. When we get back, I’m going to tell them that you’re in charge and that they’re to follow your orders. They’re just looking for somebody to lead them, that’s all, and I think you’re that man. They’ll follow if you lead. You’re a Marine. You can do it.”

With Craig’s backing, the corporal took command of the platoon.[16]

In the aftermath of the shelling came the sickening realization that they could not stay where they were. The hour was growing late for air support, and they did not know where to send it; the Japanese batteries were too well hidden. And, looking up and down the line, it was clear that not enough Marines remained to mount an effective nighttime defense. Down the slope they went, bearing the wounded and the dead, searching for a point to consolidate and dig in for the night. As if to put an exclamation point on the scenario, the Japanese dropped a second “extremely heavy” barrage on the top of the ridge. The message was clear: if we can’t have it, you can’t either.

Able Company provided reinforcements. One platoon went into line with Baker Company; another reported to Lt. Salvaggio and the remnants of Charlie Company. 1Lt. Arthur L. McGilvray, Jr. gathered his assault platoon and also joined Charlie Company for the night. A single Able Company platoon stayed in reserve for the entire battalion.

This emergency move proved to be a good idea. Japanese fire usually tapered off at nightfall, but tonight the mortarmen had their blood up. They fired as though they had all the ammunition in the world, hitting the top of the ridge and dropping shells blindly all along the line of the 24th Marines. Nighttime attacks by infantry were less common in the First Battalion sector, but the increased artillery fire suggested that something was afoot. It was the kind of night when men wanted to be close to a war dog.

Iwo_WarDogs_127-gr-14-94-109316_001-ac
War dogs and handlers moving to the front on Iwo. USMC photo.

War dogs were specially trained in many combat roles but were most commonly used to deliver messages, accompany patrols, or for night security. Each animal had a handler, and the two were inseparable. Corporal Robert D. Price recalled the rules for interacting with war dogs: “You never stood closer than ten feet to the dog handler. You never pointed your finger. And you never raised your voice. You’d say [with exaggerated calm] ‘John, sure glad to see you. We’re gonna assign you to Third Platoon, c’mon I’ll take ya over.’” Despite the needed precautions, Price loved the “gorgeous” dogs – mostly Dobermans and German Shepherds – and he was not the only one. “I’d get a call from battalion HQ saying, ‘Able Company, you’re gonna get two war dogs tonight.’ I’d pass the word down to the platoon leaders, and you could hear guys cheering, ‘Yay, we’re gettin’ the war dog! We want him right here!’” [17]

The effectiveness of the war dogs was occasionally called into question. Platoon Sergeant Mike D. Mervosh encountered one canine who took over his shell hole during a bombardment. “A heavy mortar attack was coming in, and the dog was scared to death,” he said. “The dog kept nudging my position. I was trying to push the dog away, but the dog just looked at me and snarled and growled.” Mervosh gave in, and the dog burrowed into the dirt.[18] The battalion report opined that “the dogs themselves did not prove to be too successful” and that they tended to fall asleep during the long overnight watches.[19] PFC Charles Kubicek, exhausted after 36 hours with no sleep, observed a handler posting a dog on guard. “He would say ‘watch,’ and then he would curl up and try to get some sleep. The minute the guy curled up, the dog would curl up, and this went on – finally, I fell asleep. I was dog tired.” The dog, however, did its job overnight. “I woke up and out in front of us were a couple of dead Japanese, and I swore they weren’t there the night before. I never heard any shooting. I didn’t hear anything. They could have come in and carried me off if they wanted.” [20]

RezHesterAndButch
Private Rez Hester catches a nap while “Butch” keeps watch. Hester and Butch were attached to the 25th Marines for Iwo Jima. USMC photo.

Often, the main service the dogs provided was a sense of comfort. “They did help as a morale factor, as the men felt they had a little added security, and there were times when the companies were so small that the appearance of a war dog and its handlers seemed like heavy reinforcements,” said the battalion report.[21] Corporal Price concurred. “The big thing they brought was the morale factor. When the guys knew we had a war dog on our front, they would clamor ‘bring him here; I want him here!’ Oh, it was a fun deal.” [22]

Dogs, handlers, and Marines would be busy that night. The Japanese were out in force, striking up and down the Marine line. It was not an all-out banzai, but the heaviest infiltration attempts that First Battalion experienced during the campaign. American mortars got a chance to exact some retribution on the Japanese; more than sixty bodies were counted in the battalion’s area sector.

James Moore found himself in a foxhole far out in front of the main line with two strangers from the 3rd Marine Division. They heard movement, the soft clinking of equipment, and muted Japanese voices in the darkness. By now, Moore was enough of a veteran to know that firing a rifle at night was the last resort – the muzzle flash would give his position away – and tossed a hand grenade towards the sounds. The blast killed one Japanese soldier, but two others quickly hid behind some rocks. As star shells lit the night sky, Moore saw a grenade sail through the air and land in their hole. Reflexively, he curled into a fetal position.

It killed the two men next to me. The grenade must have gone off three feet from me, and I took the blast from it in my back. It blew me out of the foxhole. I was bleeding, paralyzed from the waist down, and partially blinded. It took a few hours before my vision returned. A corpsman came and told me the two men with me were dead, and he didn’t know what he could do for me. He dragged me to the back of our lines, where he put me under a poncho and gave me a shot of morphine. He then told me I was probably going to bleed to death.

“Get Captain Eddy,” Moore mumbled. A few days earlier, the Baker Company skipper had promised to help Moore out of any desperate situation; now Moore was calling to collect. And Captain Eddy was as good as his word. He showed up, got Moore to a safe spot, and demanded a field phone. “He ordered a Jeep to come up… [and] was told they weren’t sending any Jeeps to the front because it was too dangerous,” said Moore. “Captain Eddy yelled back that if they didn’t send a Jeep, he was going to call his men off the line. He said he had had 212 men in his company and was now down to 17 effectives left. So, they sent a Jeep up, and I was taken to an aid station…. You could say I traded my life against the medal he wanted to give me, and I’ve never been sorry for it.” [23]

First Battalion’s combat death toll for 8 March 1945 was sixteen men – thirteen killed on the spot, plus three who would later die of wounds. One more life might be added to that grim toll. Private Leonard G. Van Dusen, a replacement serving with Baker Company, suffered a near-fatal bullet wound to the abdomen during the day’s attack. He was rushed from corpsman to aid station to hospital ship as a series of medical specialists worked frantically to keep him alive. They succeeded, but Leonard was never the same. He was eighty percent disabled, suffered bouts of ill health, and struggled to return to civilian life. Iwo Jima had broken him.

In November of 1949, Leonard hanged himself in the room above his garage in Castro Valley, California. He left a wife, two small children, and a pair of suicide notes. One read, “It may look weak, but I had to try as much as any normal man. Thanks for trying.” [24]


The Fallen

hq_rsimpson hq_leavell a_thomas c_anderson_uniform b_centofanti
Private
Robert E. Simpson
Age 19
Basic, HQ Co.
Multiple wounds
HA1c
Billie L. Leavell

Age 21
Corpsman
Explosive concussion
Sergeant
Fred E. Thomas
Age 24
Squad leader, A Co.
Wounds received on 7 March
1st Lieutenant
Charles R. Anderson, Jr.
Age 21
Platoon leader, B Co.
Wounds received on 6 March
Sergeant
Attilio Centofanti
Age 22
Squad leader, B Co.
Shrapnel, head
musser_h_uniform ega-xz_nophoto b_raburke ega-xz_nophoto ega-xz_nophoto
Corporal
Henry S. Musser
Age 24
Squad leader, B Co.
Shell fragment, left shoulder
PFC
Thomas J. Buckley

Age 29
Demolitions, B Co.
Gunshot, head
PFC
Robert A. Burke
Age 24
Basic, B Co.
Multiple wounds
PFC
William E. Skinner
Age 21
Basic, B Co.
Shrapnel, head
PFC
Joseph K. Stankwytch
Age 23
Cook, B Co.
Shrapnel, right side
ega-xz_nophoto fansler_jw_uniform c_griffith_thumbnail c_tharris c_alessandrini
Private
Edward M. Terreau
Age 21
Rifleman, B Co.
Gunshot, head
2nd Lieutenant
Jack W. Fansler

Age 21
Platoon leader, C Co.
Shrapnel wounds
2nd Lieutenant
David H. Griffith

Age 24
Platoon leader, C Co.
Shrapnel wounds
Corporal
Thomas M. Harris
Age 22
Mortarman, C Co.
Wounds received on 7 March
PFC
Armand G. Alessandrini
Age 29
Messenger, C Co.
Cause unknown
WOUNDED
COMPANY Name Assignment Cause Destination
Headquarters Cpl. Stephen Kwiatkowski
Cpl. Forest C. Schlenker
PFC Amos F. Lewis
PFC Edwin E. Mullis
PFC Daniel A. Roche
PFC Carroll E. Stout
Pvt. Byron L. Howe
PhM2 E. L. Blanchard
PhM2 Harold K. Brasell
PhM3 Ronald E. Millhiser
Radar Tech
Mortar Squad Leader
Field Lineman
Mortarman
Field Lineman
Rifleman
BARman
Corpsman
Corpsman
Corpsman
Shrapnel, face & left leg
Unknown (slight)
Unknown (slight)
Shrapnel, forearm
Shrapnel, right thigh
Gunshot, chest
Unknown (slight)
Unknown (slight)
Unknown (serious)
Unknown (serious)
Evacuated
Not evacuated
Not evacuated
To Guam via air
USS Samaritan
USS Solace
Evacuated
Not evacuated
USS Samaritan
USS Solace
Able Pvt. Aloysius T. Callahan
Pvt. Joseph T. Gillette

Pvt. George W. Lindstrom
Machine Gunner
Machine Gunner
Antitank Gunner
Unknown (slight)
Gunshot, left side, paralysis
Shrapnel, right forearm
Evacuated
Evacuated
Evacuated
Baker 2Lt. Nicholas J. Barbarotto
Sgt. Robert G. Birdsall
Sgt. Aniello A. Puliafico
Cpl. Jesse T. Betts
Cpl. Andrew  Chorzempa
Cpl. David V. Colbert II
Cpl. Thomas Rivenburgh
Cpl. Willie H. Turner, Jr.
PFC Claude Chamberlain
PFC Robert O. Dean
PFC Stephen Demchik
PFC Eugene B. Findlay
PFC Garvin E. Lee
PFC Eugene V. Maze
PFC Marvin E. Opatz
PFC Lloyd H. Perry
PFC Louis E. Ratley
PFC Joseph Surowiec, Sr.
PFC James F. Taylor
PFC Charles E. Thompson
Pvt. Charles Banko
Pvt. Robert E. Carmichael
Pvt. Andrew T. Donaldson
Pvt. William H. King
Pvt. James A. Moore
Pvt. John H. Pierson
Pvt. Cecil G. Pye
Pvt. Kenneth R. Pyles
Pvt. Robert G. Schmidt
Pvt. Leon J. Shampine
Pvt. Clayton S. Skoog
Pvt. Lawrence V. Smith
Pvt. Aldo L. Sorcinelli*
Pvt. Samuel L. Umfress
Pvt. Leonard Van Dusen
Platoon Leader
MG Section Leader
Rifle Squad Leader
Squad Leader
Fire Team Leader
Fire Team Leader
Fire Team Leader
Mortar Squad Leader
Machine Gunner
BARman
Machine Gunner
BARman
Basic
BARman
Mortarman
Rifleman
BARman
Machine Gunner
Rifleman
Mechanic
Basic
Mortarman
Antitank Gunner
Antitank Gunner
Antitank Gunner
Antitank Gunner
Mortarman
BARman
Basic
BARman
BARman
BARman
Antitank Gunner
Rifleman
Antitank Gunner
Shrapnel, both legs
Unknown (slight)
Unknown (slight)
Unknown (slight)
Contusion, left scapula
Intracranial injury
Amputation, left leg
Shrapnel, right thigh
Gunshot, right shoulder
Unknown (serious)
Blast concussion
Shell shock
Shrapnel, legs & back
Shrapnel, right arm
Shrapnel, right leg
Contusion, right hand
Unknown (slight)
Shell shock
Gunshot, shoulder & face
Shrapnel, right arm
Shrapnel, both legs
Unknown (slight)
Shrapnel, left knee & hands
Blast concussion
Shrapnel, back & buttocks
Blast concussion
Shrapnel, head, neck & chest
Gunshot, right shoulder
Shrapnel, right ankle
Unknown (slight)
Gunshot, skull
Unknown (slight)
Shrapnel, face & chest
Multiple wounds
Gunshot, abdomen
USS Samaritan
Not Evacuated
Evacuated
Evacuated
USS Samaritan
Evacuated
USS Solace
Evacuated
USS Samaritan
To Guam via air
Evacuated
Evacuated
Evacuated
Evacuated
USS Samaritan
Evacuated
Evacuated
Evacuated
To Guam via air
Evacuated
Evacuated
Not evacuated
USS Solace
USS Solace
USS Solace
Evacuated
To Guam via air
USS Samaritan
USS Samaritan
Evacuated
USS Samaritan
Evacuated
Not evacuated
Evacuated
Evacuated
Charlie Sgt. Robert C. Jope
Cpl. Sandy B. Ball
Cpl. Nelson W. Burke
Cpl. Harry R. Gunther
Cpl. Floyd W. Lamberson
Cpl. Adolph  Popielarski
PFC George Boisvert, Jr.
PFC Nathan W. Brown*
PFC John H. Campbell
PFC Benny J. Gilliam
PFC Lorrin F. Lane*
PFC Alexander V. Leonoff
PFC Thomas E. McCarthy
PFC John J. Moynihan, Jr.
PFC William T. Smith, Jr.
PFC Joe Valadez
PFC Hiram R. Warder
PFC Frank F. Zebley
Pvt. Richard F. Fischer
Pvt. James L. Jarvis
Pvt. Samuel Kapitan
Pvt. James O. Miller
Pvt. Mills W. Miller
Pvt. Laverne C. Nurenberg
Pvt. Kenneth E. Owens
Pvt. Robert L. Owensby
Pvt. Clarence L. Pitz, Sr.
Pvt. William Stainforth, Jr
Pvt. William A. Steffey
Pvt. Herman P. Tomasetti
Pvt. Tom J. Warren
Rifle Squad Leader
MG Squad Leader
Squad Leader
Fire Team Leader
Fire Team Leader
Fire Team Leader
BARman
Rifleman
Rifleman
BARman
BARman
Fire Team Leader
Rifleman
Rifleman
BARman
Machine Gunner
Rifleman
Machine Gunner
Antitank Gunner
Antitank Gunner
Machine Gunner
Machine Gunner
Antitank Gunner
Antitank Gunner
Antitank Gunner
Antitank Gunner
BARman
Basic
Basic
Rifleman
Rifleman
Shrapnel, right leg
Unknown (slight)
Shrapnel, left leg
Shrapnel, left leg & foot
Unknown (slight)
Shrapnel, right forearm
Blast concussion
Shrapnel, neck
Blast concussion
Multiple wounds
Shrapnel, head
Blast concussion
Shrapnel, right shoulder
Shell shock
Shrapnel, left buttock
Shrapnel, right upper arm
Multiple wounds
Gunshot, head
Shrapnel, left leg
Shrapnel, back
Shell shock
Amputation left leg
Gunshot, head
Shrapnel, lips
Shrapnel, right thigh & feet
Shrapnel wounds, multiple
Shrapnel, right leg
Shrapnel, right arm
Shrapnel, left hip
Multiple shrapnel wounds
Shrapnel, left chest
USS Samaritan
Evacuated
USS Solace
To Guam via air
Not evacuated
USS Samaritan
Evacuated
Evacuated
USS Lander
USS Samaritan
Evacuated
USS Solace
USS Samaritan
USS Samaritan
Evacuated
USS Solace
Evacuated
USS Solace
To Guam via air
USS Solace
Evacuated
USS Samaritan
USS Solace
Evacuated
To Guam via air
USS Samaritan
Evacuated
To Guam via air
To Guam via air
To Guam via air
USS Solace

* Private Sorcinelli, PFC Brown, and PFC Lane died of their wounds on 13 March 1945.

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Footnotes

[1] John C. Pope, Angel On My Shoulder, Kindle edition. Pope stated that his substitute gunner and a rifleman were killed by the shelling. He did not give a name for the gunner, but based on casualty reports, it was likely nineteen-year-old Private Robert E. Simpson of Morganton, North Carolina. A former high school football star, Bobby Simpson was a new replacement with HQ Company and had never been on the front lines.
[2] Pope and Rainey never discussed this incident during the war. Both survived, and in peacetime they went their separate ways. Many years later, Pope paid his first visit to his old friend in Newnan, Georgia. “When I drove up to the house, he was sitting on his front porch. He watched me walk up to the porch and before he made a move from his chair or offered a word of greeting, he looked straight at me and said, ‘I saved your ass that night.’”
[3] David Harper, “Month in Hell Lingers in Memory,” Tulsa World, 19 February 1995. Accessed 2 March 2020.
[4] Pope, Angel On My Shoulder.
[5] “Lieut. Dave Griffiths, Former ‘Mule’ Star, Killed on Iwo Jima,” The Morning Call (Allentown, PA) 5 April 1945.
[6] “Receive More Details Death Lt. J. Fansler,” The Galva News (Galva, IL) 7 June 1945.
[7] As discussed previously, the question of who was running Charlie Company is the matter of some debate. The battalion After Action Report repeatedly names Lt. Salvaggio as the acting company commander, and this narrative follows that precedent.
[8] 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), 131-132.
[9] “Robert Owensby” in Bruce M. Petty, Saipan: Oral Histories of the Pacific War (McFarland & Company: Jefferson, NC, 2002), 114-115. “Most of [those fragments] are still there,” he told his interviewer.
[10] Corporal Betts received the Silver Star for 8 March.
[11] Richard C. Porter, letter to Omer Leavell, 21 March 1945.
[12] Richards P. Lyon. Personal correspondence with the author. Compiled online. Billie Leavell was recommended for the Silver Star but received the Bronze Star instead; Danny Danhauer was recommended for the Bronze Star, but it is unclear whether he received the decoration.
[13] Pope, Angel On My Shoulder. In his memoir, Pope recalls that this event involved “Doc Munsky” and that the corpsman was killed just after leaving the shell hole. In fact, Pharmacist’s Mate Francis Munski was with the rear echelon at Camp Maui and ultimately survived the war. It is probable, though not certain, that his story involved Billie Leavell.
[14] “Final Report,” 132.
[15] Pope, Angel On My Shoulder. Pope was clear about Centofanti owning the watch (he spelled and pronounced the name “Chennefonnie.”) However, he recalled the event mentioned above as occurring on D-Day.
[16] John C. Shivley, The Last Lieutenant: A Foxhole View of the Battle for Iwo Jima, (New York: NAL Caliber, 2006) 107-109. The real name of this corporal is not known; there was no “Corporal McKinney” (or any similar name) in Charlie Company at this time.
[17] 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.
[18] Gregg Stoner, Hardcore Iron Mike, Conqueror of Iwo Jima (Bloomington, iUniverse, 2015), 55.
[19] “Final Report,” 148-149.
[20] Bill Crozier and Steve Schild, “Uncommon Valor: Three Winona Marines at Iwo Jima,” Winona Post, 25 October 2006. Online edition
[21] “Final Report,” 148-149.
[22] Price, oral history interview.
[23] “James Moore” in Bruce M. Petty, Saipan: Oral Histories of the Pacific War (McFarland & Company: Jefferson, NC, 2002), 110.
[24] “War-Disabled Marine Ends Life,” The Oakland Tribune 25 November 1949.i