Iwo: D+19. March 10, 1945.

Relief

buzzard_gl_iwoCorporal Glenn Buzzard lost track of time aboard the hospital ship.

Events were jumbled. He remembered when the shell hit. They were bunched up in a shell hole under fire, trying to drag a buddy to safety, and then he blinked, and he was on the ground with ringing ears and covered in soft, sticky pieces of his friends, and Ottis Boxx was missing most of his head. He stumbled up out of the hole, concussed and coated with blood, and someone else tackled him and started stripping his dungarees, searching for wounds. There was a crowd of worried faces. He handed his .38 revolver, a gift from home, to Elmer Neff for safekeeping or protection. And then he woke up, mid-conversation with a corpsman offering a change of clothes and a bath.

The explosive concussion was the real culprit. The surgeons dug the shrapnel from Glenn Buzzard’s back, left arm, and leg, disinfected and bandaged the bleeding wounds, “but my mind was gone…. I had a hell of a headache. My vision and my hearing were bad. I was out on my feet…. Everything confined in that little shell goes out when it explodes, so therefore you go with it.” He knew he was lucky. He’d seen men killed by concussion, “it would just roll them along the ground like a ball.” Several days passed; in his dazed state, he registered only one.[1]

Up on deck, Glenn Buzzard watched the boats coming and going from the USS Harry Lee, depositing cargoes of wounded men and motoring back to the beach for more. On an impulse, he swung his leg over the side, climbed down a net, and dropped into a boat. He tucked himself away at the prow, and “nobody asked any questions.” He was going back to Charlie Company.[2]

iwo_supplybeach_127-gr-14-93-110496_001-ac
“TRANSFORMATION ON IWO: In a short time the beaches of Iwo Jima have changed from a debris-littered chaotic scene to a bustling center of supply activity. From the base of Mount Suribachi on the southern tip of the island to the northern ridges where the Japs are still entrenched, huge quantities of vital supplies and equipment are landed daily. This view was made on a section of the northern beach where early assault troops encountered murderous enemy fire. USMC photograph by TSGT. Byrd Ferneyhouh.

Glenn Buzzard’s second landing on Iwo Jima was a far cry from the first. There was no incoming, no piles of bodies, and some of the wrecked equipment was shoved aside to make way for the constant coming and going of little boats. Beachmasters directed tracked vehicles this way and that, navigating between the mountains of supplies, the command posts and communication centers, and the labor troops and working parties organizing everything from K-rations to cases of grenades. And there were the wounded, ever-present, an unwanted reminder that Iwo was still chewing men up and spitting them out. Where they came from was where he was needed. So he started asking, “Where’s C Company? Where’s C Company?” and gradually made his way north towards Airfield Number 2. He skirted the Quarry on his way and may even have followed a road – damaged and pockmarked but in use – as he walked past burned-out pillboxes and shell-cratered plains.

What remained of his battalion was sacked out over a thousand square yards designated “Target Area 182 O.” They were back in reserve, first for the Regiment, then for the Division, and by 1130 for the entire Corps. Only a few of his buddies were left to welcome him back. One walked up “out of the clear blue sky,” handed over a revolver, and said, “Hey, I got that .38 off Elmer when he got hit, so here it is.” Glenn Buzzard was “right back to work.”[3]

Buzzard was not the only man making his way back to the battalion. For the first time since the mass of replacements arrived on D-plus-8, the battalion’s net strength increased. A few of those same replacements were among those returning from aid stations, field hospitals, and transport ships. Instead of cold shoulders, they received welcoming smiles. Many more were old-timers who came back because they couldn’t bear to stay away. When asked why he voluntarily returned to the battle, Buzzard admitted: “I don’t know.” It was an automatic response: his company was home.

After coming off the lines at 0630, First Battalion spent the balance of 10 March resting and recuperating. There were few, if any, combat patrols during the day; the area was comparatively secure. Still, Glenn Buzzard felt ill at ease. “As a person on the front, you had it better than them in the rear,” he opined. “You were relaxed, you might say, because you knew where the enemy was. They were right in front. But if you went into reserve and were trying to crap out…. There’s enemies around you all the time. They can lob a shell at you or get behind you through tunnels. You didn’t know where the hell they were.”[4]  Caution paid off; only one man, PFC Antonino S. Olivo, was wounded during the day, and even he was not evacuated.

The battalion did not know it at the time, but their nineteenth day on Iwo marked the start of a relatively quiet period that would last almost until the end of the battle. A faint glimmer of hope began to shine for the survivors.


WOUNDED
COMPANY Name Assignment Cause Destination
Charlie
attached to composite companies
PFC Antonino S. Olivo Mortarman Shrapnel wounds Not evacuated
NON-COMBAT EVACUATION
COMPANY Name Assignment Cause Destination
Headquarters PFC Vincent F. Rzebrowski Mortarman Sick Evacuated
JOINED / ATTACHED / TRANSFERRED
Action Name From To Duty
Returned
(All C Company personnel to one of the composite companies)
Cpl. Robert K. Walton
PFC Ralph L. Hatley
PFC Lonnie D. Musgrove
PFC Raymond G. Proulx
Pvt. Aloysius T. Callahan
Pvt. John Hicks, Jr.
Pvt. John Lukac
Sgt. Robert G. Birdsall
Cpl. Jesse T. Betts
Pvt. Leon J. Shampine
Sgt. Jack H. Reed
Cpl. Sandy B. Ball
Cpl. Glenn L. Buzzard
Cpl. Richard F. Heim
Cpl. Robert W. Reeves
PFC Paul R. Flye
Pvt. Edmund V. Kalb, Sr.
Pvt. LeRoy E. Starkey
Hospital
Hospital
Hospital
Hospital
Hospital
Hospital
Hospital
Hospital
Hospital
Hospital
Hospital
Hospital
Hospital
Hospital
Hospital
Hospital
Hospital
Hospital
A/1/24
A/1/24
A/1/24
A/1/24
A/1/24
A/1/24
A/1/24
B/1/24
B/1/24
B/1/24
C/1/24
C/1/24
C/1/24
C/1/24
C/1/24
C/1/24
C/1/24
C/1/24
BARman
Machine gunner
BARman
Mortarman
Machine gunner
Machine gunner
Antitank gunner
MG section leader
Squad leader
BARman
Squad leader
MG squad leader
MG squad leader
Squad leader
Rifleman
Rifleman
Basic
Basic

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Footnotes

[1] In two interviews (recorded in Larry Smith’s Iwo Jima and Gail Chatfield’s By Dammit, We’re Marines) Glenn Buzzard states that he was only aboard the USS Harry Lee overnight. However, battalion muster rolls report that Glenn returned to duty on 10 March 1945, nine days after he was hit.
[2] According to Buzzard’s casualty card, he was “transferred to beach, Iwo, for duty” on 6 March 1945. This was the date the Harry Lee departed Iwo for Guam with her more seriously wounded patients.
[3] Glenn Buzzard in Larry Smith, Iwo Jima (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 2008), 89. Elmer Neff was killed in action on 7 March 1945, which also suggests that Buzzard returned to duty after several days elapsed.
[4] Ibid., 91.