Iwo: D+9. February 28, 1945

“Three Unbelievable Days And Nights” 

First Battalion In Reserve
D+7 – D+9
 

Part III: Readiness To Return

The plan used in the IWO JIMA campaign was an emergency measure and not satisfactory. A disorganized unit cannot fight with much efficiency, and the new men have not absorbed the spirit of the outfit they join. Many or the replacements hardly knew who their platoon leader or squad leader was before being killed or wounded. The replacements were not adequately trained for the type of fighting experienced on IWO JIMA, nor were they trained in the use of all infantry weapons.[1]

Approximately one hundred and fifty battle replacements — from Gunny Brettrager down to seventeen-year-old Private Mills Miller — were assigned to 1/24.

This was not the first time First Battalion received a large number of new men. Their ranks were rebuilt at Camp Maui after suffering casualties on Namur. On Saipan, they’d been bolstered by the temporary attachment of Marines intended for the Second Marine Division; there had even been the handful that’d filed into line mid-battle on Tinian and slugged through the final days of the Marianas. And in September 1944, they’d received scores of Marines from the mainland to meld into the unit. Four months of training and one week on Iwo made these new men “old salts,” and it would be their responsibility to teach the replacements enough to stay alive.

A rear-area dugout on Iwo Jima. It looked rickety to replacements; to veterans, it was as secure as home. Photo from the Lloyd Abbott collection.
A rear-area dugout on Iwo Jima. It looked rickety to replacements; to veterans, it was as secure as home. Photo from the Lloyd Abbott collection.

Sources vary on the exact date the replacements arrived. Battalion muster rolls indicate about half arrived on February 24, while the other half reported on February 28. This first date is unlikely, as 1/24 was engaged in heavy combat on February 24 and 25, and no losses are recorded among replacements on this date. The battalion’s AAR states that the replacements arrived en masse on February 27, which seems more plausible for a unit in reserve.[2] Furthermore, 2Lt. Charles R. Anderson, Jr. was transferred from Company C to Company B — the latter unit received the lion’s share of the replacements because, as per usual, Baker Company had taken the most casualties. As men were shuffled around, it appeared to some combat veterans that they were receiving replacements daily. Corporal Alva Perry recalled a lanky kid named “Bones” as one of his replacements, and said “we were getting replacements every day now as we were losing men every day.”[3] Perry also recalled getting nine new men on one morning, and losing all nine by the end of the day.[4] Thus, it is hard to tell exactly when replacements entered the lines.

And if the replacements had a hard time learning names and faces, the veterans had even less of an idea who the new men were. PFC Stanley Cupps related the fate of a replacement called Taylor. A lieutenant performed the brisk introduction: “Taylor, this is Cupps. Do what he tells you.” Taylor didn’t listen. “Taylor was peeking over the top and I told him to get his head down. He said, ‘They can’t see me,’” recalled Cupps. No sooner had he spoken the words than a Japanese marksman drilled Taylor through the skull. “He lasted about half a minute. His name was Taylor. That’s all I know about him.”[5]

It is likely that much of February 28 was spent assigning replacements to companies, platoons, and squads. An effort was made to tailor each man’s assignment to his MOS, but with so many anti-tank gunners and “basic” Marines, this was not always done effectively. Private Wayne D. Thomas (521) was sent to Company A for a crash course in the mortarman’s craft.[6] Private Joseph Ziemba was directed to the assault platoon; someone showed him how to operate a flamethrower. Private Robert Owensby would live the credo “every Marine a rifleman,” while his buddy James Parker became a machine gun ammo carrier. Both went to Charlie Company with Sergeant Philip R. Baldwin.[7] Private James A. Moore, Melvin Adalman, Rondall Baird, Lloyd Abbott were among those reporting to Baker Company; Captain Bill Eddy wisely assigned several of his brand new men to carry stretchers until they got used to combat. Eddy’s hard hit company also received the lion’s share of the new NCOs.

Battle Replacements
assigned to
First Battalion, 24th Marines 
[8]
Headquarters Able Baker Charlie
From 24th Replacement Draft From 24th Replacement Draft From 24th Replacement Draft From 24th Replacement Draft
Sgt. Charles A. Dunphy
Cpl. Julius Rappert, Jr.
ACk. Dwight Moffit, Jr.
PFC Hugh Kown
PFC Ronald E. Jibben
PFC LaVerne L. Johnson
Pvt. Louis LeClaire
Pvt. Billy J. Hurst
Pvt. Earl Kirk, Jr.
014
014
060
660
736
907
997
997
997
Cpl. Paul L. Miller
Cpl. Ralph S. Philomeno
Pvt. Charles Alexander, Jr.
Pvt. William C. Degen
Pvt. David R. Gardner
Pvt. Raleigh C. Gibson
Pvt. William J. Liess
Pvt. George W. Lindstrom
Pvt. John Lukac
Pvt. Bernard A. Mausser
Pvt. Robert E. Miller
Pvt. Herman L. Mooney
Pvt. Irven M. Morgan
Pvt. Earl E. Nichols
Pvt. Harold J. Oberheide
Pvt. Delbert A. Oleson
Pvt. Robert E. Opheim
Pvt. Ardell W. Oster
Pvt. Harry R. Parsons, Jr.
604
610
610
610
610
610
610
610
610
610
610
610
610
610
610
610
610
610
610
PlSgt. Wilton C. Fulton
Cpl. Reuel D. Allison
Pvt. Lloyd E. Abbott
Pvt. James F. Davis, Sr.
Pvt. Andrew T. Donaldson
Pvt. James A. Elkins
Pvt. Floyd R. French
Pvt. Alva D. Glidewell, Jr.
Pvt. Marvin V. Goff
Pvt. Teddy W. Groger
Pvt. Henry F. Hoffman
Pvt. LeRoy E. Hultin
Pvt. Clifford G. Jones
Pvt. William H. King
Pvt. Elery W. Lewis
Pvt. Robert W. Maassen
Pvt. Hubert J. Mackey
Pvt. Walter E. Mattsey
Pvt. Francis L. Mauzey
Pvt. Marsh E. Mills, Jr.
Pvt. James A. Moore
Pvt. Ben R. Phillips
Pvt. John H. Pierson
Pvt. Gilbert W. Plansky
Pvt. Jack D. Timmons
Pvt. Lawrence A. Trower
Pvt. Ivar Tveter
Pvt. Samuel L. Umfress
Pvt. Leonard G. Van Dusen
Pvt. Robert S. Van Sickle
Pvt. Richard W. Vrana
Pvt. Hillyer W. Welborn
Pvt. Willard W. Wemple
Pvt. George E. Werre
Pvt. Robert V. White
812
737
610
610
610
610
610
610
610
610
610
610
610
610
610
610
610
610
610
610
610
610
610
610
745
745
745
745
610
521
745
745
745
745
745
Sgt. Philip R. Baldwin
Cpl. James E. Steffy
Pvt. Richard F. Fischer
Pvt. James L. Jarvis
Pvt. Donald G. Hawkins
Pvt. Henry H. Henrichs, Jr.
Pvt. Richard H. Kelly
Pvt. Marvin L. Kuhl
Pvt. Wallace A. Lee
Pvt. Dominic W. Lomoro
Pvt. James O. Miller
Pvt. Mills W. Miller
Pvt. Donald F. More
Pvt. Lavern C. Nurenberg
Pvt. Dale H. Noyes
Pvt. Kenneth E. Owens
Pvt. Robert L. Owensby
Pvt. James R. Parker
Pvt. Herman P. Tomasetti
Pvt. Ralph G. Treppa
Pvt. Tom J. Warren
Pvt. Paul Weatherford
Pvt. James R. White
812
414
610
610
605
610
610
610
610
610
604
610
610
610
610
610
610
605
745
745
745
745
521
From 30th Replacement Draft From 30th Replacement Draft From 30th Replacement Draft From 30th Replacement Draft
Pvt. Donald P. McQuillan
Pvt. John J. Kelley
Pvt. Edwin G. Simmons
Pvt. Robert E. Simpson
Pvt. Joseph F. Ziemba
521
521
521
521
521
Cpl. Arthur N. Miller, Jr.
Pvt. Roy L. Hendricks
Pvt. James D. J. Herman
Pvt. Willard R. Layne
Pvt. Emilio V. Merola
Pvt. William P. Monahan
Pvt. James H. Stevens
Pvt. James B. Stewart
Pvt. Claud T. Swann
Pvt. Charles L. Tackett
Pvt. Wayne D. Thomas
Pvt. William Thomas, Jr.
Pvt. Joseph Tommasiello
Pvt. Lawrence A. Trapp
Pvt. Paul Travis
745
521
521
521
521
521
521
521
521
521
521
521
521
521
521
GySgt. Otto J. Brettrager*
Cpl. Jesse T. Betts*
Cpl. Alfred J Halliwell*
Cpl. John J. Miller
Cpl. William F. Muise
Cpl. Henry S. Musser
Pvt. Melvin S. Adalman*
Pvt. Archie M. Adam, Jr.*
Pvt. Charles F. Aldinger, Jr.*
Pvt. William P. Allen*
Pvt. Peter A. Bachulis*
Pvt. Jimmy E. Bailey*
Pvt. Rondall M. Baird*
Pvt. Charles Banko*
Pvt. Gernie P. Barnhill*
Pvt. Darrell D. Bayes*
Pvt. George H. Beisel*
Pvt. Leslie L. Bennett*
Pvt. Robert A. Burke*
Pvt. Dennis Saville
Pvt. Anthony J. Scaramellino
Pvt. Robert G. Schmidt
Pvt. Edgar L. Shugars
Pvt. William E. Skinner
Pvt. Gladstone C. Spaid
Pvt. James L. Spivey
Pvt. Rudolph Squicciarini
Pvt. Joseph K. Stankwytch
Pvt. Lester F. Stanley
Pvt. Arthur W. Sundgren, Jr.
600
606
607
745
737
522
521
521
521
521
521
521
521
521
521
521
521
521
521
521
521
521
521
521
521
521
521
060
521
521
Cpl. David J. Williams, Jr.
Pvt. Edmund V. Kalb, Sr.
Pvt. Joseph J. Kopsitz, Jr.
Pvt. William Stainforth, Jr.
Pvt. Benjamin R. Stansky
Pvt. LeRoy E. Starkey
Pvt. William A. Steffey
Pvt. Robert H. Swanson
Pvt. Allen J. Taylor
Pvt. Lawrence W. Taylor
745
521
521
521
521
521
521
521
521
521

While the battalion as a whole was glad of the replacements, the individual receptions they received ran the gamut from vague friendliness to veiled hostility. Every new man was a reminder of a dead or wounded buddy. In nine days, battalion medical staff had treated some 225 ailments, ranging from abrasions and boils to missing limbs and sucking chests. An additional 55 men, beyond help, died on the front lines, at the aid stations, or on hospital ships.

Marines armed with bulldozers and shovels began a major construction project on 21 February. A site between Motoyama Airfield #1 and Yellow Beach Two was selected; the grade was steeper and the soil looser than they preferred, but space was at a premium and they had little choice. They toiled for three days, ducking sniper fire and gingerly disarming booby traps and dud rounds. Eleven of them were wounded as they worked.[9] On the morning of D+5, a bulldozer dropped its blade and carved out the first of several forty-two-inch deep trenches. Men with shovels scooped holes in the trench floor: one foot deep, three feet apart. Into each was placed the body of a dead Marine. There were no decent roads leading to the gravesite; each body was hand-carried by stretcher bearers in a seemingly unending stream. By the time the cemetery opened, several hundred bodies were already awaiting burial.[10]

Burying the dead. USMC photo, linked from WW2 Gyrene.

Five days after he lost his life in action, Sgt. John A. Horn of B/1/24 was laid to rest in Grave #183 of the Fourth Marine Division Cemetery. A few minutes later, PFC Eugene M. Andree occupied Grave #198. As 1/24 enjoyed its brief respite in the rear, Graves Registration personnel buried William Dore, Raymond Butler, Charles Etty, Norman Bell, Joseph Borges, Roland Jackson, Gilbert Miller, Robert St. Pierre, and Andrew Loban

Burying the dead. This footage was shot at the Fifth Marine Division cemetery.

 

Fingerprinting a dead Marine. Taking prints helped confirm the identity of the deceased: a very low percentage of American casualties on Iwo went unidentified.
Fingerprinting a dead Marine. Taking prints helped confirm the identity of the deceased: a very low percentage of American casualties on Iwo went unidentified.

By this point in the campaign the lines had consolidated from east to west across the island with the Fourth Division on the east, the Fifth on the west, and two regiments of the Third Division filling in the center. Both airfields were in Marine hands, and the southern one was supporting a few observation planes. Mt. Suibachi, too, had been secured for several days, and all our strength was concentrated on the one remaining sector. Nonetheless, the progress while we were in reserve was just as painfully slow as it had been when we were on the line.[11]

Every morning, the thunder of the pre-assault barrage wakened those who managed to sleep through the night. As the last rumble of artillery died away, there might be a brief period of comparative quiet before a sudden eruption of small arms fire signaled the meeting of American and Japanese infantry. Shortly thereafter, stretcher teams would appear with their bloody burdens. The majority of the sound and fury seemed to be coming from a low, craggy hill and a long, bowl-shaped ridge. At the time, most Marines didn’t care to know the names of local landmarks – to them, “it was just hill after hill after hill” – but they would become intimately familiar with the boulders and crevices of this one small part of Iwo Jima in the days to come.[12] As 1/24 “lazed around, ate, slept, [and] ducked the occasional sniper bullet,” other units of their division were being bled dry a few hundred yards away.

“Such a state of relaxation couldn’t be prolonged indefinitely,” opined Captain Frederic Stott, “nor was it desired. We realized we would have to return to the line, and further delay would bring no new benefits.”[13] The battalion was bedding down on D+9 when the anticipated orders arrived – they were to relieve a decimated unit of the 23rd Marines on the front line before dawn, and be ready to continue the attack. “In a way we welcomed the orders,” said Stott, and while he doubtless spoke for some of the First Battalion, many more faced a long and sleepless night, wondering what the morning would bring.

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NOTES
[1] 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 (2o April, 1945), 139. Hereafter “Final Report.”
[2] Final Report, 140.
[3] Alva Perry, “The Men Of ‘A’ Company,” 2011.
[4] There is no record of this event on the battalion’s muster rolls – which is not to say it couldn’t happen. With numerous accounts of replacements appearing and disappearing in less than a day – from 1/24 and other units – the possibility arises that this was not the only batch of replacements to join the battalion. It is entirely possible that smaller groups of replacements were sent to the lines on a more daily basis, only to be wounded or killed before their names could be recorded.
[5]  David Harper, “Month in Hell Lingers in Memory,” Tulsa World, 19 February, 1995. Accessed 15 February, 2015. “Taylor” is unknown; the two battle replacements named Taylor were assigned to Charlie Company. Taylor may have been one of the otherwise unrecorded replacements referenced above.
[6] Interestingly, photographs of Thomas in his dress uniform reveal that he was an expert rifleman.
[7] Baldwin’s and Parker’s assignments are proof that MOS numbers were not ignored; Baldwin was an 812 (Heavy Weapons NCO) and Parker was a 605 (Heavy Machine Gunner)
[8] With few exceptions (marked with an asterisk), men from the 24th Replacement Draft appear on the battalion muster roll as of 24 February. Men from the 30th Replacement Draft appear as of 28 February.
[9] Headquarters, Fourth Marine Division, “Annex II: Medical Report,” in Annex Dog to Fourth Marine Division Report on Iwo Jima: Logistics (2o April, 1945), 313.
[10] And this was just the Fourth Marine Division cemetery. The Third and Fifth had their own, similarly built and backlogged. Some Marines waited weeks for burial – Eugene Morris and James Freeman, both killed on 25 February, were not interred until 12 March.
[11] Frederic A. Stott, “Ten Days on Iwo Jima,” Leatherneck Vol. 28, No. 5 (May, 1945); 18.
[12] “People are saying the Quarry, the Amphitheater, this and that – I didn’t have any idea where we were, you know? Nobody was saying ‘this is the Quarry,’ there was no road map.” William T. Quinn, interview conducted by the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum, “Heroes of Iwo Jima: 70 Years Later,” 5 March 2015.
[13] Stott, “Ten Days,” 18.