Tuesday morning over here and what will today bring that’s different? That’s the way we get to thinking after we’ve been sitting in one spot a little longer than usual. It’s a sure bet that this Spring will be a good one for fighting because we’ve already had our thaw, mud and flood – and those are the usual obstacles.
We had a ‘Party’ yesterday, dear – but as usual, we had an excuse. One of our Sergeants – from a line Battery – became a 2nd Lieutenant – one of these battlefield promotions that you’ve probably read about. Anyway – he was sworn in yesterday p.m. and we had to have something to drink. Boy – we really ended up with a corker. We haven’t named it exactly – but this morning I suggested “Green Death” – and everyone thought that should be the name. This week – and the first time in six months – we had fresh oranges one morning for breakfast. There were about 10 left in the kitchen – so we juiced those – as a starter. To that we added the following: one full quart of alcohol, 1½ quarts of water, 1½ quarts of grapefruit juice, ¾ bottle of Coca Cola and 1 quart of Champagne. It really went down nicely and we ended up by having a good get together. There were about 17 of us.
I went to bed early last night, dear. I was tired – and a little dizzy, too. It seems to me I must have dreamed the whole night thru – and the oddest thing was the subject: I dreamed I was back in Salem, just getting back as a matter of fact, still in Uniform, and dropping in to have a talk with Mrs. Tucker. And the oddest thing about it all, darling, was my reaction. It was not one of joy of seeing you, or my folks and yours. The dream never got that far. But over and over again I kept looking myself over and telling myself I was back, I was alive, I was uninjured. As I said, dear, the dream never got beyond that point – but you just can’t imagine what a relief it was to be home and whole. I never realized how much that thought must prey on the subconscious – but that’s what it must be.
I got a very recent letter of yours yesterday, sweetheart, written 6 February. And it was a very sweet letter, too, written in answer to a letter of mine – one of 8 January. I don’t remember exactly what I wrote in that letter, dear, but your own letter left me a bit puzzled. You imply that I write either that type of letter – or one that is completely matter-of-fact and deals only with every day activities; and you say if that’s what I want, that’s what you’ll do too – so as not to hurt me. Well – darling – just keep on writing the letters you’ve been writing – and you won’t hurt me. As for my own – I never realized there was so great a difference between the types of letters I write you. I know I don’t write you sad letters very often – and I think that’s good for both of us. My type of sad letter – if continued – would only make you and then me – very unhappy, worried – and tense. It would have too much of the war in it – and as far as I’m concerned – if you must have the morbid side of war, dear – you can’t get if from me.
I’ve never been aware that I’ve deliberately written my letters according to pattern, dear. I know a day isn’t complete unless I sit down and have a little talk with you – to tell you what I’ve done, to remind you I’m still your fiancé, to tell you I love you and miss you and to leave the war out of my letters as much as possible. Darling – I’ll tell you so much about the war when I get back and you’ll shudder – but you’ll know I’m back and you won’t mind – and I won’t either. But for now – let’s go along as always. O.K.?
And here it is time to see a couple of patients. More and more I’m getting the feeling that the war will fold up one day not too far off. Let’s just hope my hunch is right! All for now, sweetheart, love to the folks – and
Before the invasion commenced on 19 February 1945, the commander of the V Amphibious Corps, Major General Harry Schmidt had requested ten days of continuous shelling from Rear Admiral William Blandy's Task Force 52 (the Support Force) but was turned down by Admiral Harry Hill as there would be insufficient time to rearm the ships before D-Day. Schmidt requested nine and was offered a mere three. The US Navy task force off Iwo Jima was joined by Admiral Marc Mitscher's Task Force 58, which had just conducted a series of raids against the Japanese mainland and consisted of sixteen aircraft carriers, eight battleships and fifteen cruisers, as well as Admiral Raymond Spruance in his flagship USS Indianapolis. The battleships and cruisers started to pound the island and were augmented by carrier-based aircraft mounting airstrikes. At this point, thousands of Marines began to disembark from troopships and LVTs. They were to be covered by sixty-eight LVT(A)s that were well-armoured amphibious tracked vehicles that mounted a 75mm howitzer and three machine guns. Despite the reconnaissance and beach samples from the frogmen that indicated the assault forces would have some trouble getting off the beach, the planners had considered that it would provide a minor obstacle only. Unfortunately, the initial assault wave encountered fifteen foot high terraces of soft volcanic ash that were to frustrate their advance inland and so the advance by the Marines, tanks, and LVTs ground to a halt on the shoreline. These were being followed by successive waves every five minutes or so, and the situation quickly deteriorated.
Troops moving ashore on Iwo Jima beach
20 February 1945
By late morning, Admiral Harry Hill had some 6,000 men ashore and the bulldozers that had arrived with the early waves were battling with the terraces. Some elements had indeed managed to get off the beach and start to work their inland, but it was at this point Kuribayashi, despite his initial plan to wait until the Marines had reached Airfield One, decided to unleash the full fury of his concentrated artillery fire on the tempting targets struggling on the beach. Added to this, a sizeable element of beach defenders had survived the Navy's rolling barrage and added their weight to the fire. As one marine battalion commander remarked, "You could've held up a cigarette and lit it on the stuff going by".
Navy Doctors, Corpsmen and Chaplain at Iwo Jima Aid Station
20 February 1945
Despite this, the Marines kept themselves in good order and started to move off the beaches in force. On Green Beach, the extreme left hand landing zone, the terrain was not so difficult here and Colonel Harry B Liversedge's 28th Marine Regiment (5th Marine Division, commanded by Major General Keller E Rockey) started their advance across the island to isolate Mount Suribachi. They were watched by Colonel Kanehiko Atsuchi and over 2,000 men in the independent command that defended Mount Suribachi in well-concealed positions all the way from the lower slopes to the mount.
Moving off the beach of Iwo Jima
20 February 1945
As the day wore on, the Marines continued to advance slowly with a number of tanks from the 4th Tank Battalion pressing inland and only halting after they had reached a large minefield. Japanese resistance was strong and casualties were heavy. The 28th Marines continued to consolidate their positions at the base of Mount Suribachi and were reinforced by a number of Sherman tanks that gave invaluable help in destroying a number of pillboxes and by evening, Mount Suribachi had been securely isolated from the rest of the island. An assault on the volcano would comesoon enough. Eventually the Marines reached the southern perimeter of Airfield No. 1 where the Japanese mounted a fierce defence and settled in for the night. The Japanese on the other hand were adept at night-time infiltration tactics and continually sought to probe for weaknesses in the Marine line while keeping a constant barrage of artillery fire.
Hospital ship "Samaritan" off shore of Iwo Jima
On 20 January 1945 bad weather and strong winds produced a four-foot surf that disrupted the follow-on landings. It ecame so bad that even the larger landing ships, such as LSTs and LSMs had difficulty in maintaining position on the beach. Cables tied to wrecked or abandoned equipment such as LVTs or tanks simply snapped under the strain. Smaller craft had even worse time of it, and as a result, Schmidt's desire to land a regiment (21st under Colonel Hartnoll J Withers) from the 3rd Marine Division (Major General Graves B Erskine) could not be accomplished. Meanwhile, the 28th Marines were now faced with the prospect of having to storm Mount Suribachi while the remainder of the assault force looked to continuing the advance to capture Airfields Nos. 1 and 2. The 28th Marines, under the cover of naval gunfire and carrier airstrikes started to advance on a broad front but by noon had only advanced some 75 yards in the face of a fierce defence by the Japanese. Even though a number of tanks had become available to support the advance, the Japanese still held an enormous height advantage in their well-concealed positions. The Marines therefore dug in to await reinforcements and additional support to continue the attack the next day. The Japanese were determined that the Americans should have no respite and commenced an artillery barrage all along the front.
37mm gun, Mount Suribachi in the background and Avenger above
Meanwhile, the other three regiments commenced their attack towards Airfield No. 1 with the right flank anchored on the Quarry and the left flank swinging northeast to straighten the line. Additional support arrived in the afternoon in the form of the brand new battleship, the USS Washington, which commenced bombardment of the Quarry with its 16in guns and caused a number of landslides, which blocked several caves. Despite fierce resistance, the Marines had captured most of Airfield No. 1 by mid-afternoon and had straightened their line out, although they had still not reached the intended D-Day 0-1 line. This was a blow to Kuribayashi who had not expected such a rapid advance, but he took comfort that the Marines had yet to reach his main defensive line and the bad weather was still hampering operations. As the second day drew to a close, heavy rain began to fall adding to the Marines' misery.