Camp Tarawa, Hawaii
After completing radio communication school and rifle training at Camp Pendleton, our next stop was Camp Tarawa in Hawaii. This is where we became acclimated and trained for our Pacific campaign. Camp Tarawa was located on Parker Ranch, a large ranch that was comparable to King Ranch in Texas. We were able to buy a two dollar steak that filled our plates. I was never able to eat the whole thing.
Back L to R: Wilson Price, Merril Sandoval Front L to R: Willard Oliver, Freeland Nez
The Fifth Marine Division was the third wave to invade Iwo Jima.
We had to climb down these large cargo nets hanging over the edge of the ship to get down to our landing crafts As I was going down, I slipped and fell into the landing craft.
Once we were all loaded into the landing craft, we had to wait for our order to go in. As we waited, we circled the Tennessee. I remember it was a large battleship. When we final got our order, I remember the mortar being fired above our heads from both directions, from the battleships and from the Japanese on the island.
As we approached the edge of the island we did not come in squarely, so our landing craft tipped over. We lost all our equipment, including a jeep. I had the radio equipment with me, but I had to let it go and swim ashore. There were already a lot of dead Marines all around.
The island was a volcanic island, so the shore was not like a beach. It was a steep drop off like a cliff. We had to climb up out of the water and try to find cover the best we could. The ground was hard, so we couldn't dig fox holes.
We were pinned down with the Japanese firing down on us from Mount Suribachi. I remember seeing our planes strafing the mountain and some of them didn't make it. I remember thinking I was watching a movie and couldn't believe I was really there. We had to make our way over three inclines before we were finally able to dig in. This was near the Japanese airfield. It took us 3 days to regroup.
Command Post of Major General Rockey, leader of the Fifth Division - Iwo Jima (Leatherneck Magazine, 1946)
Pacific Theater Campaign - Iwo Jima
We were never told where we were headed. We only knew that we were set sail to do our duty. For me, it was to send our coded message.
We were on our ship for many days, stopping on many little islands to refuel and restock our supplies.
I was on guard duty the morning of January 19, 1945. It must have been around 5 or 6 o'clock when I saw what looked like lightening over the top of this little island. Our ship was heading in that direction. It wasn't too long after that when our commanding officiers ordered us to get ready to disembark. I soon found out the island was Iwo Jima.