By: Robert Malicki
The piece on Iwo Jima intrigued me for I have an unusual take on it. My father, who was born on February 23rd, 1923, enlisted days after Pearl Harbor in the Air Corps. The middle of three boys he went on to service in the 8th Air Force in one of the first B-17 Groups to arrive in England. An aunt, who had moved to California in the early 1930’s for health reason, married an honest to goodness ‘China Marine,’ who as a young man had served with 2/5 at Belleau Wood. The older brother, who had married early in 1941 enlisted in the Corps and with his mechanical background was assigned to training with the newly organized Amphibious Tractor Command at New Bern, NC. The youngest brother left high school after his third year in 1944 and joined the Navy.
How the ‘Flag Raising’ photo brings these diverse facts together is this. My godfather, the Marine uncle, brought 4th Division Marines ashore at Iwo Jima in the second wave. He witnessed the flag raising on my father’s birthday while on the beach when hundreds of offshore ship whistles brought it to everyones attention. He later told me that that actually overwhelmed the noise of battle. He had helped develop amphibious tactics at Cape Glouchester with the 3rd Division and battled with the 4th Division in the Saipan-Tinian campaign and again at Iwo Jima. He served with the 5th Amphibious Tractor Battalion and survived the war.
The youngest brother had been assigned to a newly commissioned destroyer and was earning its first battle star in the Iwo Jima invasion. His ship was among those who closed with Suribachi sending much needed firepower into its slopes covering the attacking Marines and those on the beaches. The brothers were unaware of their connection to Iwo Jima till after war’s end. Their sister told me years later that they all had a good laugh when they realized the connection. She told me my father asked his brother if he thought of him on my father’s birthday and his reply was, “No, I was kinda busy,”
This uncle remained in the Navy and served for thirty-years retiring as a Warrant Officer. His ship earned its second battle-star off Okinawa and was part of the fleet in Tokyo Bay at the surrender. He sailed off to the Korean War and took part in covering 2/5 at Wo Mi Do island at Inchon. He took part in two fleet ’round the world’ cruises, the Cuban Blockade and Admiral McCain’s 7th Fleet at Yankee Station.
Following my high school graduation and knowing college was out of my reach and the draft looming in my future I decided to enlist in the Corps. I was sent to RVN and assigned to 2/5 covering in the Chu Lai and Chu Mi areas and later with 1st MarDiv Hdqtrs. near Da Nang.
My Marine uncle’s grandson enlisted, too, and served with the 1st Marine Division in Desert Storm taking part in both the feigned beach assault and the famous holding action of the Army’s ‘Swinging Gate’ strategy. At family get-togethers he, our Navy uncle and I swapped stories about battleship gunfire with our experiences of those historic ships, off Pacific Islands, Vietnam and Kuwait.
One photograph and its connecting the Corps over four generations. Carry on…