Wounded on the fifth day
I’ve been reading the various articles concerning families of Marines and Marines that served on Iwo Jima. They have inspired me to write to you and share with you some stories of my father, Bill Leverence, who was the flamethrower for the Assault Squad, Co. F, 2nd Bn, 27th Marines, 5th MarDiv.
He was drafted in 1942 and went through boot camp at MCRD San Diego. He then went to Raider school and was with Carlson’s Raiders in the 2nd Raider Bn. When the Raiders disbanded he went to the newly forming 5th Marine Division. He spent some time at Pendleton and then to Hawaii and Camp Tarawa for training. He was their assault squad’s sole flamethrower. When the time came, they left for this mysterious secret island and he landed in the first wave on February 19th.
My father would rarely tell me stories of his time in the Marine Corps, until 50 years later when we attended the Iwo Jima 50th Reunion in Washington DC in 1995. At the reunion he was re- united with a number of his company and a few of the people from his squad. I finally began to learn more about the amazing things these men did. I found out he was in the assault squad for F-2-27 and was in the first wave to land. The members of his squad that were still remaining were the bazooka man, a rifle man and himself. They talked about their time and activities like it was yesterday, and what they did as though it was a day at the office. Adm. Halsey was exactly right when he spoke of the men in this battle, ‘uncommon valor was a common virtue’. The stories they told and the things that happened were amazing. At this reunion my father also found out that his buddy during training didn’t make it. He was killed in the battle. The emotions that were shown ranged from raw strength and honor that they did a job that had to be done to the tears of coming to grips with the job they had to do.
While we were in Washington, the attention and honor that were given to these men was very heart wrenching. At one occasion all of the attendees loaded buses to head to another part of the city. While we were traveling, they shut down the streets on our route. Instead of upsetting the populace of DC, the people got out of their cars, lined the roads – some cheered, others stood at attention and saluted. It was very difficult not to have tears come to our eyes.
On another occasion, we were going to the National Cathedral for the memorial service. We were walking in with Jack Lucas and a small boy saw the medal around his neck and asked his mother what that was. She said she didn’t know and Jack answered that it was the Medal of Honor and said little else about it. The mother knew it was an important medal but wasn’t sure what it meant. I stopped and knelt down to the boy and told him Jack’s story and what he did and the importance of this honor. The boy looked at him with such awe and in perfect child like manner asked if it hurt and the mother began to cry. Jack thanked me for telling his story, shook my hand and we hugged.
Ever since that reunion I have been learning of many many other stories of the men that served at Iwo, what they did and how they felt. They are and were definitely a breed of people not to be matched anywhere. They set the bar for those of us that followed.
But, let me tell you a little more about my father and the photo I attached. I’m sure you’ve seen this photo before. As I indicated, he landed in the first wave. They landed on Red1 and went across the narrow portion of the island and across the airfields. That’s a photo of my father. He was running across one of the airstrips and the way he told me about it was that their corpsman was this little guy that was always running back and forth taking care of wounded Marines. He always had a camera around his neck and shooting pictures whenever he could. This was one of his pictures. My dad didn’t know the corpsman’s name. He further related that the corpsman didn’t make it; he was killed in the battle while helping a wounded Marine. Apparently, the defense department (or whatever it was called back then) got the camera and film and this picture is now a Department of Defense photo. This photo is also hanging in the national museum.
My father was wounded on the fifth day; he took shrapnel while trying to take a pill box. He was evac’d to Guam, then to Hawaii, then San Francisco, then to Bainbridge, Maryland and when he was healthy enough he was discharged in July of 1946. He promptly married his girlfriend and started making me.
My father went back to Iwo 59 years later and became part of the production for the History Channel of the program “Going Back” that was aired for the 60th anniversary of the battle. He lived his life mostly in silence with the pain of the memory. These recent activities helped him be more comfortable with what happened. He died recently. He always had this inner understanding and strength. Every one of the men I read about in your articles are heroes. What I’ve written to you is part of what makes my father my hero.
Bill Leverence USMC, Sgt,