Tag Archive | Red beach

The Forgotten Iwo Jima Joes

While everyone remembers Iwo Jima as being a Navy-Marine Team win– the Marine’s monument at Arlington includes the iconic flag-raising on Mt. Suribachi as its centerpiece– there were also some Army troops involved in the campaign.

The 147th Infantry Regiment is an Ohio Army National Guard unit that dates back to 1861 when it formed as the 6th Ohio Infantry and went on to fight at Chickamauga. After suiting up again to fight against Spain in 1898, march into Mexico on the hunt for Pancho Villa in 1916, and slug it out with the Germans on the Western Front, the 147th was called back to federal service for a fifth time in 1941 when it formed the fourth regiment of the 37th Infantry Division. When that unit was converted from a “4-brigade “square” to a 3-brigade “triangle” the 147th was cut and would spend WWII a free agent of sorts.

After seeing the elephant alongside Marine units at Guadalcanal and being used as a garrison force on Emirau, Saipan, Tinian, and Eniwetok against isolated Japanese hold outs and raids, the 147th was tapped in to relieve exhausted Marine units on Iwo Jima some 29 days after D-Day.

The unit arrived offshore 75 years ago today on 20 March 1945, some 2,952 strong.

Make no mistake, while in many places you would think that an island would be safe a month after it was hit by three Marine divisions when the 147th arrived there was still a lot of work to do. For instance, just three days after the Army troops arrived, the Japanese launched a 300-man banzai attack into a rear-area near a hospital that had to be fought off by a combination that included Army Air Force pilots, Navy Seabees, and Marine pioneers.

OFFICER BIVOUAC AREA of the 21st Fighter Group following the Japanese attack on 24 March 1945. Note bullet-marked tents. (USAF 70576 AC)

Relieving the 3rd Marine Division in place after landing on Purple Beach, each of the regiment’s three battalions was assigned a sector to pacify and clear.

As told by in Douglas Nash’s “Army Boots on Volcanic Sands

On its first day of combat, patrols from the 1st Battalion (147th) killed 23 Japanese while being guided into their new area by Marines familiar with the area. Japanese troops probed their defensive positions that evening, randomly tossing hand grenades that kept everyone awake in their foxholes.

Over the next several weeks, the Ohioans would use Marine-developed “corkscrew and blowtorch” tactics against the warren of Japanese cave positions, a method that blended grenades, submachine guns and flamethrowers with the occasional bazooka, light machine gun and satchel charge thrown in for good measure.

Soldiers from the 147th Infantry engaging heavily fortified Japanese positions on Iwo Jima with an M1918 BAR and M9 bazooka

147th Infantry Regiment flame Thrower attack 8 Apil 1945

Caves of Iwo Jima by Army Artist Hans Mangelsdorf

By the end of the month, the regiment would suffer eight killed and 53 wounded, garnered while killing 387 Japanese and capturing 17 of the Emperor’s troops in the process.

In April, when a platoon of Japanese-speaking Nisei volunteers was attached to help coax out isolated and starving troops, the 147th took into custody 664 Japanese troops but still killed another 963 who couldn’t be talked into surrender.

Army troops clear cave on Iwo Jima with Thompson submachine guns. The man in the foreground is likely a Nisei terp.

Soon, the 147th would also relieve the 5th Marine Division and by 20 April was the only ground combat unit left on the island. They would continue their mopping up and garrison operations there through VJ-Day, in all accounting for nearly 2,500 (some say 6,000) Japanese troops while, says Nash, “the number who died in sealed up caves will never be known.”

In turn, the 147th would suffer 15 killed and 144 wounded in their often brutal Iwo Jima campaign. While elements of the unit would be siphoned off for assignments in Burma and on Tinian, the latter guarding the A-bomb, the Ohioans still on Iwo in September 1945 would deploy to newly-captured Okinawa for more mopping up duties there before returning home to the U.S., piecemeal, in 1946.

Captured Japanese Anti-Aircraft Gun, Iwo Jima, 1945 Mount Suribachi in the background.

The 147th Regiment (Regional Training Institute) is still a unit of the Ohio National Guard. Their motto is Cargoneek Guyoxim – Always Ready

Welcome aboard, Woody

Named for MoH recipient Cpl. Hershel W. “Woody” Williams, the U.S. Navy commissioned its newest expeditionary sea base– USS Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams (ESB 4) in Norfolk, Virginia over the weekend.

Importantly, Williams, who earned his decoration while holding onto a 70-pound M2 flamethrower on Iwo Jima, where he used it like a surgeon, is the last MoH recipient from the Pacific War.

Hand salute to Woody

One of the most popular weapons used to root out the Japanese on Iwo Jima, 75 years ago this week, was the M2 flamethrower, and with good reason.

Defending the fortress was Lt. Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi’s 21,000 Japanese troops, which had largely evacuated the civilian population on Iwo and has spent months preparing the island’s difficult terrain to best resist the amphibious assault. They dug 16 miles of tunnels, broken up into 1,500 different bunkers, underneath the island. Most would never leave on their own two feet.

Flamethrowers were useful in routing the defenders from the honeycomb of underground tunnels and bunkers on the island, a tactic that evolved into what was known as the “blowtorch and corkscrew,” method.

Marine CPL Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last living Medal of Honor recipient from the Pacific War, carried a 70-pound M2 on Iwo Jima and used it like a surgeon to successfully take on a network of reinforced concrete pillboxes, with four riflemen in support.

He is currently 96 years old.

In all, the Medal of Honor was presented to 22 Marines and five Sailors for their actions on Iwo Jima, many of those given posthumously. Adm. Chester Nimitz observed after the hellish battle that, “uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

Red Beach at 75

Men of U.S. Marine Corp’s 5th Division advancing through the black volcanic ash hills of Red Beach No. 1 at Iwo Jima, Japan, 19 February 1945. They are inching toward Suribachi Yama as the smoke of the battle drifts about them.

National Archives, # 127-N-110249. USMC photo by Dreyfuss

Notably, Marines of the 5th Division’s 28th Regiment would raise the iconic national ensign on Suribachi, twice, just four days after the above image was taken.

The Fighting Fifth, formed 21 January 1944 at Camp Pendleton, would see its first combat as a unit on Red Beach and of the three other Marine divisions of V Corps would suffer the highest number of casualties. In all, the “Spearhead” would enumerate 2,482 killed, 19 missing, and 6,218 wounded in action by 26 March, forcing the battered division to sail for Hawaii to re-form.

“The ghastly price of freedom….”

Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of Paul Sample

Much as once a week I like to take time off to cover warships (Wednesdays), on Sundays (when I feel like working), I like to cover military art and the painters, illustrators, sculptors, photographers and the like that produced them.

Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of Paul Sample

Paul Sample was born in Lousiville, Kentucky, 14 September 1896. Enrolling at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire in 1916 to pursue art, he put his education on hold when the U.S. rushed into the Great War in 1917, serving in the Naval Reserve.

Once the war was over, he returned to Dartmouth, graduating in the class of 1920. After a stint with tuberculosis, Sample studied drawing and painting from artist Jonas Lie, then, using his Veteran’s Bonus, studied in New York and at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles. By 1926 at age 30, he was on the faculty at USC.

By 1934, he was one of the most influential artists in the country, adept at Social Realism and American Regionalist painting styles with his work shown at the Met and appearing in Fortune, Esquire, Country Gentlemen, and American Artist.

Maple Sugaring, Paul Sample

In 1936, his old alma mater at Dartmouth made him an artist in residence– becoming their longest serving, making it through 1962.

In 1941 he was elected academician by the National Academy of Design.

When WWII came, the former Navy man served as a Life Correspondent attached to the sea service, embarking on the carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) and heavy cruiser USS Portland (CA-33) among others, covering the war in both the Atlantic and Pacific in watercolors that capture the feeling of the moment.

Fighter disaster on USS Ranger (CV 4), which depicts the crash of an F4F-4 “Wildcat” fighter on board USS Ranger on 25 August 1942 after an off center landing attempt. Artwork by Paul Sample. Photo # NH 89617-KN (Color)

Fighter disaster on USS Ranger (CV 4), which depicts the crash of an F4F-4 “Wildcat” fighter on board USS Ranger on 25 August 1942 after an off-center landing attempt. Artwork by Paul Sample. Photo # NH 89617-KN (Color). It should be noted that Ranger sailed to support the Torch Landings just days after this incident, where her aircraft were influencial in silencing the French.

Ship's band, USS RANGER (CV-4) Caption: Artist: Paul Sample, 1942. Description: Time-Life Collection Courtesy of Chief of Military History Catalog #: NH 89619-KN

Ship’s band, USS RANGER (CV-4) Caption: Artist: Paul Sample, 1942. Description: Time-Life Collection Courtesy of Chief of Military History Catalog #: NH 89619-KN

Seaplane base, Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Virginia Caption: Artist: Paul Sample, 1942. Description: Time-Life Collection Courtesy of Chief of Military History Catalog #: NH 89615-KN

Seaplane base, Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Virginia Caption: Artist: Paul Sample, 1942. Description: Time-Life Collection Courtesy of Chief of Military History Catalog #: NH 89615-KN

Field carrier landings, Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Virginia Caption: Artist: Paul Sample, 1942. Description: Time-Life Collection Courtesy of Chief of Military History Catalog #: NH 89616-KN

Field carrier landings, Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Virginia Caption: Artist: Paul Sample, 1942. Description: Time-Life Collection Courtesy of Chief of Military History Catalog #: NH 89616-KN. Note the distinctive gear of the F4F Wildcat.

"Chinese overside, submarine base, Pearl Harbor"Caption: Artist: Paul Sample, 1943. 28"x 44". Description: Time-Life Collection Courtesy of Chief of Military History Catalog #: NH 89621-KN

“Chinese overside, submarine base, Pearl Harbor” Caption: Artist: Paul Sample, 1943. 28″x 44″. Description: Time-Life Collection Courtesy of Chief of Military History Catalog #: NH 89621-KN

Crew's quarters aboard a Pacific submarine Caption: Artist: Paul Sample, 1943. 17"x 24". Description: Time-Life Collection Courtesy of Chief of Military History Catalog #: NH 89620-KN

Crew’s quarters aboard a Pacific submarine Caption: Artist: Paul Sample, 1943. 17″x 24″. Description: Time-Life Collection Courtesy of Chief of Military History Catalog #: NH 89620-KN. Note the crew sleeping on the torpedos. The foot front and to the left is great as is the “Shipwreck” GI Joe character.

Skipper on the bridge, Pacific submarine Caption: Artist: Paul Sample, 1943. 24"x 30". Description: Time-Life Collection Courtesy of Chief of Military History Catalog #: NH 89622-KN

Skipper on the bridge, Pacific submarine Caption: Artist: Paul Sample, 1943. 24″x 30″. Description: Time-Life Collection Courtesy of Chief of Military History Catalog #: NH 89622-KN

Red beach, Leyte, Pacific Caption: Artist: Paul Sample, 1944. 14"x 38". Description: Time-Life Collection Courtesy of Chief of Military History Catalog #: NH 89623-KN

Red beach, Leyte, Pacific Caption: Artist: Paul Sample, 1944. 14″x 38″. Description: Time-Life Collection Courtesy of Chief of Military History Catalog #: NH 89623-KN

After the war, Sample did mural work, painted the Saturn rocket launch for NASA in 1964.

He died in 1974, after working in his Vermont studio that morning, age 80.

Works by Sample may be found at the Arkell Museum, Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy, Art Institute of Chicago, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Currier Gallery of Art, Hood Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Springfield Museum of Art in Utah, and the D’Amour Museum of Fine Art.

Thank you for your work, sir.

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