For many, many years one of my neighbors has done our tax returns for us (small business return), and I knew he was a Marine, but until a few years ago I didn't know how much of a Marine he really was.
I'm interested in people's "personal stories", so I often encourged him to tell me about his life. He's in his mid to late '80's now, and his mental capacity is diminishing quickly.
One day he told me he fought the entire campaign of Iwo Jima, hitting the beach in the second wave and finally ending the battle in an all-night, hand-to-hand battle.
I asked him what his assignment was, and he said, "demolitions". I asked him how much training he had, and he replied, "Oh, about 10 minutes". Seems as though everyone else had been killed or injured, so he inherited the job.
He told me an interesting story of the final battle at Kitano Point and said it had been "hushed up" at the time. While doing some reading online I confirmed what he'd told me.
Pfc Ray Hudson explained that an officer had come around and told them to turn in their ammo and arms and that the "battle was over". His combat hardened men replied, "Who SAYS it's over?". The officer pointed to a ship offshore and said their commanding officers said it's over and if they didn't turn over their arms and ammo there would be hell to pay.
They replied defiantly, "You tell them to come sleep with US tonight!". The officer said he'd be back the next day and threatened serious consequences if they didn't comply.
During the night, some of the last remaining enemy soldiers crawled out of some caves, snuck into the tents of the pilots and began bayoneting them in their sleep. All hell began to break loose, and it was Ray and his men who had arms and ammo to fight them all night until every single enemy soldier had been killed.
Ray told me it had been hushed up because so many pilots had been killed and injured, and they were one of the most valuable commodities on the island. The premature disarming had cost many lives.
Since then I've read accounts confirming Ray's story like this one: "General Schmidt received the good news that the 5th Marine Division had snuffed out the final enemy cave in The Gorge on the evening of D+34. But even as the corps commander prepared his announcement declaring the end of organized resistance on Iwo Jima, a very well-organized enemy force emerged from northern caves and infiltrated down the length of the island. This final spasm of Japanese opposition still reflected the influence of Kuribayashi's tactical discipline. The 300-man force took all night to move into position around the island's now vulnerable rear base area, the tents occupied by freshly arrived Army pilots of VII Fighter Command, adjacent to Airfield No. 1. The counterattacking force achieved total surprise, falling on the sleeping pilots out of the darkness with swords, grenades, and automatic weapons. The fighting was as vicious and bloody as any that occurred in Iwo Jima's many arenas.
The surviving pilots and members of the 5th Pioneer Battalion improvised a skirmish line and launched a counterattack of their own. Seabees and elements of the redeploying 28th Marines joined the fray. There were few suicides among the Japanese; most died in place, grateful to strike one final blow for the Emperor. Sunrise revealed the awful carnage: 300 dead Japanese; more than 100 slain pilots, Seabees, and pioneers; and another 200 American wounded. It was a grotesque closing chapter to five continuous weeks of savagery.
And each year on Feb. 19th, I pay a visit to him to thank him and honor him for his service. This last year he politely thanked me, but could not remember the battle.
Time does indeed march on as he and thousands of others once did as they lived through the hell known as "Iwo Jima".