One island along the way evokes many memories for local veterans. Roughly 8 square miles and located about 670 miles south of Tokyo, Iwo Jima saw some of the toughest fighting in the Pacific campaign.
According to the Department of Defense Web site about the Battle of Iwo Jima, 27 Medals of Honor were given to Marines for their parts in the battle, which lasted from Feb. 19, 1945, until the island was declared secure on March 26. Those 27 medals make up almost a quarter of all Medals of Honor given to Marines in the Pacific Theater during World War 2.
Here are just a few of the memories and comments from local vets who invaded and secured the island.
Louie Schwartz: "I’d never even heard of the island, but I sure found out about it."
Alton Cadenhead: "The shells began to fall. They had the artillery on tracks and they’d fire the big guns and then roll them back into caves. You couldn’t see them and you couldn’t see the machine gun nests. You were out in the open with nothing to hide behind and those huge shells coming in were just taking out hundreds and hundreds of men in the first day."
Alton Cadenhead: "Once we hit the beach, we knew it was bad. There were so many Marines coming on shore, it was almost like fishing in a barrel for the Japanese."
Bill Fricks: "The volcanic ash was almost indescribable. It was filthy, stinking and muggy. It wasn’t a fun place to be."
Louie Schwartz: "That old black sand isn’t really sand, it’s ash is what it is. It was so deep you couldn’t get a regular vehicle to travel in it."
Alton Cadenhead: "When the north side of Mount Suribachi was secured and they couldn’t roll those big weapons out, we thought it was going to be easy from then on. We didn’t know there was a mass of tunnels underneath."
Louie Schwartz: "You never knew when you were safe or when you weren’t safe. On Iwo, you were that way all the time."
Bill Fricks: "It was like hell on Earth, and it was such a death trap for those that went in early."