All Things Soldier: Iwo Jima, 75 Years Later

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

On February 19, 1945, American forces began what would become one of the defining battles of World War II, and it came to be known simply as Iwo Jima. The iconic image of Marines banding together to plant the American flag on a pole is one of the most famous of all time, and to this day remains a symbol of those who will do anything to fight for our country and keep her free.

Iwo Jima lasted until March 26, 1945, when it was declared that the US had taken the island. It came at huge price in form of 7,000 US dead and 20,000 injured. The Japanese lost 20,000 and the stories of there being more bodies than beach are no exaggeration. President Trump noted the anniversary of the campaign and its significance by saying, “In the long record of American heroism in combat, few episodes capture the indomitable will and the stouthearted spirit of the American warrior better than the triumphs on the island of Iwo Jima in early 1945.”

The president continued by saying, “Seventy-five years later, we pay tribute to the immeasurable sacrifice of those killed in action on Iwo Jima, and we honor the heroic efforts of all who took part in one of the most costly and significant battles in our country’s history.”

“The fighting on Iwo Jima was some of the bloodiest and most costly in all of World War II, but it also gave rise to some of the greatest examples of patriotism and heroism in our nation’s history,” Trump said. “We honor those who answered the call of duty and ensured that the forces of freedom emerged victorious in that fateful battle,” Trump said in a statement Wednesday. “As a nation, we remain forever indebted to the Greatest Generation,” he added.

Iwo Jima is famous for many things, including the battle’s role in winning the war, as well as the fact that no other battle in American history has had more Medal of Honor recipients. Of the 27 medals given for Iwo Jima, 22 went to Marines and 5 went to members of the US Navy. When you consider that for the entire course of the war, 80 Marines total received the Medal of Honor, the fierceness and significance of the Battle of Iwo Jima takes on a new meaning.

There are only a few men left who were there on that blood-soaked island, fighting for their and our freedom. One is a man by the name of Herschel “Woody” Williams, who is one of the Medal of Honor recipients, and is 96 years old. Woody was 21 years old during the battle and was 5’6” tall. He wanted desperately to join the Marines but was too short. The day came when the Marines lowered their height requirements, and Woody signed up. He operated a flame thrower, did his job lethally, and like so many of the Greatest Generation, came home to his sweetheart and made a humble yet amazing life. But what impresses me the most about him is that to this day he holds no ill toward his enemies. “I was raised in an era where the family taught you that you do not kill anything. Not even a bird. Nothing, unless there’s a purpose for it,” Woody says.

“I know there’s no way you can win a war without eliminating the other party. That’s war. But there’s still something within every human being of sound mind that says, ‘There’s only one life. You can’t restore it.’ [The Japanese] never did anything to me personally,” Woody says. “They were trying to do something to my country, and I wasn’t gonna let them do that.”

Thank you, Woody, and God bless you as you travel our great land and tell others the incomparable story of Iwo Jima.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner