I spent a year
on Iwo starting on April Fool's Day 1958. I was USAF in the
Air Traffic Control Squadron ( 1964th AACS). We ran the
control tower & the GCA unit which was set-up about 1000
ft. from the runway, which if I recall, is (was) one of the
longest in the Far East at over 10,000 ft.
We lived in a
Quonset hut right at the radar site and actually enjoyed a
pretty good lifestyle given our situation.
We had a big
refrigerator (and as I recall, an electric range) and an
outdoor BBQ pit and some mess sergeant allowed us to take
food from the mess hall so that we could fix some of our own
meals including cook-outs once in a while.
(latrine) was probably the worst situation but we always had
plenty of hot water for showers and the cubicles were always
very neat & clean.
were also occasional unwelcome guests in the hut if a door
was left ajar which made for great sport.
We had a
couple of vehicles assigned to our unit and we could come
& go to the "main base" as we wished or we would walk
back & forth.
screen was outdoors and the film changed every night and
then we would hit the snack bar before heading back across
the runway to our hut.
I spent many
hours taking photos and reading books from the library which
Also, if you
were creative you could come up with a number of reasons to
get off the island to go to Japan (Tachikawa AB) for eye
exams, hearing tests, dental work, etc. Iwo had a small
dispensary with a doctor. I think that he was a doctor!
Might have been a medic!
rides were noisy & cold at 30,000 ft. sitting in the
back in a sling seat or trying to sleep on a pile of laundry
Played lots of
poker - payday stakes and I think that the only guy who made
money was the guy who " kept the books" as he dragged some
small amount of money from every pot for services
We seemed to
have lots of "down-time" as we were always on "stand-by"
status. When an aircraft was 100 miles out the tower would
give us a call and we'd go out to the GCA unit and crank it
up and get the scopes aligned but because the weather was
always almost perfect, all we had to do was monitor the
incoming flight as a back-up in case they had a
We spent lots
of time "boondocking" that is to say exploring the island,
esp. the main invasion beach (south and east of Mt.
unexploded ordnance around the island and we were supposed
to mark it with a stick (flag) and call Air Police as I
We could also
draw 30 caliber ammo from the Air Police and do some
"plinking" around the island at cans, sharks or whatever
We kept the 30
cal. carbines at the hut but no ammo as I recall.
Seems to me
that we had lots of bob-tailed cats running around as well.
Sort of domesticated cats gone wild. They might be called
exciting! When we would go to Condition Red or whatever we
called it we would head for the caves and lay low for 12-18
hours or so. On a few occasion I got to ride it out in the
tower which had steel shutters we would drop over the big
The tower was
concrete & steel so we were OK. There was also a new
Communication Center not yet on-line that we used a couple
of times but it was full of scorpions. They must have
shipped in with the equipment in big, wooden crates.
I'm sure that
there are still a few guys who served in the 1964th with me
and it would be fun to make contact again after all of these
To view images taken by the web master on World War II
Stories -- In Their Own Words during his year on Iwo Jima,
please click on the following link to my World War II
Stories Photo Album:
II Stories: Iwo Jima Photo Album
Did YOU serve on Iwo Jima?
know that there is a group of veterans who have gotten
together to form an association of servicemen, no matter
what branch of service, who served at one time or another
starting at the invasion of the island on February 19, 1945
and continuing until the island was eventually returned to
the Japanese in 1968?
the Iwo Jima Memoirs web site wish to
offer to Mr. Fred Puente our most profound THANK YOU for his
poignant story of his personal experiences -- during his
tour of Iwo Jima and especially for allowing us to share
Original story transcribed on 19 October 2004
Did YOU serve on
YOU have a story to tell?
have a picture or pictures
that tells a story?
Contact me, Joe Richard and I can help by
adding YOUR story to my site devoted to veterans who served
on Iwo Jima.
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other web site on World War II. Click on the Image