The story on
how I finally got to go to Iwo Jima was an interesting one
and one of destiny.
Coming from a
family were all 3 of my uncles were veterans (2 Army, 1 Air
Force) and my Grand Father having served in the Army during
WWII (mopping up on Guadalcanal and Bougainvillea islands) I
pretty much knew what I wanted to do with my life and joined
the Navy in August 1982 and eventually finishing my A school
as an AX (Anti Submarine Warfare Technician) at NATTC
history nut I volunteered for, and got orders to the USS
Midway as a member of Antisubmarine Helicopter squadron 12
Wyverns (HS-12) knowing that would get me to Japan for sure
and hopefully I would get to see some famous WWII
sites/battle fields. As luck would have it I made it to
Corrigedor island, Nagasaki, Okinawa,Tokyo, Hong Kong,
Singapore, and Atsugi air base (Where Macarthur first landed
in 1945) as well as the battle of the Java Sea area as we
headed to Perth Australia to name a few. I also had the
incredible luck of getting shore duty orders to NAF Atsugi
Japan at AIMD and ended up spending 5 years there.
honorably discharged from the Navy in July of 1992 due to
the military draw down as a result of the end of the cold
war and decided I still wanted to see more of Japan so I got
a job as a Detective at the Navy Exchange store at Atsugi
after my discharge. Due to the dense population surrounding
Atsugi and the problems of loud jet noise of the Midway air
wing practicing their carrier practice touch n goes
qualifications proceeding every Midway deployment the Navy
determined that they would require an alternate location to
conduct these touch n goes in a area less populated. This is
were Iwo Jima once again gained value to the United States
as a location that was well away from any population centers
that would allow the pilots to practice.
Iwo Jima circa
1993 was a Japanese Self Defense force base used for patrol
and rescue aircraft along with a very small Coast Guard
detachment maintaining the navigational equipment on the
northern part of the island. Because there are no real
American facilities located on the island the American
Squadrons using Iwo Jima had to bring their own comfort
items such as soap, laundry detergent, soda, and of course,
beer which was hard to do because of limited space and
manpower. The Navy Exchange was asked if they would be
interested in setting up a small convenience store on the
island during the periods that the Navy was on the island.
The first Navy Exchange response was no that they would have
a hard time finding/sending civilian retail people to the
island and thus opened up a window of opportunity for me to
volunteer for the awful <smile> job of working on Iwo
Jima. I informed my boss that I would sweep the runway if
that is what it took for me to go to Iwo Jima.
My first trip
to the island was on a C-130 with some Navy guys and 2 bags
full of money to run the store that I was to run out of the
barracks lounge selling Beer and soda only. Each successive
trip improved the quality of goods sold to the point where
we had our own space in the newly built Recreation center
where we were selling Chips, soap, laundry detergent etc and
we were also provide with an old van for use on the
permitted us to "explore" the island while filling the soda
machines located at various points on the island. Of course
I went to the top of Suribachi and stood on the spot where
the worlds most famous photograph was taken as well as
hiking down into the crater and down the other side. Before
each trip to Iwo I would brush up on my history of the
battle and then plan a trip to a certain location on the
island. One of the more memorable locations was going to
Hill 362A, an area of high contention during the battle as
well as where "O'Hanson (from the first flag raising) was
killed by sniper fire. I was able to clime up the tunnels
made by the Japanese up to the top of the hill and then look
over to the Nishi ridge area which was also another part of
the battle and it help bring the scenes described in my
books to life.
spot to go to alone every chance I got was Black sand beach
or invasion beach where the landings took place and many
additional famous photographs were made and just contemplate
what this most hallowed ground meant to us Americans.
enjoyed this little short story of my connection to Iwo Jima
and would be honored if you think this is good enough for
your web page.
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. Joseph Pellam 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 16 February 2005
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.
Check out my
other web site on World War II. Click on the Image