It is always
good to know that we are not alone. Other than
veterans from actual battle, I have never met anyone who
served on Iwo after the war. As I said before, I was
on Iwo from Feb. 1957 to Feb. 1958.
A C-47 took
off from Iwo and lost one engine. The pilot could not
get enough power to get back up to the runway, so he had to
ditch in the ocean. We did not have a boat, so some of
the crew had to swin, while others came to shore by rubber
raft. The plane floated for about 45 minutes.
The swimmers came ashore covered with sea dye and shark
repellant. Later, we learned that the two in the
rubber raft were the pilot and the author, James
We had to do
all sorts of crazy things to maintain our sanity. One
of the things that we would do was to check out weapons and
go target shooting. My pal and I were walking along
the beach with M1-carbines when we spotted a bird high in
the sky. My friend said, "I'll bet you that you cannot
hit that." I gave the bird some lead and shot.
It glided for awhile and then came down into the
water. I went in after it (Smart move considering
it was bleeding). I brought the bird it and it had a
wing spam of about 6 feet. We had no idea what it
was. So we took it to the small island library and
found a book on bird identification. It was an
albatross. You might know. Now I was in for bad
luck. Iwo was bad luck enough.
after fishing for sharks we came upon an overturned weapon
carrier. Upon further investigation we found that an
airman had his legs pinned under the windshield. He
had been there all night. We could not get it off of
him, so I ran to the medics. They flew him off to
Japan. Later, we were told that he lost both
While I was on
the island we expereriended two typhoons.
We had to live for days in caves while the storms
passed over. We ate C-rations and chased rats
away. While we slept, they would chew on our
boots. They would also do this when we sat on the
benches at the outdoor theater. We had so many rats
that during the day airmaen would go out in a jeep and shoot
them with 22 rifles. We also tried to kill them with
the poison, decon, in peanutbutter balls.
We were not
told, but the US Marines had planned a mock invasion of
IWO. They landed and we thought it was a real
VO ribbons all year, so that we could wear our FIGMO
ribbons on our uniforms after we got our orders for our
The moral was
not good on IWO. The base commander told me that I had
to get the swimming pool running. The pool had been
idel for several years. It took me weeks to
get it going, but after a couple months the water
supple became very low and we had closed the
pool. I don't know if it ever opened again. The
only water on IWO was water that ran off the runway and
apron into two resevouis during the rainy season.
There was an
older airman first class that came to IWO with marked cards
and crooked dice. He was sending thousands of dollars a
month back to the States. He was the only one to ever
request a second tour on Iwo.
While I was on
Iwo, a shipment of sand for the water plant filters was
piled up near the water plant. No one was in a hurry
to replace the sand, so it sat out in the sun for weeks.
During this time, scorpion eggs hatched in the
sand. Many of the creatures moved out. I was
wondering whether scorpions had become a problem later.
Our biggest problems was rats.
We are not
vets of a shooting war, but we are survivors of a year on
Iwo. I learned an important life lesson while on
Iwo. I saw three types of individuals on Iwo.
The first hated the island and felt sorry for themselves all
the time they were there. The ate, worked, and laid in
their bunks the rest of the time. We had to put some
of these individuals in straitjackets and send them off to
Japan. The second group didn't like being
there but just made the most of it. They left the
island the way they came. The third group looked for
adventure and excitement. They make things
happen. My buddy and I hiked the island over, went
into caves, went shark fishing, fired off all types of
weapons. We made things happen. Life is what you
make it. No matter what the situation, look for
the good around you...
While in high
school I applied for the Air Force Academy and was
sponsored by an Indiana senator. I went to Illinois
for a series of physical and mental test. They found
that I had 20/30 vision in one eyes and was rejected.
In those day eyes had to bee 20/20 uncorrected. I was
fascinated by airplanes, so I graduated from high school on
a Sunday and the next day I joined the Air Force with 3 of
my buddies. I went to Oakland (Parks Air Force Base)
for basic and on to Ft. Bolivar (Army base) near Washington,
DC. I went to water supply school (none of my 3 career
picks). I volunteered for overseas shipment, but they
sent me to a SAC base in Roswell, NM. I was there for
3 months and a shipment came in for Guam. I was he
only one to request it, so I went home for a 30 day
leave. While I was home I got a letter stating that my
shipment had been switched to Iwo Jima. I had seen the
movie, Sands of Iwo Jima, so I thought Iwo
sounded cool.. We flew on two Pan Am planes out
of San Francisco to Japan. The planes were routed
into a typhoon, and the other plane went down somewhere on
the way. They never found any any remains of the 200+
people on the plane.
On Iwo the
selection of a friend is very limited. I was surprised
to when you said that most people on the island were Army
and Coast Guard. When I was on Iwo there were 120 Air
force, 30 Army, and 15 coast Guard. The Air Force
slept in the large Quonset huts, the Army in tents below the
Airman' Club, and the Coast Guard had their own plush
building on the coast. The Army were construction engineers,
and I think they pulled out while I was there.
a lot of double deck pinochle. In the back of the chow
hall was the steam boiler room. The men assigned to it just
had to sit around and watch pressure gages. Really
nothing to do. I hooked up with the 3 of them and we
would play pinochle for 24 hours straight. We would
then take a 24 hour break and then play fror another 24
hours. We played for small stakes so no one got hurt, but we
had a good time.
three types of people who served on Iwo:
that left the island worst than when the arrived
that left the island the same as when they arrived
that left the island better than when they arrived
I like to
think that I was in the third catagory. I have
never been sorry to have been stationed there.
Our bulk cargo
(beer, soda, etc.) came in on LSTs. I was one of
the few people on Iwo with a military drivers license.
So when a LST came in, I was asked to drive a 6 for the
unloading. .I had to back over the narrow ramp and into the
ship. The ramp came up out of the ship and then down
to the shore. Like an inverted "V". As I backed
up the ramp you could not see the ship. Then all of a
sudden you were going down. The worst part was that you went
from bright sunlight into the dim lights in the ship.
I would become completely blinded. I would hold my
breath and hope for the best.
channel had been cleared for the LSTs. Out of the
channel was war wreakage. A LST came in and tied
up two lines on shore. One lines broke and the
ship turned sideways, paralell to the shore. There was
no way the ship could get out. So they sent out an
SOS. That night here were lights all over the horizon
as other ships came to help the disabled ship. It took
a few days and strategic tows, but they got it
a rubber raft pulled up on shore. They thought someone was
trying to observe the military installation. Our
base commander called a base alert. We were
mustered into the outdoor theater and issued carbines and a
clip of ammo. The commander came out and addresses his
army. He was wearing a 45 at his hip and his
helmet was on backwards. We were transported
around the perimeter of the island and told to move toward
the interior. Well, most any sound set off a
volley of gunfire. It was a miracle no one was
hit. No invaders were found. That night a fight
broke out in the Airman's Club (Africian
Americans against whites). Many people went back
their lockers and came back with their guns ready to shoot
it out. Lines of battle were set up, but then the
chaplain came running out into the middle and he got the
soldiers to stop..."
Note: 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
II Stories: Iwo Jima Photo Album
Did YOU serve on Iwo Jima?
Did you 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
We, at the
Jima Memoirs web site wish to offer to Mr. Ronald
Armstrong 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 those
Original story transcribed on 21 October 2007
Did YOU serve on
Do YOU have
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Do YOU 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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