A Pill Box Just Up from the Invasion Beaches. Created from the Remains of a Betty Bomber,
Iwo Jima, 1965. Image is Copyrighted by Joe Richard



Iwo Jima Memoirs


Keith W. & Donald L. Johnson
1st Radio Intelligence Platoon
February 19, 1945
United States Marine Corps


From an article that ran in the Rockford Register Star:


2 brothers at Iwo Jima, 1 survived

Nov 11, 2007 @ 01:01 AM

By Judy Emerson



Special report: East High School's Gold Star Boys

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It was February 1945, and Keith Johnson was in "the hold" of the USS Eldorado off the coast of Iwo Jima monitoring Japanese radio transmissions when a terrible feeling came upon him.


To read the entire article, please click on the link below...

2 Brothers at Iwo Jima, 1 Survived

The above information used with permission of the:

Rockford Register Star

(Information added on 20 November 2007)




the Rest of the Story


     The USS Eldorado, which I was on, was the flagship for the invasion, with the leaders responsible for conducting the assault, aboard. There was continuous watercraft coming and going between ship to shore as the need arose for the top brass to oversee the progress of the battle. On D-day + 10, I was granted permission to land to see if I could find my brother. I could not get oriented or find directions to the 26th Marine location. I did find the cemetery, which had already grown very large. I decided to walk through and started to find familiar names, and began to feel uncomfortable. I had met some of his buddies. And I soon found his name amongst the crosses. He had been killed Feb. 24, 1945. My first thoughts were concern for the loss my parents and his wife would feel. I made my way back to the ship, told my buddies and the next day, a good friend and fellow radioman, Russell C. W. Crom, went back with me to take the pictures.



image of Donald's gravesite

Image taken about 3 March 1945, of Keith Johnson at brother Donald Johnson burial site -- 5th Marine Division Cemetery, Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands. His remains were later returned to the States.


image of Donald Johnson
Image of Corporal Donald L. Johnson, #480704

image of Iwo Jima graveyard
Image of 5th Marine Division Cemetery on Iwo Jima

     Note: A slightly different account of the same event as told by a fellow radioman, Russell C. W. Crom. Russell recalls the event in a bit of a different way. According to Keith, Russell's memory is better at times. Russell was with Keith at the time and his version goes something like this [webmaster comments].



     "Keith and I were members of the First Radio Intelligence Platoon and were assigned to copy the Navy Fox broadcast one night shift, during the heat of battle, in late February 1945. We were aboard the Command ship, USS Eldorado. The Fox broadcasts were important but the Morse code copying job was about the most boring duty a radioman could have. It was 5 letter groups at 18 WPM. The rhythm of machine code was monotonous and we could not keep our minds off of what was happening on the island. One half of our platoon was on the island because we had drawn lots as to which half it would be. Keith and I were safely aboard ship.


     Two men were assigned to copy the Fox broadcasts so that if one person missed a few characters, the decoders could check the others copy hoping to fill in any missing text. All of a sudden, Keith threw off his headset and announced, 'my brother has been killed' I kept copying code and admonished him to copy too. He soon complied but was deeply troubled.

     Being in intelligence we knew which outfits were fighting ashore and we knew the going was rough, but we were never in contact with the fighting units as our main job in intelligence was to copy enemy transmissions and locate the stations.

     But we were on 4 hours off and 4 hours on, duty during battle conditions and we rotated assignments from copying code, decoding, and message running.

image of Keith and Donald
Image of Keith and Donald Johnson taken on a visit in Honolulu, Hawii

     Message running duty was when we got a real picture of what was going on. Keith had never been in contact with his brothers outfit all during the Iwo Operation.

     The following week after Keith's premonition about his brother, we went ashore to take up duty on land. We were being oriented by our comrades about different things to do when we learned that our officers had been over ruled by higher authority, that we were not to swap duties as originally planned. Each half of the platoon was just beginning to know what we were doing and the higher authority was right. Thus Keith and I had a few hours with nothing to do except try and not be killed before we could get a boat back to the Eldorado.

     Keith wanted to go to the cemetery for his brother's outfit. We headed out on our own across the airstrip and past our artillery, toward Suribachi and found the cemetery. Keith went to the roster that was posted near the entrance and, sure enough, there was his brother's name. We went to the grave and offered our prayers. I had a box camera that my mother had given me so I took Keith's photo. We still have a copy of the snapshot. As nearly as we could determine his brother was killed when he sensed it miles away aboard the Eldorado.


     Russ" Unquote



     It was difficult not being able to write home about his death. The censors would not allow it, and I didn't want to be the one to tell the bad news. So, I waited, writing about generalities, until I learned they had received the dreaded news.

     I knew Cynthia before she was married to Don, and she and I had written occasional letters back and forth. I knew she loved Don very much, and it would be a loss that she would feel for a long time. I did feel a sympathy that was deeper than ordinary, and thought if I wrote to her on a regular basis, it would fill a small void in her life. As the days passed and the letters were exchanged, we began to reveal more of our feelings to each other. I began to think, I should try to fill a larger void in her life in the years ahead. I know the thought that I loved her began to take hold in my mind, before her thoughts of loving me did. As the weeks and months passed, we were writing every day to each other with no commitment for what we would do after I returned home.

     The Atomic Bomb changed every ones life, as it did mine. Within two weeks I was on my way home, from Maui, Hawaii. There was a one month furlough, which Cynthia and I spent together, a month of duty at Philadelphia Navy Yards, mustering out Oct 29, 1945, and home to stay. I was able to persuade Cynthia to marry me on June 01, 1946, and together we have five wonderful children, our firstborn son, we named Larry Donald Johnson, as a living tribute to Don and have been together 56 plus years.

     And this is the end of the story. I married my brothers wife, and still try not to think of what he missed, as I savor the life he could not have.


     ----- Keith W. Johnson



Itinerary of 1st Radio Intelligence Platoon



14 Jun 1943

Activated at Linda Vista camp, Camp Elliott, San Diego, CA as the 1st Radio Intelligence Platoon, Signal Company, Amphibious Corps, Pacific Fleet. (T/O D-529 dated 2 January 1943) Unit to which assigned redesignated during period of assignment as follows:



7 Jul 1943

Headquarters Company, 2nd. Corps Signal Battalion, FMF

28 Aug 1943

Headquarters Company, Signal Battalion, 5th. Amphibious Corps

7 Sep 1943

Reassigned to Marine Barracks, Camp Elliott, San Diego, CA

15 Oct 1943

Reassigned to the 29th Replacement Battalion, FMF, Camp Elliott, San Diego, CA.

28 Oct-14
Nov 1943

Embarked aboard USS Rochambeau (AP-63)and transited from San Diego, CA to Noumea, New Caledonia

20 Nov 1943

Reassigned to the Corps Replacement Battalion, Transient Center, I Marine Amphibious Corps at Camp St. Louis.


Embarked aboard USS KINCAID and transisted from Noumea,New Caledonia to Guadalcanal B.S.I. and reassigned to theSignal Company, Headquarters Battalion, Division Support Troops, 3rd. Marine Division, FMF

30 Dec 1943
2 Jun 1944

Participated in Consolidation of Solomon Islands.

15 Apr 1944

Reassigned to the Headquarters Company, I Corps Signal Battalion, I Amphibious Corps. Unit to which assigned redesignated as the Headquarters, III Corps Signal Battalion, III Amphibious Corps on Apr 1944

3 Jun-
31 Aug 1944

Embarked 3 Jun aboard USS Appalachain (AGC-1) at Guadalcanal, B.S.I. Transisted therefrom on 4 Jun to Eniwetok Atoll, Marshall Is., arriving thereat at 8 Jun. Further transited 12 Jun to Mariannas AOA, but returned to Marshalls Is. on 3 Jul. On 16 Jul further transited to Guam, Marianna Is., arriving thereat on 20 Jul. Disembarked 24 Jul and participated in operations against Japanese forces in the seizure and occupation of Guam. Embarked aboard USS GEORGE CLYMER (APA-27) at Guam on 20 Aug and transisted therefrom to Pearl Harbor T.H., arriving and disembarking there at on 31 Aug.

15 Aug 1944

Reassigned by S/NR to Signal Company, H&S Battalion FMFPac, Oahu, T.H. Unit to which assigned redesignated during period of assignment as follows:

19 Oct 1944

Headquarters Company, Provisional Forcd Signal Battalion, FMFPac

1 Apr 1945

Headquarters Company, Force Signal Battalion, FMFPac

15 Sep-14 Dec

Attatched to Pacific Fleet Radio Unit 128, Wahiawa, Oahu,1944 T.H.

20 Oct 1944

Redesignated the 1st. Separate Radio Intelligence Platoon.(T/O E-538 dated 17 October1944)

15 Dec 1944
12 Apr 1945

Attatched to Headquarters, V amphibious Corps 15 Dec 1944.During period 27 Dec 1044-12 Jan 1945 detatchments of the platoon were formed and embarked as follows:

Det. "A"

Embarked aboard USS ESTES (AGC-12) on 27 Dec 1944

Det. "B"

Embarked aboard USS AUBURN (AGC-1O) on 12 Jan 1945

Det "C"

Embarked aboard USS LENAWEE (APA-195) on 12 Jan 1945

Keith W. Johnson's assignment

Det. "D"

Embarked aboard USS ELDORADO (AGC-11) on 12 Jan 1945.

At various times and routes closed on Iwo Jima, Bonin Is., arriving thereat between 16 and 19 Feb. 1945. Participated both afloat and ashore in operationa against Japanese forces in the seizure and occupation of Iwo Jima. Embarked aboard USS PRESIDENT MONROE )AP-104) on 25 Mar, and transisted 27 Mar to Eniwetok Atoll, Marshall Is., arriving thereat on 2 Apr. Further transisted from Eniwetok on 4 Apr to Maui T.H. arriving and disbarking at Kahului Harbor thereat on 12 Apr 1945. Trained and prepared for invasion of Japan mainland.

6 Aug 1945

Returned U.S.A. about 13 Aug 1945.

1 Sep 1945

Reassigned to Signal Battalion, V Amphibious Corps

29 Oct 1945

Redesignated the 1st. Radio Intelligence Platoon.
Keith W. Johnson: Date of Mustering out of U.S.M.C.R.

7 Nov 1945

Deactivated at Sasebo, Kyushu, Japan

Story received on 28 September 2002
Story placed on website on 11 October 2002
Story updated and modified on 21 October 2002


We are deeply grateful for the material provided to World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words, and Iwo Jima Memoirs by Mr. Keith W. Johnson.



image of NEWNow you can read the updates and NEW information regarding the continuing story of "The Returned Photo Album".


Keith Johnson has recently returned an additional item that he had found on Guam during the invasion. He has returned another family treasure to yet another family of a former Japanese soldier.

Keith Johnson: "The Returned Photo Album"

Keith Johnson: "The Returned Photo Album" Part 2

Keith Johnson: "The Returned Photo Album" Part 3


    Note: To view images taken by the web master at 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:

    WW II Stories: Iwo Jima Photo Album 1965-1966


    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 1968?

    Iwo Veterans Organization



    We, at the Iwo Jima Memoirs web site wish to offer to Mr. Keith W. Johnson 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 memories.


    Original story transcribed on 12 November 2007


    Did YOU serve on Iwo Jima?
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    Updated on 20 November 2007...0809:05 CST




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