Old Concrete Bunker, I wo Air Base, 1965 by Joe Richard



Iwo Jima Memoirs


Charles Simon
U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps, Officer Construction, Far East
Time on Iwo Jima: Not Stated
United States Navy




     I was in the Navy and in Japan on my first assignment. Being an architect by schooling, I was in the Navy's Civil Engineer Corps. The assignment in Japan was with the Officer in Charge of Construction, Far East. As such, we had responsibility for construction at naval bases in Japan and Okinawa. On got the task to construct for the Coast Guard four Loran C stations in Hokkaido, Marcus Island (Tori Shima), Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The stations on Iwo and Marcus were to have 1,350 feet tall towers and the other two 650 feet towers. We provided support to American contractors on Iwo and Marcus via LST (landing ship tank -- the ships that are capable of being beached and the ramp drops from the bow) and airlift for weekly needs and emergency items. My job was to arrange and coordinate all this. For the airlifts, we utilized C-130's flying out of Tachikawa on the weekends. Limited to weekend flying to use "desk jockeys", pilots having a desk job but needing flight hours to maintain flight status --- and collect flight pay.

     Okay, I made two trips to Marcus and at least one trip to Iwo, it might have been two because fuel was available at Iwo. Marcus Island is about the same distance from Tokyo that Iwo Jima is and it is east of Iwo. The accident that I mentioned was that the first built tower collapsed killing 4 workers. The tower was designed and built by Western Windmill (WW) and erected by Hardin Construction. After it had been up for a short time, a connector between the cable guy and insulator failed under metal fatigue. The insulator, about the size of a luxury size car swung into the tower and hit it quite hard about 500 feet up the tower. It did a hell of a job knocking the tower out of plumb but it stood. A group of WW engineers went to the island and investigated the conditions. They arrived at a plan to make repairs. The first step was to jumper around a diagonal, thought to be in tension, with cable and turnbuckle, take the load onto the cable and then remove the diagonal. (I bet you can tell where this story is going.) The diagonal did not come loose neatly so it was hit with a fairly heavy hammer. The diagonal was not is tension but in compression, it popped out, the tower twisted and came down upon itself, taking the four workers with it.

     The guy wires (about 2-1/2 inches in diameter) were buried about six inches into the ground. The upper insulators were half buried. Pieces of the tower pierced the concrete roofed building at the base of the tower, roof and floor, like toothpicks stuck through a matchbox. It was, to say the least, a total mess.

     You asked about photos from that time. I have 5 or 6 slide tray boxes of slides from 1961 to 1964 while in Japan. I just looked at a few seeing if I could stumble upon some taken at Iwo and Marcus. I must look more but sadly I am seeing that many are now a reddish tint. Our slides from Thailand in the late 60's are in great shape. I think I know what is happening. I know for a fact that all the photos taken in Thailand were processed by Kodak, I used mailers to send to a lab. I think the ones from early Japan were developed by a lab other than Kodak or a Kodak lab in Tokyo. I must give these photos some attention.


     Charles Simon



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 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. Charles Simon 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 13 March 2007


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    Updated on 19 October 2007...1918:05 CST




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