Remains of War Dead Near Iwo Air Base, Iwo Jima, 1965 by Joe Richard



Iwo Jima Memoirs


John L. Wick, MD (Retired)
Medical Doctor, Stationed on Chichi Jima
September 1964 - August 1966
United States Navy



     I have just experienced a very enjoyable Sunday afternoon reading about your experiences on Iwo Jima as recorded on the internet.  It is apparent that you were there at approximately the same time that I was serving as the Navy doctor on Chichi Jima, your neighbor to the North.  My tour on Chichi was from Sept 64 to Aug 66.  All of our support was through Guam, and I landed on Iwo Jima, both on my way up to Chichi as well as on our way back to the States.  

     Your story brought back many fond memories, ie., the boonie stomping, the green glass Japanese fishballs, exploring the island for war relics, etc.  However, it would appear that I enjoyed my military tour much more than you did your tour on Iwo.  Having been on both islands, although only briefly on Iwo, I can see why.  The thing that made the difference was the fact that we had a population of about 120 indigenous Bonin Islanders on the island.  These were the islanders who had been interned up in Japan during the war, but because of their western ancestry, had been allowed to return to live on the island even during the time our Navy administered the island. These were a wonderful group of people who I got to know very well as I was charged with providing their medical care.  Of course, I also provided care for the Navy and Marine personnel, as well as their dependents.  I suppose we had about 25 Navy, with about an equal number of dependents, as well as 25 to 50 Marines.  Marines only stayed on the island for about 3 months, before rotating back to Guam.  

     The island of Chichi Jima was originally settled back in the 1830's by a small band of men from various countries, including England, Spain, United States, Madgascar, Hawaii and Guam.  Originally there were no Japanese.  Later on, some of these men brought in wives from Japan.  So there was a real mixture.  All in all, a fine grop of people.  So fine, in fact, that I brough one home with me as my wife. In 1965,  I was married on Chichi to my wife, Elsie Savory, the great-great grand-daughter of one of the original settlers. Although my original assignment to Chichi was only one year, I later extended my tour by an additional year, thus I spent my entire active duty tour on Chichi Jima.  I continue to consider that the best two years of my life.  Chichi reverted back to Japan in 1968. 

     My most memorable event of my Navy tour was getting to stand on top of Mt Suribachi.  It happened this way.  My wife and I flew on the Navy HU-16 to Guam, and then on to Japan.  On the return trip, on the way back up to Chichi, we stopped at Iwo for fuel.  When we got back up to Chichi, the weather conditions were poor visibility, and rough water in the harbor.  The pilot elected to go back to Iwo and we had to spend the night there.  The next day the weather was still unfavorable at Chichi so while we were waiting for things to clear up, the Air Force officer in charge at Iwo offered to take my wife and I up to Suribachi in his Jeep.  It was in February, 1965, exactly 20 years after the invasion.  It was breezy up there, and too cool for comfort, but very clear.  I remember the monument with the American flag waving, and the sound of the brass fittings of the flag pole banging in the breeze.  Even today, when I hear that sound, my mind goes back to Iwo Jima.  Looking down at that invasion beach was the most awe inspiring experience of my life. 

     Are you aware of the web site on the internet that gives you an amazingly detailed satellite view of Iwo Jima as it exists today.  You can even see the numbers on the runway.  If you have not seen it, let me know and I will tell you how to get there.  

     Another thing that helped make my tour enjoyable, was the fact that I had amateur radio available to me.  I was able to make many phone patches into the States for me and other personnel there.  In fact, I frequently tallked to Iwo, mainly the Coast Guard  Loran Station there, but sometimes the Air Force. We usually talked to Iwo and Kwajelein at night when the radio propagation into the States was down.  We usually would commiserate, and compare notes as to who had the shortest time to go.   Some times we would trade movies using the Navy plane on its way to and from Chichi.  Also audio tapes.  Yes, we also all had Akai and Sony reel-to-reel recorders.  We duped a lot of Iwo Tapes which we played continuously in our mess hall.  Someone on Iwo sent me a bunch of large AFRTS records from their radio station there.  I still have some of those records stored in my basement.  (Iwo didn't want them back.) 

     That's enough for now.  Thanks again for the memories.


     John L. Wick, M.D. (Retired)



Note: To view images taken by the web master of 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. John L. Wick 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 15 October 2006


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    Updated on 22 October 2007...1646:05 CST




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