At the time of the assault on Iwo Jima, 19 February 1945, I was a corporal leading a squad of machine gunners with a Marine Corps rifle company, Company G (Co G), 23d Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division (4th MarDiv). We were in the second wave of troops. No other amtraks landed near us.
When our tractor reached shore, it bogged down in the soft volcanic ash and barely cleared the water’s edge. The rear ramp dropped, and the rifle squad that shared the amtrack with my squad exited the vehicle first. When the squad leader, Cpl Paul Langford of Belle Glade, FL, went out to the left, his entire squad followed rather than alternate right and left as they were trained. I led my six-man squad out to the right. My number one gunner, PFC Wesley Sloan of Newburgh, NY, was close by when I reached the top of the first rather steep slope about 15 yards up the beach. We dropped to the sand, and I looked back as my men were leaving the tractor. I could see machine gun fire hitting the water about 10 feet to their right. I waved them down, and they dropped immediately. It was strange in that I had heard no sound of machine gun fire. There was no zing of bullets passing overhead and no snap or pop of bullets passing nearby.
Later that morning, a single rifleman of Langford’s squad joined up with my squad. He was very nervous. He told me that Langford’s squad was just about wiped out as soon as they left the tractor. I assumed that the machine gun that delivered fire close to my men had already taken out Langford’s squad.
We moved ahead and somewhat to the right. After moving a short distance, I saw the body of a Marine face down in a shallow ditch. I went to the Marine, but he was already dead. “Lt C.L. Hill” was stenciled on the back of his pack. I knew Hill, having served with him when he was a corporal back at Camp Lejeune in the spring of 1943. He was one of several Guadalcanal veterans who joined us in Co H, a so-called “heavy weapons” outfit. When Co H dissolved in 1944, Hill went into Co F and I went into Co G. Charles L. Hill received a field commission to second lieutenant.
I agree, outstanding read. There is so much about that generation (on all sides of the war) that really amazes me. This article is well written and really gives a taste of what it means to serve. I plan on having my 12 yo read this too.