World War II is more to me than just a few words thrown out by a history teacher. It’s not something I always liked talking about with all the bad memories, but most of us who served our country felt the same way. It wasn’t until recent years that I felt a need to share my story. With other wars calling Americans to serve, there’s been more interest shown to those of us who fought for our country in the past. There’s been more of an appreciation for what we all gave for our freedom, as more are giving the same today.
I enlisted in the Marines in August 1943 and completed my basic training in San Diego.
Troops headed out for Iwo Jima on Feb. 14, 1945, I was then a member of the 5th Division and the 28th Regimen. We arrived on the beaches of Iwo Jima on the 19th of February.
Military planners estimated that the Battle of Iwo Jima would be over in a matter of days, but with an estimated 21,000 Japanese troops, it turned out to be 36 days of some of the bloodiest fighting of WW II.
It was our mission to secure the west end of the island where Mount Suribachi was located. The Japanese had dug caves into the mountain and we had to flush them out.
Japanese troops had utilized caves throughout the island for headquarters of various officers and even a hospital. Mount Suribachi housed a seven-story interior structure used by the Japanese for stockpiling weapons, ammo, radios, fuel and rations.
On the fifth day of fighting, I was wounded when a shell exploded against my hand and broke all my fingers as it lay on a rock that sheltered us from view. My buddy beside me was killed. I was taken to the hospital ship and later flown to Guam.
I was among 18,000 wounded in the Battle of Iwo Jima. We needed the island for all our crippled planes to have a place to land. Some 7,000 American soldiers lost their lives in the battle.
When the battle was over and we had won, I was there on the side of Mount Suribachi when the American Flag went up on Feb. 23, 1945. A smaller flag was raised, and then later the larger one went up that you see in all the pictures and monuments.
When I got out of the hospital six weeks later, the war was about over. Most of the men from my division were either dead or wounded, so the 5th Division was dissolved and I was placed in the 2nd Division for the remainder of the war.
I was part of the occupation troops sent in to manage the country until the war was settled. It was like a ghost town….people were afraid to come out onto the streets for fear of being bombed like Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Although wounded and unable to shoot my rifle, I am proud to have served my country. I received the Purple Heart for my injuries and would do it all over again.
After returning to the United States, I made my home in the Delta, where I worked as a farm manager and within a year met my wife of 60 years, Mary Kathryn. After raising 5 children in Clarksdale, Ms. and working full time farming until the age of 72, my memories of the war are distant. However, the war always became of interest when my children and grandchildren were in school studying history and wanted to share my story with others. Now I’m blessed to be able to share my story with my great-grandchildren. It seems that the interest increases as the war in Iraq goes on today.
Veteran’s Day and Independence Day are special days to me because I served my country. So many served and gave their lives for America’s Freedom and all should be rewarded. What a great country we live in. All should be so thankful for those who fought then and those who are fighting today. Freedom definitely is not free by any means.
GOD BLESS THE USA!!!
Harvey Eugene Green is the father of Deborah Dworaczyk, wife of Wayne “Dirt” Dworaczyk and Pawpaw to Layton Dworaczyk, all of Blanco.