6:03 | From the information they had and the mock-up of the island they saw, the Marines figured Iwo Jima would be an easy operation. Bill Richardson went ashore with his artillery battery as soon as they could get on the crowded beach. It was immediately apparent that it was going to be a monumental battle. Part 1 of 3. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
Keywords : Bill Richardson artillery Fire Direction Center Iwo Jima DUKW Amphibious Vehicle (Duck) swim foxhole volcanic ash Japanese
If Bill Richardson had failed the physical examination, several of his buddies would have failed, too. The reason would have made that somewhat embarrassing. They were only taking five men for the Marines that day and he was the fifth, so his buddy from back home had to settle for the Navy. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
Before he left for boot camp, Bill Richardson got what he thought was a short haircut. Not short enough as it turned out. He didn't have any trouble getting up in the morning, which saved him some trouble. As a Marine, he knew he would have to qualify on the rifle range. Not qualifying would have been unthinkable. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
After basic training, it was off to Quantico for artillery school. Bill Richardson learned every job on the guns and then it was time for a train ride to California. The Marines had it better than the Army on that trip, at least at lunch time. The last training before deployment took place off the coast at San Diego. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
It was a small, uncomfortable ship, an LST. Bill Richardson remembers how the trip to Hawaii turned into an ordeal once the convoy was hit by a huge storm. Two burials at sea focused his mind pretty well. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
The food on the LST was meager, so when Bill Richardson got to Hawaii, a simple treat felt like a lot more. His first assault was at Roi-Namur in the Marshall Islands. It wasn't what he expected and that was a good thing. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
As Bill Richardson was preparing for the Saipan and Tinian operation, he witnessed the West Loch incident in Pearl Harbor. A number of ships exploded while at anchor. What could have caused this? (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
There was only light resistance going into Saipan for Bill Richardson and his Marine artillery battery. The island was much different than the tropical paradise he found in the Marshall Islands. There was jungle and there were Japanese batteries firing back at him. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
The Japanese were so well dug in on Iwo Jima in that the field artillery couldn't get to them. The flag had been raised on Mt. Suribachi but there was a long way to go to secure the island. When he wasn't wondering where that Japanese round was going to land, Bill Richardson had to deal with the cold, wet conditions. Part 2 of 3. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
They were beat up. They were tired. They were dirty. The Marine artillery unit had spent weeks in the misery of Iwo Jima and they were now heading for some rest, but there was one problem. Their transport was a Merchant Marine vessel and their treatment was not what they deserved. Part 3 of 3. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
Bill Richardson was training in Hawaii for the final assault, Japan. Then came the great news about the atomic bomb. He could go the other direction across the Pacific. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
Ben Martinez grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana. He originally enlisted for the US Army Air Corps, but before that he attended pharmacy school. Being very skillful in the medical field, and having failed his Air Corps physical, he instead went on to become a medic for the Army. During his entire time serving he never fired a single weapon, he only evacuated and patched up his fellow men.
When Emory Ashurst was on Tarawa, his platoon leader asked the men if any of them were wounded. He and several others said yes, but they all thought their wounds were very minor and declined to be put in for a Purple Heart. He has one now, anyway, thanks to that platoon leader.
When he was sent to work as a pharmacist in the airbase at Lake Charles, LA, Martinez learned very quickly that his 18 years of schooling would come in handy. Immediately, he was placed above average in his class, which gave him an advantage when he went through training at OCS. After he completed his training, he went back to his hometown of New Orleans to work in a nearby hospital.
Between two South Pacific deployments, Emory Ashurst was at the demolitions school at Camp Lejeune. He was giving a safety lecture one day when a corporal started complaining that it wasn't needed. He should have been listening more closely.
After the incidents that went down at Mt. Capello, Martinez and his unit proceeded to the Po Valley. Sadly, before reaching the Po Valley, they ran into another incident at Vedriano; one of their companies was captured by enemy soldiers.
The trip to Saipan was normal for a Marine, stuffed in the bottom of a ship. Emory Ashurst was a bomb disposal specialist and he recalls several incidents from Saipan and Tinian. He survived all the munitions and a little Dengue fever as well.
Since the events in Vedriano left him without a battalion surgeon, Martinez's unit was assigned a new one. Occasionally during this time, they were paired up with British troops, and Martinez recalls them behaving differently than US troops. Finally, his unit arrived at the Po Valley and then were assigned to Verona, Italy shortly after.
When he was headed to Parris Island, Emory Ashurst knew nothing about the Marine Corps. It only took him a few days to find out what it was all about. That was in 1940 and he was at his first post, guarding a naval powder factory when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He was sent to demolition school and slotted for the South Pacific.
After finishing his job in New Guinea, duty called again for Gruenfeld and his unit when they were shipped off to patrol in Luzon in the Philippines. By then, the Japanese had retreated up into the hills and it was up to him to help weed them out. Gruenfeld talks about the times he threw grenades into caves to target hiding Japanese as well as when he was caught in a surprise firefight with 9 Japanese soldiers. (This interview made possible with the support of JOAN NATELLE.)
On his way back to the States after the battles of Saipan and Tinian, at a church service in Hawaii, Emory Ashurst wondered why the chaplain said, "You'll never go home." When he got there, he understood. He wasn't home yet, though. After more demolitions training, he was deployed again to Okinawa.
It was supposed to be a bombing run like the others, the target a Japanese convoy on its way to Lae. Their tight formation made it easy for the Japanese to focus their fire, and in the course of the bombing Tucker's plane pulled away only to be tailed by 12 Japanese Zeros. They would go on to earn Distinguished Flying Crosses for this action.
After some amphibious training at La Jolla, Emory Ashurst crossed the Pacific with the 2nd Marine Division to their first island objective, Gavutu, in the Solomon Islands. On his way to the beach in the Higgins boat, he listened to the whining and emotional panic of some of the others. He was not rattled because he had old time religion.
After his time in rest and recuperation in the French Riviera, Farmer had to go back to Czechoslovakia for more guard duty since he still did not have enough points to return home. During this time, he transferred to the 4th Armored Division and then to the 102nd Infantry Division, where he was tasked to guard a POW camp, which was one of the last things he had to do before he could return home.
During his time overseas, Jay Gruenfeld was given a battlefield promotion. At first, he was skeptical about leaving his group that he had bonded with, but it was ultimately demanded that he do it. He also talks about a total of 5 different injuries he got during his 5 months in combat. One of those injuries could have been very damaging, and he nearly got paralyzed from the waist down because of it. (This interview made possible with the support of JOAN NATELLE.)
Emory Ashurst was not technically infantry. He was in a Pioneer unit, tasked with various support functions on the battlefield. His specialty was demolitions and he recalls an incident in which he was placing charges at the mouth of a cave when a gunshot rang out. Another time his crew nearly hurt a fellow Marine when a rock went flying.
Despite having made it across the Rur and Rhine rivers in Europe, Farmer and his battalion experienced a lot of trouble doing so. The Germans spared no ammunition when it came to blowing up as many bridges as they could. Afterwards, Farmer was asked to move up to Headquarters Platoon from his current tank position. He also recalls how the Air Corps would bomb enemy tanks so their tanks could proceed safely from point A to point B.
For the next 14 days, Farmer would have to undergo terrible conditions out at sea before finally arriving in England to fight in the war. After he got to England, the Battle of the Bulge started and he was positioned as gunner in a tank of 5 men including himself. However, the worst was yet to come.
The Japanese commander on Tarawa boasted that it would take a million men a hundred years to take the island. The Marines accomplished it with somewhat fewer in quite a bit less time. Emory Ashurst says the battle was something you would never want to see again.
After the frostbite from his legs was treated, Farmer was transferred to Holland for a little while and then back to Germany for more work inside a tank. During this time, he was transferred from the 8th to the 9th Army. He distinctly remembers the German citizens firing bazookas at his tank while it was rolling through the streets, the vast number of German surrendering, and what it was like to carefully cross the Rhine and Rur rivers.
Around the time of the end of World War II, Gruenfeld was sent back home following his last injuries. He remembers being in a hospital and hearing that the atomic bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Many thoughts were going on in his head, but he and many of the veterans and nurses around him were silently happy that the war was finally over. (This interview made possible with the support of JOAN NATELLE.)
There were plenty of times that Robert Farmer and his battalion came face to face with other tanks, but none quite like this. If the Tiger Tank they encountered had fired at them, he would have died right then and there. At the end of the war, he was up in the Harz Mountains with his team and they got to live in a farmhouse and sleep in a bed for the first time in months. Afterwards, he was called into Czechoslovakia for guard duty since he did not have enough points to come home yet, but was recognized for his hard work in the war and went to the French Riviera for R&R.
Having attended Mississippi State College (now University) prior to joining the Army Air Corps, John Hardin already gained experience flying planes. He knew from a very young age that he wanted to fly, and so he joined the Air Corps even before the start of WWII. He vividly remembers how devastating it was to hear about the Pearl Harbor attack, and how quickly things shifted as the US prepared to join the fight. (This interview made possible with the support of VAN RUSH.)
Soon after the US was pulled into WWII, Jay Gruenfeld packed up what he could and went to Camp Croft in South Carolina for training. He was then shipped overseas to New Caledonia, New Zealand, and finally to New Guinea. In addition to combat, he did a lot of patrolling which gave way to many of the stories he tells including a humorous event about the time he was the most scared. (This interview made possible with the support of JOAN NATELLE.)
Harold Dudley describes the navigation equipment he installed at far flung airfields in Africa. He had to fly to Italy and back on supply runs and on one of these flights, a hitchhiking senior pilot took command of the plane and promptly got them lost. The policy which allowed this was changed due to this incident. (This interview made possible with the support of CHESTER RUST.)
Robert Farmer grew up on a farm and remembers when the Great Depression hit and how his family lost their farm. When he was 18 years old, Farmer received a letter from the president to report for military duty. Soon after, he was sent to training in Fort Knox, endured an incredibly difficult boot camp, and was eventually placed in a tank battalion.