Sunday, August 31, 2008

Meeting Iwo Jima Veterans at the Museum

Today at the museum, I met several Iwo Jima Veterans while I was working the Iwo Jima Immersion. I didn't have my camera on me when one gentleman walked through so I feel kind of bad for not documenting his visit. Let me introduce you to who I did meet.

First we have Cal Shoop (dark shirt) who landed at Green beach with the 5th Division. He was in 3rd Battalion, Golf company (G), 28th Marines. Next to him is Guy Rowe who landed at Yellow beach with the 4th Division. He was in 1st Battalion, Charlie company (C), 23rd Marines.


I have started 'warning' Iwo Veterans and their families that the Iwo Immersion may be emotional for the veteran and if they feel they need to 'escape', I tell them what door to use. I also make a point now of checking on them when they come out of the Higgin's boat. When I went to check on Mr. Shoop, he said, "That was much more enjoyable than my first trip to Iwo."

I chatted with Mr. Shoop and Mr. Rowe for a bit. They talked about all the Japanese that seemed to be everywhere and how hard it was to take out their positions. The Japanese had dug into the island and reinforced its tunnels with re-bar and concrete. On top of the concrete, they piled sand. The sand acted as a buffer for bombs being dropped from the Navy bombers. The only way you could take out one of the Japanese positions was to "blow" the sand off with a couple glancing bomb drops and then hit the bunker directly with another bomb. For Marines on the ground, they threw C2 explosives into bunker openings. An 8 man squad of Marines would take turns firing into the opening of a bunker, to ground the enemy (make them take cover). Each guy would fire 8 shots into the opening, in turn, while another Marine would crawl up and drop the C2 charge in.

Mr. Shoop said his favorite were the airplanes because they would come in and take out Japanese positions. He remembered laying out pieces of orange colored plastic to mark where the US lines were and the Jap lines were. Pilots used these marks to find their targets.

Later that afternoon, I met George Bernstein who landed at Red Beach with the 5th Division, HQ 2nd Battalion, 26th Marines. I asked him to smile while standing next to a photo of an intel map of the island and he said, "Smile? We lost too many guys there to smile about it."


After I photographed him, a nun from the Philippines walked up to him and shook his hand saying, it was such an honor to meet a Veteran of Iwo Jima. I didn't get a picture of that as the next paragraph will explain...

I would have chatted with Mr. Bernstein more, however, as I was getting his information down, I turned to see my next group standing in the open Higgins Boat waiting for something to happen. YIKES! So I ran into the boat and dropped the door to start the movie. I explained to everyone that I was talking to an Iwo Jima veteran and I was very sorry. A few people said it was quite all right that they didn't blame me a bit. I think a couple of them sought him out when they came off the Higgins boat.

It is just such an honor to meet these gentlemen who survived quite an ordeal. There are so few of them left, fewer each day. Its a blessing that I can meet them and record their visit.

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