JACKSONVILLE, TX (KLTV) - "We buried the fifth Marine division," said Stuart McAnally, pointing to the picture. "That shows all the different cemeteries."
7,000 Americans died, and 27,000 were wounded, in the February 1945 battle for Iwo Jima.
"One of our guys carved this in the side of a cliff on Iwo," he said.
Stuart McAnally was one of the first to join the newly formed Navy Seabees in WWII. Trained to both fight and to build, McAnally was to put both skills to use in one of the greatest battles of the war.
"Now you say you were in only one battle, but what a battle," I asked McAnally.
"Iwo Jima," he replied. "That was enough for a lifetime."
Once McAnally arrived at Iwo, he said it was quite a show, with over 800 ships bombarding the Japanese island. In spite of the fire power, the Japanese were deeply entrenched in the island's underground caves.
"The first wave got in good but by the time the second wave started in the Japanese were shelling the beach and by the time the third wave hit it, they were slaughtered."
McAnally's 31st Seabee Battalion, assigned to the 5th Marine Division, was called in on the third wave.
"They called us in to try to help us get off the beach," he explained.
But just getting on the beach was hazardous in a sinking landing craft with a stuck door. Climbing over the door, the Seabees got onto the beach amid a hail of bullets.
"We had to crawl out and you'd hear them bullets hitting around there and over the top and we hit the ground running."
Much of the machine gun fire was coming from Mt. Sarabochi, a strategically high location on the island.
"And you saw firsthand that raising of the flag on Iwo Jima."
"Everybody was a hollering when they seen that flag go up."
Although the flag raising on Mt. Sarabochi was symbolic of victory, the fighting continued to take a terrible toll. 7,000 Americans and 22,000 Japanese.
"You could look around and see them laying everywhere you know."
Continually under fire, McAnally and his Seabees built a road to the top of Mt. Sarabochi as well as one of the longest runways in the pacific, enabling our B-29s to bomb Japan and ultimately to win the war. McAnally said he still doesn't know how he escaped death on Iwo Jima, but is ever proud of having served his country.
"I think that a person who won't defend his country doesn't deserve one...that's the way I feel about it."
Stuart McAnally...Navy Seabee and Freedom Fighter.
Thursday, September 11 2014 5:21 AM EDT2014-09-11 09:21:40 GMT
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