Alonzo Hodgson was still a teenager when he was involved in two of the fiercest battles of World War Two.
"February 20, 1945 Iwo, that was our first engagement," Hodgson said.
Alonzo Hodgson, or "H" as he's called, joined the Navy in 1943 at the age of 17. Two years later, he was hitting the beaches of Iwo Jima on the second day of the invasion.
That engagement was almost Hodgson's last.
"Four people had our feet on this box and a bunch more people walked up. Something told me there were too many people here," Hodgson explained.
Hodgson had just walked away from the box when disaster struck.
"The mortar hit that box. All of them are dead," he said.
Fifteen others were wounded, including Hodgson's good friend.
"The leg was blown off right here below the knee. I put him and his leg on a stretcher and said go back to the ship," he recalled.
Hodgson and his crew had taken a load of Marines to the Iwo beach when they were bombarded.
"That night was when we really got hit. Two of the group that was lost, they were Corpsmen and of course they were helping the wounded when they got hit, which was unfortunate," Hodgson said.
Over 22,000 Japanese were entrenched on the island of Iwo Jima. With over 6,000 Americans killed and 26,00 wounded, Iwo was the only U.S. Marine battle where American casualties exceeded the Japanese.
After seven days on the island as a signalman, Hodgson returned to his ship to pick up more men for the next battle.
"That time, we got Army troops and took them to Okinawa."
Hodgson's ship arrived in Okinawan waters in March, but had to wait for the go ahead for the invasion.
"Sat there 12 days and there was a lot of aircraft coming over but we had a cloud cover," he explained.
Finally, on April 1, Easter Sunday, the long battle for Okinawa began. After 81 days of fierce battle, the island was secured.
U.S. losses were over 62,000, of whom 12,000 were killed or missing. This made the battle the bloodiest that U.S. forces experienced in the Pacific War.
"After that, we went to New Zealand and picked up troops and carried them to the Philippines," Hodgson said.
After a year in the Pacific, taking part in historic invasions, Hodgson was sent home on a short furlough.
"In August of '45, I was actually at home in Dekalb, Texas when the atom bombs were dropped," he said.
Hodgson finished out his service by carrying American occupation troops to Japan. He returned home in March of 1946 to his bride, Oneice, whom he had scarcely seen since their marriage.
And yet, serving his country has always been a source of pride.
"I was grateful to be able to do it."
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