5th Marine Division Artilleryman on Iwo Jima:

Written by Jonathan Abbott

On 9:00 AM on March 26th 1945 a small strip of land in the Volcanic Islands became silent. The last major action had ended the night before, with a 300 man suicide charge by the Japanese. Iwo Jima would become the iconic battle for the US Marines in World War Two. It would also be the only battle where overall US casualties exceeded that of the Japanese. 6,800 Americans lay in the volcanic ash, in the shadow of Mount Suribachi, where the iconic flag raising took place.

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B-29 Super fortresses fly over the Marine cemetery on Iwo Jima

When I think of Marines and Iwo Jima, I think of tough men, pushing forward yard by yard, with rifles and grenades, against a determined foe; the marine with a grenade in his hand and a flamethrower on his back. These are the men that captured the minds of Americans; the heroes of Iwo Jima. But when the heroes got in trouble who could they turn to? Who paved the way for their trek to Suribachi and immortality?



5th marine division

Marine artillery in action on Iwo Jima

The 5th Marine Division saw its one and only combat at Iwo Jima. It was one of three Marine divisions on the island, and the only one new to fighting. William Manning was a corporal in the 5th Marine division. William wasn’t the hero who led men into battle to grapple with the enemy in hand to hand combat. William was an artilleryman, in Headquarters battery, 4th Battalion, 13th Marine Artillery Regiment. He was one of the men those heroes turned to when they needed help. Assistance so they could move forward.

William helped for the thirty-six days of the battle, then he never fired a shot in anger at the Japanese again; his next encounter with them came when the 5th Division went to Japan, to occupy it peacefully.

Napoleon Bonaparte once made the comment:

“With Artillery, War is made”

So William Manning made war, so that he could find peace, a peace that 2,416 of the 5th Division’s men would never know. But because of him and the others in the artillery, maybe a few more got to see it. Sometimes in war, it takes more than heroes.

5th Marine Division

Manning’s Marine Corps Shirt

For More Reading on Iwo Jima Check Out:

The Heart of Hell: The Untold Story of Courage and Sacrifice in the Shadow of Iwo Jima


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