The big ship sat heavily on the rolling waves. The other vessels of the convoy dotted the ocean in all directions as far as the eye could see. About one thousand yards directly off the port bow, half obscured by the thin gray mist, crouched the island, small, squat, silent, ugly and pockmarked.
The landing boats had been lowered away each with its combat team of well trained but war weary marines. This was the 5th Division. The boys who had taken Saipan. The unbeatable 5th. Well, thank God, this one wouldn’t be as tough as the last. This time they had it all figured out, down to the last essential. They had been briefed day and night during the trip up here, and even though they all knew the destination nobody used the real name, but had simply referred to it as Workman Island.
Three days ago American subs had cracked the nets and photographed the shore batteries. We knew the position of the gun emplacements. We knew how many combat Japs to expect. We were familiar with the area of beach, and knew every promontory and valley, where we could dig in and where the least protection was afforded. They didn’t miss a trick in Intelligence; they told us how many natives were here, what poisonous snakes we might encounter, even the number of goats on the island. We had it figured perfectly; our plan of attack was well rehearsed. According to schedule we would be “mopping up” twenty-four hours after our initial landing. Then as a clincher the Air Force and Navy big guns had softened up the island with the cumulative effect of sixty days consecutive blasting. It would be surprise enough if anybody was still alive out there.
No wonder the boys were confident shouting and joking with the Navy men above. “Be back for supper, guys”, “Keep a light burning”, “A little liberty ashore today”. Praise the Lord! As least this wouldn’t be another Saipan. One like that a war is plenty.
Then with the signal, motors roared into life and the small boats that had been circling the ship straightened out into a charging line that raced in toward the volcanic beach where twenty thousand Japs watched and waited. It was February 19th 1945. It was 6:55 A.M. Objective: Iwo Jima.