College Station's Ed Eyre was one of those Marines who landed and charged up the war torn Sands of Iwo Jima near Mt. Suribachi in February of 1945. On the 10th day of that 36-Day Battle, he was wounded there, but as you can imagine, he counts himself as one of the lucky ones.
I'm Tom Turbiville and this is Voices of Veterans.
Ed Eyre was a proud member of the 5th Marine Division, 28th Regimental weapons company who served two separate tours in the Pacific during World War II.
"...Shortly after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, December the 7th, my buddy and I decided December the 19th that we were going into service so we went downtown in Chicago and went to the courthouse and went to the marines and took our examination. Now they wouldn't let him in..."
"...but they did take me on that day December the 19th, 1941"
Ed Eyre, of College Station, enlisted in the Marine Corps out of Chicago in late 1941 was sent to the Pacific Theater during World War II.
"...we formed the 5th marine division and we went to Hawaii and from there we were able to land on Iwo Jima."
The tiny Japanese island that proved to be such an essential part to the United States' victory in the Pacific, was home to one of the largest and most difficult battles of World War II.
"It was interesting to say the least. We didn't have any idea just how resistant the Japanese were going to be. We were told it was going to be a 72 hour operation. That we would land, overrun the island, take and like that. Well, it didn't work out that way."
What was meant to be a 72 hour operation, the Battle of Iwo Jima drug on for 35 days, in part because of the heavy planning of the part of the Japanese forces.
"The Japanese had 20 years to fortify that island. And even though we shelled it, bombed it, for 30 days or more before the landing, it did not do the job we expected. Because the Japanese were not on the island, they were in it. They were down in caves, some of them as deep as 50 feet and they lived in them. And so when we started shelling, all they had to do was withdraw..."
After months of training across the U.S., Eyre finally got the action he was looking for.
His 5th Marine division stormed the beaches of Iwo alongside amphibious track vehicles known as "weasels" in an effort to secure the island.
"This particular weasel that there was a gun on, my buddy and I hit the beach and it was not a place to stay so we looked up, saw that gun, and it was some 100 yards ahead of it, but it had hit, it was disabled, and we were able to make it to the weasel, get the gun off and get it upright and once we did that we couldn't move it. We didn't have a truck so we just had to stay there where we were and pick our targets."
After the initial battle, the marines secured Mt. Suribachi and were moving north on the island when disaster struck.
"We were stopped because of some shelling and I saw some folks that I knew in 81 mortar outfit and I went over to visit with them while we were held up and while I was visiting with them, they dropped a couple of mortar rounds on us..."
"...And it hit, and exploded, and thank goodness for the soft sand at that time because it landed so close, that…and if it hadn't gone into the sand quite a ways, maybe a foot or so, I'm guessing…there would have been a lot more casualties than just me."
Eyre was injured by shrapnel that effectively ended his time in the service, but even though he was part of such an iconic chapter of American history, he doesn't quite understand all of the attention...
"Well I think there were many fellows in service, and gals in service that did a heck of a good job elsewhere, and they haven't been acknowledged quite as much as this particular flag raising thing…."
For Voices of Veterans, I'm Tom Turbiville.