ďEvery man knew that eventually he would be hit, but we didnít know how bad or when.Ē
Fred Quick 5th Division
Fred Quick was the B. A. R. man (Browning Automatic Rifle) in his squad. He was wounded on Iwo on March 17th. He said, ďIn my squad of thirteen men the other twelve had got hit ahead of me. We got six new guys in the squad and five of them got hit before I was. Out of two platoons in our company of 45 men each, the men of one platoon were all hit, and all but one hit in the other. The platoon I was in had five or six left when I got hit. So you see eventually everyone would get it.Ē
Our Sgt. Pierson was on Iwo till March 27th till he was shipped out. On the night of March 25, a 300-man Japanese force launched a final counterattack in Airfield No. 2. Army pilots, Seabees and Marines of the 5th Pioneer Battalion and 28th Marines fought the Japanese force for up to 90 minutes but suffered heavy casualties 53 were killed, and another 120 were wounded.
Our last letter from Iwo by Sgt. Pierson is dated March 18th 1945.
My Darling Teresa,
Received a letter from mother today stating that she had received a letter from me since I landed on Iwo. Her letter in return was written 6 March. The last one I have from you No. 145 written 28 Feb. and which I received about a week ago. Evidently theyíre not getting through very good.
If you want to read a fair version of the battle, ďTime Magazine of 5 MarchĒ is pretty good. Of course itís about the only one Iíve read but I thought it was O. K.
Things are very quiet here now. Mother also wrote that she received a letter from you and that she wrote one to you & hoped you could read it.
Sending you all my love Terry, as always & ever. I love you darling.
C.A. Pierson S/Sgt.
The 36-day (Iwo Jima) assault resulted in more than 26,000 American casualties, including 6,800 dead. 21,844 Japanese soldiers were killed. Absolutely horrible statistics for both sides.
Our Sgt. Pierson shipped out from Iwo on March 27th. He served during the occupation of Japan until September 22, 1945. He was honorably discharged November 30th 1945 with rank of Supply Sargent.
After the war he went to the University of California at Berkeley where he graduated in 1949. He then attended Hastings College of Law in San Francisco graduating in 1952. He started to practice law in 1953.
He moved to Los Angeles in 1964 and took the job as Administrative Law Judge for the State of California. He eventually was in charge of Office of Administrative Hearings. He retired in 1985. Our Sargent Pierson and his wife Teresa had two children and two grandchildren.
Sadly on August 13th, 1989, Sargent Pierson passed away.
Thank you for your service Sargent Augustus Carl Pierson.
ďIT WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE TO FULLY DESCRIBE THIS ĎHELLS HALF-ACREí.Ē
C. A. Pierson S/Sgt.
The last letter from Sgt. Pierson was dated March 7th, 1945. On March 8th the Japanese counterattacked the Marines in not a ďBanzaiĒ fashion but quietly, deliberately and then with utter vengeance. Some Japanese infiltrated American lines to 10 to 15 yards of command posts throwing grenades. Through the hours of darkness Company E of the 4th Marine Division received the brunt of the attack. This company expended 500 grenades, 200 60mm mortar shells, 200 60mm mortar illumination shells and an ungodly quantity of .30 caliber ammunition for machine guns and rifles. They were running out of ammo. After midnight, a lone jeep with a trailer managed to make it through hostile enemy fire to resupply the company.
By March 9th, approximately 650 to 800 Japanese were dead and mop up operations began. The Marine casualties were 90 killed and 257 wounded.
March 9th, historically is deemed the turning point for the Marines on Iwo. I doubt this was in the minds of men fighting there. Exhaustion was felt by every soldier. All units were decimated by casualties, and some were so small, a Company ceased to exist and soldiers were shifted to another battalion. On Iwo some of these Companies would loose up to several Commanders a day.
ďTHE MOST DEPRESSING SIGHT FOR ME ON IWO, WAS WHEN WE MOVED UP TO RELEIVE A UNIT THAT HAD BEEN PINNED DOWN AND HAD TAKEN MANY CASUALTIES. AS THEY MOVE OUT AND WE TOOK THEIR POSITION, THE LOOK ON THEIR FACES, THE SILENCE, AND SEEING THE DEAD, IT WAS ALMOST MORE THAN A MAN COULD TAKE.Ē
HAROLD PEDERSON, Company E, 2nd Battalion, 27th Marines
On March 10th the drive to the coast continued slowly but at a lesser cost of life.
Our next letter from Sgt. Pierson:
13, March 1945
My Darling Teresa,
Received ltr. No. 144 a few days ago. For some reason I canít think of much of anything to say today. Still fighting on this damned island. Iíve seen a few newspaper clippings that guys have received here and they havenít exaggerated the battle one bit. It would be impossible to fully describe this ďHells half-acre.Ē So truthfully from what Iíve read the newspapers have the truth, except it was, and still is, tougher then they pictured it. It couldnít have been tougher, because it if had no one would of survived.
When things happen I donít seem to mind, sort of wash it off. But afterwards when I start to realize what actually happened, thatís when it scares me.
The rumors are hot & heavy here on the island about everything. But about the best straight dope I can find is that weíll leave this island in a few days. Probably return to where we started from but nothing very definite has come out yet. So if you donít hear from me for a few weeks again youíll know Iím on ship headed back. Probably after I get aboard ship Iíll get a chance to answer all your letters, but for now, its too damn much like work and you know me Iím a lazy man, so for now itíll be short.
Your letter 143 was very long and I liked it very much. I love you Teresa darling. I love you. Youíre mine babe, you know & realize that donít you. Well listen Smartie Panties, you better and Iíll paddle your panties until there wonít be any panties. Whew. Whew. Oh boy, thatís for me. Whew. Teresa darling, Iím thinking of when weíll be together again and have our home, with babies galore, Gee Iíd just like to lay on the floor and have them crawl all over me, hes babe , you too. I love you Terry, my darling wife, & youíre mine , see Smartie Panties.
Your darling husband,
C. A. Pierson, S/Sgt.
ďThe deadliest weapon in the world is a Marine and his rifle!"
General Pershing, US Army
From March 3rd to March 7th, the next letter from Sgt. Pierson to his wife Teresa, much action took place on Iwo. Many casualties were taken on both sides for only yards gained. At this point of the battle the usual morning attack would start early (6:30) shelling from ships off shore or air bombardment from planes off the U.S.S. Enterprise.
General Erskine lacked confidence in this usual routine. He requested and received permission for a pre-dawn attack. On March 7th the 3rd division quietly set out at 5 AM. Although armed with faulty geographic intelligence they made substantial gains at the end of the day by catching the Japanese sleeping in their bunkers in early morning hours. The Marines had a foot on Hill 362C.
The sobering casualties were mounting. From D-Day February 19th to March 4th the entire Marine force had 16,000 casualties. More than 3,000 men were killed. But on March 4th the first damaged B-29 was able to land on Iwo Jima.
March 6th was deadly. The 3rd division had advanced up to 400 yards of the northern coast. It was a trap. The enemy had hid very well and the bloody ambush started. A Marine successfully went back for help and picked up eight flame thrower and demolition men. Within minutes all were dead except the original Marine who went back into action.
Our next Letter from Sgt. Pierson,
Iwo Jima Island
5th Marine Division
7 March 1945
My Darling Teresa,
I dated this letter the 7th cause thatís what day I think it is, or as close as I can find out in my immediate vicinity.
Received letters no. 141-142-143 yesterday. So now have received since being on this island, those already mentioned and 139-130-137127-126-140-131-129-136-134-135-138-132-133. And I wonít bother to put them in order. Iíll leave that for you, Babe. Thatís a pretty good batch of mail I would say.
There seems to be quite some concern about whether air mail packages can or cannot be sent overseas.
There is still fighting here on the island but the Japs are almost being pushed out into the sea, so it wonít be long until weíll leave this island and let the USO (Army) see if they are capable of hanging on to it. I told you about the flag now flying on Mt. Suribachi (yama? Unintelligible). From my foxhole I can see it very plain and someday Iíll show you the exact spot where it is on the map. That will be when the censor wonít have a job anymore.
Terry. Darling I love you very much. You know that donít you babe. O. K. you know it. Just checking up to make sure. I love you from the bottom of my heart. You must have prayed for me and it certainly has been answered because luck can only go so far and the Lord has been taking care of me because itís been a strong power that guided me through this far.
This morning a miracle saved me. A large shell hit about 10 yds. from me, (directly in front) and it was a dud so just bounced over my head. It so happened I was standing at the time and through other noise couldnít hear it coming, or I would have been laying down. If I can get a bomb disposal man to defuse it Iíll bring it back as a souvenir cause I saw where it bounced to & later went back to locate it. (Itís still there too).
Feel better now that I told you about it I love you (unintelligible) I love you all of you. Youíre mine Teresa, all of you.
C.A. Pierson, S/Sgt.
Next Week, ďHells Half AcreĒ
Kuribayshiís ambush plan had a fatal flaw: he had waited too long. In the hour from the first landings to the time the intensive shelling began, the Navy had been able to put ashore thousands of Marines and hundreds of tons of war equipment.
Bill D. Ross
The Japanese had planned to wipe out the Americans in the early moments of the battle. The Americans thought they were going to take Iwo in a few days. Both sides were deadly wrong.
Mt. Suribachi had been taken at a great cost. But the battle that was to ensue on the rest of the island would prove to be deadlier.
THE CRAWL NORTH
From the first day of landing the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Marine divisions started the advance to the north of Iwo. As all fighting on this island it was excruciatingly slow. Most major battles were frontal assaults that resulted sometimes in inches gained.
On February 24th the 4th and 5th divisions were still trying to take the ridge above the airfields yard by yard. Two companies zig-zagged the 700 yards destroying and by passing pillboxes but they had to pull back. In two hours the commanders of both companies were out of commission. One was wounded the other killed. A few minutes later the officers commanding three platoons were cut down. They tried three times to take the ridge to no avail.
At 3:30 the 3rd division tried again and finally got 200 men to start up the ridge. As they neared the summit, a screaming Japanese force attacked. The battle was described, ďin a brief fierce melee of grenades, bullets, bayonets, rifle butts, knives, shovels and picks, 50 of the enemy were killed.Ē
"Easy Company started with 310 men. We suffered 75 percent casualties. Only fifty men boarded the ship after the battle. Seven officers went into battle with me. Only one - me - walked off Iwo." Capt Dave Severence, E Company, 28th Marines.
After this battle the Marine divisions with the help of tanks and flame throwing tanks still progressed slowly towards the north. One at a time, the airfields were taken and then the deadly area, Hill #382, ďThe Meatgrinder.Ē One Marine was noted saying, ďNo, not another ridge.Ē There were 2,800 casualties taking this hill. Cave by cave was sealed with explosives until finally in early March there was silence.
IN WAR THE DARKEST DEFINITION OF HUMANITY SURFACES
Our second letter from Sgt. Pierson is dated March 3rd. He must of looked at Hell square in the face but never mentions it to his wife even though she is asking questions. You almost get calm and serene feeling from the letter.
Iwo Jima Island 3 March 1945
5th Marine Division
My Darling Teresa,
Received a nice batch of letters from you yesterday. So hereís what Iíve received since Iíve been here on Iwo Jima, No. 136-129-131-140-138-126-127-137-130. As you can notice Iím having fountain pen trouble. Started with a Jap pen but now have found a good one. Am feeling fine Terry darling, nothing to worry about. As usual the Marines have the situation well in hand. Old Glory now flies on one end of this island on a high peak. It went up about 11 oíclock one morning and it sure was a nice feeling to look up & see the American Flag flying in the breeze. Iíd say it was one of the prettiest sights Iíve ever seen, even if we still were under fire.
Havenít much time to answer questions now, but save the newspaper clipping you have and can get cause I would like to see them, itís hard to get any news on here cause things are still hot, but considerable cooler than the first few days.
I wrote a letter a few days ago from here and hope you received it alright. It was just a short note to let you know that I was O. K.
Have had enough time in the last day or two to dig a fairly comfortable foxhole to sleep in. Boy Iím traveling in class, got a hold of a mattress to lay on the dirt, and boy Iím cozy as a bug in a rug. This is strictly off the record, but we been getting Jap Junk (and thatís what it is) and trading it to the sailors aboard ships here for about everything. Even got a hold of a few cans of beer yesterday and (all my gear I had with me is at the bottom of the ocean). Cigars & a pipe. So right now Iím doing O. K.
And Terry darling, you should see the gorgeous (?????) mustache Iíve raised since Iíve (been) here. If I ever get a chance Iíll get a picture taken & send you. Boy itís a wow. Pretty good if I do say so myself. A little more and it will be a handle bar hank. The guys here say right now itís a Clark Gable style. It came about the other day when I shaved, I decided to leave the mustache. (Ten days growth of beard, boy that was tough to get off)
Closing for today Terry. With all my love. I love you Teresa darling, I love you. Hoping this finds you well Terry and behaving like a married girl should. Cause baby youíre mine and I love you, see Bub.
C.A. Pierson, S/Sgt.
Next week another letter with questions of mortality.
ďAmong the Americans who served on Iwo Island uncommon valor was a common virtue.Ē
Admiral Chester W. Nimitz
D-Day February 19, 1945 was brutal. At 6:40 am the island was bombed by 72 planes (especially on the eastern and northern slopes of Suribachi) and heavily shelled by ships at sea. Due to the thorough defensive Japanese planning of Lieutenant General Kuribayashi, Major General Senda and Rear Admiral Ichimaru the Japanese force was safe in underground bunkers. All American intelligence had underestimated the number of Japanese forces. At 9:00 the the Marines were coming ashore. The first landings were under light to no resistance. And then, one half hour after landing all hell broke loose on all fronts.
By 9:30 all invading forces were under heavy attack. What tanks and artillery that could get on shore were either hit by mines or stuck in the soft sand. At least by the end of the day Mt. Suribachi was isolated from the rest of the island. Although the narrowest part of the island was only 700 yards in length it would take another four days to raise the flag on Suribachi. That first day, 501 men were killed in action, 1,755 men were wounded, another 47 men died of wounds and 18 were missing in action.
Success was measured in Blood and Yards.
Hotrocks was the term given by the navy as a reference for reports of radar contacts. Technically itís the highest peak of Mt. Suribashi. The advance next morning was slow. Even with aircraft and ships pounding Japanese positions the Marines only gained 70 yards by noon. By the end of the day, 200 yards were taken with the cost of 29 men dead and 127 wounded. The next two days were slow until they were able to make an 1100 yard advance to the base of the mountain. The next day a recon was sent out but found little or no resistance. A 40 man detachment set out to follow the patrols and scale the mountain. One of the men had a small flag (54Ē by 28Ē), attached it to a Japanese iron pipe. The first flag on Iwo Jima had been raised at 10:20 on February 23, 1945.
Shortly after raising this flag and unidentified Marine went aboard LST 779 beached near the base of the volcano and got a bigger flag (8 feet by 4 feet). Photographer Joe Rosenthal was covering the Iwo operation for Associated Press. He tagged along and took the famous flag raising picture on Mt. Suribachi.
The first letter from Iwo Jima by Sgt. Carl Augustus Pierson is dated the 26th of February. It is unclear to me if he just arrived in the area or was assisting in Amphibious operations off shore. There could be letters from off shore. There is no mention of the 50 plane Kamikaze attack offshore that damaged 4 ships in the early days of operations.
My Darling Terry,
Landed the first day on Iwo Jima Island and so far have come through O. K. It got a little rough once in a while, seems the damn japs had their sights on us. Have zigged & zagged at the right time so far. Feeling fine, Terry Darling, but what do you know! I cut my thumb today opening a can (of all things) of beans (how I hate em). Disgusting isnít it.
Received your letter 132 last night. It was wet but managed to read it.
Teresa darling, sending you all my love as always & ever, & ever.
C.A. Pierce, S/Sgt.
Next Week Sgt. Pierson talks about the flag flying atop Suribachi.
This letter dated January 24, 1944 by Carl Augustus Pierson is on route to Iwo Jima. There is a brave face but yet an unsure young man on his future. The name given to his wife Theresa was ďSmartie Panties, I believe he loved her very much.Ē This is so 1940ís.
The first letter dated January 24th, 1944 on non-descript paper pad starts, ďMy Darling Teresa, I havenít the slightest idea when you will receive this letter but sometime in the next month or two I imagine. I am now aboard a ship and have been for a while but this is the first time weíve been allowed to write it. Outgoing mail will be held until this operation is over, so that is the explanation on why you havenít been getting any mail lately. (uneditable ďSecg Bule. O. K. you see.) I imagine that it will be out in the newspapers long before you get this letter on when & where the operation took place. So for further developments see your local newspaper. Or if youíre too lazy to read just listen to your radio and youíll probably here the 5th Marine Division mentioned. Thatís about the limit on what censorship regulations will permit at this time.
I received your letter No. 108 a little while back and listen here Smartie Panties about keeping track of your letters. It so happens that your 2 guesses on why I wanted you to keep track of them are both wrong. I told you not to ask questions but since youíre guessing I really expected better guesses than that. My, My. So now I can tell you, that being aboard ship & moving around etc. etc. I wouldnít be able to keep track of them so I figured it would be better if you kept track of them because I receive them all mixed up now. So listen here (unintelligible) youíre again ordered to keep track of them. Now get that Smartie Panties.
I was sure surprised to hear that the guy in the Florsheims Shoe Store remembered us. Thatís over a year ago now. Iím going to get a pair of shoes just like those when I get back. Yea Man.
As for the saddle leather pocket book. Iíll wait until you get a good one cause Iíd rather do that. (As if I had any choice) Hmmm they might have some in Chicago at that. Boy, you better tell them leather stories to get on the ball.
Listen Babe, donít you be making any eyes on that increase in pay if I made Supply. Thatís strictly money to be lost (or used to win) in proper games. And donít forget Iím still free & single. Oh by the way how much are you (unintelligible) in the old sock these days. How about a financial staus statement figuring all told, a total figure. Just checking up on you.
About those pin up pictures, Boy what a line of excuses. Holy Smoke, If I was there now Iíd put you over my knee and paddle your fanny so good & red and then Iíd see if youíd feel like standing right up to me. Like heck, you would. (WOW getís a little weird here) (unintelligible).
There is a line crossed under the letter and a new date, 26 Jan. 44.
You know Babe, the ring is just a little small in rather warm weather such at it is here now. My fingers get a little bigger and that makes it fit pretty smug.
In your letter no. 108 you said that with you I could (unintelligible) myself. I do whatever I feel, think or want. Donít worry Smartie Panties with you itís different from anything or anybody. Iíll be by myself alright. But Boy will I ever give you a bad time, Whew, Whew. Boy will you love it though.
Iíve been remembering how very nice you looked in the white blouse that Sunday night in L. A. Remember? It wasnít only the way you looked in the white blouse but it was also the nice expression you had on your face. Boy, you really had me snowed that time. I sure liked it though and it was the grandest feeling in the world. I always remember that night. Terry, darling it will be so very nice to be back with you again and our home in Oregon. When I think about how nice it will be to be together again, then I fully realize that no matter how long, it will always be worth waiting for. That complete state of happiness that we had when we were together is rare to find. I doubt if the percentage of people ever found it. I just hope this blasted war would end soon but it doesnít look like it will be very sudden like. But one of these blasted days it will be over.
Say Babe, by the way, are you in line for any promotion there at the office, or arenít they putting out any, that is any that your eligible for?
She was a graduated Marine from Camp Lejeune in Company A-13th Battalion.
Have you written to my mother since you met her in Chicago, or has she written to you?
Closing for tonight Terry. With my arms around you real tight. I love you Terry. I love you. I love you.
Love & Kisses
C. A. Pierson, S/Sgt.Ē
Next week will follow the first letter from Iwo Jima.
This is a little snapshot of real lives who were directly involved in the Battle of Iwo Jima and itís effects on their lives. Sargent Carl Augustus Pierson was on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands with the 5th Amphibian Truck Co. attached to the 13th Marine Artillery Regiment. He was an assistant platoon leader of an Amphibian Truck Platoon and served on the Iwo Jima from February 19, 1945 to March 27, 1945. He was married to Teresa Whitehead a Marine in Company A- 13th Battalion. More to come this week ...
The original edition of "Memoirs of the life of Vice- Admiral LORD VISCOUNT NELSON , K. B. VOL I AND II. , 1849.