U.S. personnel 6,821 Killed 19,217 Wounded 2,648 Combat Fatigue Total 28,686
Marine Casualties 23,573
Japanese Troops 1,083 POW and 20,000 est. Killed
This month sixty two years ago the battle for Iwo Jima was fought. Though in many ways it was the culmination of all of the more than 100 D Days that took place in the Pacific Theater, and due to the second flag raising photograph and two recent films by Clint Eastwood, it is the battle we all have some passing knowledge of, the half forgotten names of other horrific battles, places like Tarawa, or Bouganville -Peleliu or New Georgia are names that we have no right, to not know and, be aware of. They are, our legacy. I like to think of it as a time when we as a people had to fight -and when our fathers and grandfathers were heroes the likes of which we will never completely know. It was a time when it was easy to be proud of our country, who we collectively were, as defined by our deeds.....62 years and a million years from the fat, insipid, decadence and complacency hence conformity, that threatens to overwhelm us now. In our art world, our political world, our spiritual world......
When I was a young boy I would go visit my cousins and my uncle Bob and aunt Aggie on their wheat ranch outside of Livingston Montana....I don't know if Bob was on Iwo, if he was he probably would have landed there on a b29 flying fortress after a midnight bombing run on Tokyo, all shot up, unable to make it all the way back to Tinian, flying in on a wing and and a prayer, thanking god that the Marines had taken this place, affording him and countless others a safe place to set down. -I don't know because, he would never talk about the war -and in fact, we weren't allowed to ask. I do know that Bob was one of the most decorated men in the war -that he was a tail gunner , that he was shot down three times and somehow survived. That he lay in a foxhole for three days pinned down by a sniper with his best friend, who was dying -trying to help him keep his guts inside of him - they had been shot out. That somewhere he kept an ear he had cut off of a dead Jap. That the last time he was shot down, he went mia - missing in action -presumed dead for 8 months. That when he showed up in Livingston on my great grandmothers doorstep (his mother) on Christmas day, she did not recognize the stranger standing there on her front porch. His hair had turned white, and, he was supposed to be dead. Bob was a rancher and a tough guy, a small man in stature, but a large man in terms of his being a real hero. You would have had to have been a fool to have messed with him. He was everything John Wayne liked to pretend to be. But with Bob, it wasn't an act. Still, you never slammed a door around him -or dropped anything near him -he couldn't take it.......Bob Black died when he was 52 years old dropping dead of a heart attack.
When I first used to visit Aunt Aggie and Uncle Bob, they had an old sharecroppers house -with the roof slanted one way -and a bloodstain in a doorway between rooms where someone had been shot and killed. My three cousins and I would sit and stare at the faded, lake shaped bloodstain and try and imagine whose blood it was, what had happened....Later, the ranch had expanded to three thousand acres and there was a large old half-log ranchhouse to go along with it. Bob and Aggie used to go out dancing on the weekends -all the men knew not to flirt with Aggie -unless you wanted to deal with Bob. The big meal of the day, like on most working ranches, was at two oclock, a long table filled with family and the ranch hands that helped run the place. I always had a hard time eating as I was so engrossed in staring at the toothless cowboy who was Bob's foreman, wondering how he managed to eat without teeth. The ranch is gone now as are most of the people that sat around that table -the land has no doubt been parcelled off and turned into 'ranchettes' -those prefab log cabin affairs that people like Jane Fonda and other less well known Californians like to keep as a second home so they can say that, they too, are ranchers; -kind of like John Wayne.