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A Platoon Teaches a Lieutenant How to Lead

iwo jima marines wwii

Iwo Jima, Tuesday, 13 March 1945

Regimental Combat Team (RCT) 25 devoted another day to the fight to finish off the pocket of resistance.


At some point in the battle, the platoon had a new lieuten­ant assigned as their platoon leader. Most likely a recent gradu­ate of a 90-day officer training course (called “90-day wonders” behind their backs), like many lieutenants, this one had more information but less experience than the men he led.

Hudson wasn't very impressed with this officer new to combat, who on one occasion was lying down and yelling at the others to move out. 

Hudson and the others had already moved out, following Martinez, and were surveying the situation. The lieutenant should have been leading them instead of lying down behind them.


On paper the platoon followed an officer, but in practice, the platoon followed experience, not rank. Martinez, still unwounded, contin­ued to act as the platoon leader. Back in February, Hudson had been as new to combat as the lieutenant. But that was a long time ago—weeks had passed. Now he and the other combat veterans of the platoon tolerated their new officer and taught him how to function.

Excerpts are from Fighting the Unbeatable Foe: Iwo Jima and Los Alamos, now republished as a 75th anniversary edition in paperback and Kindle.

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