Iwo Jima, Tuesday, 27 February 1945
The day started with forty-five minutes of artillery fire on the Japanese. RCT 25 kept beating against the Amphitheater, Turkey Knob, and the Japanese front lines down to the coast. Fighting out to the right of the Meat Grinder, Battalion 3/25 was able to gain two hundred yards and had to stop to stay in contact with the other battalions.
Casualties in Hudson’s platoon for this day included one Marine who was knocked out for three hours by shell shock, another Marine hit, and a third, only seventeen years old, who lost his left arm.
A Marine who was hit would yell for the corpsman, who would come running right out to the wounded man and start treating him right there.
Corpsmen were Navy, but wore Marine uniforms. They were trained to stop bleeding and treat battlefield wounds, but they saw horrible things they were never trained to handle. They did what they could, and at that time they were unarmed in the middle of combat, which was why Marines were particularly upset when Japanese shot corpsmen by impersonating wounded Marines. Five hundred corpsmen were killed on Iwo Jima, and many more wounded.
Corpsmen treated wounds to help Marines survive long enough to reach more extensive treatment. If the Marines survived, behind the front lines there were even operating rooms, built by roofing empty Japanese cisterns or setting a pre-built plywood room in a hole and covering it with a tarpaulin. Though the distance from the front lines to battalion aid stations wasn’t far, the terrain and enemy fire made it seem a long way.
Excerpts are from Fighting the Unbeatable Foe: Iwo Jima and Los Alamos, now republished as a 75th anniversary edition in paperback and Kindle.