Iwo Jima, Monday, 26 February 1945:
After a week, the Japanese still held three-fifths of the island. Regimental Combat Team (RCT) 25’s job today: to attack the Amphitheater and Turkey Knob. Moving up behind a curtain of artillery fire, the men made one hundred yards, but whereas the Japanese had previously retreated under attack, they were now fighting to the death in their positions. Hudson’s Battalion 3/25, the one that had been commanded by Colonel Chambers, had an easier day on the far right of the division, clearing the coast of Japanese troops just east of East Boat Basin. As usual, night meant Japanese trying to get into Marine lines, and mortar fire in front and rear areas.
As soon as the sun went down, the Marines would make a line of foxholes, two men to a hole. One man slept, and the other watched, then after an hour they would trade off. Hudson used his Colt .45 automatic to keep himself awake, moving it from one hand to the other, with the idea that as long as he kept the .45 moving, he wouldn’t fall asleep. After his hour was up, he would wake the other man, give him the .45, and fall asleep immediately.
The Marines had grenades ready to throw if they thought there was some movement, but they did not fire their weapons at night. Rifle fire showed where it came from, giving the enemy something to shoot at. Grenades at night did not advertise the thrower’s location.
Often only a few strands of concertina wire and twenty yards separated the Marine front lines from the Japanese and a possible night attack. Anyone leaving a foxhole risked being shot as an enemy, since thirsty Japanese soldiers searched for foxholes at night, looking for water and for throats to slit. Sometimes they would throw a grenade in a Marine foxhole. Other times they would jump in momentarily and stab one Marine, so the confused Marines would attack each other.
The Japs used to yell at us at night to harass us or to find out our positions. They would yell things like “Hey Joe,” and “Marines you die.” If there was any humor about being in this battle, this was as close as it got.
One man in Hudson’s platoon knew a bit of Japanese, so the Marines yelled back in Japanese some comments that were printable and others that weren’t.
Excerpts are from Fighting the Unbeatable Foe: Iwo Jima and Los Alamos, now republished as a 75th anniversary edition in paperback and Kindle.