Iwo Jima, Tuesday, 6 March 1945
The day started with the battle’s heaviest artillery barrage: sixty-seven minutes of firing 22,500 shells onto Japanese lines. The Japanese were not impressed; they just increased their return fire.
Artillery was supposed to “soften up” the enemy before attacks, but usually tunnels protected the Japanese. One Japanese trick, since artillery units couldn’t see where they were shooting, was to shoot a few of their own shells into Marine front lines when Marine artillery started firing. If Marines on the front lines thought the Japanese shells were friendly fire, they might tell the artillery to stop. But if the smoke color was visible, Marines could tell American shells from Japanese shells.
Regimental Combat Team (RCT) 25’s job for the day was to hold its position on the right. Commanders were concerned about the state of their forces; they could tell the Marines were tired and their leaders inexperienced from their actions, their looks, and missed opportunities. Tired men forgot why they should care about safety, failed to notice threats, and spent too much willpower on just getting up in the morning. Willpower had to last all day, as challenging tasks for a rested man looked impossible to a tired man.
Hudson’s platoon lost one of its original Marines in a transfer to the battalion command post. Any such change weakened the platoon. Replacements were like transplanted seedlings, less likely to survive and initially weakly attached.
Excerpts are from Fighting the Unbeatable Foe: Iwo Jima and Los Alamos, now republished as a 75th anniversary edition in paperback and Kindle.