Thursday, February 19, 2015

Iwo Jima and Me

In early 1944, the Marine Corp's 5th Marine Division was formed. My Dad, who was already serving in the Pacific Theater, put in for transfer to the 5th Division along with two of his buddies. I don't know for sure, but my guess is that they looking for a change of scenery from their Defense Battalion duties. My Dad's two friends were transferred to the 5th Division, but my Dad was not. On February 19, 1945, the Fifth Marine Division invaded the island of Iwo Jima. My Dad's two friends were part of that landing, and both were killed there.

When he returned from the Pacific, my Dad was slated for Japanese language school, probably due to the anticipated invasion of mainland Japan. Before that could happen, however, Japan surrendered and my Dad was eventually discharged. (As an aside, the thought of my old man in Japanese language school is absolutely hilarious!)

Whenever I think of this, it strikes me how fortuitous life is. It's an infinitely branching road, and for every choice you make - or someone makes for you - you embark down another branch. Just about 6,000 Marines and Navy Corpsmen were KIA or DOW on Iwo Jima. Another nearly 18,000 were wounded. That's a casualty rate of about 1 of every 3.  I wonder if whoever denied my Dad's request for transfer sent him down a branch that eventually led to me. I wonder, had my Dad's request been granted, if that branch would ever have existed.


Anonymous said...

I've had the same thought as you. My dad was serving in the Pacific Theater as a gunner's mate on a troop transport carrier. He survived rough seas, sub attacks on his convoys, and kamikaze strikes from above. I wouldn't be typing this if a Japanese torpedo hit it's mark or a kamikaze pilot got lucky.

Anonymous said...

My grandfather was an AIF POW in Changi captured at the fall of Singapore and a Japanese guard decided he was too sick for the Burmese Railway. He didn't marry my grandmother until after the war.
I think near misses litter a lot of family trees.