Eye Witness Account – Iwo Jima & Guam

Seaman Sal Marino

Seaman Sal Murino

The pages, unearthed 70 years after their origin, are stark in simplicity and detail: One young man, one typewriter, together aboard the U.S.S. Doyen.

“Hello everyone!” reads a handwritten greeting on the top of page one, followed by a single-spaced report complete with wisecracks and World War II talk direct from young Sal Murino to his family.

The long, yellowing letter from the U.S. Navy man offers a first-person recitation of the fighting from Dec. 1944-March 1945 as the devastating war finally enters its final year..

Click on images to read the letter.

page 1

page 1

page 2

page 2

“We stayed at Iwo Jima for about 15 days,” wrote Murino, a round-faced young man in his 20s, whose sometimes fractured syntax still paints a vivid picture of the carnage in the Pacific Theater.

“To hear one combat fatigue(d) Marine put it who was smoking an endless chain of cigarettes — said, ‘Those bastards had us surrounded and throwing everything at us.’ Incidentally, this Marine wanted to go back and fight as he did not want to leave his buddies.”

The letters were in the custody of Murino’s niece, Marie, who across the decades tended carefully to the pages that preserved an unseen slice of history.  Marie’s husband Jim, a regular reader of the Daily News, convinced her to share the letter seven decades after it reached her Brooklyn mailbox.

The missive was mailed to the entire Italiano family, living on DeGraw St. in South Brooklyn. Marie’s mother had three sisters and four brothers — Sal, Johnny and Tony were all fighting overseas.

“Iwo Jima … The Marines had a helluva time,” Sal wrote in one passage. “Jap resistance was very strong. This island was well fortified. … Our planes were zooming over them dropping their eggs and meanwhile from the sea our ships were shelling these same caves.”

USS Doyen

Yet progress against the tenacious Japanese fighters was slow despite the firepower — and came at a price.

His description of the war’s cost: “The task of removing the wounded was another hard job … These same wounded men not so long ago came walking up the gangplank with their rifles and equipment and now, some were able to walk by themselves and the others had to be assisted not only minus their rifles and equipment but a few with (out) their arms and limbs.”

He laid out the scene on the island of Guam, another hub of intense fighting.

“During our invasion last June it was without a question of doubt a place of ‘agony and hell’ (a partial payback for the sneaky attack on Pearl Harbor),” the sailor writes. “We saw many caves in the mountains — some as large as the tunnel of love you would find at amusement places.”

But months later, the only signs of battle were “remnants of Jap tanks, large guns still remained alongside the beaches. The natives were happy to see the Americans return.

“The majority of them wore American clothes and girls were painted with lipstick,” he wrote. “Mingling with them was entirely out, due to the old baloney of ‘military secrets.’”

But things soon heated up. He described a Japanese air attack on their ship where “the red emblem of the Rising Sun looked 25 times larger than under ordinary circumstances.”  Three U.S. fighters then appeared in close pursuit of the Japanese plane.“About 1,000 yards away they bagged it and it came down in a burst of fire and smoke and into the water,” he recounted. “Cheers and laughter could be heard throughout the ship.”The letter closed as it opened, with a handwritten comment from the author.“P.S. Have heard from Tony and Johnny,” their brother relayed. “Both are fine. I too am in Tip-Top shape — no kidding … Say hello to the kids for me.”

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Military Humor –

 

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Farewell Salutes –

Taylor Conrad – Baton Rouge, LA; USMC, LCpl., 465th Squadron/3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, KIA

Arnold Harrison – Detroit, MI; USMC, WWII, PTO, Pfc, Co. B/1/2/2nd Marine Div., KIA (Betio)

Richard Holley – Dayton, OH; USMC, GSgt., 465th Squadron/3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, KIA

John Kiefer – Fairport, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Charles Lazarus – WA; US Army, WWII, cryptographer

Zell Miller – Young Harris, GA; USMC, U.S. Senator & Governor

Samuel Phillips – Pinehurst, NC; USMC, 1st Lt., 465th Squadron/ 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, KIA

E.R. Reece – Klondike, OK; US Army, WWII & Korea, 24th Infantry Division

Samuel Schultz – Huntingdon Valley, PA; USMC, Captain, 465th Squadron/ 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, KIA

James Vincent – No. Sioux Falls, SD; US Army, WWII / Korea, Sgt.

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on April 9, 2018, in First-hand Accounts, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 102 Comments.

  1. I’ve been enjoying your military humour items….and you have some informative posts

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Apart from the specific content, two things caught my attention because of their similarity to correspondence I have from members of my family during that time. One is simply the typewritten script. Anyone who is “of a certain age” would look at that and have memories come pouring back. There’s something about a manual typewriter that’s almost as personal as handwriting. (In fact, the “w” on my father’s typewriter was damaged — surely some Agatha Christie novel uses typewriter peculiarities to solve a crime!)

    The other thing is that hand-written postscript. There’s something so touching about the soldiers and sailors’ attempts to reassure friends and family back home. There was a lot less whining in those days, and a lot less “look at me-ism.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very true, Linda. I put my posts together in longhand, and used a typewriter for other things until about 5 years ago when I got rid of my typewriter. A whole world there that children of today will never know.

      Like

  3. Excellent post, I am going to reblog this one for you sir.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s outstanding to have discovered after all these years!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on Anna Cottage and commented:
    Another very moving blog, they must always be Remembered.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I just watched a film at 6am this morning on Iwo Jima, with John Wayne now I always liked him but he never went to War. I know its not the same but what there was it made one feel so proud it showed how ordinary men from all walks of life whether they agreed or not with the War, they went and they fought and they Died. They lost those that were so close to them, they held their friends as they died, they heard them call for their Mothers, their Wives their Children, and they thought of their own loved ones, and then they got up and carried on, not knowing whether the next shot was for them. For their Bravery we owe our Freedom to, Never Ever must those BRAVE MEN be Forgotten.

    Reblogging, such a wonderful Post.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I could almost picture being there. I thought beautifully recorded. almost as if was in two minds as to whether he’d survive, or not, and wanted to leave a clear record and picture of his experiences. Great read GP thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It infuriates me seeing these young punks eating Tide pods and mouthing off about weapons they know nothing about… when these gallant young boys and men did their duty. If they hadn’t they wouldn’t be able to enjoy their Tide pods. Next you know, Tide will come out with mint flavor.

    Liked by 1 person

    • haha, sorry Koji, couldn’t help but chuckle about the mint flavor! I know what you mean though. And I doubt I will ever get through to any of them either.

      Like

  9. That nameless guy made it into Officer School, no probs, right?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. loved the blogs on iwo jima.
    also, your readers may find my latest korean war blog of some interest: https://kapyongkorea.wordpress.com/2018/04/09/south-korea-where-crooked-politicians-go-to-jail/

    cheers
    dan

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember your site when I did my posts on Korea. Glad to see you’re still posting!
      I know many of my readers are interested in the Korean War. Thank you for bringing the link here.

      Like

  11. What a family treasure! And even better that it was shared!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. As I’ve said before, I really enjoy the first person stories. I wonder how many more are out there? You never know what’s tucked away in someone’s attic (or n our case, my mother’s dresser where we finally found my dad’s discharge papers).

    Liked by 1 person

  13. “without their arms or limbs.” Says it all, doesn’t it.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. These personal stories are a treasure. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. What a fascinating first- hand account! I love reading about history in the words of the people who lived it- thanks for sharing. (I also love the “Hitch hiking” humor 😀 )

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Absolutely great post and added your news feed to my publishing panel so l could post fully here’s the link: https://history2research.wordpress.com/2018/04/09/guest-featured-post-eye-witness-account-iwo-jima-guam/

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Nothing can beat a first hand account. Amazing that so many wrote down their daily thoughts during times of war.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Thank you for sharing so much knowledge of ww2
    Hearts and flowers…

    Liked by 1 person

  19. He could certainly write a letter!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. This is a nice turn in your blog where you share eyewitness accounts. I love the personal stories. Well, done, GP. I’m teaching WWII starting this week and will think of you often as I do so.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Fascinating to read the actual letter. Those war letters are treasure trove of information not easily found on books. As I read, I could visualize exactly where he was in the Philippines.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Love how his personality shines through.

    Like

  23. Real detail and history, this is a treasure.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. These eyewitness and personal accounts are the flesh blood on the bones of the often too dry historical writings in our history books. They add a human touch to the horrible events during times of war.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. American clothes and lipstick must have seemed so eerie

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Interesting to see a reference to Manus in the opening of the letter. Is this a reference to Manus Island in Papua New Guinea?

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Fascinating to be able to read the actual letters, GP. I noted that he mentioned that old military favourite, “The next push”. That reminded me of the lunacy of WW1, when troops were told “One more big push, and it could be over”.
    He also mentions receiving mail, on page two. Confirming once again how important it was for servicemen to get that mail from home.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

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