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The Last Lieutenant

A Foxhole View of the Epic Battle for Iwo Jima

John C. Shively

Publication Year: 2006

"Shively has documented in a very readable fashion the transformation of a young Hoosier into a disciplined member of the United States Marine Corps. His book is a detailed and touching tale of one man's experience of the battle of Iwo Jima, and the many excellent photographs and maps enhance the story." -- Major General Fred Haynes, USMC (Ret.)

The 36-day assault on the small volcanic island known as Iwo Jima resulted in more than 26,000 American casualties, including 6,800 dead. Of the 20,000 Japanese defenders, only 1,083 survived. The Marines' efforts secured what would become a vital emergency landing strip for crippled B-29s returning from bombing runs. Twenty-seven Medals of Honor were awarded to Marines and sailors, many posthumously, more than were awarded for any other single operation during the war.

Jim Craig was a platoon commander with the Marines on Iwo Jima. This book presents his story, as told to his nephew, John C. Shively. A particularly vivid and exciting account of some of the most intense fighting of the Pacific War, the immediacy of the story is heightened by the detail that Shively's research has added to Craig's recollections. The result is one of the most realistic depictions of combat ever written.

Published by: Indiana University Press

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pp. xi-xiii

This book could not have been written without the help of many people who at one time or another provided encouragement, research assistance, and editorial advice. I am grateful to my uncle, James R. Craig, who agreed to tell me his story so that I could write...

Notes on Abbreviations

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pp. xiii-xviii

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pp. 1-3

For as long as I can remember, I have associated the battle of Iwo Jima with my uncle Jim Craig, who served in the United States Marine Corps. It was common knowledge in our extended family that he never spoke about his experience on Iwo Jima; it apparently was an untouchable topic. I often wondered what that experience had...

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1. Prelude to War

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pp. 5-10

On Sunday, 7 December 1941, the USS Arizona with 1,177 of her crew lay in the mud on the bottom of Pearl Harbor. A few hours earlier, just before 0800, the first wave of carrier-based attack planes of the Japanese Imperial Navy had come swooping in from the north to set up their torpedo runs on Battleship Row. As the first attack wave approached...

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2. Growing Up in Indiana

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pp. 11-15

A cold winter wind blew across the campus from the recently harvested cornelds that surround West Lafayette, Indiana, home of Purdue University. The 1941 fall semester at Purdue was winding down, and the men of Sigma Chi fraternity were looking forward to going home for Christmas in two weeks....

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3. Platoon Leader

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pp. 16-36

At the end of 1943, Jim and several of his friends finally received orders to report to the Marine Corps Recruiting Depot at Parris Island in South Carolina. Late in the evening of 13 January 1944, they boarded a train in Lafayette. Only uniformed Marine recruits were on board...

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4. Movement to the Objective

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pp. 37-42

In late January 1945, Jim and some 2,000 men of the 3rd Battalion boarded the USS Sibley and began the voyage that would eventually take them to Iwo Jima. After leaving their camp on Maui, they made a stop at Pearl Harbor for three days where they enjoyed a last liberty...

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5. Welcome to Hell

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pp. 43-65

In the early dawn of 19 February 1945, the 485-ship armada carrying the Fifth Amphibious Corps (VAC)—more than 70,000 Marines from the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Divisions—arrived off the coast of Iwo Jima. The planners could not have picked a better day for the invasion...

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6. Into the Meat Grinder

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pp. 66-96

The pivotal point of Kuribayashi’s island defense centered around Hill 382 and the bowl-shaped ridge called the amphitheater. Hill 382 (so named for its height) was located about 250 yards east of Airfield No. 2 and directly north of the amphitheater...

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7. Return to Camp Maui

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pp. 97-102

The return trip to Hawaii did not take as long as the trip to Iwo Jima. Although the threat was greatly reduced, there still was a Japanese submarine menace. Jim had very little in the way of responsibilities on the return trip, so he was able to relax...

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8. Occupation Duty

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pp. 103-108

Before he left for Okinawa in November 1945, Jim and some of his officer buddies went down to a dump where some old furniture from the now dismantled Camp Maui lay discarded. He found some cross-legged folding chairs and helped himself to one...

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9. Going Home

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pp. 109-111

The return trip to the States in February 1946 was a direct one with no stop in Hawaii. En route the Marines were informed that they would be quarantined for three days upon arrival in San Francisco, where they would be searched and subject to an inspection overseen by the Army. Jim had picked up...

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10. War and Valor

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pp. 112-115

An account of the battle of Iwo Jima would be incomplete without a summary of casualty figures. Of the more than 70,000 Marines of the three divisions of the 5th Amphibious Corps who fought on Iwo Jima, over one-third of them, 25,851, were casualties...

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Epilogue: Iwo Jima, 14 March 2002

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pp. 116-122

Our chartered plane lifted off the runway on Guam and climbed into the predawn sky. Looking into the inky blackness I imagined that we would be flying the same course the B-29s had flown on their way to bomb Japan in 1945. Along their way they would have flown over Iwo Jima. Today several Marines who had survived...


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pp. 123-126


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pp. 127-134

E-ISBN-13: 9780253000637
E-ISBN-10: 0253000637
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253347282

Page Count: 152
Illustrations: 36 b&w photos, 3 maps
Publication Year: 2006

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Subject Headings

  • Iwo Jima, Battle of, Japan, 1945.
  • Craig, James R. (James Richard), 1923-.
  • United States. Marine Corps. Division, 4th.
  • Marines -- United States -- Biography.
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