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Nightmare on Iwo Jima

A Marine in Combat

Written by Patrick F. Caruso, with foreword by David G. Rathgeber

Publication Year: 2007

On February 19, 1945, the 4th and 5th Marine Divisions stormed ashore from a naval support force. Among them was green young lieutenant Pat Caruso who became de facto company commander when the five officers ranking him were killed or wounded. He led his rapidly diminishing force steadily forward for the next few days, when a day’s gains were measured in yards. Caruso was eventually wounded himself and was evacuated. Realizing that the heroism of his comrades would be lost by the decimation of his unit, Caruso latched onto any paper he could find and filled every blank space with his memory of the fighting. This edition has a new foreword and index, boasts nine new photographs, and a map of the action. It resumes its place as a classic account of the experience of being in close, direct, and constant contact with a determined enemy at close quarters. Many did not survive; those who did were changed forever.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

The battle for Iwo Jima, which took place over fifty years ago, is still the battle that many believe defines today’s Marine Corps. Iwo Jima is the only battle in Marine Corps history where U.S. casualties outnumbered the enemy’s. There were no great or grand tactics. The fight was ...

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pp. xi-xiv

As a retired American history teacher and school administrator, I have observed that the treatment of historical events is altered by the prevailing temperament of the times. Rewriting American history has become commonplace; the original account of an event may eventually be ...

Part 1. A New Assignment

Map of Iwo Jima

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pp. 2

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1. The Preparation

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pp. 3-9

The battle on Guam was over and the island was secured, but the Third Marine Division remained for training exercises. After a few months we realized we would soon be called upon for the next campaign. This became evident when our training tempo was stepped up and they began to feed us better. A few days later we were notified that ...

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2. En Route

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pp. 10-16

While en route, we learned that our destination was Iwo Jima, a small island strategically located halfway between Guam in the Mariana Islands and Tokyo. The Fourth and Fifth Divisions already under way were the assault forces. Our division, the Third, was the floating reserve, to ...

Part 2. Landing

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3. On the Alert

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pp. 19-26

The Fourth and Fifth Marine Divisions had landed almost two hours earlier, at 0800. The ship's public address system announced that the assault elements of the Fourth and Fifth Divisions had met with light resistance. For a while we thought that the preinvasion bombardment had been effective and we ...

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4. Over the Side

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pp. 27-32

This time the order was not rescinded. Bill Crawford, our captain, explained our plan: we were to gather at the edge of Motoyama Airfield No.1, one of three airfields on the island, and await further instruction. We went over the side and into the landing crafts heading toward the beach. Our crafts were tossed by ...

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5. Lieutenant, You’re in Charge

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pp. 33-37

We advanced well against light opposition, which brought us to an open, flat area void of any defilade except for shell craters. As soon as we had advanced far enough so that we could not get out, the enemy fire started. The fire from artillery, mortars, machine guns, and rifles at once threatened ...

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6. Motoyama Airfield No. 2

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pp. 38-48

We did not gain appreciable ground for two days. The enemy overpowered us with constant shelling. Whenever we attempted to move over that wide, flat terrain we became easy targets. The airstrip had offered no concealment or defilade except for shell craters. If we managed to get into one, the Japanese ...

Part 3. Moving On

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7. Attack and Counterattack

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pp. 51-60

We took the knoll after a fight that lasted several hours, but the enemy kept dropping artillery and mortar shells on us. Colonel Boehm wanted us to hold that knoll. We lost men taking it and were going to lose more trying to hold it. The Japanese had every inch of the island zeroed in. As soon as we ...

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8. The Hill That Opened

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pp. 61-65

I observed what might be our next objective, a hill to our front. While cautiously watching the enemy position, my mind pondered. Then, as in a dream, I thought I saw the side of the hill open like a door on its hinges and from its orifice come a large Japanese field piece being pushed on tracks by a crew ...

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9. Lunch with a Dead Man and Other Thoughts

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pp. 66-70

Though he was the enemy and this was war, I was very upset. I tried hard to conceal my feelings from the others. Company Executive Officer Clyde McGinnis noticed I was disturbed by the sight of that first killing and suggested I would get used to it. But at that time it did not ...

Part 4. Heading North

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10. Motoyama Village and Beyond

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pp. 73-74

The smoldering smoke eking out of the cracks and creeping along the ground was an eerie sight. The fumes seemed to cling within a few feet of the ground and gave off a pungent, disagreeable odor. It made me feel as if I were in a Hollywood setting for a horror ...

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11. Night Attack on Hill 362-C

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pp. 75-81

There were three Hills 362 on Two, all very troublesome. Hill 362-C was several hundred yards to our front, but the enemy emplacements controlled the open ground between us so well that for three days we were knocked back every time we tried to take it. Even ...

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12. Know Thine Enemy

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pp. 82-88

Since the bombing of Pearl Harbor and throughout the war, our media created a distorted image of the Japanese fighters and their leaders. Newspapers and magazine cartoons caricatured the enemy as inhuman, inferior, puny, wearing oversized, horned-rim glasses, resembling bespectacled ...

Part 5. The Last Patrol

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13. Wounded

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pp. 91-109

K Company probably had only 50 of the original 230 men left by this time. I Company and L Company of our battalion were hit just about as badly as we were, so the three companies, assisted by the remnants of B Company of the Twenty-first Regiment of the Third Marine Division, secured a position on ...

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14. Barabbas or Jesus?

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pp. 110-113

It must have been blown off at the wrist. It made an impression on me, and throughout the campaign I kept thinking about it. Now, a couple of weeks later, as I was being evacuated by a medical jeep to the field hospital, we traveled over that same road. For some reason unknown ...

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15. Our New Neighbors

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pp. 114-117

The care I received there was outstanding. Convalescing was enhanced by the efficient and cooperative staff. But the serenity of this safe haven was interrupted one night as we were awakened abruptly by a loud explosion. My first impulse was to duck for cover. For ...

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16. Peace

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pp. 118-120

The sight of the Golden Gate Bridge was a glorious experience. I had seen it before, but never before did it take my breath away. After a few days of processing at a hospital, the wounded were transported to a train that would drop ...

Part 6. Nightmare in Hell

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17. Men of Uncommon Valor

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pp. 123-146

During my time on Iwo Jima I had three different sergeants in my command. When we landed, I was in charge of the company's 60-mm mortars and Sgt. James Henry of Nebraska was my noncommissioned officer (NCO). On the second day, after we lost five of ...

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18. Reflections

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pp. 147-164

It's a little known fact that there were three flag raisings on Iwo Jima. At 0900 (9:00 A.M.) on February 23, 1945, a reconnaissance patrol climbed to the top of Mt. Suribachi. Cpl. Charles Lindberg, of Richfield, Minnesota, carrying his seventy-two-pound flame thrower, was ...


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pp. 165-168

E-ISBN-13: 9780817380465
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817354480

Publication Year: 2007

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • United States. Marine Corps -- Officers -- Biography.
  • Iwo Jima, Battle of, Japan, 1945 -- Personal narratives, American.
  • United States. Marine Corps. Division, 3rd. Battalion, 3rd. Kilo Company -- History.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Regimental histories -- United States.
  • Caruso, Patrick F., 1921-.
  • Iwo Jima (Volcano Islands, Japan) -- History, Military -- 20th century.
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