On This Date in History: There are several small volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean. As of June 18, 2007, one of those islands became known as Iwo To. The name means “Sulpher” which apparently is also what Iwo Jima means. But, according to USA Today, after the success of the Clint Eastwood Films, Flags of our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima, the Japanese decided to change the name back to Iwo To, which had been what the civilians had called it before the war. The locals were happy that their island had been remembered, but for some reason, they didn’t like the name. The Americans held the island until 1968 when the United States returned it to Japan and now it’s home to about 400 Japanese soldiers. Those “locals” don’t even live there anymore.
Anyway, in 1944 the Americans had gained control of the Mariana Islands which gave them a place from which to make direct bombing raids on the Japanese mainland with B-29′s. However, the proximity of the 8 square mile island was such that the Japanese staged several rather destructive raids on B-29 bases around the Pacific. So, that made Iwo Jima a target for US invasion. The small island is made up of tough, ignatious rock and features the cone of what is thought to be an extinct volcano that rises about 550 feet above sea level. With 21,000 Japanese defenders, it made for a natural fortress. The Americans had bombed it often from the last part of 1944 through early 1945 but the Japanese use of the island’s geography rendered much of that bombing ineffective. So, on February 19, 1945 the US Marine Corps sent 3 divisions onto the volcanic shores following a 3 day naval bombardment. (numerous videos from History.com)
The battle of Iwo Jima lasted 37 days: Over a month for 8 square miles. The Japanese strategy involved using the deep fortified bunkers dug in the volcanic rock to withstand all of the bombs and naval gunfire the US could muster and then called for no Japanese survivors. In other words, defend the island to the death. And that’s exactly what happened as the Japanese were fighting on home soil that was only 650 miles from Tokyo. Japanese commander Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi was a seasoned and dedicated leader who called on his men to kill 10 Americans before they were killed. The fighting was horrific and while the Americans made some headway, the going was extremely slow. By the time it was over, more than 6000 Americans had given their lives while 20,000 of the Japanese defenders were killed.
One of the Americans in the fight was Harry Towne of Madison, Wisconsin. He was a corporal who, on February 27, 1945 led his Company I, Third Battalion, Twenty-Seventh Marines, FIFTH Marine Division against a fortified enemy position guarding the approach to Hill 362. In the successful assault, squad leader Towne was wounded as he and his men negotiated the pill boxes and caves defended by men who held the high ground. Very tough. In the back and forth of battle, the Japanese made a strong counter attack and Towne, though wounded, directed his men with hand signals and by voice. Towne remained exposed to withering Japanese fire and tossed grenades from his position. He did not retreat. For his extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty, Corporal Towne received the Navy Cross as described in his citation issued by President Truman.
The citation says much about Towne but doesn’t really mention much about his wound. But, a letter he wrote to his mother on this date in 1945 reminds us that the stories of history are filled with people. They have dreams and hopes and loves like everyone else. Some are allowed to go on to live thier lives while others have a destiny that ends with the final words written about them. In this case, Harry Towne lived to tell his own story:
I don’t know if you have heard that I was wounded or not Mom. I asked a Chaplain to write you, so you probably know about it.
I am coming along fine now and expect to be in the States before long. I was wounded quite badly, Mother, but the Navy Medical Corps will fix me up like new again. In a year or less I shall be able to walk just as before.
Don’t let this be a shock to you, Mother, I will be in almost as good shape as before now that they have these new artificial limbs. Yes, Mother, I have lost my right leg, but it isn’t worrying me a bit. I shall receive a pension for the rest of my life and with the new artificial limb, you can hardlytell anything is wrong.
I lost my leg on the front lines of Iwo Jima on February 27, but have been moved around so much I couldn’t write. I would like to write to Alma, but somehow I can’t force myself to do it. You write and tell her, Mother. I’ll try to write to her later on.
Don’t worry, Mom, the war for me is ended and I should be see you by fall.
(Letters of the Century: America 1900-1999. Lisa Grunwald and Stephen J. Adler, ed. Random House, New York: 1999, pg 308)
While Harry Towne was trying to reassure his mother and show a positive outlook, you can hear his anguish with how he struggles in even writing about his condition. His frequent use of “Mother” shows that he is writing much as if he were speaking to her on the phone, searching for the right words to say. His true feelings about his fate are revealed when he admits that he cannot bring himself to write to tell Alma, whom we presume is a wife or sweetheart. This simple note reveals that this man suffered an injury so severe that his leg had to be amputated yet he perservered under extreme conditions to serve his country and support his men. It also shows that behind the heroic tales of the American soldier in World War II, were ordinary American citizens who, while serving a cause larger than themselves, did extraordinary things. We owe them a debt of gratitude. I’d like to think that all American citizens are capable of making the same sacrifice if called today. As an individual, you will have to determine if your devotion to country could lead you to follow the example of Harry Towe if called.
Weather Bottom Line: Thursday morning the models did a huge flop…which is why a forecast can be a flop if you start chortling about snow 5 days prior to the potential event. I probably said too much about that yesterday and did not emphasize that the variables involved were many. There had been a consistency though for days regarding the solution. I recognize that the same level of uncertainty remains even with though new model runs of Thursday morning were almost identical. That variability still shows up with later runs as they have changed a bit again.
What they did was instead of digging a big trof down with a cold front and running a low up along the front to give wrap around snow behind the boundary, they made the southern low cut off from the main jet stream and the general trof lifted north. In the later runs of the day, the kinda started inching back to their initial solution with the trof staying in place for a longer duration but just prior to the front’s arrival in the Ohio Valley, then it cut off the low and ran it up over the Ohio Valley. In fact, the Canadian model doesn’t fully cut off the low until it’s almost on top of our area. So..what to do. How about wait and see what happens? That’s really all one can do.
All along, intuitively it seemed unlikely that we’d get snow as the air wasn’t that cold and the trof not that deep. But…it was there. Now, the problem is that the models suddenly shifted to a completely new solution and then followed that up with something in between. Often, when an event is on the way, the models are set on a game plan, change it suddenly and then when it all shakes out, it ends up being what was called for in the first place. My guess is that regardless of the particulars, we will be 40′s on Sunday and Monday. The initial scenario of 30′s is still possible but it would seem the cautious approach of not even mentioning that potential until we got closer to the day was the wise move. I get the dunce cap for that. After a string of victories…humility came calling. But..whatever..Friday will be lovely with highs nearing 70 and clouds increasing Saturday will be the only damper on a day in the upper 60′s to near 70. Rain will still be likely on Saturday night and Sunday with a possible t’storm or two. And the temperatures will still rebound by midweek. As for snow…we’ll just have to wait and see…just in case.