back to news March 15, 2012

On the sands of Iwo Jima: Hahn and Mansoor lead South Pacific tour

History Professors Peter Hahn and Peter Mansoor are leading eight undergraduate students, Caitlin Bentley, Nick Brill, Andrew Eskander, Danielle Gagliardi, Peter Marzalik, Kyle Nappi, Mike Tabor, and Eston Wirsing, on an eight-day study abroad tour like no other.

The tour is in cooperation with the Greatest Generations Foundation, which provided funding for 12 veterans of the Pacific War to return to the site of battles they fought on the islands of Guam, Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima. Each student and professor is accompanied by a veteran who is sharing their personal story with their Ohio State student companion.

See live student-posted blog posts from the South Pacific at ohiostateartsandsciences.tumblr.com/

(photo: John Riedy Photography)

Blog Excerpts

"Honoring the Fallen" | Eston Wirsing | Date: March 15, 2012

Yesterday’s wake up call at 0300 and 0330 muster in the lobby marked the beginning of one most memorable days of my life. On the flight to Iwo Jima from Guam, I talked with Jack Thurman about what he wanted to do while he was on the island. He had three simple requests. First, he wanted to go to Red Beach 1, where he landed during the invasion, and say a prayer for all the Marines who died on their way to the island and were never able to get a proper burial. He also wanted to take a picture of the Marine Corps memorial on top of Mt. Suribachi, with two photographs of himself at Ira Hayes’s tombstone laid on the memorial. His final request was to get a bag of volcanic ash from Red Beach 1.

"Hill 362A" | Andrew Eskander | Date: March 15, 2012

For the veterans hosted by the Greatest Generation Foundation, Iwo Jima was the milestone event of this trip. My veteran, Sergeant Al Eutsey, landed in the first wave of the attack on Green Beach, the landing site closest to Mount Suribachi. During our visit, Al stood at the top of Suribachi recalling the landing. “The beach was quite a mess,” he said.  “The sand was up to my knees and the objective was on the other side of the island. It took me 120 minutes to get across.” Al considered himself lucky that he was in the first wave of the assault because, he would come to find out, the Japanese were waiting for the Marines to accumulate on the beach to maximize the effect of their fire. Although Al survived the landing, his mission would present dangers much worse, as he was ordered to ignore all Japanese pillboxes and positions in order to surprise the enemy and cut off the mountain from the rest of the island. Al was no longer facing an enemy head-on but was surrounded, having pushed through without securing the area. Al’s only movement could be forward, as retreating would be a death sentence. Al was deep behind enemy lines spearheading the invasion. He was lucky to survive the initial push through Iwo Jima.

"Closure" | Caitlin Bentley | Date: March 15, 2012

Corporal David C. Greene came ashore on Iwo Jima in a Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel, or LCVP on 19 February 1945. The pilot synchronized the timing of the landing with the crest of a strong wave and the men of the 26th Marines were carried ashore, making their landing at Red Beach 1, below and to the right of Mount Suribachi. Today, Greene, along with three Navy and seven other Marine veterans, returned for the first time in sixty-seven years. On an island only four miles in diameter, nearly 28,000 out of the 72,000 American soldiers committed were killed or wounded during thirty-six days of combat. On the return flight from Iwo Jima to Guam, Greene said that it struck him that to take such a small island took so many lives on both sides while the seizure of Guam, despite its size, took the lives of far fewer men.

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