Updates for our Members, Family & Friends - February 19, 2020



75 years ago, a battle raged in the Pacific Theater of World War II. Located roughly half way between Saipan and Tokyo, and directly under the flight path of B-29 Superfortress bombers headed to Japan, the island of Iwo Jima was a Japanese stronghold of crucial strategic importance and could not be bypassed. Not only would Iwo Jima make an excellent base for Allied fighters escorting B-29 raids, but it would also project the flank of the forthcoming invasion of Okinawa.

Three Marine divisions, more than 80,000 men, were assigned the task of taking the island, which was barely 10 square miles in area and dominated by 556 foot Mount Suribachi. The assault began on 19 Feb. 1945 following a terrific naval bombardment which Japanese LtGen Kuribayashi described as FAR BEYOND DESCRIPTION. The first wave of Marines had more trouble with the terrain than enemy fire, but the Japanese responded quickly from their dug in positions and swept the beaches with concentrated fire. Iwo Jima would be a very tough fight.

On 23 Feb. 1945, the Marines took control of Mount Suribachi. Onlookers cheered as the assault platoon fought to the summit and raised a small flag. Later that day, different troops raised a larger flag while others respectfully lowered the original. Several combat photographers captured these stirring events on film, but Joe Rosenthal snapshot of the men struggling to raise the second flag in a stiff wind became an enduring symbol of American resolve.

The battle for control of Iwo Jima lasted 36 days. The final death toll among Marines was 5,931 killed in action, died of wounds or missing in action and presumed dead... more than twice as many Marines than had been killed in all of World War One. An additional 209 deaths occurred among the Navy corpsmen and surgeons assigned to the Marines. The Fifth Fleet and participating U.S. Army and Army Air Corps units suffered other fatalities during the battle. In all, more than 800 Americans gave their lives for every square mile of Iwo Jima black volcanic sand.



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Phil Leslie
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Many years ago [1960] when I was a PFC, I read the paperback, (Semper Fi, Mac), a fictional story told by a WWII / Korea grunt on his experiences and feelings about the Corps. While fiction, it contained many items, practices, and details of the Corps at that time. Being relatively new to The Corps, I did not understand many of the nuances or references in the book. The use of (Semper Fi) in the book did not have the same meaning that I, as a Private in 1960, understood.

Recently thinking about this, I searched the web and came across a short and concise reference to the Old Corps use of Semper Fi by Dick Gains aka Gunny G. [GunnyGsUSMCOohRahForum]. Gains provides the following concerning (Semper Fi). See Below.


I recall vividly a day in 1953 at Tent Camp #3, at CJHP, when M/Sgt Tony Virginia pointed out to me that (Semper Fi) did not mean (Semper Fidelis); It was not an abbreviation of Semper Fidelis, nor did it have anything positive in common with Semper Fidelis. He then went further into detail regarding just what Semper Fi was and meant. It had apparently come into use with the influx of great numbers of new Marines, during WW II, into what had been a very small U.S. Marine Corps.

The Top stated that, in many cases, promotions became much faster than previously experienced for the peacetime Marines. At one point early in WW II, Marine enlisted began to wear chevrons only on the left sleeve, due to a policy of conservation of supplies. He advised that the term Semper Fi came into being with a gesture reminiscent of the old Italian salute, and he demonstrated this by slapping his right hand over the left upper arm (over the chevron) while he spoke the words, Semper Fi! This was obviously intended as an obscene term and gesture. The above noted conversation with Top Virginia, now more an 50 years ago made an impression on me.

Sometime shortly after the Beirut bombing in 1983, then Commandant of the Marine Corps General Paul X. Kelley was visiting a wounded Marine in the hospital. The lad shook the Commandants hand and then scribbled the words (Semper Fi) on a piece of paper. It was the Marines way of saying (Semper Fidelis). Gen. Kelley became emotional and said, Lord, where do we get such men? The press picked up on it. After that the term Semper Fi was given new life and a new meaning among Marines. General Kelley presented the blinded marine with a plaque of his four stars.

However, for older Marines, the term had a slightly different meaning. Maybe not to many of those Marines are still around today. And, today while one understands "Semper Fi" to be a Marine greeting, in the past. "Semper Fi, Mac" meant "I got mine, how you doing?"

Semper Fi, Phil