They are rapidly dying off. There are very few Greatest Generation members left. What they did is being forgotten by todays generations. This is how Turnings in history happen. This is why history is cyclical. This is why we are doomed to repeat mistakes of the past. The five week battle of Iwo Jima in 1945 marked the very end of the last Fourth Turning. Without the sacrifice of these men, there would not have been a new High. Fourth Turnings require tremendous sacrifice and a spirit that doesn’t seem to be present today. In the space of five weeks more American soldiers were killed on the tiny volcanic island of Iwo Jima than were killed in eight years of fighting in Iraq. The Japanese did not believe in surrender. These young marines had to slaughter 18,000 Japanese to take this rock. They did it. I can’t even imagine the horror of those five weeks in hell.
This event took place in year 16 of the last Fourth Turning. We are presently in year 5 of this Fourth Turning. Do horrors of this scale or greater await our Millenial generation? Will they meet the challenge. Will we all meet the challenge. There is no guarantee that a new High will occur. There are many challenges, risks, and battles ahead. Will the American people make their ancestors proud or will we shirk our responsibility to future generations? The choice is ours.
Anniversary recalls grim toll of Iwo Jima
Bruce Bender remembers the Marines’ bloody fighting for the Pacific island in 1945. Breaking his silence over World War II, he recently wrote his memoirs so his children would know what happened.
Bruce Bender, 88, was in the first wave of U.S. Marines to land on the beaches of Iwo Jima on Feb. 19, 1945. He was with the 4th Battalion 14th Marines and has written a book about his experiences during World War ll. (Scott Smeltzer / Daily Pilot / February 16, 2012)
Sunday marked the 67th anniversary of the storming of Iwo Jima. Bender, who’s 88 now and lives in Costa Mesa, is one of a shrinking number of World War II veterans who have survived to share their memories.
The marching orders were straightforward: Ascend Mt. Suribachi and eventually make the island safe for U.S. pilots to use as a stopover en route to the Japanese mainland.
But the planned five-day mission turned into a bloody commitment lasting more than a month. More than 6,000 Americans lost their lives and about 18,000 of the Japanese defenders were killed, according to the U.S. military‘s estimates.
Before the storming of Iwo Jima, the U.S. Navy led a three-day bombardment that stripped the island of its vegetation, leaving the Marines exposed as they came ashore. The heat and the stench of sulfur were oppressive. and Bender said he found it amazing that the Japanese soldiers had been able to live on the island.
Suribachi was pockmarked with caves and other well-concealed hiding places where the Japanese would shoot at the advancing Marines. It was nearly impossible to determine where the shots were coming from, Bender said.
Amid the chaos of the battle, Bender received a combat promotion to first lieutenant because of the escalating fatalities.
Bender said the smell was nearly impossible to forget. Men on the island were barred from using water for anything other than drinking. They faced a possible court-martial if they used valuable freshwater to bathe, he said.
After a month without bathing, the men reeked.
But the Battle of Iwo Jima took place as the war was winding down, and before long, Bender was recuperating in Maui, Hawaii.
He eventually graduated from USC on the GI Bill. While there, he met his wife, Jeanette, 83, in what she describes as a “whirlwind romance.” Married for 62 years, the couple have three children, four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Over the years, like many veterans of his era, Bender has remained silent about his experiences.
“He said, ‘Why should I be the one to be here to tell the story?’ ” Jeanette Bender said.
It wasn’t until about five years ago that he saw the value in telling his children about his life during the war. He later opened up enough to start writing it down.
Last December, each of his children found a hardcover copy of his book under the Christmas tree.
“I promised my children over the years that I would have it done and completed, and I finally did,” he said. “It was just, well hey, instead of buying junky things for our kids, we tried to give something they could pass on to their own children when they have children.
“We wanted to put money into something that would last,” he said.