WWII veteran recalls Iwo Jima
The city plans to honor World War II veterans in a special ceremony at City Hall Nov. 10, starting at 3 p.m.
Tom Beirne, one of the event organizers, has been reaching out to local veterans organizations to locate World War II veterans and to gather their war stories, and this week he spoke to William Donahue.
“The aim is to put together a program book with the names of all the World War II veterans still with us in Milford,” Beirne said. “I’ve heard the stories of a Navy gunnery mate who was off of Iwo Jima, a sailor who was part of an atomic bomb test and witnessed it from 10 miles away, and an Airborne soldier who was in the Battle of the Bulge.”
Following is a firsthand account of Donahue’s service during World War II, as told to Beirne.
During Worle War II, I served aboard the USS Vicksburg, a light cruiser. My job was in fire control, which directed our ship’s guns to targets.
Three days before the Marines landed we were off the shore of Iwo Jima to draw fire from the Japanese in an effort to pinpoint the targets, their gun positions. Since there was only one stretch of shore on the entire island where a landing could be made, the Japanese had that beach heavily fortified.
Our spotters had difficulty locating the guns because the gun powder used by the Japanese was smokeless. The spotters had only the flash of the gun, and no lingering smoke, to judge the gun’s location.
During the invasion our cruiser was close to the beach. Her propellers were churning up sand from the bottom. The battle for the beach was ugly. We were firing our 12 6” and 12 5” guns into the Japanese positions and our anti-aircraft cannon at their planes. A kamikaze plane had its wing shot off and the wing landed on the deck. The wounded marines were treated on our ship. The seriously wounded were sent by landing ship tanks to a hospital ship. The dead were piled up on the beach.
After the beach was secured, at least 20 marines raised their flag on top of a hill over the beach. The brass thought it to be too small and had a larger one raised by the six men in the famous picture.
We won the battle of Iwo Jima, but at what a cost.