Wednesday, March 19, 2014 1:00 AM
With victory on the horizon in Europe, vicious, bloody fighting lay ahead for many Neshoba County Marines.
On February 19, 1945, over 70,000 men of the Fourth and Fifth Marine Divisions, with the Third Marine Division in reserve, pushed ashore on an eight-square-mile island of rock and ashes, named Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands.
Lieutenant General Holland M. "Howlin' Mad" Smith, commander of the expeditionary force, made a gloomy prediction of 15,000 casualties after reconnaissance photographs showed a well-fortified, dug-in enemy.
Smith's dire estimate proved to be low.
After 35 days of warfare, on March 25, 1945, the battle ended with 6,821 marines killed in action.
For the Marine Corps, this World War II struggle produced the highest casualty rate in its 168-year history.
Neshoba County lost five men in this action and five more suffered wounds.
Sergeant Major Dan H. Lockley, Jr. perished first during the opening day of the battle, followed by Corporal William B. Barnett, five days later on February 24, 1945.
Sergeant Bryant J. Hill fell on February 27, 1945, and on the next day, Corporal Roy E. Jones.
The last to give his all was Corporal Francis Marion "Sam" Bates on March 2, 1945.
The list of wounded included Herman Leo Johnson, February 25, 1945, William N. Wright, March 5, 1945, and on March 7, 1945, Norby T. Vinson, Thurman D. Clark and Dallas W. Mathews.
A Marine from Louisiana, Corporal Cyrus H. DeHart was with Sam Bates when he died of mortal wounds.
In a letter, Corporal DeHart wrote to the Daniel M. Bates family the following: "I was with Sam when he left and it was too fast for him to tell me anything. When I told Herman [Leo Johnson] about it I could see the shock in his face - we could hardly believe it. The company, as a whole, felt the loss deeply for he was well liked by all and was recognized as a brave Marine and respected as a leader.
"He will always be remembered by all of us that knew him until our time has come also... As we began on March 2 the enemy began throwing heavy mortar shells in our lines. We continued the attack and Sam was wounded by a near-by shell. Everything possible was done but there was no way we could save him. He was taken out of the area immediately. I saw his grave later, but could get no picture of it."
On March 16, 1945, the War Department deemed Iwo Jima secure, but secure did not mean all the Japanese defenders were dead, wounded or captured.
Five days later, March 21, 1945, First Lieutenant Bennett Warren Alford* commanded a rifle platoon and an automatic weapons detachment that came under fire from a large Japanese force.
Alford and his fellow Marines refused to yield even an inch of ground that Allied soldiers had gained earlier at such a tremendous cost of American blood.
For his heroic and courageous efforts, Lieutenant Alford received the Navy Cross, a medal second only to the Congressional Medal of Honor.
The Citation read: "For extraordinary heroism as a Platoon Leader of Company G, Third Battalion, Twenty-Sixth Regiment, Fifth Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, on the night of 21 March 1945. After his platoon had advanced three hundred yards through a rugged ravine and lost contact with the company on its left flank which had been forced to fall back, First Lieutenant Alford steadfastly refused to relinquish the ground gained and, fully aware of his precarious position, heroically exposed himself to close-range hostile mortar, grenade and small-arms fire to supervise the deployment of his men into a strong defensive position.
"Although a burst of point-blank enemy machine-gun fire tore into his pack, jacket and rifle, he remained in his exposed position to supervise the movement of ammunition and supplies to his men and guide the evacuation of the wounded over difficult terrain. By his courage, coolness and determination, First Lieutenant Alford contributed materially to the success of his platoon in accomplishing a hazardous and important mission, and his conduct throughout upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."
Of the 65 men that hit the beach in the first assault on February 19, 1945, just to the right of Mount Seribachi, only two men exited the island on March 27, 1945, Lieutenant Alford and Private First Class Sam C. Theis, a Marine from Idaho. Bennett Alford also received: Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, World War II Victory Medal and the Bronze Star.
Civil War Veterans
Perry, Isaac G. - Third Sergeant; Second Sergeant; mustered April 13, 1861 at Neshoba Springs, Mississippi, in the Neshoba Rifles; age twenty-six; farmer; served as third sergeant with the Neshoba Rifles; appointed third sergeant of Company D, 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, at organization, April 24, 1861; re-appointed third sergeant at re-organization, April 21, 1862.
Appointed second sergeant, probably, May 18, 1862; captured at Seven Pines, May 31, 1862; exchanged at Aiken's Landing, Virginia, August 5, 1862; killed at Sharpsburg, September 17, 1862; death claim filed by Josiah Perry, his father, February 12, 1864; described as five feet eight inches tall, fair complexion, light brown hair, and grey eyes.
World War II Veterans
Alford, Herman Woodrow* -- Private to Captain; enlisted on November 7, 1941, at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, in the United States Army; age twenty-six; attorney; served and trained in the American Theatre of Operations (officer's training school) at Fort Benning, Georgia, August 1942; discharged as a corporal to accept appointment as a second lieutenant, October 8, 1942.
Stationed with the Judge Advocate General's Department (Trial Judge - General Court) of the 100th Infantry "Century" Division at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, October 1942 to December 1943; served also in the European Theatre of Operations with the Adjutant General Department of the 17th Airborne Division, December 1943 to 1945, and with Headquarters Company of the 82nd Airborne Division, 1945 to 1946.
Participated in the campaigns in Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe; awarded the American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (with three bronze service stars), Presidential Unit Citation, Army Occupation (Germany) Medal, Parachutists Badge, World War II Victory Medal and the Bronze Star.
Discharged at Camp Shelby, February 10, 1946, demobilization; described as five feet nine inches tall, weighing 175 pounds, with brown hair and grey eyes.
*Bennett Warren Alford was a younger brother of Herman Woodrow Alford, and both were uncles of Museum Board Chairman Mack Alford.
Philadelphia-Neshoba County Historical Museum
Steven H. Stubbs, Curator
303 Water Avenue South Philadelphia, Mississippi 39350 (601) 656-1284
10 a.m. - 3 p.m.;
Monday thru Friday