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Old 10-15-2006, 03:42 AM
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Iwo Jima memories

Iwo Jima memories
World War II veteran recalls hellish battle 60 years ago where U.S. Marines raised flag

Thiensville - Rollo Eberhardt, now 80, was 19 years old and 18 months removed from the tranquility of Cedarburg when he met hell face to face 60 years ago this weekend.

Feb. 19, 1945, was the day he saw the island of Iwo Jima from the railing of a cargo ship that had brought him and thousands of other U.S. Marines from Hawaii, their mission to take the island from 22,000 fiercely resolute Japanese soldiers.

" 'What a beautiful day to die,' " he remembered a comrade saying as he and his fellow Marines looked on the island, wreathed in smoke and flame, a sharp contrast to the day's clear blue sky.

Iwo Jima is a small volcanic island in the Pacific Ocean, about 600 miles southwest of Japan.

It became strategically valuable to the United States in 1945 as an air base from which its bombers could attack the Japanese mainland.

It was defended by 22,000 Japanese soldiers. Before the invasion, they were subjected to months of bombing by the American Air Force, one of the longest and most intense air bombardments of World War II.

That was followed by three days of continuous shelling by the U.S. Navy.

The bombs and artillery shells had little effect on the island's defenders, though, who surprised the Americans from extensive underground bunkers.

As a result, they gave the U.S. Marines a hellish reception when they landed.
'They let us really have it'

Eberhardt's unit wasn't in the initial wave of invaders, but its landing was delayed because of the ferocity of the defense.

"We couldn't land when we were supposed to because the beach was littered with bodies and equipment," Eberhardt said during an interview in the kitchen of his Thiensville home, his kitchen table covered in World War II news clippings, photos and other memorabilia.

When his unit - the 25th Regiment of the 4th Marine Division - did land three days after the initial landing, 18 of his company's 20 Sherman tanks were destroyed by enemy fire on the first day.

"They let us really have it," he said.

A crewman of one of those destroyed Shermans was Eberhardt's "best buddy," he said.

He was killed when a Japanese mortar shell scored a direct hit on his tank's hatch, its most thinly armored section.

"We had to pull him out of there in pieces. But no one else was hurt," he said.

Eberhardt was trained as a tank crewman but was assigned duty as a scout observer for the company's two remaining tanks, both of which were flamethrowers capable of shooting a stream of flaming gasoline more than 100 yards.

It was a dangerous job, but Eberhardt said he preferred doing that to sitting in a Sherman tank.

"They were death traps," he said of the tanks.

As was the entire island.

One third of all Marine Corps casualties in World War II occurred at Iwo Jima. It was the only Marine battle where the American casualties - about 26,000, including 6,800 killed - exceeded the number of Japanese casualties - about 21,000 dead.

"It was pretty crowded on that island," Eberhardt said.
Stench of bodies, sulfur

Iwo Jima, in Japanese, means "Sulfur Island," for its numerous ground vents that spew fumes from underground sulfur springs.

The sulfurous smell of rotting eggs combined with that of rotting bodies was omnipresent, he said.

"But you got used to it," he said, as he did of so many things that occurred on the island.

Eberhardt's primary job as a scout observer was to spot targets for the tanks. The rocky island was a honeycomb of caves and tunnels. He often would direct the tanks toward the caves where Japanese soldiers were hidden.

"They'd come out of there all on fire," he said. Another thing he had to get used to, he said.

Some of the most frightening experiences occurred at night.

The Japanese would shell Marine positions continuously with 360-millimeter "spigot" mortars that would lob earthshaking 675-pound shells.

And then there were "Moaning Minnies," mortar shells that made a loud whistling sound as they flew toward their target.

And it was at night when Japanese soldiers would emerge from their caves and underground defenses to attack the Marines.

Eberhardt was on the island for 36 days.

He ate all his meals cold out of cans and wore the same clothes throughout the battle.

"One Marine smelled as bad as the other," he said.

The most famous image of the assault on Iwo Jima is the photograph of the raising of the U.S. flag by a group of Marines on the summit of Mount Suribachi, the extinct volcano on the island's southern end.

One of those Marines was John Bradley of Antigo, who died in 1994.

The photograph won the Pulitzer Prize and became the basis for the Marine Corps Memorial in Washington, D.C.

After Iwo Jima, Eberhardt and the rest of the 4th Division were sent back to Hawaii to prepare for the invasion of Japan. That was averted when Japan surrendered after atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.
A jungle paradise

Eberhardt spent the rest of his duty on the island of Guam, where he was the lone police officer in the jungle village of Talofofo.

His primary duties were to keep an eye out for Japanese stragglers still living in the island jungles and caves and keeping Navy and Army base personnel away from the native girls and vice versa.

He became friends with the villagers and fondly remembered helping them hunt, attending wedding feasts and being involved in other facets of their lives.

It was a jungle paradise compared to the volcanic hell of Iwo Jima.

"I thought about re-enlisting and might have if I knew I could stay there," he said of Guam.

After the war, Eberhardt went to work for American Can Co. on Teutonia Ave. in Milwaukee, retiring in 1986. His wife, Janet, died in 1989. They had no children.

Eberhardt is active with the Howard J. Schroeder American Legion Post 457 in Mequon-Thiensville, as well as with Iwo Jima veterans of the 4th Marine Division veterans group.

Eberhardt and other Iwo Jima veterans from Wisconsin and Illinois marked the 60th anniversary of the battle on Feb. 11. About 30 veterans and their wives attended, down considerably from years ago when 75 or more would attend, he said.

Time is doing to these Marine veterans what Iwo Jima could not.

"Every day, it seems like somebody's dying," Eberhardt said.
From the Feb. 20, 2005 editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Old 10-15-2006, 03:50 AM
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Rollo Eberhardt of Thiensville (third from left) served in the Marine Corps Headquarters Section A Company tank regiment as a forward observer directing fire from tanks during World War II. Saturdays 60th anniversary of Iwo Jima brings back memories of comrades, the monthlong battle and the war.

Oops! the first pic was a little small. Hopefully this one will be better.

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Old 10-15-2006, 03:53 AM
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Rollo Eberhardt of Thiensville on Saturday holds his medal for "Uncommon Valor" for fighting in the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Last edited by cmyr; 12-25-2008 at 12:42 PM.
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Old 10-15-2006, 11:16 AM
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Vet Recounts Role In Iwo Jima Battle
Wisconsin State Journal :: Front :: 1A
Sunday, February 12, 1995
Jennifer Schwai, Wisconsin State Journal

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, Bob Schaferremembers a university professor predicting that the war would be over within90 days.

He was wrong. Marine Pvt. Schafer remembers landing more than three years later on Iwo Jima, where American military leaders planned to roll over the Japanese infive days and quickly secure an air strip for U.S. bombers.

They were wrong.

``When we were landing, we thought it would be a piece of cake. But we didn't get off the beach for three days,'' said Schaefer, now 72 and living in Middleton. ``We were pinned down.''

On Feb. 19, 1945, U.S. Marines landed on the Japanese stronghold, a volcanic island roughly five miles long and 2+ miles wide.

In the fierce five-week battle that followed, 23,000 of the 60,000 Marines who stepped ashore were killed or wounded. Only 20 of the 300 men in Schafer'scompany survived the bloodiest battle in Marine history.

Of the 22,000 Japanese defending the island, only 1,000 survived.

``People would say, `If you're not afraid, you're crazy.' I think we were both. We defied the odds -- which were against us,'' said Schafer, who credits divine intervention for his survival. ``I was a very fortunate man.``

Schafer, who served with the Fourth Marine Division, worked aboard one of several amphibious trucks used to deliver 150mm howitzers, or large cannons, to the island from a ship anchored offshore.

On each 30- to 60-minute trip, one howitzer and trained personnel were delivered ashore, where the gun was unloaded by the construction battalion. On the return trip, the vehicle brought the wounded back to the ship. ``We always had a cargo full of wounded going back,'' said Schafer, a veteran of the four Pacific Theater battles.

What appeared to be routine turned into a near disaster.

While Schafer's craft was circling near the beach with the first cannon, waiting for clearance to land, a piece of driftwood jammed the propeller. Schafer volunteered to dive into the high swells. He swam under the truck and, after three or four attempts, dislodged the wood.

``I was never scared,'' Schafer said. ``You're like anybody else. You think, `If I'm hit, I won't get killed.' ''

His actions did not go unnoticed. To Schafer's surprise, he was later awarded a Navy and Marine Corps Medal -- one of five given for service during Iwo Jima. He is the only living recipient of this medal.

The citation from Marine Lt. Gen. Holland M. ``Howlin' Mad'' Smith reads:``By his conduct, he prevented the vehicle from sinking and the probable lossof lives. His actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of theUnited States Naval Service.''

Schafer is reluctant to talk about the horrors of war or his military honors. He dismisses valor as merely action in the line of duty.

``We were all very close. If we could help anybody, we did,'' he said.``Those things you never think of.''

At night, he and his fellow Marines burrowed into 3-foot deep foxholes, to protect themselves from shrapnel splintering overhead.

``You were so tired at night, you could sleep any place,'' Schafer said.``The howitzers were discharging all night right next to you. Loud -- banging all night long.''

When the ``mother of all battles'' -- as Schafer calls Iwo Jima -- finally ended, he returned with his company to Maui, where they planned to regroup before heading out to Okinawa.

It was then that he first saw the famous photographs of the flag-raising onIwo Jima's Mount Suribachi.

``It hit you like a ton of bricks,'' said Schafer, who had seen one of theflags raised at Iwo Jima. ``We realized then that history was made.''

After the war ended, he returned to Wisconsin. He had served in the Marinesfrom July 6, 1942, until Oct. 27, 1945, and said he never regretted hisdecision to enlist. In fact, Schafer said he had been worried the war would end before he got involved.

Schafer, a student at UW-Whitewater at the time he enlisted, said the warchanged him. ``You grew up in a hurry,'' Schafer said. ``You became more sober and appreciated life more.''

But still, he said, the transition back into society went smoothly. In Dodgeville, his hometown, everybody was a veteran, he said.

He resumed his education at Northland College in Ashland under the GI Bill,and married.

Ten years after the war, Schafer and his wife returned to teach in Japan. Living among people once regarded as enemies might seem odd, but the Schafers made many friends.

``They were all veterans and we were all veterans,'' Schafer said. ``Theywere such nice people -- kind, disciplined, honest.''

Still, the nightmarish memories of Iwo Jima lurk in the back of his mind.

``Once in a while, you have a flashback about something that happened, but you don't dwell on it,'' he said.
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Old 10-15-2006, 11:34 AM
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Old Marines Rebind Their Bonds Of Battle
Capital Times :: Editorial :: 6A
Tuesday, July 30, 1991

There is a bonding in battle that never dims and 46 years later it brought laughter and camaraderie to a handful of Wisconsin World War II survivors of the famed 4th Marine Division gathered for a reunion in rural Dane County.

Not even Sunday's rain could dampen the warmth at a pot-luck picnic at the Scenic Ridge Trail hillside home of Bob and Magdalen Schafer located off of Dane County Highway K west of Middleton.These men had survived three of the bloodiest battles in World War II - Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima.

The Hunters were guests at the annual reunion of the division's Badgerland Chapter No. 30 at the invitation of Walter Gojmerac, a UW-Madison professor ofentomology. Gojmerac earned a Ph.D. under the GI Bill after living through the battles of Saipan and Iwo Jima as a Marine.

While I did not know these former Marines then, I had shared 10 days with them on Iwo Jima. I was there as a SEABEE combat correspondent while they were fighting on that pipsqueak little volcanic island that was to cost so many American and Japanese casualties.

The big shots had promised that Iwo would be won in three days. Six weeks later men were still dying on both sides of the battlelines.

One of the veterans, Norman Overland, 5047 W. Clayton Rd., a retired Oscar Mayer worker, won Purple Hearts on both Saipan and Iwo Jima. Sunday he reminded me that I had covered a moving mass ceremony in Hawaii where Overlandand 300 members of the 4th Division were awarded Purple Hearts for wounds sustained on Iwo.

Overland was hit by shrapnel while watching the American flag being raised on Mount Suribachi, an event captured in a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo by AP Photographer Joe Rosenthal. That picture came to symbolize U.S. battlefield heroism in World War II..

``I got hit watching the flag go up,'' Overland said. The Japanese defenders ``were pretty mad when the flag was raised.'' The embattled Japanese defenders opened up with a barrage of mortar fire.

``Most of the men you see here today all have Purple Hearts,'' Clayton Chipman, Brookfield, told a questioner. ``If you weren't wounded, you were dead.''

Florence Fons, the wife of veteran Robert Fons, drew smiles from fellow-picnickers. She wore a bright red T-shirt which bore the slogan: ``The only thing tougher than being a Marine is being married to one.''

Olga Nelson Koberstein was an 18-year-old senior at Madison's West High when she started writing letters to a teen-age east-sider - Joe Koberstein. Koberstein, a Company C machine gunner, had enlisted at 17.

Joe had never met Olga, but their correspondence sparked a romance. They were married in Madison at war's end. They have now retired to a farm near Grand Marsh.

``The women keep this association going,'' said one of the veterans.

``The battles made us a family,'' said Edward Krohn, Milwaukee. ``We never forget the men we left behind.''

But Sunday many of these aging veterans and their wives spent most of the afternoon bragging about grandchildren. The war that brought them together was rarely mentioned.

The 4th Division was disbanded in 1945 at the end of the war.

You would never have suspected it at Sunday's gathering at the Schafers. The ``Fighting Fourth'' is still very much alive.

``It is good to get back with the guys,'' Overland said as the party began to break up.
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Old 10-15-2006, 12:00 PM
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The boy in the 1941 yearbook, and how he became a man
Posted: May 25, 2004
Crocker Stephenson

Russell Kohloff picked up his high school yearbook Tuesday, and it's about time: Kohloff, who is 82 years old, graduated from Wauwatosa High School in 1941.

Kohloff had been glad to get out of high school. He was ready to get on with the business of life. He was ready to see the world.

He hadn't been much of anywhere. Once, his family went to Wisconsin Dells. Once, when he was 16, he tried to sleep over at a friend's house, but he got so homesick that he called his mother in the middle of the night and asked her to come get him.

Kohloff had a next-door neighbor, Frankie, who wanted to join the Marines. Kohloff and some friends went over to the recruitment center. They were going to all sign up together. But the Marines wouldn't take Frankie. He was 5-foot-1 1/2. To be a Marine, you had to be at least 5-foot-2. Kohloff and his friends strapped Frankie between the bumpers of two cars, and tried to stretch him out. It didn't work, but the recruiter was so impressed, Frankie got in.

Kohloff landed on Iwo Jima on Feb. 19, 1945. His landing craft tipped over on the way in, and Kohloff was dumped into the ocean strapped to more than 65 pounds of equipment. He dropped his rifle, his boots, his helmet, his backpack, his ammunition and swam to shore. He crawled onto the beach with nothing but what he was wearing - a shirt and a pair of pants.

He harvested equipment from the dead men around him. A rifle from one guy. Boots from another. He tried to pull the helmet off one soldier.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" the soldier yelled.

"Sorry," Kohloff said. "I thought you were dead."

Kohloff fought on Iwo Jima for more than a month. He watched the flags raised on Mount Suribachi. There were weeks of combat still ahead. When Kohloff saw the flags go up, he was thinking the same thing he was thinking when his landing craft dumped him into the ocean: I've got to figure out a way to stay alive.

Some 7,000 Allied soldiers died on Iwo Jima. It is an appalling number, but consider: World War II veterans are now dying at a rate of more than 1,000 a day. Time accomplishes what not even the fiercest army can: complete annihilation.

Kohloff didn't revisit his high school much after the war. But three years ago, he began visiting his school - now it's Wauwatosa East - around Memorial Day. A plaque that hangs in a foyer is engraved with the names of the 56 men and one woman who once attended the school and died in combat. Kohloff comes and salutes the plaque. It's a brief ceremony. Then Kohloff is gone.

But after Tuesday's ceremony, Principal William Stroud asked Kohloff to hold on for a moment, then gave him a copy of the 1941 Cardinal Pennant. Afterward, Kohloff sat down at a table and thumbed through the book. He found his senior picture on page 55.

The boy that he was looked out from the yearbook at the man that he had become. The boy he was, young, thin, handsome. A couple years older than the child who called his mom because he was homesick. A few years younger than the man who, in the heat of combat, unlaced the boots of a dead comrade and made them his own.

Kohloff looked at the picture, then shut the book.

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Old 10-15-2006, 12:16 PM
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Ed Krohn (inset) enlisted in the Marines right after graduating from Riverside High School in Milwaukee in 1943 and was assigned to an artillery squad. He was wounded on Iwo Jima in 1945.

"We weren't thinking about memorials over there. We were thinking about coming home, civilian life, raising a family."
- Ed Krohn, 79, of Brown Deer, who fought on Iwo Jima in 1945
From the 5/25/04 edition of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Photo by David Joles

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Old 10-29-2006, 02:36 AM
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Marine experienced battle of Iwo Jima firsthand

By Doug Zellmer
of The Northwestern October 26, 2006

At the time, Pete Weitz didn't know the fight for a volcanic island in the South Pacific would be an epic struggle with the Japanese.

The Battle of Iwo Jima one of the fiercest confrontations during World War II remains fresh for Weitz, 86, of Neenah, who had enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps.

The Japanese, he said, were "dug in" for the fight. There were no motivational speeches before they landed by ship at Iwo Jima, which is half way between Guam and Japan.

"All they told us is that the island had to be taken," Weitz said. "The Japanese put up a good resistance."

The battle began on Feb. 19, 1945 and about one month later Allied troops were victorious in taking the island, but it came with a price. More than 6,000 Americans died and more than 20,000 Japanese soldiers perished defending the island, according to World Book Encyclopedia.

Iwo Jima has been in the news of late with the release of the movie "Flags of Our Fathers." The movie is based on a New York Times Bestseller book about a man, who wants to learn more about his father, a medical corpsman in the Battle of Iwo Jima.

The movie opened Oct. 20 at some theaters nationally. Weitz said he plans to see the film.

"I want to find out how true it is," he said.

Oshkosh veteran Mike Flack, who served in the Army during the Vietnam War era, said he also plans to see the movie.

"It's part of history," he said. "I've seen 'Saving Private Ryan' and some of these filmmakers do a real good job making you feel like you're right there."

Weitz was part of the real struggle and said the Marines were on constant alert in their quest to take the island from the Japanese.

"We didn't sleep. We just kind of dozed. There were flares in the air constantly at night so we could see where the enemy was running," Weitz said.

It was a frightening time to say the least.

"We didn't know how long it was going to last. You didn't know if you were going to make it or not," he said.

The battle produced one of the most riveting images of war a photograph of five U.S. Marines and a Navy Corpsman, Appleton native John Bradley, hoisting an American flag on the top of Mount Suribachi.

Weitz said he talked with Bradley when the two were shipped out to a hospital after both had been injured in battle.

"He was a nice fellow, but was kind of quiet," he said. "We had both been hit, so we knew what it felt like."

Weitz has a purple heart for his wounds on display at the Military Veterans Museum at City Center in Oshkosh, where he volunteers. Also displayed at the museum what is believed to be a photo of him during the landing invasion on Iwo Jima.

Weitz was wounded on Iwo Jima when an enemy bullet struck him in the buttocks.

"It glanced off of a bone and sailed out. Boy, was I glad," he said.

Doug Zellmer: (920) 426-6667 or
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