Home / U.S / Pieces of Iwo Jima: Missoula male left with memories, memorabilia from WWII …

Pieces of Iwo Jima: Missoula male left with memories, memorabilia from WWII …

Ray Sexton was a imitation child for fight bonds, a Navy Seabee with intrinsic care skills, and a male who during age 91 still has a prevalent bad dream that turns 70 this month.

It was Mar of 1945 on a as-yet unsecured Japanese island of Iwo Jima in a South Pacific. Americans from a U.S. Naval 106 Construction Battalion piled onto a flatbed lorry for a mile-plus expostulate to a site of a destiny airstrip, to make a brush for land mines.

“The flatbed would reason about 20 guys. we was advantageous adequate that there wasn’t any room left on a truck,” Sexton removed final week in his home of 37 years in Upper Miller Creek. “They didn’t get median before it blew adult and killed each one of them.”

For his friends and associate Seabees on a lorry there was no time to register what happened, no time to write to their girls behind home, no time to philosophize about fight and peace, to pitch to Tommy Dorsey, to crippled a cigarette or appreciate Mom and Dad.

“There wasn’t a one of them that wasn’t killed,” Sexton pronounced somberly. “In fact, there wasn’t any that lived a notation after a explosion.”

He and another male were maybe 50 yards away, following on foot. The blast knocked them both down. Sexton’s co-worker was carrying a cave detector that was driven into his swell with such ferocity it roughly killed him too. Sexton suffered a concussion and depends himself a propitious man.

But he wonders, with that unfathomable, perfunctory shame that haunts so many fight veterans, because he was spared to accommodate Glenda in Oregon years later, to lift a family and see grandchildren and great-grandchildren born.

By a 1970s, Sexton was conduct of upkeep during Van Evans Lumber in Missoula and Champion Plywood in Bonner, supervising indent crews of as many as 80 men.

Glenda, who upheld divided final July, was a ruin of a golfer, Ray said. Together they trafficked to play Myrtle Beach and Palm Springs. The University of Montana march was their home range, yet Sexton pronounced he’s won a 50-and-over contest during Missoula Highlands for 4 years running.

“I’m watchful for a deteriorate to open to start adult again,” he said. “I can still strike it 200 yards.”

So because him? Sexton wonders. Or, some-more often, because not him in that flatbed lorry on Iwo?

“One thing that unequivocally comes behind once in a while, generally during night, is how propitious we was for not being on that damn truck,” he said.


Ray Sexton was innate on Oct. 6, 1923. He grew adult in Portland, Oregon, and during age 18 enlisted in a Navy to equivocate being drafted into a Army. A journeyman machinist, he had a education a Seabees were looking for.

In Jul 1944, Sexton found himself in a “paradise” of Hawaii during a Pearl Harbor Naval Station. Six months later, a infantry were queuing adult to cruise aboard a reconfigured Liberty vessel to Iwo Jima when Sexton was asked to poise for a picture.

“There were, I’d say, 15 or 20 usually like me and we went adult one after another,” he recalled. “I don’t know because they picked me.”

The imitation of a handsome, helmeted infantryman clutching an attack purloin with eyes skyward to feat was among those a U.S. used to sell $185 million value of fight holds in World War II.

Sexton recalls examination from his vessel off a southeast seashore of Iwo Jima as American planes and afterwards warships rained down an complete bombardment.

He witnessed a initial, large Marine landings on a morning of Feb. 19 – a initial advance of Japanese dirt in history. Some 22,000 rivalry soldiers lay in wait on an island usually 5 miles long, yet a Americans primarily drew small opposition. It seemed a bombing had finished a job, Sexton said.

But when a beach conduct was filled with advancing Marines, a Japanese non-stop a inhuman invulnerability from heavily fortified positions related by 11 miles of subterraneous tunnels.

“Then,” he said, “it was usually a massacre.”

“Our vessel wasn’t too distant divided from one of a sanatorium ships. After a third day of landing, we could see one vessel after another installed with harmed bringing them out.”

Still, a attack teams done headway. Sexton didn’t see possibly American dwindle lifted on tip of Mount Suribachi on Day 5, yet he saw a second one flying. Joe Rosenthal’s sketch of a lifting stays one of a many iconic images in a story of war.

By a time Sexton’s section went ashore on Day 17 to build infrastructure for a American base, Suribachi had been effectively cut off from a rest of a island. He was a Machinist’s Mate 1st Class, yet his organisation called him “master sarge.” The dual dozen group in his association relied on his judgment.

“The whole association solely for some of a officers, they were all between 19 and mid-20s,” he said. “It seemed like many of them, generally a Eastern people, didn’t have any beginning to do something on their own. They had to be told what to expect. It usually came healthy to me.”

Their initial pursuit was to get bulldozers, trucks, ammunition and reserve to shore.

“The runways had to have mats, and we worked on that until all a mats and all a rigging were out,” Sexton said. “Then they started unloading Quonset hovel tools and building new Quonset huts.”

The conflict of Iwo Jima finished on Mar 26 after 35 days, yet pockets of insurgency remained – and so did a 106th.


Sexton spent a subsequent 5 months assisting use a bustling airstrips and American base. Just 650 atmosphere miles from Tokyo, Iwo Jima supposing a vicious mid-ocean participation for strikes on Japan’s mainland, including a bombing of Hiroshima on Aug. 5.

There were pale sights. A D8 bulldozer driven by a crony strike one of a thousands of wash-tub-sized land mines.

“You wouldn’t trust a force of that thing. You know how large a D8 is? It looked like a toy, usually tore it adult and forsaken it in a hole,” he said.

His crony survived for a few days before succumbing.

Japanese survivors remained a consistent threat.

“There were so damn many caves and they’d come out during night,” he said. “You had to be warning all a time.”

Sexton was among those called on to consult a caves and tunnels that had been vital buliding for a Japanese for months. Now they were strewn with bodies.

“You wouldn’t trust it,” he said. “They committed hari-kari and it looked like what they did is they took a grenade and pulled a pin in their belly.”

A narrow-gauge subterraneous tyrannise ran by a hovel complement to supply a large labyrinth.

Like many Americans, Sexton came behind from a fight with a cache of mementos from Iwo Jima – Japanese flags, swords, guns and drug pipes. Some of his collection was stolen on ship, and most of a rest he has given to a grandson, including a set of gold tiger-like fangs extracted from a mouth of a passed Japanese Imperial Marine.

He speculates that they were ingrained possibly to make a soldier demeanour extreme or as weapons in tighten combat.

One of Sexton’s group was unloading load from a vessel when he beheld a soldier with “Sexton” on his T-shirt.

“You got a hermit named Ray?” a Seabee asked.

Claude Sexton perceived accede to go ashore to see his comparison brother. Ray got accede to lapse to a vessel with Claude, where he spent a night of luxury.

“I got a showering and some decent food and a decent night’s sleep. We were still in foxholes during a time on a island,” pronounced Ray, who mislaid another hermit Donald during Guadalcanal progressing in a war. 

After a Japanese surrender, a 106th was sent to Yokosuka Naval Base, 60 miles from Tokyo. Sexton was director of 14 Japanese workers during a appurtenance emporium that had constructed torpedoes yet now built bicycles.

He remembers fondly how good a Americans were treated.

“They were all friendly,” he said. “Most of a people we encountered, even a troops, didn’t have any hate opposite us.”


But a war, and generally Iwo Jima, left scars.

“We were on strong H2O all that time, and it ate a calcium right off your teeth,” Sexton said. “I usually had one stuffing in a tooth when we went into a service. When we got out, each week we had to go get a filling, and it got so bad they wouldn’t stay in.”

He’s had a conduct full of fake teeth given 1951.

Sexton pronounced he wouldn’t or couldn’t speak about a fight until he sought diagnosis for anxiety. Why don’t we try celebration a potion of booze or a drink or two? a alloy asked.

“I’ve been celebration drink ever since,” Sexton said. “It unequivocally did (help).”

Seventy years later, he retains a clarity of achievement.

“I demeanour behind during some of a work we did and a group that we worked with,” he said. “They should be strong unapproachable of what they accomplished, and in my mind we feel flattering unapproachable that a group took me as a leader.”


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