Iwo Jima–
26th Marines

casualties and strength

The 26th Marines was one of the infantry regiments of the 5th Marine Division. It mounted out from Hilo, Hawaii from 1-4 January 1945. Sailing on ships of Transport Division 46, the regiment arrived off Iwo Jima's shores early in the morning of 19 February 1945. The 26th was assigned as the Corps reserve for the initial phase of the assault on Iwo Jima. During the afternoon and evening of D-Day, it landed across the 5th MarDiv's beaches. Beginning on D+1, the 26th Marines began offensive combat operations.

The Special Action Report dated 20 April 1945 described the campaign as a "slow moving assault on permanent fortifications, affording little maneuver opportunities. Casualties were high; individuals and units spent long periods in front line contact and reserves could rarely be withheld by lower echelons. During the initial phase the entire zone of advance was relatively flat and under enemy observation, and the major source of casualties was skillfully placed mortar and artillery fire. On gaining the high ground, these fires had decreased considerably, and the problem thereafter was one of such close contact with the enemy system of caves and pillboxes in rugged terrain that effective fire support could only be provided by tanks."

The table below was extracted directly from the above mentioned Special Action Report. It shows the changing fortunes of a regiment trying to sustain its strength while engaged in continuous combat. It reflects only Marines assigned to the 26th Marines. When the 26th departed from Camp Tarawa, it left a rear party of 12 officers and 120 Marines behind who are not counted in the regiment's strength reporting for Iwo Jima. These were likely Marines who were ill, or were needed to keep Camp Tarawa functioning during the 5th MarDiv's absence.

Under Table of Organization F-10, which was in effect for the 26th Marines during the Iwo Jima Operation, a Marine infantry regiment was authorized 129 commissioned officers, 8 warrant officers and 3,044 enlisted Marines for a total of 3,181 Marines. Also authorized, but not included in the table, were the Naval medical personnel assigned to the regiment. These included 11 Naval commissioned officers and 134 enlisted medical personnel, for a total of 145 Sailors.

On 19 February 1945 the 26th Marines was carrying 3,256 Marines on its muster roll. This was an overage of 75 Marines above the authorized strength. Most of these were excess officers assigned in anticipation of casualties. The regiment was able to sustain its strength fairly well through the first week in March as replacements were fed in to replace some of the losses.

When the 5th MarDiv ran out of replacements on 10 March, the line regiments were on their own to keep their line strengths at some kind of effective level. In any event, the number of replacements was never enough to make for up losses the 26th Marines was taking in the grinding combat of Iwo Jima. And the small number of Marines who returned to duty were not a factor in the wearing away of the regiment as it fought through the final phase of the operation.

On D+34 when the 26th Marines accomplished its final mission, there were 1,468 Marines left standing in its ranks. This was 45% of the regiment's strength when it landed on D-Day.

Military planners considered an outfit "combat ineffective" after it had absorbed 30% or higher casaulties. They forgot to mention this to the Marines of the 26th, or to the other seven Marine infantry regiments on Iwo Jima. Every one of them had casualty levels similar to those illustrated below. Somehow, they found a way to go on day after day, to the next objective, the next hill, the next pillbox. On and on they went, until the end. They did it for their buddies, for their beloved leaders–because they were Marines.

26th Marines daily effective strength, casualties and replacements
Date
Effective strength
Daily casualties
Replacements
Return to duty
 
Off
Enl
Off
Enl
Off
Enl
Off
Enl
19 Feb 45 146
3110
0
0
0
0
0
0
20 Feb 45
145
3052
1
58
0
0
0
0
21 Feb 45
142
3039
3
13
0
0
0
0
22 Feb 45
137
2944
5
95
0
0
0
0
23 Feb 45
135
2818
2
126
0
0
0
0
24 Feb 45
114
2486
21
332
0
0
0
0
25 Feb 45
112
2411
2
75
0
0
0
0
26 Feb 45
111
2272
1
139
0
0
0
0
27 Feb 45
106
2159
5
113
0
0
0
0
28 Feb 45
107
2158
3
43
4
42
0
0
1 Mar 45
116
2474
1
69
10
385
0
0
2 Mar 45
114
2486
4
46
2
58
0
0
3 Mar 45
110
2247
8
273
2
0
2
34
4 Mar 45
104
2049
6
205
0
0
0
7
5 Mar 45
101
2041
3
27
0
0
0
19
6 Mar 45
107
2167
1
0
6
165
1
10
7 Mar 45
102
2050
7
126
0
0
2
9
8 Mar 45
101
1986
1
74
0
0
1
10
9 Mar 45
99
2019
3
84
1
115
0
2
10 Mar 45
93
2028
6
120
0
115
0
29
11 Mar 45
93
1966
4
44
0
2
4
10
12 Mar 45
94
1898
2
119
0
0
3
21
13 Mar 45
94
1861
1
43
0
0
1
6
14 Mar 45
89
1780
5
89
0
0
0
8
15 Mar 45
89
1678
0
122
0
0
0
20
16 Mar 45
88
1612
1
80
0
0
0
14
17 Mar 45
86
1570
2
78
0
0
0
36
18 Mar 45
86
1570
0
21
0
0
0
21
19 Mar 45
82
1542
4
46
0
0
0
18
20 Mar 45
81
1507
1
41
0
0
0
6
21 Mar 45
82
1507
0
27
0
0
0
5
22 Mar 45
81
1465
0
23
0
0
0
3
23 Mar 45
80
1465
1
17
0
0
0
10
24 Mar 45
80
1434
0
27
0
0
0
3
25 Mar 45
80
1388
0
521
0
0
0
5


A FEW OF THE MARINES BEHIND THE NUMBERS

(left) Some of the Marines in
1st Plt, Co. H, 3/26 at Camp Tarawa before they left for Iwo Jima

Standing L-R
Pvt Tom Williams, WIA
Cpl Nic Hernandez, KIA
Pfc Joe Pagac, WIA
Kneeling–Cpl Ben Parra, WIA

Cpl Hernandez,of Los Angeles, Calif., was killed on 8 March 1945 and was awarded a posthumous Navy Cross.
Courtesy Tom Williams

NOTE: If you have information about Cpl Hernandez' family, please e-mail me. I would like to contact them.

Navy Cross citation for Corporal Nicolas Hernandez, USMCR

Through Tom Williams, I met Craig Leman, the platoon leader for 1st Platoon, H 3/26. He recommended Cpl Hernandez for the Navy Cross. The following is from a letter where Craig describes Nic and his actions on Iwo Jima in the fateful days of February-March, 1945–Mark

March 15th, 2005

"…about ten days into the operation, first platoon was down to 22 men, and, as a Corporal fire-team leader, [Nic Hernandez]was the senior NCO left. The Company Commander appointed him acting platoon leader, and he led the outfit till I arrived a day or two later. He oriented me efficiently and professionally, introduced me to the fire team and assault and machine gun squad leaders, and worked as platoon sergeant for the next five days. On March 7 he took a leading role in the fire-fight at the cave, fighting at close quarters. At one point, he and several others engaged in a grenade fight with a larger number of Japanese who were fighting from a trench at the rear entrance to the cave, keeping up a heavy fire against our platoon which was behind a ridge just above the enemy. The Jap[anese] grenades were flying over our heads and landing in the gully below us, whereas we could roll ours or lob them down the ridge slope to explode in their trench. We held them for three seconds after pulling the pin so they didn't have time to toss them back. At one point, the return fire from them was so heavy that we had to duck down behind the ridge. I remember Nick took off his helmet, hoisted it up, and pulled it back with a bullet hole in it. I remember that, later, he was able to take a quick look over the edge and then, with a terrible troubled expression on his face, fire a couple of quick rounds and follow it with a grenade. Nick was efficient and intelligent and courageous throughout this fierce encounter. A few minutes later, he was almost buried in the explosion,bruised and shaken up, but he stayed with the outfit and kept going till he was killed by a bullet in the head while we were trying to attack the next morning. I thought Nick deserved the Navy Cross if anybody did. He did his job well and, in my eyes, manifested extraordinary heroism.

Craig"

Note: The official casualty report for Corporal Hernandez listed his cause of death as "extreme multiple wounds." He was buried in Grave 2031, Row 3, Plot 8 in the 5th MarDiv Cemetery. In 1947, his family requested that he be returned to the United States for final burial at Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles.


(left) Pfc James J. Williams, KIA
Co. H 3/26 from Grantsville, Utah
He died on 15 March 1945 and was awarded a posthumous Silver Star for gallantry in action.
His nickname was "J.J."

J.J. had a daughter, Jaylynne, who was born just two weeks after his death. His best Marine Corps buddy, Bill Vanderver, survived Iwo Jima and after the war, married Jaylynne's mom.

Information courtesy Tom Williams,
J.J.'s buddy in H 3/26

Courtesy Tom Williams


(left) 1st Lt Angelo "Charlie" Cona, KIA
of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Platoon Commander in Co. H, 3/26

Beloved by his Marines, Charlie was killed on
22 February 1945 by a gunshot wound to his head near Motoyama #1. He was buried in Grave 631, Row 2, Plot 3 in the 5th MarDiv Cemetery. He was later awarded a posthumous Navy Cross.

In 1947, Charlie was returned home to Holy Cross Cemetery in Brooklyn, NY.

Courtesy Tom Williams


(left) Pvt Franklin Sigler, WIA
of Glen Ridge, NJ
Co. F 2/26

As a rifleman, Pvt Sigler took over his squad when his sergeant was hit. He led his squad in a furious assault on Japanese positions. He was seriously wounded, but refused evacuation until given a direct order to go to the rear. He recovered from his wounds and received the Medal of Honor for heroism above and beyond the call of duty. He later returned
to Co. F for the occupation of Japan.

National Archives

Photo at top of page: Marines of 3/26 loading the USS Darke at Hilo, Hawaii, 1 Jan 45 USMC

SOURCES:
26th Marines Special Action Report for Iwo Jima
The Spearhead
Interview with Tom Williams

IWO JIMA–THE COST

SPOTLIGHT ON IWO JIMA INDEX

 

 

This site is owned & maintained by Mark Flowers, copyright 2004, all rights reserved.