WWII Marine Veteran remembers the battle for Iwo Jima 74 years later

MEDFORD, Ore – March 26th, 2019 marks the 74th anniversary of the end of battle for Iwo Jima.

The 5-week long invasion of the Japanese island helped shape the outcome of World War II in the Pacific.

It’s been nearly 75 years since he first set foot on the black sands of Iwo Jima Island, but World War II veteran Delbert Littrell remembers it as if it were yesterday.

“They weren’t on the island, they were in it, they had tunnels all the way through there,” said Littrell.

The 5-week battle for Iwo Jima, a small but strategically significant volcanic island off the coast of Japan, cost thousands of American lives, including many in Littrell’s artillery unit.

“We all made it to the beach, but there’s only 12 of 25 that made it to the objective at the airport,” said Littrell.

The Marine had already been through three invasions in the Pacific Theater, including the Marshall Islands and Saipan. But this invasion was different.

“Marine division… we went overseas. We were 20,000 men. By the time we got through with Iwo Jima, 18,000 had been either wounded or killed,” he said.

At 95-years-old, he still can’t understand why he was one of the lucky 2,000 uninjured.

“Three times we got hit, and there’s six of us in the gun pit—three got hit, three didn’t—things like that you can’t explain it.”

Having repelled the Japanese from Iwo Jima at enormous cost, he was set to head home. But instead, Littrell returned to the front lines.

“Doctor said, ‘You catch the first ship back to the states.’ First ship that came along was going to Okinawa with replacements, so I went to Okinawa instead. That’s where I was when the war ended,” he said.

Littrell says that was his job—fighting for his country.

“Guy said, ‘How did you go through fire and hit the beach?’ Well, once you started, you couldn’t go back,” he said.

As we approach the 74th anniversary of the end of the battle that shaped the course of the war this March 26th, Marine Delbert Littrell remembers his service and why he never turned his back. He said, “You’re there do a job and we tried to do it.”

On his 95th birthday last month, Littrell was honored by local veterans groups for his service overseas.

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Matt Jordan is the Chief Meteorologist for KOBI-TV NBC5. Matt joined the NBC5 weather team in 2014 after a year as a reporter and anchor in Alexandria, Louisiana. His experience with the severe weather of the Deep South and a love of the Pacific Northwest led him to pursue a certification with Mississippi State University as a Broadcast Meteorologist. You can find Matt working in the evenings of NBC5 News at 5, 6 and 11 as well as online. Matt also has a degree in Journalism from the University of Oregon. In addition to being passionate about news and weather, Matt is a BIG Oregon Ducks fan. When not rooting for the Ducks or tracking down the next storm over the Pacific, Matt can be found outdoors in the Oregon wilderness with his wife, his daughter and their dogs Stanley and Gordi.
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