Veterans Return To Iwo Jima 65 Years Later: Seago's Story
(April 10, 2010)
Lewis H. Seago
| ||OKINAWA, Japan (MCN - 4/8/2010)|
The Battle of Iwo Jima has been called one of the bloodiest battles of World War II. It is often looked at as a battle of pure bloodshed and all-out war, but to Lewis H. Seago, the battle was more than blood and bullets.
"It was one hell of a learning experience," said Seago, an 85-year-old Iwo Jima survivor. "Through all of the sniper fire and mortar rounds, I really found out who I was on that island."
|Sixty-five years after the historic flag raising at the summit of Mount Suribachi, the memory of that moment is still clear to Seago.|
"When the flag went up, there was such a huge cheer that it could be heard all over the island and on the nearby ships," he exclaimed. "We were so happy because, even with all of the sniper fire and mortar rounds, we knew then we would win the war."
On March 3, Seago returned to Iwo Jima, now known as Iwo To, with 10 other veterans with the Greatest Generation Foundation for the 65th anniversary of the battle that killed approximately 29,000 people.
"I couldn't believe it was the same island we had fought on," he said. "The amazing thing was to actually see vegetation growing."
Seago was accompanied by Annie Darnell, 20, of the College of the Ozarks Patriotic Education Program located in Point Lookout, Mo.
"This was a really cool experience," she said. "I learned a lot about the war from talking to Lou and being able to see the island firsthand."
Seago was a field radio operator with Marine Air Assault Warning Squadron 5 from September 1943 to June 1946 and was released from active duty as a "Buck Sgt," equivalent to a modern day corporal, he says.
The Cleburne, Texas, native, said he joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1943 to beat the draft.
"I knew if I didn't enlist, I would be drafted," he said with a smile. Then he whispered with a youthful look on his face, "I really did not want to be drafted."
Before enlisting, Seago worked for nine months at an aircraft manufacturing plant so he instinctively wanted to be a Naval aviator.
"When I went down to the drafting office, I saw this crusty old man sitting behind the desk, and I asked him if I could be a pilot. I still remember his voice when he screeched out, 'Sorry son. We're all filled up,' so I told him to put me into the Marines," he said.
Upon graduating recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Seago went into the aviation field, but not as a pilot.
"They assigned me as an aviation mechanic because of my background with aircraft," Seago said. "It was really dull, but the liberty was good."
Seago, who also fought in the Battle of Saipan and landed on Iwo Jima during the third day of the battle, said he soon realized he didn't want to be a mechanic, so he began searching for another specialty. His search landed him as a radio operator.
"Fighting takes on a whole new meaning with a 40-pound radio strapped to your back," Seago said with a chuckle.
During his experiences of World War II, Seago said he had numerous close calls.
"We were in a fighting hole near the base of Mount Suribachi when an enemy bombing run came over our positions. We heard a loud whistling noise and then a thud. When we got out of our foxhole in the morning, we realized that there was a 300-pound bomb about 15 feet from us that didn't explode," Seago said, solemn faced while fidgeting with his untouched cup of coffee. "I attribute my safe return to more than luck. It had to be my prayers being answered. During the war, there are no atheists in a foxhole."
Upon his discharge from the Marine Corps in 1946, Seago attained a bachelor's degree in business and soon went into the oil industry as a creditor.
Seago said being able to come back to Iwo Jima after 65 years was a humbling experience for him.
"It was amazing to be able to come back here and see the island at peace," he said. "I wouldn't have traded this experience for anything."
Article by USMC Cpl. Monty Burton, Marine Corps Bases Japan
Photo by MCBJ PAO
Reprinted from Marine Corps News
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