75 Years ago this week Donald H. Dufault, the son of my great aunt Alice (Duty) Dufault, the divorced mother's only child, landed on the Pacific Island known as Iwo Jima. He would be killed in action two weeks later on March 5, 1945.
First to the Aleutians, then two invasions of the Marshall Islands, later on to the invasion of Saipan where he was wounded and would request to rejoin his unit - Company B 1st Battalion 23rd Marines 4th Marine Division less than 3 weeks later.
|Members of the 1st Battalion 23rd Marines on Yellow Beach 1 Mt. Suribachi in the background|
On February 19, 1945 Pfc. Dufault would be one of 800 1st Battalion Marines landing on Yellow Beach. United States committed forces numbered 110,000 vs Japan with 21,000. But with the Japanese Imperial Army having a strategic advantage of the high ground and being well dug in with pillbox and cave complex the invasion would cost 6,821 US servicemen their lives.
By the time the US Ensign was raised by Sailors and Marines on Mount Sirbachi the Japanese force would be reduced to 216 prisoners and 3,000 who escaped the battle and went into hiding. They would continue to fight for weeks after the invasion became an occupation and were eventually captured, killed or succumbed to their wounds.
Pfc. Dufault was killed by a sniper's bullet from one of the 3000 who continued to fight to the end.
In 1945 your notification wasn't a visit from an Officer and Navy Chaplin and later a consolatory phone call from the president, rather a straight forward telegram, just slightly more personal than today's email, that was hand delivered by a courier or left on your door should if you were not at home.
|The Western Union Telegram Delivered On March 27, 1945|
(In 1945 next of kin notification that it wasn't right away or the next day, in fact as the above telegram shows notification was nearly a month after my Great Aunt's son was killed in action.)
The local paper learned of the news and published this report.
Two weeks later she received this letter from her son:
Oddly enough the letter is dated 3 days after Pfc. Dufault was killed on Iwo Jima. Perhaps in the "fog of war" the days ran together or the date he was killed was simply recorded in error.
The following letter was written by a fellow Marine 3 months later and it took nearly a month to reach Donald's mother. Notice the "Naval Censor" stamp in the lower left corner of the envelope below. The letter details how Pfc. Dufault was killed by a Japanese sniper.
October 14, 1948, more than three years after his death the letter below was received along with a Presidential Unit Citation bar with two stars and the Asiatic - Pacific Campaign Medal. This was added to her collection of two Purple Hearts and other service medals.
The citation (below) maybe the most concise account of the five week battle (19 February – 26 March 1945) to take the volcanic island of Iwo Jima at a cost of 26,040 total casualties, in all 6,821 US Sailors and Marines were killed and 19,217 wounded.
|The above description of the events is epic!|
On January 31, 1949 Pfc. Donald Dufault's remains where returned to his home town of Marion Illinois, nearly 4 years after his death.
Two years later Post 980 was dedicated in his honor.
|Dedication of American Legion Post #980 Chicago|
Pfc. Donald H Dufault became a Marine on October 3, 1940 and served in Alaska, Aleutian Islands, before participating in two invasions of the Marshall Islands, being wounded during the taking the island of Saipan (Now part of the Mariana Islands a US Territory) in June of 1944 and finally the successful capture by US Marines of Iwo Jima in February of 1945.
The certificate signed by President Roosevelt reads in part:
He stands in the unbroken line of patriots who have dared to die
that freedom might live, and grow, and increase its blessings.
Freedom lives and through it, he lives -
In a way that humbles the undertakings of most men
Cedar's take: There are times when I tire of hearing "thank you for your service" you see, saluting the national ensign and enjoying a 3 day leave nearly every weekend for 8 years ain't shit. Spending the final four years of your life chasing an enemy across the Pacific from island to island because you are a Marine that's service, that's a hero who deserves your thank you!