Louisville veteran shares memories from battle at Iwo Jima - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Louisville veteran shares memories from battle at Iwo Jima

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- February 19 marks 73 years since US forces began the battle to capture the Japanese island of Iwo Jima. A Louisville man survived that bloody battle, and is sharing his living history.

At 92 years old, some of Jack Wessling's memories aren't as sharp as they once were. Others are as vivid as if they happened yesterday.

"Eleanor Roosevelt was right when she said war is hell. And it is," said Wessling.

Seventy-three years ago, Wessling was one of 70,000 Marines who landed on Iwo Jima. "I didn't even know how to spell Iwo Jima," he said.

Wessling was just 20 years old and unaware of what waited for him as he stepped onto the tiny Japanese island.

"It was Red Beach right here at the bottom of Suribachi," said Wessling. "You stepped on it and you went in about that deep."

The 3rd Battalion, 26th Marines, 5th Marine Division made landfall on February 19, 1945. He was walking into the darkness and his first taste of combat.

"You don't know what a war zone is until you're there. You can't describe it.," said Wessling. "We lost 6,000 Marines in 35 days."

As a member of the communications platoon, he made four trips between the front-lines and the battleships, never knowing what would happen next.

"You have to look this way, this way and this way and the back of you for 35 days," Wessling said.

And on the fourth day, Wessling watched as an iconic image played out. "So that's where I was when they raised that flag. I turned around and saw that. We had a big hoopla," he said.

On March 25, Wessling made it off the island. Once the war ended, he returned to Louisville, married and had three kids. He lived his day-to-day life as a father and a husband, pushing the memories aside. But every year as the anniversary approaches, he can't help but think of those left behind.

"They talk about heroes, they're the ones over there. Not me. I'm just a survivor," Wessling said.

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