72 years ago February 19, 1945 Marines landed on the beaches of the Japanese owned island Iwo Jima. Soldiers walked the beach, there was not a sound. The silence did not last long as the Japanese had been waiting for that moment and began shooting down. One day later my grandfather Jerry Budd came to shore and entered a battle in progress. It was raining bullets and the only time there was silence was at night in his fox hole. My grandpa described his experience those first few days as Hell on Earth. He later said that the smell of death was so strong as bodies began piling up. He had many close calls, but was saved by what we can only say as divine intervention.

Jerry Budd on Iwo Jima 1945

February 23, 1945 my grandpa witnessed both flag raisings on Mount Suribachi. In fact he stated that the first flag raising was much more emotional, though the second flag got a lot more attention by the public. As soon as the soldiers saw the red, white and blue flying on top of the mountain they all cheered. They overtook Mount Suribachi, but the battle was far from over.

Jerry's first letter he sent home from Iwo Jima

72 years ago today my grandpa wrote this letter, the first he sent from Iwo Jima, to his fiancé, my grandma. He could not tell her where he was, but he described his hardships.

“Somewhere in the Pacific
Feb. 28, 1945
My Dearest Sweetheart:
Darling, I have finally arrived at my destination. And some place it is too. I’ve been on some desolate, miserable islands since I’ve been in the army, but this one tops them all. As you might suspect, I’m in the thick of it again in an active combat zone. We are having a pretty hot time of it. Right now I am writing this letter from my fox hole. It is a little cramped, but it’s the safest place to be.
I would liked to have written you several days ago when we first arrived on the island, but circumstances made that impossible. In fact I’m just stealing a few moments now to write to you and mom to let you know I am still alive and as well as can be expected. Already conditions are improving on the island over the first few days, so I hope I will be able to write to you a little more regularly from now on. Naturally I can’t mention the name of the island I am on, but if you have been following the news lately you should be able to just about guess. It’s no paradise, I can tell you that. It is always so dusty that a person can hardly breathe, there is no vegetation to speak of, and it smells from one end to the other. About the only thing I can say in its favor is that it’s cool at night. However the climate doesn’t compensate for all its disadvantages. I’ll take any other island I’ve ever been on Guam, Eniwetok, Makin, Funafuti, Oahu, and yes, even Canton.
Honey, I am thinking of you every moment of the day and night. Even at those times when it looks and sounds like the world is coming to an end. But even at such a time as that, a man likes to think of home and of those he loves. It makes it easier and you know then what all we are fighting for. I’ve been very fortunate these past days and I feel I’ve really been blessed, and believe me darling, I’m thankful, even though I do seem to be complaining about conditions here.
Remember my darling that I love you so very very much and I’ll always be looking forward to that wonderful day when we may once again be reunited. Please try not to worry about me sweetheart. The worst is over with now and I have every hope and confidence that I’ll come back to you as I left. So-long for now my darling.
All my love,

Picture from on top of Mount Suribachi late in 1945

The major battle lasted until March 26, 1945, but things were still long from over. My grandpa stayed searching and fighting on Iwo Jima until October of that year. There is so much more to his story,  It is beautiful, and tragic, with a lot of miracles. My grandpa Gerald LeNore Budd was a hero. I miss him every day. I miss his stories and most of all I miss his laugh. I have written and rewritten his story and I will always share it. Thank you to all the men who served our country and especially those who lost their lives on a small island in the Pacific.