Glenwood Veteran Travels to D.C. To Mark 75th Anniversary Of Battle Of Iwo Jima
It’s been 75 years now, but Linnwood Estates resident Herman Vohs still has vivid memories of the day he and the rest of the crew aboard the USS Putnam arrived off the shore of Iwo Jima to provide support for the U.S. Marines who had begun an amphibious invasion of the Pacific island controlled by the Imperial Army of Japan.
The five-week Battle of Iwo Jima, which began on Feb. 19, 1945, was one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific phase of World War II, but U.S. forces eventually captured the island and secured its airfields from Japanese troops.
“I actually saw the first flag that went up,” Vohs, a 1944 Glenwood High School graduate, said during a recent interview. “It wasn’t really a flag. It was a T-shirt on a stick. I imagined it was a T-shirt off a dead marine.
“After the first wave of troops went in, we stayed out in the water to protect the second wave. That was part of our duty.”
The Putnam was anchored near Iwo Jima for four days. Vohs, a navy gun mount captain, said another duty of the ship’s crew was to shoot shells at the openings of the tunnel system the Japanese army had built across the island.
“I don’t know how many we shot,” he said. “One of them shot at us and two bullets hit the water in front of the ship. The next one whistled right over the ship.”
Vohs was on the Putnam for about two years. After leaving Iwo Jima, the ship sailed to Okinawa, where the vessel was the target of Japanese “suicide planes.” It also sailed to Wakayama and Tokyo Bay before returning to California after the war had ended. The ship received three battle stars for its WWII service.
Last month, Vohs traveled to Washington, D.C., where he and 30 other veterans took part in the Iwo Jima Association of America’s 75th anniversary commemoration of the battle. The four-day event included visits to the Air and Space Museum, Marine Corps Museum and the Iwo Jima Memorial. There were also programs with guest speakers and opportunities for the Iwo Jima veterans to share stories of their experiences with one another and active-duty military personnel.
“There were some Army, some Navy, some Air Force and some Marines there,” Vohs said. “It was a good experience. We had police escorts when we went somewhere and they would stop the traffic.”
Vohs was joined on the trip to Washington by his son, Dave.