‘Freedom is not free;’ World War II Veteran remembers battle of Iwo Jima

Feb. 19, 2020 marks 75th anniversary since invasion

On February 19, 1945 the U.S. invaded the island of Iwo Jima -- one of the deadliest battles of World War II that took the lives of almost 7,000 marines.

Arthur H. Shearer enlisted in the Marine Corps in August 1942 when he was 17 years old. Despite his mother’s concerns, he felt it was his calling to serve his country.

“They were the toughest. I thought if I could get in the Marine Corp., I have it made. Of course, I had no idea what I was getting into, but I’ve never regretted it,” Shearer said.

Seventy-five years after one of the biggest battles of his life, he recalls some of the images embedded in his memory of World War II when he was part of the invasion of the four islands in the Pacific.

“We couldn’t believe what we were seeing. women holding their children in their arms their hands jumping off the cliff. Those that tried to come back to us got shot,” the 94-year-old recalled. “The Japanese shot 'em or threw them off the cliff....any marine that was there will never forget it. It’s horrifying to see something like that go on.”

He started with a 2-day battle on the Marshall Islands.

"We thought: Is this all the Japanese have to offer? We have it made. Boy, were we wrong. ‘Cause the next was Saipan and that’s what started everything," he said.

The Marine’s next battle was on the island of Saipan in 1944.

"We got trapped on the beach in Saipan we couldn't move and then Iwo, and I just thought by only by the grace of God am I here today," he said. "You'd be laying down on the ground for cover or something, talking to your buddy and all of a sudden you look over and he's dead."

Arthur said he felt God was also on his shoulder with a near-miss from a bullet.

Honors and medals belonging to U.S. Marine Corps Arthur Shearer
Honors and medals belonging to U.S. Marine Corps Arthur Shearer

“It went inside of my helmet, went around the helmet come out the other end,” he said. “Iwo was the bloodiest battle in the history of the Marine Corp and some considered it the bloodiest in WWII because of the island’s 5 miles long and a mile and half wide and we had so many casualties.”

A few days before the end of the battle, one of the most iconic images was taken on. Six U.S. Marines raising an American flag on Mount Suribachi.

“That meant a lot to all of us seeing that flag go up," Shearer said.

Among the items, Arthur saved from the war is a Japanese flag he risked his life to grab from a pole and his bayonet which was attached to his rifle. He says during his boot camp training he didn’t know why they had to use sandbags but once out on the field he soon discovered why.

“You were holding your rifle like this-- jab back and forth to whatever was necessary,” he remembered.

A story of patriotism Shearer hopes will never be forgotten.

" I don’t think young people today appreciate the freedom that they have or why they have it," he said. “Freedom is not free. There’s a price and a lot of people paid that price. I was fortunate. I got wounded but I’m still living.”

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