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Archie H. Starnes

Corporal Archie H. Starnes, USMC
2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division
Pacific Campaigns: Kwajalein, Tinian, Iwo Jima

In early February 2020, on, I discovered some new information about my uncle, Archie H. Starnes, husband of my Aunt Doris Smith of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

During World War II, my uncle Archie was a 19 year old U.S. Marine in the 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division. Corporal Archie Starnes was a squad leader of U.S. Marines on Iwo Jima.

The year 2020 was the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima, one of the hardest fought Marine battles in the Pacific during the Second World War.

At that time, I happened to be watching the news on television and found out that Fox News anchor, Martha MacCallum, also had an uncle who was a Marine on Iwo Jima. She wrote a book, Uncommon Valor, that pays tribute to her uncle, Harry Gray, and the Marines who fought on Iwo Jima.

It was Navy Admiral, Chester Nimitz, who spoke of the “uncommon valor” of U.S. Marines. By the way, Martha MacCallum’s son, Reed Gregory, is a student at the University of Notre Dame, and a walk-on player on the Fighting Irish football team.

Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands

Island battles on the way to Iwo Jima

Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands

Between January 31 and February 3, 1944, my uncle, Corporal Archie Starnes, and his friends in the 14th Marines, fought their way through Japanese defenders on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

That was 76 years ago, this month. After the battle, American losses were 348 killed, 1,462 wounded, and 183 missing. Japanese losses were about 7,800 killed, and 253 captured.

I’m guessing that hardly anyone knows the whereabouts of Kwajalein. I had to look it up, too.

Kwajalein is an atoll (a ring shaped coral reef surrounding a lagoon) in the immensity of the Pacific Ocean. It is 2,100 nautical miles southwest of Hawaii, in a huge ocean area known as Micronesia.

Most of its English speaking residents are about 1,000 U.S. civilians who live in a total land area of just over six square miles.

It’s a U.S. Navy ballistic missile test site. I’m thinking, you probably wouldn’t like it, even though the deep sea fishing is fabulous.

Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands

Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands

Between July 24 and August 1, 1944, Corporal Archie Starnes was part of the 4th Marine Division that fought their way through Japanese defenders on Tinian in the Northern Mariana Islands.

By July 29, the Americans had captured half the island. Remnants of the Japanese defenders made a final stand in the caves and ravines of a limestone ridge on the southern part of the island.

After the battle, American losses were 326 killed, and 1,593 wounded. Japanese military losses were 5,542 soldiers killed, 252 captured, and 2,265 missing.

The Japanese garrison on Aguijan Island, off the southwest cape of Tinian, held out until the end of the war, and did not surrender until September 4, 1945.

The last Japanese soldier on Tinian, Murata Susumu, was captured in 1953.

About 4,000 Japanese civilians were dead through suicide, murdered by Japanese troops, or killed in combat. About 13,000 Japanese civilians were captured and interned.

Tinian is in the middle of nowhere in the western Pacific Ocean, about halfway between southern Japan and northern Australia. Its land area is about 39 square miles.

Tinian was formally annexed by Spain in 1669. Under Spanish rule, the island was developed into ranches for raising cattle and pigs to provision Spanish ships.

After the Spanish–American War of 1898, Tinian was occupied by the United States. Just to let you know how wonderful it is, the USA gave it back to Spain.

The Spanish then sold it to Germany in 1899. After the First World War, Japan gained control of Tinian in 1919.

Iwo Jima, the first battle of the Japanese home islands

Iwo Jima, the first battle of the Japanese home islands

Between February 19 and March 26, 1945, my uncle, Corporal Archie Starnes of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, fought in one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific War.

He was a Marine squad leader of young American men, fighting young Japanese men, in a place called Iwo Jima. That was 75 years ago. The battle for Iwo Jima lasted 36 days.

The arena of battle was a treacherous tunnel system under the ground. The fighting was simultaneously in front of the Marines, behind them, all around them, day and night, against an enemy they could not see.

The Marines used grenades, satchel charges, flame throwers, and superior firepower against a stubborn, tenacious enemy. The Japanese fought savagely and bravely from hidden spider holes, pillboxes, blockhouses, and caves.

Two out of every three U.S. Marines who fought on Iwo Jima were either killed or wounded in the battle. Corporal Archie Starnes and nearly all of his marines were wounded in the fight.

After the battle, American losses were 6,821 killed, 19,217 wounded, and two captured, but later recovered. The U.S. Navy lost one escort carrier sunk, one fleet carrier severely damaged, and one escort carrier lightly damaged.

U.S. Marines fought in the Pacific War for 43 months. In just 36 days on Iwo Jima, one third of all U.S. Marines killed, wounded, or missing during all of World War II occurred on Iwo Jima.

After the marine flag raising on Mount Suribachi, a group picture of the 18 Marines who were present was taken by Associated Press combat photographer Joe Rosenthal. Of the men in the picture, 14 of those 18 Marines were either killed or wounded before the battle was over.

The Medal of Honor is America’s highest military award. The medal was awarded to 82 U.S. Marines during World War II.

Of those 82 Medals of Honor, 27 were awarded to Marines on Iwo Jima, more than in any other battle of the U.S. Marine Corps. Wow! This means that Marines who fought on Iwo Jima won nearly 33% of all Medals of Honor awarded to all Marines during the entire Pacific War.

It was on Iwo Jima that six marines became immortalized in an unforgettable photograph taken by Associated Press photographer, Joe Rosenthal, on top of Mount Suribachi, at the southwestern end of the island.

When John Bodkin, the AP photo editor who developed the negative in his darkroom, saw the image, he said, “Here’s one for all time!” Joe Rosenthal’s photograph became one of the most recognized images in the history of photography.

The flag raising that day by those six marines on Iwo Jima symbolizes the spirit of the men and women of the United States Marine Corps.

Semper Fidelis, Always Faithful, U.S. Marines.

November 30, 2022 – At 9:00 a.m. on February 19, 1945, the soldiers of the United States Marine Corps 5th Division, H Company lowered themselves down rope cargo nets into landing crafts rocking in five-foot seas. They were less than a mile from the shore of the remote South Pacific island of Iwo Jima.