These three African American Amphibious Truck (DUKW) Companies were assigned to the 4th and 5th Marines along with 18 other Army support units. They participated in D day on Iwo Jima, February 19, 1945. In the Iwo Jima landings, beginning on 19 February 1945, the 442d and 592d Port Companies and the 471st, 473d, and 476th Amphibian Truck Companies were assigned to the Garrison Force but attached to the V Amphibious Corps (Marine) for the assault. One port company remained attached to corps; the other went to the 5th Marine Division. One Dukw company was attached to the 13th Marine Regiment, one remained attached to corps, and the third was attached to the 4th Marine Division with the primary mission of hauling ammunition and cargo for the 14th Marine Regiment and evacuating casualties from the beaches. The Dukw companies, carrying ammunition and supplies between ship and shore and returning to ships with wounded from the beaches, were given full credit by the Marine Corps for their work in the Iwo Jima landings. (http://old.quartermasterfoundation.org/black_service_units_in_combat.htm)
The University of South Carolina’s Digital Collection includes the following two reels of live footage of Iwo Jima’s D-Day, which includes footage of the 473rd Amphibious Truck Company. Title: USMC 100385: Assault on Iwo Jima, Compilation (reels 1 and 2). A compilation of censored films from Cpl. A.S. Tracy; Sgt. William F. Genaust and Sgt. Louis L. Louft documenting the transport to and assault on Iwo Jima. Genaust and Tracy show scenes from D-Day through 21st of fighting along Red and Yellow Beaches. Of note is the movement ashore of G Battery (13th Marines), featuring the gun crew for “”Glamour Gal””. Crew members are: Cpt. James S. McDermott; Sgt. Joseph L. Pipes; Cpl. William G. Smith; Pfc. Richard J. Samulevich; Pfc. Norman B. Jefferson (Native American); Pfc. Fermin A. Martinez; Pfc. Thomas D. Hanby; Pfc. Thomas O. Bratcher; Pfc. William G. Kuhn; Pfc. Chris Behnke; Pfc. Everett J. Reynolds. DUKWs from the 473rd Amphibious Truck Company provide transport for the batteries.
They and their fellow Army units were highly decorated for their actions and bravery on Iwo. Their citation read as follows:
“For outstanding heroism in support of Military Operations during the seizure of enemy Japanese-held Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, February 19 to 28, 1945. Landing against resistance which rapidly increased in fury as the Japanese pounded the beaches with artillery, rocket and mortar fire, the Support Units of the Fifth Amphibious Corps surmounted the obstacles of chaotic disorganization, loss of equipment, supplies and key personnel to develop and maintain a continuous link between thousands of assault troops and supply ships. Resourceful and daring whether fighting in the front line of combat, or serving in rear areas or on the wreck-obstructed beaches, they were responsible for the administration of operations and personnel; they rendered effective fire support where Japanese pressure was greatest; they constructed roads and facilities and maintained communications under the most difficult and discouraging conditions of weather and rugged terrain; they salvaged vital supplies from craft lying crippled in the surf or broached on the beaches; and they ministered to the wounded under fire and provided prompt evacuation to hospital ships. By their individual initiative and heroism and their ingenious teamwork, they provided the unfailing support vital to the conquest of Iwo Jima, a powerful defense of the Japanese Empire.”
History of the 476th:
On 5 July 1944, the 43rd Amphibian Truck Battalion was activated at Camp Gordon Johnston. The 471st and 473rd Amphibious Truck Companies trained alongside the 476th in the use of the amphibious truck known as the DUKW, using the bay and sandy beaches to practice operating, loading and unloading these truly amphibious vehicles.
On October 21, 1944, the entire battalion departed Camp Gordon Johnston and traveled by train to Ft. Lawton in Seattle Washington, arriving on October 26. On October 29, they boarded Sea Partridge, a cargo and passenger ship, for the voyage to Oahu, and arrived on November 5. In Hawai’i the companies trained with the Marines in preparation for the invasion of Iwo Jima, which of course was a closely held secret. By January 1945, the company consisted of one captain, three first lieutenants, two second Lieutenants and 177 enlisted soldiers. Various transfers in and out of the company and promotions of officers occurred throughout the history of this company.
On February 4, 1945, the battalion departed Hawai’i with the Marines in transport ships and arrived in Eniwetok on February 14. Along the way they practiced landings on small islands. They left Saipan on February 17, and the invasion of Iwo Jima began on February 19. The battle lasted until early March, and for weeks the American dealt with the remaining Japanese that were willing to fight to the death rather than surrender. The famous flag raising on Mt. Suribachi occurred on February 23, the first B-29 landed on the repaired airfield on March 5, and by March 6 Fighter planes were arriving. By April 30 the 43rd Battalion had brought in 20,175 tons of supplies. Many of the 476th would remain on Iwo Jima until the spring of 1946.
The 471st, 473d, and 476th Amphibian Truck Companies and two Marine DUKW units were attached to the 4th and 5th Marine Divisions and the 1st Field Artillery Group (Provisional). Their initial assignment on Iwo Jima D Day, 19 February 1945, was to land the artillery. The DUKW’s, preloaded with artillery and supplies, were launched from the tank decks of LST’s and set out on their scheduled runs to the beaches. Initial landings were severely handicapped by enemy fire and heavy surf. All of the DUKW’s experienced difficulty in beaching without aid from tractors or vehicles with winches. The front wheels of the DUKW’s were not capable of pulling them forward when they hit the steep beach. If a vehicle with sufficient power was not available, the DUKW’s overturned and were pounded by the surf. Several DUKW’s had been overloaded against the advice of the DUKW company officers and sank almost immediately upon leaving the LST’s, while others were swamped when lack of fuel or mechanical breakdown caused motors to fail. Despite the adverse conditions, most of the artillery was landed successfully. After emplacing the artillery, the DUKW’s hauled ammunition and other high-priority supplies from ship to shore and evacuated casualties. Continuous operation under rugged conditions resulted in heavy losses of equipment. On 1 March 1945 the
hundred DUKW’s that were still seaworthy were pooled under the command
of the V Amphibious Corps and used to unload urgently needed ammunition. On
11 March the three Army DUKW companies and another, the 475th, which had
arrived in the early support shipping, were transferred from Marine Corps con-
trol to the Army garrison force. Despite the fact that 133 DUKW’s, over
half of those employed, were lost in the course of the campaign, the DUKW units
were reported to be the most reliable and rapid means of bringing critical supplies
and ammunition from ship to shore or to gun positions, and their service in evacu-
ating the wounded was considered invaluable. “The Transportation Corps: Overseas Operations,” by Joseph Bykofsky and Harold Larson (1990).
Officers at the time of the Iwo Jima Campaign:
Capt. Jules Blaustein, O1575761 Commanding Officer
1Lt Andrew I. Meditz, Jr. O-1946571 Platoon Officer
1Lt. John B. Green, O-1535465 Platoon Leader
1Lt. Gilbert M. Hooker, O-251953 Motor Officer
1Lt. Louis M. Cohen, O-1945556 Executive Officer
1Lt. John F. Williams, O-1946639 Platoon Leader
The Enlisted Men and Officers earned 5 Silver Stars and 17 Bronze Stars
Just added June 15 2022:
Learn more about these three companies https://history.army.mil/html/topics/afam/476th_ATC/index.html
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