Homer Beach was a “Buffalo,” amphibious vehicle driver, in the 3rd Marine Division. The 20-year-old corporal drove assault troops ashore on Guam, Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima during World World II.
The days he spent ferrying “Leathernecks” and their equipment to the beach at Iwo was still fresh in the 90-year-old Venice (Florida) Marine’s memory almost 70 years later.
“We ferried two loads of Marines ashore and were sitting at the base of Suribachi in our “Buffalo” watching them take the flag up the mountain. The boys ran into trouble a couple of times on their way up,” he explained. “Although we could see them, we couldn’t help them because we couldn’t tell who was who from where we were down below. I don’t know where they got the pipe to put the flag on, they must have carried it with ’em.
“When the flag went up we all started cheering. The ships on the beach and just off shore were ringing their bells and blowing their whistles when the American flag went up.”
Some of those doing the fighting thought they had just about taken the eight-square-mile island away from the Japanese. They didn’t realized this was only day four and they would still be fighting a month later to win control of Iwo Jima.
By then more than 6,800 American Marines and Sailors had lost their lives and another 12,000 were wounded. The Japanese lost all but 1,000 of their Imperial Marines and Army Soldiers holding the island. Upwards of 22,000 enemy troops died in the battle.
“Iwo was a funny place, because the Japs had everything hidden. There was almost no hand-to-hand fighting because most of the enemy were burrowed in holes. It was a pop and shoot situation because they were underground,” Beach said.
“After we took Iwo we headed back to Guam in our LST to get replenished once more. After restocking we sailed for the main islands of Japan,” he said. “The whole fleet was circling out in the Pacific waiting for them to drop The Bomb, but we didn’t know it at the time.
“When it was announced that the first Atomic Bomb had been dropped on Japan we waited. Then it was announced a second A-Bomb had been dropped on the Japanese main islands.
“Word came that the Japanese had surrendered and the war was over. All the ships in the fleet started dropping stuff overboard: Guns, tanks, tractors — everything went over the side,” Beach said.
He hopped aboard a hospital ship and took it back to San Diego, Calif. where he mustered out of the service a few days after returning to the USA. At that point Beach took a slow-moving passenger train across country to Cincinnati, Ohio. From there he hitchhiked to New Richmond, Ohio about eight miles from his parents’ farm. “I bummed a ride the last eight miles.”
He went back to school and took some electronics courses before getting a job. It wasn’t long before he and his first wife, Rosie. were married. They had three boys: Homer Beach Jr., Donald Beach and Jeffrey Lee Beach. All three live in Wyoming. Their mother died of cancer decades ago.
In 1990 Homer Sr. and his second wife, Gladys, retired and moved to Venice. They live in Venice Ranch mobile home park in the winter and go north for the summer.
Name: Homer Westley Beach
D.O.B: 22 April 1922
Hometown: Felicia, Ohio
Currently: Venice, Fla.
Entered Service: 11 July 1942
Discharged: 13 July 1946
Unit: 3rd Battalion, 3 Marine Amphibian Corps, 3rd Marine Division
Battles/Campaigns: Pacific Theatre – Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal, Guam
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, June 4, 2012 and is republished with permission.
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