Dick Trott worked with ‘Navajo Code Talkers’ during Battle of Iwo Jima in WW II
Dick Trott, who lives in the Jacaranda Trace Apartments in Venice, Fla., came ashore on Feb. 19, 1945 in the second wave with the 5th Marine Division during the Battle of Iwo Jima. He was a corporal operating a radio working with Navajo Code Talkers providing U.S. Marines with an unbreakable language to communicate in during the epic battle at the close of World War II.
He joined the Marine Corps at 17 in his senior year in high school with his father’s permission. Boot camp was in San Diego, Calif. After that he became a truck driver and then a radio operator with the Corps before shipping overseas.
In 1944 the 5th Division made the first leg of its journey to the war zone by boarding ship and sailing for Honolulu. Once there they spent months training for battle.
“My job was to work with a dozen Navajo Code Talkers,” Trott recalled almost 70 years later. “I showed them how to communicate by radio. I spent about four months in the spring and summer of 1944 working with the Navajos.”
In February 1945 the 5th Marine Division boarded ships at Honolulu. They weren’t told where they were going until they were about 50 miles from Iwo. There they were also told they would fight Japanese Imperial Marines who were good at their trade.
On the way over all Trott and his fellow Marines could see were American war ships in all directions. Hundreds of them.
“We arrived off shore a couple of days before we hit the beach. All the bombarding they did of Iwo Jima did little to upset the Imperial Marines. They were hiding in caves and tunnels underground. They weren’t much affected by Allied gunfire and bombs.
“I was lucky because the Japanese didn’t fire at the first two waves of U.S. Marines. I was in the second wave,” he said. “They opened up with everything they had on the third wave of Marines.
“We landed near the base of Mt. Suribachi. I had a lieutenant with me who commanded our little group. He wanted us to gather near a bombed out Japanese tank on the beach. I wanted no part of that because I knew it would draw enemy artillery fire.
“I took my little group and went further inland. It was tough going because of the black volcanic sand on Iwo Jima. Try digging a foxhole and the black sand would cave in,” Trott explained.
“My unit was Headquarters Company, 5th Division. Our objective that first day and for several more days was to capture the Japanese-built airstrip in the middle of the island.
“There was constant enemy fire. People were dying all around me. Out of my group I lost all but two men,” he said. “A whole piece of land would lift up and out would pop a Jap shooting. We would fire back at them and they would disappear back in their hole.”
That’s how he sustained a couple of bullet wounds to one knee. A Japanese sniper popped up out of a “Spider Hole”, fired at him and disappeared. When he came up and fired a second time an American Marine put a bullet hole in him, but not before Trott was wounded. He got medical supplies from a corpsman to bandage his wounds.
Three days later, after they captured the first enemy airstrip the Marines started all over again to take the second runway. That was accomplished a few days later.
“I remember when they raised the first American flag atop Suribachi on the fourth day after we landed. I was still near the base of the hill when the flag went up,” he said.
By this time the Navajo Code Talkers I was working with were doing a terrific job on the radio,” Trott said. “Almost all the Navajos I worked with had a last name of Begay.”
Thirty-six days after the first American Marine waded ashore on Iwo Jima they secured the eight square-mile island for the Allies. By then 6,800 “Leathernecks’ had lost their lives and 12,000 more were wounded.
Their sacrifices would save the lives of more than than 200,000 B-29 “Flying Fortress” crewmembers who used the extended runways on Iwo as emergency landing strips when their four-engine bombers were damaged from flak on their bombing runs over Japan or they were running low on gasoline.
The 5th Marine Division was sent back to Honolulu and began training for the invasions of the Japanese home islands. It was expected to be an even more costly battle that would end to the Second World War.
“They put us aboard ships for the invasion of Japan. On the way over they dropped the first Atomic Bomb on Japan. Three days later they dropped the second Atomic Bomb,” Trott said.
Their convoy steamed in circles off the coast of Japan waiting to see what would happen. On Aug. 14, 1945 the Japanese Imperial Forces “Unconditionally Surrendered” to the Allies. World War II was over.
“We became occupations troops. We went ashore right away at Sasebo, Japan,” he said. “We had few problems with the Japanese civilians. One of my jobs was to accompany a lieutenant to some of the little towns around Sasebo, meet with the mayors of these towns and collect their swords. That’s how they surrendered.”
Six months later he took a troop ship to San Diego and then a train from there to Chicago.
“I hitch-hiked home with my bag on my shoulder from Chicago to Fort Wayne. My folks didn’t know I was coming. I got there at 2 a.m. My mother was surprised and happy to see me,” Trott said a lifetime later.
He took the G.I. Bill and became a teacher. He taught math and physics in the Fort Wayne school system for more than three decades before he and his wife, Berniece, retired to Venice in 1985
They have three children: Linda, Kathy, and Richard.
Name: Richard Wayne Trott
D.O.B: 21 April 1924
Hometown: Fort Wayne, Ind.
Currently: Venice, Fla.
Entered Service: November 1942
Discharged: 17 Jan., 1946
Unit: 5th Marine Division
Commendations: Good Conduct Medal
Battles/Campaigns: Iwo Jima
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, Sept. 22, 2014 and is republished with permission.
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War is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.
Your article is very well done, a good read.
My grandfather was a field telephone operator who joined the Fifth Division on Hilo after Iwo Jima. He remembered going to Guam (though not getting off the ship), awaiting the invasion when told of the bomb dropping, Sasebo and Nagasaki. He found the Japanese “gregarious” and quick to rebuild. He said most of his time in the occupation was restringing telephone poles. He was discharged in February 1946 and came home with two samurai swords and a Japanese rifle. He cannot remember anything more specific (regiment? Battalion?) In terms of subordinate units. Shot in the dark: Does this sound like any unit you would know?