Finally daybreak came and after eating a breakfast of canned rations (none of us had much of an appetite) we went back to blue beach to do salvage work and there was much to be done. The beach was so littered with abandoned small boats that there was hardly any place left to land the tremendous amount of cargo that had to be gotten ashore to keep the troops supplied.
There wasn’t much organization ashore at blue beach one (I found out later the beach party had been very badly shot up not long after they’d landed) so I went ashore with young Bob Bates, one of my crew, to see what we could do. We didn’t accomplish very much about clearing the beach because the boats were so full of water and sand that they were beyond the power of Jack’s and my boat to pull them off. We did find out what a shambles the Japs had made (and were making) out of the beach area. We also got the pants nearly scared off us when the slant eyes began to drop mortars nearby. We ducked into the nearest shell holes and kept our fingers crossed.
Here I saw my first casualties, dead and wounded, they aren’t a pretty sight. Here also I saw quick death for the first time when a mortar hit a group of about fifteen men in a shell hole seventy-five feet from where we were crouching. They all disappeared. We saw this sort of thing repeated many times during our ten days at Iwo Jima.
Bates and I worked on the beach most of the morning with our boat standing off shore for us. I’d been worried about Bates and how he’d behave under fire because he’s such a kid but I could have saved my worry. I never saw him flinch once and as a matter of fact he was so damned curious to see what was going on that I had to bark at him two or three times to keep his head down. Anyone would have thought him an old hand at the business instead of a perfectly green, eighteen year old kid who’d been home in high school if this mess wasn’t going on. Incidentally he displayed the inevitable souvenir hunter instinct by taking time out to retrieve a big bolo knife he spied in a shot up jeep that was stranded on the beach.