Remembering Our Past, Forging Our Future
As mentioned in Part 1, we are honored to debut the works of Frank Matthews who fought on Iwo Jima with 24th Marines, 4th Marine Division using both the BAR and the flame thrower. After the battle, he was tasked with providing musical support for post battle ceremonies on the island. You don’t want to miss his original pieces orchestrated and arranged by our own CWO4 Robert Farmer, USMC (Ret.) and Anthony McDonald. This is very special and never heard before. We hope you will join us at our performances on May 25th. Our first performance is at 10:30 a.m. at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Our afternoon performance is at 4:30 p.m. at Hurkamp Park in Fredericksburg, VA.
We’ve provided a brief history of the battle for Iwo Jima. It is important to understand how difficult it was to take a small small island. We wouldn’t be here today without the sacrifices of those that came before us. We would like to provide some more background on an extraordinary individual. The following is a description of Mr. Matthews’ experience on Iwo Jima.
“When we landed at Pearl Harbor we were assigned to various Marine Divisions in the area. I was sent to the Fourth Marine Division on the island of Maui. I remember the trip over to Kahalui Harbor on the inter-island overnight steamer because we were all seasick. I joined the Fourth Division just before Christmas in 1944. Within a week we were on attack transports headed for combat. As usual, a chaplain grabbed me to play for religious services, this time with a portable Estey pump organ that folded up like a large suitcase. I was familiar with pump organs from revival services in Georgia and South Carolina and I soon learned to handle “Onward Christian Soldiers” on the deck of a rolling ship. In fact, Sunday February 18, 1945 was filled with on-deck religious services as we neared the island of Iwo Jima.On Iwo Jima there were no rear areas.
My memories of the battle of Iwo Jima include desperate little themes of music filled my mind as I struggled to fight and survive. I had been assigned to the Fourth Service Battalion and was used in combat patrols supporting the 24th Marines on the right flank of the beachhead. It was an area of cliffs, caves, and boulders on the opposite end of the island from Mount Suribachi. Every morning we were formed into combat patrols to clear out the enemy from the same area we had cleared out on the previous day. Every night the enemy returned to the area using underground passages they knew all too well. Personnel and weapons changed from day-to-day. I started out with a Browning Automatic Rifle (B.A.R.) but soon I was handed a flame-thrower. Bloodstains on the canvas harness gave proof that it was a dangerous weapon to carry. Fortunately my buddies gave me more support than my predecessor received. We were in awe of the men of the 24th Marines on the front line. How rough they must be having it if these patrols were so bad! It was only 6 years later when I was at Quantico, Virginia undergoing Basic Marine Officer Training for the Korean Conflict that I understood my awe of the 24th Marines was somewhat misplaced: On Iwo Jima there were no rear areas.
As March ended there came a day when no more patrols were needed and we were told to get ready to leave the island on the next day. All that afternoon, Marines drifted down to the new cemetery that had sprung up overnight just below the main airfield. There was actually no expectation of finding the grave of a specific buddy. It was just a last goodbye.
I remember being there in the early evening when my music suddenly returned. Very rarely a complete piece of music will occur to me. Usually, I get a short bit of melody and an idea and have to work at it from there. This was one of the rare times. Two months earlier the great Glenn Miller had died in Europe. I guess this had been in my thoughts; because, as I wandered among the new graves, I found myself creating a song with the rich Glenn Miller harmonies and the distinctive Glenn Miller sax setting. In anger at the tragic loss of young life spread out before me, the music rose to a crescendo of full orchestra. Many years later, as I orchestrated the work, I hoped to recapture the anger of that moment. I found it wasn’t difficult at all.”
This video is Mr. Matthew’s account of landing on Iwo Jima.