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IWO JIMA: Diamondhead Marines celebrate 73rd anniversary of historic WWII battle

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 Leonard Nederveld and Bob Walker. WWII and Iwo Jima veterans. 

On Feb. 19, 1945, the United States delivered its first strike on the Japanese Islands at Iwo Jima.

On Friday, the Diamondhead Marines celebrated the 73rd anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima, along with World War II veterans and Iwo Jima survivors, U.S. Marines Bob Walker and Leonard Nederveld.

According to history.com, 23,000 Japanese army and navy troops defended Iwo Jima from within caves, dugouts, tunnels and underground installations.

However, despite these conditions, "the marines wiped out the defending forces after a month of fighting, and the battle earned a place in American lore with the publication of a photograph showing the U.S. flag being raised in victory," the website states.

Nederveld, 92, was "left for dead," in Iwo Jima, his daughter Marybeth Baker recounted to the Echo last year.

When Nederveld and his fellow Marines discovered a bunker, Nederveld ran on top of the bunker and threw his grenade into what he would soon discover was an ammunition bunker, Baker said.

"When he went to jump, it blew him," she said. "The corpsmen felt for a pulse and didn't feel one. They gave him a shot of morphine and left him. They thought he was dead."

However, Nederveld regained consciousness and used his uninjured arm to reach for his sulphur packet, which soldiers used for an antibiotic.

Nederveld put his good ear to the ground and heard fox holes being dug, Baker said. The enemy didn't build fox holes, she said. Using his good arm and leg, Nederveld crawled back to the Marines, who thought he was an enemy at first and pointed their guns at him.

However, once one of the soldiers recognized the flag on his jacket, they grabbed Nederveld and threw him the fox hole.

Nederveld's injuries included: A broken jaw, a cut open shoulder, shrapnel in his eye and neck, damage to his ear and two bullets lodged around his left knee and a third had gone through his heel.

Today, Nederveld is blind in one eye, deaf in one year, has limited use of his left shoulder and shrapnel remains in his body.

Walker, 97, described Iwo Jima as "hell."

"I spent four days on the front line before I got hit," he said. "I never saw the enemy because they were hiding in caves or behind piles of dirt."

Walker was injured during an explosion. His right arm was paralyzed from a bullet wound in his shoulder and a piece of shrapnel hit him in the cheek.

"Thousands and thousands of people went through what I did," he said. "Some were lucky and some never lived to tell about it. You would see someone else get hit and think they were dead or wounded. But you had to keep on doing what you were taught to do and hope you weren't next."

Walker said he returned to Iwo Jima on the 20th anniversary and said it was "well worth it."

"Mine is an ordinary story about a soldier in the military," he said.

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