Rock Carving, by Waldon T. Rich, 1965 by Joe Richard



Iwo Jima Stories


Howard E. Fornof, GySgt.
USMC (Ret)
Foxtrot, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, Fleet Marine Forces Pacific
March 1952-September 1972
United States Marine Corps



Howard E. Fornof's Story:



     I had the opportunity to I first visited Iwo in 1955 when our company F/2/3 was selected to be the aggressors force in a divisional exercise where the 3rd Marines from Camp Fuji Japan and the 9th Marines from Camp Sukiran Okinawa boarded ships and converged on the island as they had in the original landing some ten years earlier.

     Our unit was flown in and we had a week to set up around the island to prepare for the invasion.

     On the 3rd of November 1956 the division landed and came ashore under a barrage of M80 firecrackers we had strung along the beach and set off. The division chased our company around the island for another six days while we slept by day in sulfur caves by crawling on our stomacks out of sight and digging divits in the sand to put our faces in order to breeth due to the strong sulfur that lingered just above the ground.

     When they checked the cave the strong sulfur fumes drove them away and we were able sleep by day and harrass the division by night keeping them up by throwing M80 firecrackers into their camps.

     It was a lot of fun as well as work and a good test of gurella warfare. On the 10th of November (Our Marine Corps birthday) a truce was called and as many as possible climber to the top of Mt Suribachi and we had a birthday cake ceremony.

     Following this the division went back to the beach and returned to their ships by mike boats and our company returned to the barrack on Iwo, cleaned up as we had not showered changes clothing or anything during the six days of the exercise.

     We were then treated to a big dinner of steak and all the trimmings by the Airforce at the barracks. The following day we flew back to Tachikiwa Japan, boarded six bys and travel back to Mt Fuji.

     I joined the Corps at the age of 16 by using an affidavid that my Father had sworn out saying I was two years older than I was in order to get a job on the Railroad when I was 15 where I worked as a Gandy Dancer.

     I went through boot at Parris Island South Carolina and was in Platoon 100 of the 4th Battalion. We were located in Quonset huts with almost nothing but sand and sand fleas around us.

     Somehow I endured the 10 weeks of torture and the last three weeks were a walk in the park as our DI's finally gave us a break and treated us like humans.

     After boot I was fortunate enough to be one of the 20% that made PFC but instead of going to Korea as I wanted I was assigned to HqCo, H&SBn, MCRD as a Brig Chasser taking prisoners to hearings, sickbay, and work details.

     I finally was able to get order to Norfolk Virginia being assigned to the U.S. Naval Retraing Command where Sailors and Marines were sent to serve minor sentences after being convicted of offenses.

     After a year or so I reenlisted and requested orders to the 3rd Marine Division that was in Korea. After training at Camp Pendleton California we boarded ship and landed at Inchon, however, after a short two weeks because I was a Sergeant I was selected to take a group of Marines to Camp Fuji and help set up the 3rd Marines (Rear) where the remainder of the units joined us a few months later.

     From Japan I went to Camp Pendleton and was assigned to the famed 5th Marine Regiment of the 1st Marine Division located at Camp Margarita on Camp Pendleton California.

     From there I went to H&SBn Marine Corps Base, then to H&SBn, MCRD, SDiego, then to the Marine Detachment USS Kitty Hawk CVA-63 in 1964 in time to deploy to Vietnam. In 1966 I again moved only this time from the grunts to Marine Corps Air Station El Toro Califonria for duty with Wing G-1 of the 3rdMAAW and then off to Nuclear Weapons School at Sandia Base in Albuquque NM and after completion of school was assigned to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wings MARTSAT program located in Yuma Arizona where we spent two more years training then off to Iwakuni Japan where we controlled all nuclear weapons in the Far East theater.

     From there I went back to Parris Island SC to HqCo, H&SBn where I had been twenty years earlier just out of boot camp.

     I retired there in September 1972 as the First Sergeant and moved back to Yuma Arizona to finish raising my family. I went to work for the Marine Air Federal Credit Union Feb 12, 1973 and retired as the Vice President and Regional Manager on Jan 31, 2001. I am now active in the Marine Corps League, the Young Marine Program and Treasurer of our First United Methodist Church of Yuma.

     I think this is a very interesting site and has many very interesting stories. Thank you for your efforts and Semper Fi.


     MSG Retired Harold M. Spear



Note: To view images taken by the web master of World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words during his year on Iwo Jima, please click on the following link to my World War II Stories Photo Album:

WW II Stories: Iwo Jima Photo Album 1965-1966


Did YOU serve on Iwo Jima?

Did you know that there is a group of veterans who have gotten together to form an association of servicemen, no matter what branch of service, who served at one time or another starting at the invasion of the island on February 19, 1945 and continuing until the island was eventually returned to the Japanese in 1969?

Black Pearl Veterans



The materials depicted on this page were reprinted with kind permission of the subject of our essay -- Howard Fornof.

We, at the World War II Stories - In Their Own Words web site wish to offer to Mr. Harold M. Spears our most profound THANK YOU for his poignant story of his personal experiences -- during his military tour of Iwo Jima and especially for allowing us to share those memories.


Original story transcribed on 22 February 2004

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Updated on 7 March 2006...1449:05 CST