Iwo Jima vets visit to Fort Sill's Marine Corps Division

FORT SILL – Nearly two dozen Iwo Jima veterans paid a visit to Fort Sill's Marine Corps Division Thursday.  They sat down and got a brief, up close and personal tutorial in modern artillery for Marines.  They also got a chance to tour the field artillery museum on post.

World War II Iwo Jima veterans and their loved ones sat speechless as they watched Fort Sill Marines explain modern artillery to them.  Veteran Hershel Williams knows how much easier his service would have been with "bunker busters".

"We didn't call them bunker's you know.  We called them pill boxes.  And I would have just used those to knock out the pill boxes.  I wouldn't even had to carry that seventy pound flame thrower.  I could have left it behind," said Williams.

Williams is the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from Iwo Jima.  He says the battle is hard to forget.

"It was terrible, but it was essential," said Williams.

Williams told 7News how he earned the medal.  He says he was a 21-year-old rifleman, a specialist demolition flamethrower operator.  His primary job was to burn out enemy caves and bunkers covered in reinforced steel.

"We were stymied because they had pill boxes lined up, self protecting.  They were built in pods of three and you couldn't get to one without one of the others seeing you.  And as we tried to push towards those we were losing Marine after Marine."

Williams says he was the last flamethrower of the seven that landed on the island and was able to penetrate the bunkers.  It is the upgrade in artillery that modern Marines are glad to see.

"When they were using their artillery it was all man and mules and stuff.  And so now we've got rocket launchers and howitzers that can shoot 18 and a half miles," Gen. Sgt. Joseph Clayton.

But a few veterans said that although the artillery may have changed, one thing has not, lives lost.

"It's more dangerous everyday.  It was bad enough during our time.  It's a lot worse now.  So it's unfortunate that lives don't mean anything when they get into combat," said veteran, Cy Young.

Williams says his advice for today's Marines is to not question what is asked of them.  He says they should use their training to survive combat and pay close attention, because you never know how important a skill may be.

Today's visit to Fort Sill is part of an annual event for these veterans.  They visit military installations and hold a reunion in Wichita Falls.