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The Quiet Hero

The Untold Medal of Honor Story of George E. Wahlen at the Battle for Iwo Jima

The Quiet Hero by Gary W. Toyn
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This powerful story documents the Battle of Iwo Jima from the perspective of extraordinary navy corpsman George Wahlen. After decades of silence, this survivor of one of World War II's most horrific battles divulges the gritty details of his incredible experiences. Upon landing with a company of 250 marines, Wahlen fought alongside them. Under repeated grenade and mortar fire himself, Wahlen refused evacuation, preferring to aid those he perceived to be in greater danger. Witnesses of his heroics remain dumbfounded he survived, and while his incredible feats of bravery saved countless marines, the intensity of the battle left few men of the company unscathedthey suffered the highest killed-in-action ratio of any marine company during a single battle in U.S. history. The significance of his story lies in the historic context of the battle for Iwo Jima; while many remember the iconic flag-raising photograph captured during this conflict, few realize the battle was the most costly of World War II for America. After receiving a Medal of Honor from President Harry Truman in 1945, Wahlen has been the quintessential quiet hero, refusing the adulation usually bestowed on nationally recognized veterans.
American Legacy Media; May 2006
240 pages; ISBN 9780976154723
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Title: The Quiet Hero
Author: Gary W. Toyn; Senator Bob Dole; Senator Orrin Hatch
D-day, February 19, 1945

Hunkered down on the island of Iwo Jima, George Wahlen and his unit, ("F"Company, 2nd Battalion, 26th Marines, 5th Marine Division) waited anxiously for orders to advance. Powerful explosions rocked the ground, spewing the gritty volcanic sand skyward in geyser-like fountains. Enemy rifle fire whizzed menacingly overhead, and all too often these projectiles collided silently with a Marine unable to avoid its path. The concentrated barrage of mortars, artillery and rifle fire continued to pour on the hapless stream of Marines coming ashore. George could only watch helplessly as an interminable half hour passed.

With nothing to gain but death by staying on the beach, the Marines began their push inland. Seeing the waves of Marines making their move, the Japanese were determined to keep the Americans on the open beach where they were easier targets. But one by one, the Marines advanced further inland and found limited protection in large shell holes from the Navy’s earlier bombardment.

As he kept his head down and watched the action, George saw a platoon runner crawl up to the lieutenant, keeping his body low against the ground.

“I lost my rifle,” the young Marine said in a shaky voice.

The lieutenant looked at the Marine and motioned toward the beach now scattered with fallen Marines. “That’s OK. There’s plenty of dead men over here. Take one of their rifles.”

George watched as the weaponless Marine crawled 20 yards away to a fellow Marine whose body lay motionless, face down in the sand. When he tapped his shoulder, he got no response, so he pushed his shoulder to try to roll him over on his back. George watched silently, hoping the young Marine would work faster, since the shower of bullets and shrapnel continued flying about. As the Marine struggled to roll the lifeless body over on his back, from a distance, George could see as the startled young Marine stared at the bloody bullet hole between the man’s eyes and a pool of coagulated blood that had clumped in the sand.

George watched the young Marine turn white with terror, then in an instant, compose himself. He quickly grabbed the Garand rifle from the lifeless Marine’s hands, then retreated, lizard-like, back to a sandy depression near George.

That was the moment when it really hit George. This was not a training exercise. It was that instant he realized that someone was in fact trying to kill him, and that he indeed might be killed.