5/14/2013 9:37:00 AM The Greatest Generation inspires today's generations
Valley Catholic School photo
History teacher Phil McQueen welcomes Dr. Philip King, who shared his personal story of the battle of Iwo Jima with students at Valley Catholic High School.
BEAVERTON — For most people, the words Iwo Jima evoke the historic image of U.S. Marines raising a flag on the top of Mount Suribachi during a pivotal battle in World War II. For Dr. Philip King, Iwo Jima elicits deeply personal memories.
As Lt. Philip King, he served in the U.S. Army on a troopship that traveled from Pearl Harbor. The fleet of 200 ships grew to almost 500 by the time they reached Iwo Jima.
The monthlong battle of Iwo Jima, which took place during February and March of 1945, included some of the fiercest fighting of the War in the Pacific. Nearly 7,000 American soldiers died; nearly 19,000 were wounded. Virtually all of the 22,000 Japanese soldiers on the island died in the battle.
Earlier this month, King shared his war experiences with students in a U.S. history class at Valley Catholic High School. He was introduced by his daughter, Rebecca Johnson, a family coordinator at Valley Catholic Early Learning School.
He described his emotions as his cargo ship approached Iwo Jima, carrying Marines, medical personnel, and support personnel from several branches of the armed forces. It was designed to carry troops into a combat operation then quickly convert into a hospital ship to transport casualties back to Hawaii or the mainland United States.
The naval convoy arrived at Iwo Jima on Feb. 19. Five days later, King swung his body over the deck rail and climbed down the cargo net into a landing craft. Once on the island, his job was to set up communication lines and programs.
Dr. King remembers always being “dirty, tired, and thirsty” during the monthlong battle. He described seeing “rows and rows” of fallen soldiers and being "awed" at the "immensity, intensity and savagery" of the battle and the "determined courage of the riflemen" while they suffered huge losses.
Now 91, King lives on the Oregon coast. Twice a year, he travels to Beaverton to share his story with Valley Catholic students.
“I want them to understand the immensity of that operation and the number of young people, who really weren’t very much older than the students are now, who lost their lives in it or became severely wounded because of that action,” he said. “I want very much for this generation of Americans to know what happened at that time, that huge event in the history of America.”
Dr. King describes his experiences at www.youtube.com/valleycatholicschool.