February 19, 1945 … 70 years ago today the war in the Pacific is raging. In order to effectively and safety bomb Tokyo into submission, the Allies need a place for planes to emergency land and refuel if needed. The volcanic islands of Iwo Jima serve that exact purpose and they must be taken at all costs if victory in the Pacific is to be obtained. In the midst of all this is PFC John Felix Collie, my great-uncle.
Attached to the 9th Regiment of the 3rd Division of the US Marine Corps, Felix was in one of the very first waves to assault the island of Iwo Jima. The 9th Regiment had the distinction (a distinction which left the Regiment bloodied and battered) of being part of the main body who secured the first stretch of high ground against the entrenched Japanese forces.
As the Japanese infantry fell back in the face of the 9th Regiment’s advance, surrendering the high ground, the 9th was immediately pinned down by an immense covering fire from the defensive Japanese pillbox installations. After being pinned for some time, Felix and other members of his regiment launched a desperate counter-offensive in hopes of destroying the remaining pill boxes, opening the way for the Marines’ complete domination of the vital high ground.
Felix jumped up and — charging — he (as the report words it) “eliminated a withering crossfire by destruction of protected pillboxes.”
One thing I have always remembered hearing about Felix was that he never did anything “half.” He was committed to a cause and would protect it at all costs. And on that high ground of a volcanic island called Iwo Jima, Felix went down — but only after he and his men had successfully destroyed many of the pillboxes that had kept his regiment pinned for so long.
His sacrifice is why we must never forget those battles or the men who fought to protect our freedom. Never forget. To those who have fought for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know.
Alex Davis was born and raised in Staunton, Va, and now resides in Radford. Active in his church and community, he currently serves as a vestry member at Grace Episcopal Church, is an assistant at Pulaski Dance Productions, and works insane hours managing the office of DeVilbiss Funeral Home in Radford. He has been involved in Virginia politics for more than 10 years and is a former chairman of the Staunton City Republican Committee and has worked closely with many elected officials including George Allen, Bob McDonnell, Bill Bolling, Jim GIlmore, and Chris Saxman. When not politickin’ or dancin’, you can find him pondering all things theological at his blog, ubuntu.