East Texas Iwo Jima survivor: 'I'll never forget my buddies' - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

East Texas Iwo Jima survivor: 'I'll never forget my buddies'

Source: KTRE Staff Source: KTRE Staff
Source: Leon Berryhill Source: Leon Berryhill
Source: KTRE Staff Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff Source: KTRE Staff

The year was 1945 and Leon Berryhill was far from Central Heights.

Berryhill was on a Navy ship with the 669th heavy field artillery battalion. His destination; the island of Iwo Jima to assist the U.S. forces in their invasion of the island that was being occupied by the Imperial forces of Japan.

"We were easing in on the island and you could see the outline and the flames," Berryhill said.

The ship Berryhill was on would never make landfall. berryhill was on guard when he noticed an incoming attack.

"I whispered into the communicator, 'attack! attack!,' but they already saw it coming," Berryhill said. "The first torpedo missed, then I saw it. It came from the front to me and blew a whole in it so big you could drive a jeep through it. "A piece of metal I say the size of a car door went by me and part of it hit my eye and busted my lips. I'm glad I was against the ship because if i wasn't it would have got my head. Now I can't see out of the right eye at all."

Berryhill and his shipmates would bail out of the ship and float in the cool pacific waters. Several days later on a wounded ship, Berryhill and his battalion would return to Hawaii.
"It felt good safe on land," Berryhill said.

Back on Iwo Jima, the U.S would win the battle that took 36 days with nearly 7,000 U.S. casualties.

"I'll never forget my buddies," Berryhill said. "When i got home I said I would never go back. but I thought they made a good sacrifice and if I had to I would go back."

70 years later Berryhill holds onto the memories and has a bond with other service members as a way to move forward. He has found a love for music and if you catch him at the right time you can hear him on his harmonica singing classic gospel songs.

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