James Bell is now eighty-eight years old and calls Trinity Mission his home. But the day he found out the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 he wanted to join the the Marine Corp. He was eighteen years old. Iwo Jima became his home for a while.
He and four others went and talked to the Marine recruiter. Bell said, “We told the recruiter we wanted to sign up and go fight for our country. I was a farmer at the time. The recruiter told us no and that we had to keep growing vegetables. I said if you don’t let us go, we will go anyway. The recruiter said if you feel that way about it, I will release you.” And his story began.
Of the thirty eight men in his platoon, Bell was one of just four who fought from the beginning to the end of the campaign to secure Iwo Jima, a tiny but strategically vital Pacific Island south of Japan that America captured during World War II.
He wanted to go to war and fight for our country and Bell did exactly that. He had some harrowing experiences. A rocket landed near Bell’s foxhole and another rocket crashed within 25 feet of Bell’s foxhole, spraying sand on his face. Fortunately for him it was a dud. For nearly all of the 36 days in Iwo Jima, Bell was either crawling on his stomach or firing his M 1 Rifle.
Bell’s unit was attacked while they were firing at caves. Japanese soldiers disguised with brush snuck up to Bell’s foxhole, fired at Bell and killed Marines all around him. One bullet tore through Bell’s helmet and knocked him out. Bell was taken back to camp. The helmet saved his life and he returned to fighting on the front the next day.
Bell explained, “The bullet went in on the right side of my helmet by my temple and out through the back. I had two sugar packets in my helmet and they deflected the bullet from going through my head.”
Bell left when the Marines secured Iwo Jima on March 26th, 1945.
When asked if he had the opportunity to do it all again, Bell said, “Sure I would. America is my home and I fought to keep it safe and I would do it all over again.”
Thank you, Corporal James Bell for your willingness to keep our country safe.
Comment by Keith Roberts (6/15/11-11:06am)
Mr. Bell is a true American hero. Thank you for your service to our country!