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MOUNT SURIBACHI, ABOVE AND BELOW GROUND: It is one thing to climb and explore the slopes and summit, but to find an entrance into Mount Suribachi has been the quest of the life time. During our three day exploration of the island we made Suribachi a priority. As our daylight was limited by intermittent rains, we decided to climb the mountain, following the original route of the 42 man patrol. Once on top I would talk about the flag raising, and then attend to Sgt. Padell. With daylight fading, we now made our way back down the mountain to explore two tunnel entrances that we had passed on our way up. The first tunnel system was carved out of solid volcanic rock, with branching passageways running along the base of the mountain, down to the beach, and up –unfortunately we discovered that those tunnels leading up were either caved-in or blown-in.

The second entrance was nothing more than a crawl space, which brought back visions of childhood – crawling on ones belly for 60+ feet into a black hole of Tom Sawyer wonderment… This tunnel system proved especially interesting as it had several firing ports that allowed gunners and riflemen to fire down upon the Marines on the landing beaches, yet they would be fully protected by the mountain’s wall. These same firing ports were no doubt incrediblely difficult to spot from the beaches, and from the looks of these positions they were never reduced by naval gunfire, aerial bombardment, nor Marine grenades or flamethrowers. It is our thought that the men who defended this hidden fighting position left after running out of food and water – in an attempt to link up with those forces defending the main defensive line (that ran from the East Boat Basin to Hill 362A).

While exploring these tunnels we found Bakelite Imperial Army rice bowls, sake bottles, gas mask filters and lenses, and wooden shelves where rations, small arms ammunition or communications equipment could have been stored. Lining the walls were small hand carved alcoves for oil lamps, which were the main source of light in this sector.

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