Sergeant Wilbur Tiahrt was born March 12,1919 In Aberdeen, ID.
He enlisted on Jan. 11,1942. His training took place at Payne Field, Everett, WA. He was a medic of the ground crew of the Air Force.
He went from San Francisco by troop ship, which took 10 days to Hawaii where he spent two years. Their pilots were being trained for combat and were the 47th squadron, which had 40 fighter planes. Wilbur was a medic on the ambulance on the flight line. They went to the flight line when the planes took off and stayed there until they returned.
Most of the pilots returned but when they didn't it was mainly because they fell asleep. They usually flew 6 to 8 hours at a time.
There were three airfields around the Island of Oahu and four planes to each flight squad. One time at the end of maneuvers, when the last plane came in his propeller hit the water, which threw the plane out of control. The pilot managed to get the plane lifted over the ridge of the strip and slid all the way down to the end stopping right in front of the ambulance. The floor was metal and the pilot couldn't get the wheels down, so the metal of the plane cut a groove in the floor clear to the ambulance.
Wilbur was the recipient of a "Dear John" letter while he was in Hawaii. When he got home she was already divorced, but he wasn't interested.
His brother Ted was in the Navy at the same time.
The hardest part of his service was two fold. One was when the pilots didn't return and the other was when they were in Iwo Jima. They didn't have good places for them to sleep and they often had to sleep in foxholes. The island was only two miles wide and eight miles long and very hilly, so it made it almost impossible for them to put up tents.
When they could sleep in tents they didn't like it, so he and a buddy built themselves a shack out of several plywood boxes that the fighter planes fuel tanks came in. They were two feet wide and eight feet long. It had a roof, door, and was big enough for their fold-up cots with one at each end and their gear.
One guy was taking a test for something and he asked if he could write it in their shack. So they found some plywood at the airplane supply station and built him a desk. He said their shack was more comfortable than his tent. They lived in their shack for about six months.
Mount Suribachi was on the west end of the island. That was where the picture of the four servicemen putting up the flag was taken. Wilbur saw the flag flying when he was on a troop ship bringing the fighter planes from Saipan. These fighter planes escorted the B-29s over Japan.
It took them two months to secure the island and then they were there for four more months. While they were there he and about six or eight other guys had a Bible study together.
There were two gravesites on the island. Six thousand Marines were buried there. Each grave had a cross about two feet tall with their dog tags draped on them. Sergeant Tiahrt walked the entire sites to see if there was anyone he knew, but he didn't find anyone.
When it was time for them to go home, Wilbur didn't go on the troop ship. They had him stay a while longer because he was typing the dismissal orders. He didn't mind because the trip home took 30 days by troop ship from Iwo Jima to Hawaii and 10 more days to San Francisco and only 36 hours by flight on which he rode. He arrived home before the rest of his troop.
We invite any veteran who would like to share their story to call Donna Schafer at 605-624-4819.