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"The President's Own"

United States Marine Band

Colonel Jason K. Fettig, Director
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Marine Band Members Who Fought at Iwo Jima

By Gunnery Sgt. Rachel Ghadiali | United States Marine Band | February 19, 2020

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Louis V. Hegedus
Hegedus joined the Marine Corps in 1940 and took part in the campaigns for Tinian, Saipan, the Marshall Islands, and Iwo Jima and was awarded the Purple Heart. He joined the Marine Band on July 15, 1948 and retired in 1970 after 30 years of service. As part of “The President’s Own,” he played tenor saxophone in the band and violin in the symphony orchestra, White House orchestra, and string quartet. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

CWO2 George Durham
Durham joined the Marine Corps in January 1943. He participated in the landing and capture of Iwo Jima in February 1945. He became a member of “The President’s Own” from November 1946 until June 1957. Upon his appointment to Warrant Officer, he left the Marine Band to join the fleet Marine Corps field band music program as a band officer. Durham holds his bachelors, masters, and doctorate from The Catholic University in Washington, D.C. He retired from the Marine Corps in 1965.

In 1944, Durham landed in Waimea, Hawaii, with 20,000 other Marines to train for the assault at Iwo Jima.  In August 2003, 58 years after the Battle of Iwo Jima, Durham provided an account of his experience. Here is a brief summary:

On Jan. 4, 1945, Durham’s 28-piece regimental band embarked at Hilo, Territory of Hawaii (TH), with the 2nd Battalion, 26th Marines, an infantry regiment, 5th Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force, and other specialized troops; These service men departed the next day for Pearl Harbor. From Jan. 5-27, they participated in training, lectures and rehearsal landings. From Jan. 27, they sailed to Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands. Upon arrival on Feb. 5, fuel and provisions were taken aboard. On Feb. 7, they sailed to Garapan Harbor, Saipan, arriving on Feb. 11. On Feb. 16, they sailed to Iwo Jima.

“As we approached Iwo Jima, we were amazed by the tremendous bombardment by our battleships, rocket firings by smaller ships, and air attacks on the island. We wondered how anyone could survive that fantastic onslaught of bombs, rockets, and shells!

Upon landing … there were many heavily damaged/wrecked vehicles on the beach, and it seemed to us that the Japanese mortar and artillery fire had increased over the time since about noon. It was hard for us to come to grips with what was happening. It wasn’t fear or confusion; it was just a new experience, and unforgettable. We were directed to move up and off the beach and to dig in. Digging a fox-hole in that terrible sand was not an easy task.

Regarding the flag-raising on Mt. Suribachi: “Although we were unable to see the event due to our movement and location, we saw the flag later. It was an inspiring moment for us. It still is. Those of us who experienced that event will never forget it.”

Durham is buried at East Hawaii Veterans Cemetery No. 2.


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