AVON, Ind. (WISH) — Wendell Trent is 92-years-old, but his memory from the time he served the Navy during World War II is sharp.
“The atmosphere changed just 100 percent. This is serious business. Horse play is over with now we get down to business,” Trent said.
Trent, a Navy Corpsman who was just 19-years-old, was in Guam in 1945 after just receiving word that he would be headed into Iwo Jima.
“And so I said, Wendell what have you got yourself into, you know,” Trent said.
Trent had trained as a medic, but said the forces in the Pacific also needed replacements after the Battle of Saipan.
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“We learned to fire every weapon that the Marines did. We did all the hikes that they did. We went under live wire, barbed wire, crawled underneath that and we did everything that the Marines did in training,” Trent said.
As the waves of the United States Military crashed onto the shore of Iwo Jima in nearly 500 ships, Trent’s orders were clear.
“Our assignment was to evacuate wounded boys,” Trent said. “I got rid of everything except my medical unit and my 45 and I practiced getting my
45 holster unsnapped many times. I wanted my hand to know automatically how to do it.”
Trent recalls volunteering to find a wounded Marine with a friend he calls ‘Smitty.’
“This one boy was pretty bad. We gave him morphine, bandaged him and we had a stretcher and so we put him on the stretcher and two Marines volunteered to help us. So Smitty and I were on the back and these two Marines were on the front end and as we started up our of the hole, the Marine ahead of me up here got hit and so we pulled back,” Trent said.
They waited until dark and then got that Marine to safety. A move that would later earn Trent the Bronze Star.
It was the first of several times Trent would be sent out to find a wounded comrade in the thick of battle and bring him back.
“I just went like a rat or snake. I just dove from hole-to-hole, crawled, jumped and I finally found him and he was alive and he said ‘Boy, I’m glad to see you,'” Trent said. “I rolled over, pulled him on me, on my back and I started off elbows and knees and it seemed like it took forever.”
After crawling 50 to 75 yards, the pair made it back to safety.
“I was fatigued to no end. I felt like I accomplished that I didn’t think I was going to be able to do. I thought I was going to get both of us in trouble and so those were the things that went through my mind,” Trent said.
That’s when a war correspondent found Trent and asked him several questions. Trent told him his name, hometown, his parents names, what newspaper they read and what radio stations they listened to back home. Not long after, Trent’s family received a telegram detailing his heroic rescues on the battlefield.
He spent more than a month on the island.
“On all of the 36 days I was on there, I never changed my clothes once, shoes stayed on all the time, ate K-rations all the time out of my pack,” Trent said.
In the end he witnessed the famous flag raising on Mount Suribachi.
“We could look up there and see the little bitty activities up there was about all it was from where we were. So it didn’t mean to much to us right then, we had serious things on our mind right then,” Trent said.
His next assignment was to head to the Japanese mainland, but the war ended before he got there Iwo Jima would be his first and last battle as a Navy Corpsman.
“There were 70,000 of us. I’m just one of 70,000,” Trent said. “I have a lot of wishes in my life. I wish I knew some boy’s names that I
helped and then I think the second thing, well that’s what I’m trained to do, you know. That’s what I’m supposed to and that’s just my job, but I still would have liked to have been able to call them up when we’re 60-years-old and say ‘hey, how you making it?’ you know and stuff like that.”
Trent does keep in touch with a lieutenant who lives in California and another World War II veteran he befriended who lives in Anderson.
Trent also earned a Purple Heart during his war-time service. He said Japanese forces fired white phosphorus shells over him and others on his second day at Iwo Jima. Trent used a salve in his medical kit to treat himself and the others and when he went to restock the salve, his injuries were noticed and written up for the Purple Heart.