Friday, August 14, 2009

Found him.

This is the headstone for James Ryan, a 19-year-old KIA on Iwo Jima. I've been looking for his grave for years, with the hope of finding his family. So much time has elapsed, and the name Ryan is so common, I don't hold much hope of the latter, but then, I didn't expect to find this, either.

Maybe his family will stumble upon this or the memorial page TD Miller kindly created for him.

James Ryan was my uncle's best friend in the Marines. As one of their comrades wrote to me when I began this search, "They were the first to go on liberty and the last to return." Neither of the young men lived to be 20.

This is the picture that started my search and is quite possibly the last photo taken of either:

My uncle is on the left. Ryan is on the right. The Marine who wrote to me about them said that he was on the hospital ship when he heard that they were killed. He was told that they were together. It gives me some sad comfort to know that. I don't quite know why.

I will continue to look for Ryan's family in the hope that I can give them a copy of this picture. He was from California and he's buried in San Francisco, so that, at least narrows my search.


Gary M said...

You're a good man, David.

Gerard Saylor said...

I concur.

Gerard Saylor said...

Have you requested his service record? Do they list family on that?

David Terrenoire said...


Only next of kin at the time of his death, which would be his parents who, I doubt are still alive.

I am looking for his home of record and that would narrow things down if he's from a small town.

The Nephew said...

I've done a fair amount of research at the National Archives at the University of Maryland. One project I worked on was a doc about the USS Pueblo incident in Korea. At one point I was searching through photographs and found pictures of everyone assigned to the ship. These were mostly official portraits, but I remember there also being several "official" candid shots of crew members.

Perhaps knowing what ship they were on could get us to some detailed records or additional photos.

Lake Mills Library said...

But, if he was part of an invasion force wouldn't he have been considered more as "cargo" than crew?

What unit histories have you found?

Gerard Saylor said...

Stupid internet. That last post was mine.

Charlieopera said...

I linked to you, Dave at my site (Temporary Knucksline). I have a similar story (except in Europe); my Uncle Frank Stella.

You're a very good man.

David Terrenoire said...

Abolutely right, Gerard. They weren't assigned as crew but as cargo aboard a troop transport, one that they almost missed in their revelry in Hawaii. How things in my family would have been different if he had missed that ship.

Since you're interested, you should know that this was a first battle for both. They had been trained in Le Jeune and Pendleton, shipped to Hawaii and then on to Iwo. They were in the 27th Marines, part of the Fifth Marine Division.

From the regiment's history:

"The invasion of Iwo Jima began on 19 February, 1945. The 27th Marines stormed ashore at 0900 in its designated area of Beaches Red 1 and Red 2. The Regiment was initially assigned the mission of helping to cut off and isolate Mount Suribachi from the rest of the island. As the Marines pushed inland, resistance by the Japanese became more and more determined.

"Once Mount Suribachi was isolated, the Regiment was ordered to move north to join with the other units in continuing the attack on the main enemy defenses. Rugged terrain, heavy enemy fire, and well placed land mines all combined at times to hold the attacking Marines to a standstill. They repeatedly met the Japanese in hard, close combat."

They were both killed March 4. I doubt if they, or any 19-year-old, could have been prepared for what they ran into in those 13 days.

Anonymous said...

The National WWII Memorial lists his home town as San Francisco.