“The Fighting Field Musician” of Iwo Jima

“The Fighting Field Musician” of Iwo Jima

Friday, February 27, 2015

Darrell S. Cole was born on 20 July 1920 in Esther, Missouri.  In high school, aside from only playing sports like the majority of his classmates, he also learned to play the French horn—an accomplishment that would later shape his destiny. This fortuitous skill earned him his assignment as a bugler in the 1st Marine Regiment of the 1st Marine Division of the Marine Corp when he enlisted on August 25, 1941. He was quite unhappy with his assignment, as he had joined the Marines to fight. However, he was able to fill in as a machine-gunner during the fighting on Guadalcanal.


After returning to the United States in February 1943, he was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 23rd Marines of the 4th Marine Division.  When he asked for relief as a field musician and requested line duty, his request was denied due to the shortage of buglers in the Marine Corps.


On Roi-Namur at Kwajalein Atoll in early 1944, Cole again filled in as a machine-gunner.  On Saipan he was assigned as a machinegun section leader.  During that battle he was wounded and his squad leader was killed.  Despite his wound, he took command of the squad and was then awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. Later during the fighting on Tinian, Cole again led his squad ashore, further proving his reputation as the “Fighting Field Musician” to be true.


Following the Marianas campaign he again, for the third time, requested a change of rating.  It was finally approved and he was promoted to Sergeant in November 1944.


On 19 February, Sergeant Cole led his machine gun squad ashore in the assault of Iwo Jima. Moving forward with the initial wave, fire from two enemy emplacements halted their advance. Sergeant Cole was able to defeat the enemy with hand grenades in order to allow his unit to advance. Advancement was successful until the squad was again held back by the enemy fire of three Japanese gun emplacements--one of which was defeated by a machine-gunner in Cole's squad. When his machine guns jammed, armed only with a pistol and one hand grenade, Sergeant Cole made a one-man attack against the two remaining gun emplacements. Twice he returned to his own lines for additional grenades and continued the attack under fierce enemy fire. Finally, he succeeded in destroying the enemy strong points.


Upon returning to his own squad, Sergeant Cole was killed by an enemy grenade. As a result of his one-man attack, Sergeant Cole's company was able to move forward against the fortifications and successfully attain their objective. Sergeant Darrell S. Cole was awarded the Medal of Honor for his brave and heroic actions that first day on Iwo Jima.  Sergeant Cole’s remains were returned to the United States to be buried in Parkview Cemetery, Farmington, Missouri.


The USS Cole (DDG-67), an Arleigh Burke-class Aegis-equipped guided missile destroyer was named for Sergeant Cole. On October 12, 2000, the Cole was damaged by a suicide attack while harbored in the Yemeni port of Aden. The Marine Corps Reserve training center in Camp Las Flores aboard Marine Corps base Camp Pendleton, California is also named in his honor. The Sergeant Darrell S. Cole Band Hall aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico is also named in his honor.


Of the 82 Medals of Honor awarded to the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II, 22 were awarded at Iwo Jima.  Five Medals of Honor were awarded to U.S. Navy personnel, four of whom were serving as Corpsmen with the Marines.  Fourteen of the 27 Medal of Honor on Iwo Jima were awarded posthumously. These statistics exemplify the importance of Sergeant Cole’s actions and his absolute worthiness of these awards.


While he began as a mere bugler, “The Fighting Field Musician” defied the odds and ended his military career with some of the most admirable and respected awards a man can receive.


Visit the National Museum of the Pacific War to learn more about such men of honor.


Photo source: Wikipedia

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