The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

February 19, 2014

War stories

WWII Marine remembers Iwo Jima

By Meghan Keely
Herald Writer

BROOKFIELD — Paul Sirochman was a 21-year-old Marine fighting in the battle of Iwo Jima when he heard of the American flag that was raised high on Mount Suribachi.

“I was in the middle of Iwo Jima when the flag was raised. We didn’t know until a few days later and once we found out, we all cheered,” Sirochman said. “I remember watching other people try and climb up but it was all volcanic ash and it was hard.”

Sirochman served with the 4th Marine Division, known as the “Fighting Fourth.”

On Feb. 19, 1945, the 4th Marine Division, began landing on Iwo Jima. After one of the most horrific battles in the Pacific Theater, the island was declared secure on March 16, 1945, after 26 days of combat.  

Sirochman, a Brookfield resident, is one of a dwindling number of World War II veterans.

At 90, the veteran doesn’t get around the way he once did, but his eidetic memory tells a visual and captivating story of heroism and American history.

Sitting upright on his recliner, cane in hand, Sirochman begins his tale of artillery and triumph with his time spent in the battle of Iwo Jima.

“It was 5 a.m. when we were told to load ship for Iwo Jima. The island is on the other side of the international date line so we didn’t start to battle really until the next day,” Sirochman said. “We were the third wave to go in. I remember watching the infantry go on land, and I was in the artillery unit. Our job was to fire in front of the first men going in.”

Sirochman said he spent nearly two months “looking for the Japanese and protecting the men in front” of him.

“There would be Japanese soldiers in foxholes. The Japanese had tunnels under Iwo Jima and come out whenever they wanted. During the night you could hear them digging.”

During the battle, Sirochman was injured and taken to a hospital in the village of Talofofo in Guam.

“The Japanese at night had a rocket that would shoot at different areas,” he said. “One hit my area during the night. Three or four guys died, and I was injured.”

Sirochman suffered a concussion and lost partial hearing due to the incident. He spent three days in a Guam Naval hospital.

“They were bringing in the wounded from the battle of Okinawa when I was in the hospital.”

After being released from the hospital he remained on Guam and was promoted to corporal and was in charge of guard duty at night.

“I remember the first night I was on duty there was a nurse that was getting upset and causing some noise. I tried to find out why and to quiet her down,” he said. “A little while ago I was at a hospital in Pittsburgh and I ran into that same nurse. She remembered me.”

Sirochman said he was getting on a ship on Guam to go and invade Japan when the war ended.

“The ship never left. We were getting ready to invade Japan and then the war was over.”

Pulling out a photo album and memorbilia, Sirochman’s wife Arlo, pointed out each photograph and medal honoring her admiring husband. “I like hearing Paul’s war stories – it seems I learn something new every time,” she said.

Sirochman humbly smiled at Arlo and then carried on with his tale --- this time talking about his military career, other battles and his trip back home.

In March 1943, at the age of 20, Sirochman, began his military training at Parris Island, S.C.

“In May we were sent to a Marine base in Quantico, Va., and in July we went to training in California. In January 1944, we boarded ship to go to combat.”

On Jan. 26,  Sirochman and his fellow Marines landed on the Marshall Islands. In World War II, the islands were liberated by the United States in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign.

“I remember being told there were 60 Japanese soldiers on the island. We waited in waist-deep water and were told to dig foxholes on the beach,” Sirochman said. “There were two of us in a foxhole and we heard scratching. We didn’t know if it was the Japanese. Later we realized it was really just snow crabs and there were really only three to four enemy soldiers close.”

The decorated Marine was honorably discharged on Dec. 5, 1945, and began the sojourn home that started with three weeks aboard a ship from Guam to San Diego, experiencing daily threats of Japanese torpedoes. He spent five weeks in San Diego, before riding a train to Chicago and eventually to Youngstown, from where he took a bus back to Sharon.

He got home around midnight. He knocked on the door of his parents’ house, and his mom yelled, “Who’s there?”

“It’s me,” he answered, to which his mom asked “Who’s me?”

“My parents started crying when they saw that it was me,” Sirochman said.

Upon settling in to civilian life in Sharon, he met his wife who worked at the former Reznor’s Drug Store in Sharon, where he’d go to have coffee at 5 cents a cup.

“I’d leave a 5-cent tip and I kept asking her on a date,” he said.

He started what turned out to be a 40-year career at Westinghouse Electric Corp.’s Sharon Transformer Division at $30 to $40 a week and by 1981 was up to $6.40 an hour. “She thought I was well-to-do,” he said of his future wife.

They raised five children and have seven grandchildren.

To say the least, a wonderful life for a local hero who even had the opportunity to dance with Judy Garland at a benefit for soldiers sponsored by the USO in Hollywood before going overseas.