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75th Anniversary This Week Dinsdale Marine lost on Iwo Jima

February 25, 2020
Special to The Traer Star-Clipper , Traer Star-Clipper

Editor's note: The Battle of Iwo Jima marks its 75th anniversary this week- Feb. 19 -March 25, 1945, as a major invasion by the United States in the South Pacific during World War II. The following is an account of United States Marine Captain Wallace Breakenridge of Dinsdale who lost his life in the battle/

-This account of Captain Breakenridge was provided by Scott and Judy Breakenridge of Hudson and was transcribed with minimal corrections. Hugh Wallace Breakenridge was born in Traer, Iowa on July 9, 1919 to William J. Breakenridge and S. Edith McMillan. His hometown was Dinsdale, Iowa. He graduated from Dinsdale High School in 1937 and Iowa State College in Ames in 1941. He married Margaret K. Kepler on January 17, 1942. His final resting place is Buckingham Cemetery northwest of Traer.

The following facts about Captain Breakenridge and his exploits during World War II were extrapolated through official U.S.M.C. documentation.

Article Photos

Hugh Wallace Breakenridge
Captain, U.S.M.C.
Date of Birth 9 July 1919
Serial Number 01139
Killed in Action 27 February 1945
Enlisted 9 April 1942
Commissioned 18 July 1942

Photo/ 'SERVICE RECORD World Wars I and II, Traer, Iowa and
Community' which was sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary, Kubik-Finch Post No. 142, Traer, Iowa.

Wallace Breakenridge served in the Marine Corps during World War II as an Infantry officer in the 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment, and 4th Marine Division. Wallace was assigned as an infantry platoon leader in Kilo (K) Company under the command of Captain Rulison. Wallace's unit was immediately assigned to the Marshall campaign. The first island securing would be Saipan. The Saipan Landing occurred from 15 June 18 July 1944. During the first few hours of D-Day, Capt. Rulison (Wallace's commander) was wounded and evacuated during the beachhead assault. Lieutenant Jim Goforth was placed in command with Wallace as the platoon leader/executive officer. K Company met a strong Japanese resistance from fortified pillboxes (machine gun nests).

During the next six days K Company advanced and performed numerous patrol missions eliminating the enemy. On D plus 7, Lt. Goforth was killed while leading an attack on a fortified enemy position. Lt. Breakenridge then assumed command of K Company. Lt. Breakenridge continued the advance until he was shot in the back by a Japanese snipper. The wooden bullet passed through has back and exited his throat. While being evacuated to the medical aid station Lt. Breakenridge briefed his replacement. During this brief Lt. Breakenridge said, "he only got nicked in his neck." This was Wallace's first of three Purple Hearts earned during WW II.

Upon recovering from his near fatal wounds, Lieutenant Breakenridge was reassigned to 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines as the assistant operations officer. The next landing during the campaign would be on a 7.5-mile island called Iwo Jima.

On 19 February 1945, the 5th Marine Amphibious Corps (consisting of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Marine Divisions) landed on Iwo Jima (Sulpher Island). When the battle was over, 6821 American Marines, Sailors, and Soldiers, along with an estimated 20,000+ Japanese defenders had died. This was America's first landing on what was considered traditional Japanese territory.

19 February 1945 on the southeast side of Iwo Jima Island, Wallace Breakenridge along with two Marine Divisions landed on the beachhead in order to secure the island. Wallace landed during the first wave of ten to attack the island. At that time Kilo Company consisted of 7 officers and 220 marines and was commanded by a Captain Witherspoon. Wallace was attached to Headquarters unit as the assistant operations officer. HQ consisted of 16 officers and 229 marines.

During Kilo Company's landing on the beach, the commanding officer was immediately wounded and evacuated along with his executive officer. Newly promoted Captain Wallace Breakenridge now assumed command of Kilo Company. During this first day of heavy enemy contact Kilo company went from a total of 220 marines and 7 officers to a total of 2 officers and 163 marines. Heavy fighting continued all though the next day and Kilo Company suffered more battle loss by losing 14 more marines. During the advance north, Kilo Company experienced heavy sniper action, numerous barbed wire and enemy barriers. During day three Kilos lost another 15 marines. By all accounts Kilo Company was now combat ineffective due to losing 5 officers and 84 marines but they carried on the fight to the enemy.

During day four, Kilo Company stopped several attempts by Japanese soldiers by killing more than 100 Japanese soldiers and experiencing the death of 25 Marines. Day 5 thru 7 was a reconstitution of food and ammunition and Kilo Company's moral remained high under the leadership of Captain Breakenridge. A total of 75 marines and 3 officers were sent as replacements for K Company, which now had company strength of 5 officers and 166 marines.

On D-7, Kilo Company was utilized to close gaps between adjoining battalions. During this time the Japanese used a large amount of mortar attacks to stop Kilo Company's mission. Captain Breakenridge received his second wound during these attacks by receiving shrapnel wounds from the mortar shells. Captain Breakenridge, with disregard to his own health and welfare refused to be evacuated and continued his mission, which was successful in stopping the Japanese attacks. Kilo Company was told they would be relieved the following day by fresh troops. During the day Captain Breakenridge went from fighting hole to fighting hole checking on his men's health and status. During this time Captain Breakenridge suffered his third and fatal wound when a sniper shot him.

Captain Breakenridge for his actions on Iwo Jima was awarded 2 purple hearts, the Silver Star, and the second highest award in the Marine Corps, the Navy Cross.

My name is Major Steven Summy, U.S. Army Reverses, (U.S.M.C. 77-82), and am married to Jeanne Gallagher Summy. Jeanne is the daughter of Lois Breakenridge Gallagher who is the sister of Captain Hugh Wallace Breakenridge. I was given Captain Breakenridge's military file and as I read through it all I discovered he was awarded the Navy Cross, which his widow and sister had never received. I then notified the Marine Corp/Navy records section and sent the Navy Cross citation to them. After a period of time I received the medal from the records section. Upon reading about Hugh Wallace Breakenridge and talking with his widow and sister, I feel I know Captain Breakenridge somewhat.

During World War II, Marines who were wounded twice in battle were then sent home from the war. Captain Breakenridge was still a newlywed when he was assigned to the Marshall campaign in the Pacific. When he received his second wound he had the opportunity to be evacuated and to be able to go home to his bride and leave the war behind him. This was not the kind of marine Wallace was. He cared for his marines so deeply he remained at his command to ensure their safety during a heavy Japanese attack. The men who fought World War II have been called the "Greatest Generation" due to the hardships they endured and the sacrifices they made. I believe this to be so upon reading about Captain Hugh Wallace Breakenridge. I believe when they talk about the "Greatest Generation" they must include him as one of the great leaders, great Marines, great husbands and great brothers to his family. It is said, "No greater love a man has than who gives his life up for another". He is an inspiration to me as a Marine, an Army Officer, and as a human being. He truly is a hero to the United States of America and to his memory I say "Thank You Wallace".

Editor's note: This account of Captain Breakenridge was provided by Scott and Judy Breakenridge of Hudson and was transcribed with minimal corrections. Hugh Wallace Breakenridge was born in Traer, Iowa on July 9, 1919 to William J. Breakenridge and S. Edith McMillan. His hometown was Dinsdale, Iowa. He graduated from Dinsdale High School in 1937 and Iowa State College in Ames in 1941. He married Margaret K. Kepler on January 17, 1942. His final resting place is Buckingham Cemetery northwest of Traer.

 
 
 

 

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