From Apple Hill to Iwo Jima: Mission resident shares service story
St. Ignatius resident Charlie Jacquier, pronounced (jock keer), was born of French-American extraction in 1925, in the farming area of Smith Flat, California, a neighboring town of the famous “Gold Country” settlement of Placerville.
Drafted right out of high school in 1943 at the age of 18, Charlie was sent to San Diego, California, for the first of three basic training classes. He was being groomed for a strategic group of “Blue Jackets” (sailors) to be called The Beach Brigade. Their job was to precede any beach landing and set up communications to the following ships and landing crafts of any assault by sea. His second basic was with the Marine Corps and then a third with the Army. Charlie said this was so he and his group would be familiar with all branches’ procedures.
Many sea miles were logged in the Pacific from the U.S. to the Philippine Islands and northward, before he would be a part of one of the bloodiest battles of the pacific theater at Iwo Jima.
“We hit the beach and the gunfire and mortars were terrible. The noise was more than one could imagine,” Charlie explained. “One guy had his feet blown off and got up and walked through the exploding shells right into the ocean. Those Marines were the toughest guys in the world! They heard the bullets hitting the front of the landing craft and knew what they were about to charge into, and when the gate fell they charged anyway. I still have nothing but respect and admiration for their courage,” Charlie said.
He told of one of his buddies being hit. When Charlie started to go help him he was told to get down, but said he couldn’t leave the man out there to die. Charlie pulled his buddies to safety and was awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart for his valiant actions under fire.
“We kept hearing strange noises that seemed to be coming from underneath us. We started digging around and found that we were sitting on an enemy pill box that had been covered with sand by the shelling. Once we found the opening, a Marine dropped a grenade into the box and the noise stopped.
“I was there several days before leaving Iwo and getting real medical attention for my own wounds then got reassigned to San Diego to pick the Marines headed for the invasion of Japan. Those guys knew that planners had predicted a huge loss of American life if we had to invade Japan. So when the word came over the radio, about two days out of port, the first bomb had been dropped and the war should be won without an invasion, the boys rocked the ship with their cheering and laughter. They knew they would survive the war,” Charlie recalled with a smile.
After his discharge, Charlie worked in ranching throughout California for decades before falling in love with Montana and relocating to his cattle ranch near St. Ignatius.
Charlie is a friend and neighbor which this writer holds in the highest esteem and with an indebtedness that is beyond measure. He and his “greatest generation” made it possible for the following generations to know some of the best decades of freedom and good life to be known ever, anywhere.