IWO JIMA — (Delayed ) — In one day of gallant, bloody fighting as a Third Marine Division platoon leader on the northern end of this battle-scarred island, Marine Staff Sergeant George T. Jennings of Ada, Okla., attacked and took a ridge stubbornly held by deeply-entrenched Japs.
Then, on the first day of his command, he lost his life on the battlefield [March 6, 1945], a Jap sniper’s victim.
A demolitions man, the staff sergeant had taken command when the platoon leader became a casualty. Sitting in a cave just back of the front lines, Marine First Lieutenant James Paponis, 23, son of Mr. and Mrs. Steve D. Paponis of San Francisco, Calif., executive officer of the Ninth Marine Regiment, unit in which Jennings served, told the story of the heroic sergeant.
“Our officer platoon leaders had been either killed or wounded and we hadn’t received replacements before we were ordered to make a new attack,” the officer related. “We put Staff Sergeant Jennings in command of the second platoon the night before the attack. Although he was a demolitions man, we had no qualms about giing him such an important assignment. He was the kind of man who inspired confidence.
“Told that the objective was a firmly-held ridge 150 yards to our front, Jennings simply said, ‘I don’t know how many of us will get there, but those of us that do will hold it.’
“At 9 o’clock in the morning, a heavy preparatory artillery barrage ceased, and, 30 seconds later, Jennings shoved off with his men, reporting to his commanding officer via radio, ‘We’re going up the hill.’
“And he did,” Paponis continued. “He was in front of his men all the way to the crest of the ridge. He reported the objective taken and then set up an observation post.
“The platoon’s mortar observer was pinned down in a foxhole by intense Jap fire and was unable to follow Jennings to the ridge. So Jennings adjusted our company’s mortar fire, sending directions via a walkie-talkie.
“For several hours he directed our fire, kept his platoon organized and constantly exposed himself while aiding wounded men.
“That’s how he got it. A sniper shot him in the chest while he was helping one of his men who had been hit. He died before a corpsman could get to him.”
In the early part of the Pacific war, Jennings was a member of the Marine Raiders, fighting in the Solomon Islands. He was with the Ninth Marine Regiment on Guam, where he accounted for more than 50 Japs, killing them in caves with demolition charges.
“He like demolition work,” Paponis said. “In fact, every assignment you gave him he attacked with enthusiasm. A well-built lad with a Southern drawl and a sense of humor, he always was on the spot and willing when you needed him.
“He was fearless and cool in battle and gentle when gentleness was required. And he was ambitious. After the war, he planned to study oil engineering.”