One was a V-shaped chunk missing from his left ear, courtesy of a Japanese bayonet.
The other was the Arisaka rifle to which that bayonet was affixed.
After being wounded, Pvt. Alcorn wrestled the rifle from his attacker and killed him with it, then arranged to have the weapon sent home to his toddler son in
"I remember when I was about 13 and playing army with it in the woods," said that son,
After his father died in 1996, he gave the rifle to Soldiers &
It's just one artifact among the hall's collections, but like most chosen for display by curator
The battle for
One of them was another
He and five brothers all fought in the war; he was the only one who didn't come home, shot by a sniper on Iwo at age 21. The exhibit includes his Purple Heart with gold star and a telegram sent to his parents on
The details of what happened to him were never entirely clear, even to his family. He confided in his wife, Marjorie, but like almost all combat veterans revealed only small pieces of what he endured.
"He never really talked about the war at all," his son said.
"I remember my mom telling me that he had sustained brain damage in the war," his son said. "I don't know if that meant what we would now call post-traumatic stress disorder. But she said you must never ask him about it. I do remember him sometimes screaming at night. My mom said she sometimes found him out in the yard looking for [enemy soldiers]."
Alcorn was 30 when he enlisted in 1944, much older than most of his fellow Marines on
He grew up in
But his younger brother, Bill, was already in the Marines aboard the USS Essex, a carrier that later saw action off
He wanted to do his part and joined the Marines in
After training in
"She had no idea where he was," his son recalled.
The Marines could not dig into the black volcanic sand and were exposed to murderous fire.
"He just walked right into it," his son said. "He was the only guy in his platoon to make it."
When he was growing up,
"I remember him saying he was afraid of the 'screaming mimis' [enemy rockets] and he talked about the smell of the bodies," he said.
His dad also once told him that he'd shot a Japanese soldier in the eye.
On the February day when he was wounded, a shell blast blew him out of his foxhole and knocked him unconscious. When he came to, the Japanese were attacking with bayonets, stabbing the stunned Marines. When one enemy came at him with a bayonet, Pvt. Alcorn rolled to the side as the blade caught him in the ear, taking out a chunk.
During the fight, Pvt. Alcorn managed to grab the rifle and kill his attacker with the bayonet.
He later was airlifted off the island to a hospital ship. For him, the war was over. At
The Essex had supported the Iwo invasion, but
He was active in the Verona VFW post and in his later years volunteered at the VA hospital in
"He was very proud of his service," his son said.
Marjorie died in 1995, Ray the following year.
In cleaning out the attic, the children found the letters he had written to her, along with photos, medals and other items from the war years. Pete still had the Japanese rifle in his own attic and decided to donate it to Soldiers & Sailors.
It's the kind of relic that
"We're looking for good artifacts that have local connections," he said.
The men who fought there are immortalized by the
It's a heroic image for the ages. But
"I think if someone had come up to him and suggested that he was a hero, he might have taken a swing at them," he said. "None of these guys considered themselves heroes. They did what they had to do, came home and got on with their lives."
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