Heart of Louisiana: Iwo Jima

Stephen McMurray has been drawing and painting images of people for more than 80 years. He loved drawing cartoons as a child. Today, he's painting his grandson.

McMurray's art took an interesting turn when he was a high school senior and the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. The day before he turned 18, McMurray enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. He shipped out to the Pacific, where he added a few items to his field pack.

"I had a water color pad, and two pencils and two brushes, water color brushes, and I brought a bottle of Higgins ink," said McMurray.

McMurray was part of the invasion force that landed on the heavily fortified Japanese island known as Iwo Jima.

"It was a peaceful day, and I was thinking to myself, not a good time for people to die on this nice peaceful looking day," said McMurray.

The fierce battle lasted more than a month, with enemy soldiers fighting from a network of underground caves. McMurray didn't find time to draw until the fighting ended. "I was trying to convey the turmoil, the violence, and the absolute havoc and fear."

In one drawing that McMurray calls The Replacements, he sketched the horror on a young Marine's face. "There's fear in the bravest of hearts. People don't realize when it will strike you."

One of Stephen McMurray's favorite images from the war features one of only several hundred Japanese soldiers – out of some 21,000 -- who didn't die in the fighting.

"I felt that the war was close to coming to an end, and we didn't have to hate them anymore," said McMurray.

McMurray has donated some of his wartime art to the National World War Two Museum. His pen and brushes have created la sting memories of war.

"I wanted to make permanent a memory, but I also wanted to get rid of some of the ugliness of it," said McMurray.

In addition to his drawings, McMurray also tells a Marine's story of Iwo Jima in poetry: "There youth is time for hope not care. So young some died. So young no more. Some cry, an arm or leg not there. But most survive the battle score, to live, to love, a life to share. But none forgot the battle's roar."

Through these words and these images, Stephen McMurray wants to make sure that no one forgets.

At the Battle of Iwo Jima, the U.S. Marine casualties outnumber the total fighting force of the Japanese army. There were more than 26,000 Marine casualties, including nearly 7,000 killed.