Seventy years after the battle of Iwo Jima, former Marine Sgt. Bill Pasewark continues to urgently enlighten the public about the cost of freedom. His daughter, Su Hess, assists him during his presentations using memorabilia and a Power Point presentation to bring the history of our nation’s fight for freedom to the forefront of our current consciousness.
Bill was born in Mt. Vernon, NY and entered the service in 1943 in New York City. He wanted to go into the Army Air Corp but through a twist of fate (or an unscrupulous Marine Recruiter!) he wound up in the Marines. After basic training at Parris Island he headed for combat training in Hawaii. Next came a landing on Iwo Jima after the beachhead had been established.
As Bill stated, the Japanese were more “in the island than on the island” due to an elaborate 16 mile tunnel network which housed 22,000 enemy soldiers. His unit came under heavy mortar fire on the beach which kept coming closer. Not everyone made it to the water for safety. They had no time to help the wounded and that haunts him to this day. He and two others survived unscathed, which totally amazed them. While retrieving dead Marines, he came across a young Marine whose lips were pursed and seemed to say, “Keep moving forward.”
After Iwo Jima he spent the end of his service in Guam and was discharged in 1946. While attending Michigan State he met his wife, Jean, at the Student Union Building. After meeting him she told her roommates, “He’s nice but he needs a lot of help.” They married in the fall of 1956. They were blessed with six children, including a son, Scott, who went into the Navy. He and Jean have celebrated 59 anniversaries together.
Bill taught in the Texas Tech College of Business from 1956-1982. He has authored numerous computer and business textbooks.
From 1945-1995 (approximately 50 years) he only talked about the war a handful of times. Not self-aggrandizing their accomplishments, he like most, rolled up their sleeves, went to work, and raised families. While Tom Brokaw called this group “The Greatest Generation,” Bill feels like “the greatest generation began with the founding fathers in 1776” and his “parents who survived The Great Depression.”
One of his recent presentations was to a group of seniors at Carillon on the 4th of July. He is both passionate and emphatic as he teaches about the history of the country, the origin of the flag, and his warnings of perpetual evil that must be fought in the world. Bill’s philosophy of faith can be summed up in two of his favorite hymns, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” and “This is my Father’s World.” A longtime member of the Lion’s Club, he celebrates the mission that the club stands for (Liberty, Intelligence, Our, Nations, Safety), and the education of children worldwide about their message of peace.
Bill was fortunate enough to return to Iwo Jima for the last time with a group of Veterans in March of 2015, fully funded by the Dallas Metroplex Military Foundation. He noted that out of 317 people on the trip, only 12 were Marines. Looking out from the top of Mt. Suribachi he could remember exactly where he was on that beach during his first trip some 70 years ago and think back on all the young lives that were lost there and how fortunate he had been to come out unscathed.
Bill went on the first South Plains Honor Flight in 2012 and continues his mission to “keep moving forward” with his message of freedom and what it takes to remain free.
Katherine McLamore & Larry A. Williams
Veteran’s Liaison Committee Co-Chairs
Texas South Plains Honor Flight