Introduction

 

While searching through some old newspaper articles in The Danbury Reporter from 1944, I discovered, by accident, an article about a naval ship, USS Stokes (AKA-68), being launched at Wilmington, North Carolina and named in honor of Stokes County. Until this time, I did not realize there was a ship named for Stokes County, nor did other residents that I spoke with.

Within these web pages is a brief history of the USS Stokes (AKA-68) during World War II. Stokes was an attack cargo ship named for Stokes County, North Carolina. She was designed to carry military cargo and landing craft, and to use the latter to land weapons, supplies, and Marines on enemy shores during amphibious assaults. Her biggest challenge occurred on 19 February 1945 during the assault on Iwo Jima, landing marines on the beaches, and for the next two weeks, supplied them with rockets, ammunition, gasoline, and other supplies. Stokes then loaded combat casualties for evacuation to Saipan.

Iwo Jima was the bloodiest battle in the history of the Marine Corps. In the 36 day campaign almost 7,000 Americans were killed in action, and more than 25,000 Americans were wounded. Virtually all of the 22,000 Japanese soldiers involved in the battle were killed. In addition to combat Marines, hundreds of Navy corpsman became casualties in their efforts to save Marines. Also, the casualty rate for Navy Seabees (133rd Naval Construction Battalion) was the highest total of any Seabee unit in history. Twenty-seven Medals of Honor were awarded to sailors and Marines, more than any other single battle in U.S. history (22 Marines, four Navy corpsmen, and one Navy landing craft commander). Exactly half of the awards issued to Marines and corpsmen were posthumous. One of the Marines awarded the Medal of Honor was Jack Lucas, born in North Carolina. He was the youngest Marine to ever receive this award, just six days into his 17th birthday. Anxious to fight for his country, this son of a tobacco farmer forged his mother’s signature and enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 14. As General James L. Jones, 32nd Commandant of the Marine Corps, said, "The valor and sacrifice of the Marines and Sailors who fought on Iwo Jima is, today and forever, the standard by which we judge what we are and what we might become."

During my initial research of the USS Stokes, I made contact with two commissioning crew members, Axel H. Anderson, EM2 from New Jersey, and Dale I. Bronson, SM2 from Washington. Both provided valuable insight into the history of the USS Stokes. EM2 Anderson provided several photos and a detail account of the ships daily movements and ports of call. SM2 Bronson provided first-hand information on Stokes participation in the assault on Iwo Jima. Also, Robert E. "Bob" Ellis, BM1, USN, Ret., provided several photos, including a commissioning crew photo and other memorabilia. Many thanks, Axel, Dale and Bob, for your contribution to the history of the USS Stokes.

Since publishing this site on the web, other crew members have contacted me about their experiences and provided photos and other valuable information. In addition, a number of contacts have been from relatives of deceased USS Stokes veterans.

Thanks to everyone for your interest in keeping the memory of the USS Stokes and her crew alive.

Since the crew of the USS Stokes was witness to our flag flying atop Mount Suribachi on February 23, 1945, I’ve included a copy of the original photo of this historical event taken by Joe Rosenthal. This is the most reproduced photograph in the history of photography.

 
“Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue”
Admiral Chester W Nimitz, March 16, 1945