The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

Everybody Has a Story

January 5, 2009

JD Linsteadt: A tale of survival against all odds

COMMERCE — JD Linsteadt is a survivor.

He’s survived a kamikaze attack, sharks, explosions, bullets, a shipwreck, car wrecks, he’s been run over, been blinded, paralyzed and even left for dead in a body bag. Through it all he credits his faith in God with bringing him out alive.

“I guess God wasn't through with me,” he said. "I have to credit having parents that prayed for me everyday."

Linsteadt enlisted in the US Navy at the age of 17 in 1944. "I didn't wait to be drafted; I wanted to do my part,” he explained. “In August 1944 I went on board the (USS) Nevada at Long Beach.”

The Nevada, with Linsteadt on board, sailed to Hawaii, the Philippines, and then the Gilbert and Marshall Islands.

“I was a lookout on the bridge and in the crow's nest. I watched for planes, ships and subs. In the Philippines we shelled cities along the coast of Luzon and Mindanao,” Linsteadt recalled. “After that we went to the Marianas to an island called Mog Mog to be refitted for the invasion of Iwo Jima. We restocked food, supplies and ammo.”

Linsteadt’s ship arrived at Iwo Jima on Feb. 16, 1945. “For 19 days we bombarded them preparing for the invasion,” Linsteadt said. “They transferred me to a troop ship since I was trained in amphibious assault. I was to go in on the third wave, blue beach.”

Linsteadt was designated as the gate operator for an amphibious assault craft — nicknamed a duck. Unarmed, and without a life vest, he said he was unprepared for what would happen next.

“We were going in. We were about a thousand yards from the shore when eight-inch Japanese shells opened up on us. The shell came straight down and exploded inside the craft. As far as I know, of the 32 men onboard, I was the only survivor. The next thing I remember was I was in the water. There were body parts everywhere and the water was blood red,” Linsteadt explained while moving his arms in front of him as if pushing something out of the way. “I had to swim through the bodies and through the sharks; they were having a feeding frenzy from the blood. I swam through bodies, arms, torsos and the sharks all the way to the beach — though the sharks didn't really bother me; they were busy with the dead.”

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