Iwo Jima Hot Chocolate

By Faye Higbee

The US Marine Corps posted a video on Feb 19, on the 74th Anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima that revealed what they called the “lighter side of war.” Cpl Don Graves told of an exchange with the enemy …over hot chocolate.

Iwo Jima was a five week battle that claimed thousands of lives, both American and Japanese. Cpl Don Graves was an assault squad leader. He thrown into that position after his previous leader was tortured to death by the enemy. Soon after, he lost his squad.

“I was all alone.” Cpl Don Graves

He was able to find two other Marines in a foxhole, and joined them there. But after intense fighting for weeks, they wanted something different.

Stripes reported,

“You know, 18 years old, 17 years old, maybe 19, we never drank coffee — we drank hot chocolate,” he said in the video.

So, Graves chopped up his D Bar — chocolate rations from his pack — poured water over it and lit a fire.

“We sat there, and we watched [the fire] … and then, all of a sudden, I smelled hot chocolate,” he said. “It smelled so good.”

But there were more noses in the distance that picked up a whiff of that chocolatey goodness.

“I failed to realize that [scent] travels,” Graves said in the video. “And, all of a sudden, a few minutes later, I heard [a Japanese man say], ‘Hey Marine, very good chocoletto. You bring chocoletto here.’”

With a smile on his face, Graves said he told the Japanese fighter that if he wanted chocolate, “you come here and get it.”

“He said, ‘Oh no, you bring here,’” Graves said, chuckling. “There’s humor in combat. Every man who’s been in combat knows that sometimes funny things happen.”

Cpl Graves exhibited a bit of ingenuity in the midst of the intense battle of Iwo Jima. That he can laugh about the enemy’s voice out of the darkness is a wonderful thing. Laughter is a sort of medicine, a tiny spot of healing from overwhelming circumstances and danger. He likely wasn’t the only service member who decided to make hot chocolate during the war, but his experience counts as a reminder of the things that can occur when you least expect it.

And speaking of ingenuity, remember when Marines in WWII decided to make ice cream with their aircraft? Other branches also made ice cream in their planes. You can read about that at this link.

Featured photo: “Iwo Jima February 20, 1945. Marines burrow in the volcanic sand of the Iwo beach, as their comrades unload supplies and equipment from landing vessels despite the hail of fire.” Via Funker530