Joseph was born in Big Stone Gap, Wise County on 7 November 1925 and moved with his family to Kingsport, Sullivan County, Tennessee in the later 1920s. After his father passed away in 1931, he moved with his mother to Johnson City, Washington County, Tennessee and that’s where he called home. Joseph attended Science Hill High School, but departed when he was 17 years old and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on 18 May 1943.
Joseph completed Basic Training at the Recruit Depot, Marine Corps Base San Diego in San Diego, California with the 8th Recruit Battalion and awarded the Military Occupational Specialty Code 745/Rifleman. After that he attended the Parachute Training School at Camp Gillespie, also in San Diego. Upon completing that course of instruction with Company A and B, Joseph was assigned to the Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Marine Regiment, 5th Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force at Camp Joseph H. Pendleton in Oceanside, California on 19 January 1944. The 27th Marines had just been activated nine days earlier on 10 January and were assigned to the 5th Marine Division on 21 January. He was later reassigned to Company C and promoted to Private First Class.
Beginning 8 February 1944 and ending on 1 August, Joseph and the 27th Marines began a rigorous six phase (A thru F) training course. It consisted of more Basic, Individual & Small Unit; Company, Battalion & Regimental Tactics and finished up with Amphibious Assaults. They had one break in training on 17 June when the 27th received their Official Regimental Colors from the 5th Division Commander. September 1944, saw Joseph and the 27th embarking for the Island of Hawaii. The entire division had completed the move to Camp Tarawa by 10 October. After that on 1 November the entire 5th Division started specific training for an attack/assault on Island X. They didn’t know it at the time, but Island X was going to be the island of Iwo Jima.
Most of the 5th Marine Division embarked onto Landing Ship Tanks (LSTs) on 10 January 1945 at Kawaihae, Hawaii and sailed for the Island of Maui the next day. They disembarked the LSTs at Lahaina Roads, Maui on 17 January and boarded Attack Transport Ships that departed for the Western Pacific the very next day, the 18th. Joseph and the 27th Marine Regiment’s 1st Battalion Landing Team were already onboard the USS Hansford (APA-106) a Bayfield-class Attack Transport and had been training with her crew for the landing since 28 December 1944. Upon departing Maui, the Captain opened their sealed orders; they were to proceed to the Island of Saipan, Mariana Islands to join up with Task Force 51 to begin their assault and invasion of the Island of Iwo Jima, Bonin Islands on 19 February 1945. After anchoring off Iwo Jima, she continued to off load men and equipment and embarked the beach causalities until 25 February when she sailed back to Saipan. There she disembarked 127 men that were taken to the General Hospital.
The 5th Division were assigned the Southern Sector and assaulted both Green and Red Beaches. Joseph with the 1st Battalion, 27th Marines were tasked with moving onto and securing Red 2. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions 27th Marines and the 28th Marines were on to their left. To their right, the Northern Sector was assigned to the 23rd and 25th Marines of the 4th Marine Division. At first all went very well, with exception to the intelligence about the beach’s make-up and the terrain. The beach was black ash and was not suited to digging nor moving heavy items through it and the slopes in land were much higher then what they were informed. The Japanese were not seen and after more and more troops landed on the beaches, the Japanese opened up with all their artillery, mortar and machine guns. Most devastating was the fire from Mount Suribachi to their left, but the Marines did their job and continued to move forward as they were trained. They did start to throw off unwanted weight that was bogging them down in the ash and the first thing dropped was the gas masks.
By the end of the day, all the main elements of the 5th Division were ashore. The Marines, after splitting the island in two, were driving north and south in the face of bitter opposition. The Japanese were well hidden in deep caves, pillboxes and emplacements that were mutually supporting of their fire and they made our Marines pay dearly for the ground we took. On this, the first day of the Battle of Iwo Jima, the 5th Marine Division suffered 904 casualties. The next day the 5th started their two prong attack, the 28th Marines to take Mount Suribachi and Joseph and the 27th to swing north up the coast. The 28th Marines would finally defeat the Japanese and take Mount Suribachi raising our flag on its heights on 23 February. Joseph and the 27th were still slugging their way north up the coast under heavy resistance. By the end of the day 9 March 1945, the 5th Marine Division had sustained 6,544 dead and wounded, but had killed 7,605 of the enemy. The next day on the 10th, Joseph was killed in action. The island was secured on 26 March.
Joseph was 19 years old and awarded the Purple Heart Medal. He participated in one Unit Campaign: Iwo Jima. Joseph was returned home in May 1948 and interred at Monte Vista Memorial Gardens, Section 11, Lot 44, Space 7 in Johnson City.
Joseph’s the son of Joseph Haskew Stewart, Senior and Cora J. Boatright. His brother Clayton served during WWII in the United States Army, Medical Corps with the 42nd General Hospital. His sister Ruth was a United States Navy WAVE during World War II.
The Johnson City Press-Chronicle, April 8, 1945
Pfc. Joseph H. Stewart of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, youngest son of Mrs. J.H. Stewart of 514 East Fairview avenue, was killed in action on Iwo Jima March 10, the Navy Department has notified his mother. The 20-Year-old Marine entered the service June 1, 1943, training at Camp Gillespie, San Diego, Calif., where he was graduated from a paratrooper school and Camp Joseph H. Pendleton. A former Science Hill High School student, private Stewart was a member of the basketball and football teams. Memorial services will be held for him as soon as fuller information is received regarding burial. An older brothers. Sgt. Clayton Stewart, recently returned from 33 months of service overseas with the Medical Corps and now is stationed at Camp Carson, Colo. His sister, WAVE Ruth Stewart, is stationed at Mare Island, Calif.
Kingsport News, 27 April 1948
Johnson City – Funeral services for Pfc. Joseph H. Stewart, 21, killed March 3, 1945, on Iwo Jima, will be held at the First Prebyterian Church with Dr. Ferguson Wood, pastor, in charge. Burial will be in Monte Vista Cemetery.
A member of the Marine Corps, he served in the Southwest Pacific, going overseas in 1944. He was awarded the Purple Heart and severals medals. Survivors are his mother, Mrs. J.H. Stewart of Johnson City, four sisters, Mrs. Albert Combs and Mrs. J.L. Burley of Johnson City, Miss Ellahugh Wayman of Knoxville, Mrs. Robert Dollar of Green Cove Springs, Fla., four brothers, Clyde, Olan, Clayton of Johnson City and W.C. Stewart of Washington, D.C. Full military honors will be given at the grave of Joseph H. Stewart Marine Corps League, named in his honor.
- Rank: Private First Class
- Date of birth: 7 November 1925
- Date of death: 10 March 1945
- County: Washington
- Hometown: Johnson City
- Service Branch: Marine Corps
- Division/Assignment: 27th Marines, 5th Marine Division
- Theater: Pacific
- Conflict: World War II
- Battles: Iwo Jima
- Awards: Purple Heart
- Burial/Memorial Location: Monte Vista Burial Park, Johnson City, TN
- Location In Memorial: Pillar XIX, Middle Panel
- Contact us to sponsor Joseph H. Stewart
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