Warren G. Matthews, 85, pharmaceutical salesman


Warren G. Matthews, who fought at Iwo Jima as a Marine Corps private in World War II and was a witness to the raising of the American flag on Mount Suribachi, died of a heart attack Saturday at the Timonium home of a daughter. He was 85.

Mr. Matthews was born and raised in Cardwell, Mo., and was a student at the University of Missouri when he enlisted in the Marine Corps in March 1942. He later entered officer candidate school.

"After being denied the hoped-for second-lieutenant bars, his impolitic rejection of sergeant stripes landed him an abrupt reassignment to the 4th Marine Division in the Pacific," said a son-in-law, Rodger Robertson. "He later attributed his survival to the absence of that higher rank. `A good lieutenant always took the lead in the landings,' he explained."

Early on Feb. 19, 1945, Mr. Matthews joined with other Marines of the 4th and 5th divisions as they made their way aboard landing craft to Iwo Jima, an 8-square-mile island, under the cover of naval gunfire.

As the Marines and their vehicles became bogged down in the volcanic ash of the beach, Japanese forces began an intense mortar barrage.

"He was a rifleman with the 25th Marines, C Company and caught his fair share of initial assaults across the Pacific on the way to Iwo," said William L. More of Reisterstown, a retired Marine Corps colonel and Iwo Jima survivor.

"When you land in the initial assault and hit the beach, you're right away nose-to-nose with the enemy. You just can't describe it," said Mr. More, a former president of the 4th Marine Division Association. "His company was right beside ours when we landed."

Mr. Matthews' daughter Linda Robertson of Timonium, said her father was reluctant to talk about his wartime experiences.

"He didn't say a whole lot; you had to pump him," Mrs. Robertson said, "But I remember him telling me how the company chaplains followed right behind the men saying, `Be brave.'"

Mr. Matthews could see the Marines and a Navy corpsman raising two flags on Mount Suribachi. The second became an iconic image of World War II in a picture taken by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal.

"Warren's company helped suppress the fire so the flag could go up," Mr. More said.

Mr. Matthews, who was wounded in a mortar attack that left him with permanent hearing loss, was eventually evacuated from Iwo Jima and sent to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to recover. He received a Purple Heart.

"The two guys on either side of him were killed," Mrs. Robertson said.

After the war, Mr. Matthews enrolled at the University of Maryland, College Park, earning a bachelor's degree in 1947.

The longtime Timonium resident was a pharmaceutical salesman for Upjohn Co. for 39 years before retiring in 1986.

"My father made lasting friendships easily, which included the physicians he called upon and anyone who would go hunting, boating or fishing with him," said his son, Dr. Leslie S. Matthews of Lutherville, chief of orthopedic surgery at Union Memorial Hospital.

Mr. Matthews was an active member of the Maryland Chapter of the 4th Marine Division Association, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, and Disabled American Veterans.

He also was an avid lacrosse fan.

His wife of 47 years, the former Jane Richardson Black, a retired teacher at St. Paul's School, died in 1994.

Mr. Matthews was a communicant of the Roman Catholic Church of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 20 E. Ridgely Road, Timonium, where a memorial Mass with full military honors will be offered at 10 a.m. today.

Also surviving are another daughter, Dr. Laurie Lijoi of York, Pa.; and eight grandchildren.


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