Warren Gans Blosser, a World War II Navy gunner who participated in the assault on Iwo Jima and later worked as a railroader and insurance agent, died of congestive heart failure Nov. 14 at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium. The former Fallston resident was 85.
Mr. Blosser was born in Smithfield, Pa., and was raised there and in Uniontown, Pa. After graduating from Smithfield High School in 1939, he worked at U.S. Steel's Clairton Works in Clairton, Pa., before enlisting in the Navy in 1940.
He was assigned as a gunner aboard the heavy cruiser USS Tuscaloosa, which served in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters and participated in the Normandy invasion and the battles for Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
On the morning of Feb. 19, 1945, when the battle for Iwo Jima commenced and shorebound Marines aboard landing craft made their way to the island, the Tuscaloosa's guns roared into action with protective cover. They continued bombarding the Japanese-occupied island until March 14.
Mr. Blosser watched the bombardment from the Tuscaloosa's deck through powerful binoculars, he told The Sun in a 2005 article.
"I would have wagered anyone who thought the enemy could have survived the aerial and naval bombardment," said Mr. Blosser. "From my ship, Iwo looked like one great dust pile. But they did survive, and Iwo became a bloodbath."
The casualties were enormous as blood from dead Marines floating in the surf attracted sharks. After 36 days of continual combat, 6,821 Marines and Navy corpsmen were dead, and more than 18,000 were wounded. Japanese losses reached 20,000.
"It was all so overwhelming," Mr. Blosser said in the interview. "When we passed Iwo's shore in close, I saw bodies of Marines being eaten by sharks. I just tried to forget it because after Iwo, we were on our way to shell Okinawa and hope the kamikaze dive bombers wouldn't come down our smokestack."
He added: "We gave the island back to the Japanese in the 1960s and who, except for us who were there, remember what it was all about, even know it happened?"
Mr. Blosser seldom spoke of his wartime experiences.
"He's part of that vanishing America - the greatest generation - that Tom Brokaw wrote about," said Joe Nawrozki, a former Sun reporter and Mr. Blosser's Bel Air neighbor.
"One day it hit me - Warren had been a neighbor and had never said a thing about being at Iwo Jima. That's the way he was," Mr. Nawrozki said. "When he did talk he remembered how they continually worried about kamikazes and that his ship had bombarded Mount Suribachi exclusively."
"His service was very important to him. He told me he was onboard the Tuscaloosa for 18 months and never saw land," said his wife of 32 years, the former Claudia B. Zealor.
"He also told me about the time he was on shore leave in Shanghai, and the rickshaw driver got lost and couldn't find his ship. But that was about the most I'd heard about his wartime experiences. He was not a self-absorbed man or a braggart."
Discharged in 1945, Mr. Blosser went to work as a steam locomotive fireman on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. He later left engine service and became a railroad policeman, first at Union Station in Washington, and later at Camden Station.
After leaving the B&O in 1957, he worked as an independent State Farm Insurance agent for 27 years, until retiring in 1984.
Mr. Blosser was an active member and lay reader at the Union Chapel United Methodist Church in Joppa.
He refused to let a knee replacement and trouble with his other leg deter him from his duties as a lay reader.
"He had such a wonderful and deep speaking voice and wanted to continue doing it so badly," Mrs. Blosser said.
"Warren had a such a long, eventful and joyful life," said the Rev. Victor E. Harner, who conducted Mr. Blosser's funeral Monday.
"He had a great sense of humor, was a great storyteller, and when he read the Scriptures from the pulpit at the 7 p.m. Christmas Eve service, it was a powerful thing," he said.
Barbara Herold, the church's secretary, recalled his affability and always-present smile.
"He was the most wonderful man and had the biggest smile. He was the kindest man you'd ever want to meet," Mrs. Herold said.
Mr. Blosser was an avid gardener and like puttering around his home. He also like to travel and take cruises.
"That was the sailor in him," his wife said.
Also surviving are a son, Jack G. Blosser of Bel Air; a daughter, Kimberly Blosser Haug of Belcamp; a brother, Robert Blosser of Silver Spring; and three grandchildren. His first wife, the former Frances Humphreys, died in 1973. Another son, Warren G. Blosser Jr., died in 2003.