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Marine remains faithful to pledge

That strategy worked. Americans were able to cut the island in two on the first day of the battle, but suffered more than 2,400 casualties.

"We tried to dig in (foxholes), but the island was volcanic rock and you couldn't dig," Tolar said. "You were in the open all the time. It was so rocky you didn't have any cover."

At one point, pinned down by Japanese fire, Tolar used the body of a dead Marine for cover.

"I don't know who he was, but he saved my life that day," Tolar said.

After three days of fighting Marines captured Mount Suribachi, the island's highest point. There Marines raised an American flag, a moment that became famous thanks to a photo shown around the world.

"I didn't see it right away; we were trying our best to stay low," Tolar said of the flag. "But I saw it later." Many assumed the flag raising was a symbol of victory.

"That was really just the start of the battle," Tolar said.

In the fierce combat, Tolar and four other Marines became separated from their unit. On their own several days, Tolar and the men were classified Missing in Action. They ran out of food and water.

Tolar came across the body of a dead Marine. Searching the man's pack for ammunition and other useful items, he found an apple.

"I'll admit it, I thought about eating that apple," Tolar said.

Instead, he took it back to fellow lost Marines and cut it into five pieces.

"No one said thank you, but they didn't have to," he recalled. "The looks on their faces said it all.

"Every time I turn on the water I think of Iwo," Tolar said. "When I eat I always leave a few morsels on my plate, just because Ican. I'll never forget those days."

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