Iwo Jima and Okinawa Combat Veteran Shares His Toughest Experiences

YouTube / Remember WWII with Rishi Sharma

Robert Perschitti is a WWII veteran who served in the Navy aboard the USS El Dorado during the fighting in Okinawa and Iwo Jima.

24-year-old YouTuber Rishi Sharma, an avid WWII enthusiast on a mission to meet and interview every living WWII veteran of the Allied countries, filmed an interview back in October 2022 with the 100-year-old war veteran. 

Joining the Navy

Perschitti was born in a coal mining town in southwestern Pennsylvania. It was a depressing area where he lived, so when he turned 20, he decided to join the Navy. 

He was first sent to radio school in New York, then to Norfolk Virginia in a shore station for a year before eventually ending up at El Dorado to the Pacific. The fleet went to Pearl Harbor, Guam, and even made a mock invasion in Saipan. From there, on February 19, 1945, they headed to Iwo Jima. 

“I served in the Pacific for 15 months aboard a ship. I was in a shore station for a year and then they told me I had to go to sea,” Persichitti said. “We handled all the communications for the two operations: Iwo Jima and Okinawa.”

The Invasion

Perschitti recalled that when they went to Iwo Jima, the island was pounded, and one could hardly see it because of the smoke. 

He recalled, “I saw during the invasion that the sea was rough. I saw these fellas going in, in these landing crafts. I said to myself, you guys are going in, I don’t know how many are coming back.” 

Red Big Ball of Fire

He recalled how the Americans shelled the place. “I watched those 14 and 16-inch shells from battle wagons at night – just a big red ball of fire… until they hit that island and boom!” 

Perschitti recalled they stayed in Iwo Jima long enough until the island was secured enough to go set up their general’s headquarters. After that, they left and waited for Okinawa. 

Okinawa Experience

He recalled that Okinawa was April 1st, 1945 – an Easter Sunday morning. One night, two kamikazes came in. The smoke came into the compartments, and their ships fired their five-inch guns. One was knocked down, but the other one got away, hitting another ship, resulting in 150 casualties. 

“I saw many destroyers damaged by Japanese kamikazes. That was their last choice – they knew we were going to be coming in.” They stayed in the Philippines for a while, got to Honolulu, and came right home.

Advice for Future Generations

When asked if he had any advice for future generations, Perschitti quipped that he would like to see them go into service for at least a couple of years, to see if they would like the service or not. 

Wearing a picture from about 80 years ago on his lanyard, he also showed his WWII uniform in the Navy. “I did what I had to do. The good Lord kept me up to a hundred,” he said.