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Private First Class THOMAS "COTTON" BILLINGSLEY

UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS

STATIONED IN MARSHALL ISLANDS, SAIPAN, TINIAN, IWO JIMA

YEARS OF SERVICE: 2

MEMORY/STORY

In January 1943, Private Billingsley volunteered for service in the USMC and underwent basic training at Parris Island. He was attached to the 4th Marine Division and deployed directly to the Pacific Theater of Operations. Billingsley participated in four amphibious combat landings onto the Marshall Islands, Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima. He endured extreme combat conditions as the Japanese adopted a full defensive posture, designed to inflict maximum casualties on the attacking American troops. In February 1944, Billingsley and the 4th Marine Division invaded and captured the small island of Saipan. Later, he and the 4th Marine Division assisted in the capture of Tinian in July 1944 which ultimately saved the lives of Americans as the bomber Enola Gay forced the unconditional surrender of the Japanese Empire. On February 19, 1945, Billingsley landed on the island of Iwo Jima and fought under intense enemy fire for 36 days. Following the Battle of Iwo Jima, he was honorably discharged on November 27, 1945. Among numerous medals received, Billingsley was awarded two Presidential Unit Citations and the Congressional Veteran Commendation.