Thomas McPhatter: Made his contributions to America. Enlisted in the United States Marine Corps December 1943 and trained at segregated Montford Point at Camp LeJeune, NC,  He became a combat swimming instructor and an expert marksman. After Thomas finished basic training he was sent overseas for training in Hawaii. He became a platoon sergeant to his men was known as a stern, but fair, leader To his men and earn the name  Sergeant Steel head.

Thomas McPhatter made his Contribution to America
one of the first MontFord point Marines

February, 1945, Thomas was part of the Invasion of Iwo Jima. As sergeant of the Eighth Ammunition Company, he and his men were  responsible for deployment of ammunition to the front lines.

He prevented his men from entering a dangerous ammo dump right before it exploded.

He received a reprimand from superiors for refusing to obey an order to enter that dump, saving his men in the process.

Thomas talked often about his time on Iwo Jima

He saw men die next to him; saw Japanese soldiers get blood transfusions directly from white American Marines; he saw atrocities of war that can only be described as hell.

He led his men to the airfield to recover ammo dropped from planes by parachute, so that Marines’ ammo could be replenished. Also, as some Marines were climbing Mt. Suribachi to plant the first (and smaller) American flag on Iwo Jima, Thomas handed them a metal pole from a dunnage pile, so that they could place the flag on the mountain top.

After most Marines were shipped off the island, the Eighth Ammo Company stayed to clean active ammunition. After leaving Iwo Jima the Eighth Ammo Company preparing for the invasion of Japan. Marines were told that atomic bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The war was soon over. McPhatter and thousands of other U.S. Marines went onto Japanese soil as occupiers, not invaders; the first Americans to see Japan since the time of Admiral Perry.

Thomas H (Steel Head) McPhatter along with the men of the Eighth Ammo Company  all  deserve recognition for their Historical contribution to America.



  1. I am very happy to see this brief account of the some of the many contributions of Captain Thomas McPhatter to our nation. I knew Captain McPhatter from 1997 until his passing in 2009. From about 1952 to 1959 he served as pastor of St. Paul’s Presbyterian in Kansas City and also served as moderator of the Kansas City presbytery. He was active community leader for decades in San Diego from his arrival in 1959. His was the first Black family to move into the Emerald Hills community of San Diego. They lived on 902 Bollenbacher Street. As each of us should, Captain McPhatter has written his autobiography chronicling his fine education in North Carolina, and the many ways he fought against racism in the military. Published in 1993, it is a very intriguing book worthy of reading, entitled, “Caught in the Middle: A Dichotomy of an African American Man (They Called Him Troublemaker)”. Best Regards, Michael D. Alston


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