Field Notes – Remember Iwo Jima


This episode was recorded and produced by Danielle Thomsen in Bozeman, Montana. She shares her thoughts on meeting and interviewing Paul Milam.

I met Paul while doing a series of interviews at the Bozeman Senior Center, and immediately realized I had stumbled upon a remarkable man with a very special story. It is impossible to imagine how it felt to be 18 years old, away from home for the first time, and find yourself in the middle of a World War in the Pacific Ocean; but Paul’s words, voice, and candor provide a powerful window.

Here are a few interesting facts about Paul that weren’t included in the piece:

Paul was selected as part of a special team of 10 that was trained to use a new rocket. “It was a rocket 10 feet long with a 500 pound armor piecing bomb in front”. It was dropped 10 feet off the belly of the B-25 and guided by radar into the Japanese ship.” Paul’s time on Saipan and Iwo Jima was spent on airfields attaching these rockets to the bottom of the B-25s.

Paul had a long teaching career in rural Montana. After graduating from college, Paul and his wife moved to Eureka, Montana for a job teaching science. 2 years later, they moved to Bigfork Montana, where Paul spent the next 24 years at the high school teaching, coaching football basketball and track, and as Principal.

Paul has only begun to revisit his war memories recently. He says he really forgot the war when he got home, filing those memories away. Recently, his son and grandson found his old outfit online, and that led him to hours researching World War II and reminiscing. Last year, Paul had the opportunity to participate in the Big Sky Honor Flight, allowing him to connect with other veterans and reconnect with a part of his past.