Utahn — perhaps the last Air Force Iwo Jima veteran — turns 101 on Memorial Day

May 29, 2023, 10:16 AM

James Kimose, Farr West, celebrates his 101st birthday in Ogden on Sunday. Kimose is a WWII marine ...

James Kimose, Farr West, celebrates his 101st birthday in Ogden on Sunday. Kimose is a WWII marine veteran and fought at Iwo Jima. (Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

(Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

FARR WEST, Utah — Every day.

That’s how often Jim Kimose thinks about his time at Iwo Jima — including witnessing the historic raising of the American flag — and his service in the United States Air Force during World War II.

“It was hell,” he recalled Saturday. “You can’t explain how bad it was. You can’t imagine how many were killed and hurt and burnt. It was terrible.”

Kimose, a lifelong resident of Utah, turns 101 years old on Memorial Day.

Born and raised in Farr West, Kimose worked as a hod carrier prior to the start of WWII, working with bricklayers on construction sites.

The first time he tried to enlist, at age 18, he was told he was too young.

“I wanted to fight!” he said.

Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Kimose was “angry” and had an even stronger drive to serve his country. He was drafted into the Air Force in October 1942.

Kimose started his service at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. He also trained as an aircraft mechanic at Fort Sumner in New Mexico, as well as bases in California and Hawaii, before being sent to Iwo Jima.

Kimose remembered how crowded the island of Iwo Jima felt, being only two miles wide and four miles long. He said they were “dug in like a bunch of rats,” with many Japanese soldiers hiding in caves.

“They had to run like crazy to get on the island and not be shot because the Japanese were all over the island,” said his wife, Betty Kimose.

He also remembered watching the flag being raised on Mt. Suribachi on Feb. 23, 1945, five days after the Battle of Iwo Jima began.

(James Kimose, Farr West, talks with his great-great-grandchildren as he celebrates his 101st birthday in Ogden on Sunday. Kimose is a WWII marine veteran and fought at Iwo Jima. (Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

At the time, Kimose had no idea just how historically significant that moment would become. But it’s something he said he hasn’t been able to forget ever since.

Kimose also shared his memory of the night the first atomic bomb was dropped. On the night of Aug, 5, 1945, he and his crew were told to stay out of the sky.

“We didn’t know about the atomic bomb,” he said. “We didn’t know what the hell was going on.”

They watched the Enola Gay fly overhead. The next morning, they learned about the bombing of Hiroshima.

Kimose’s family said there is a lot he has forgotten about the war — or doesn’t want to talk about.

“That’s a plus, though,” Betty Kimose pointed out. “Some of it he’s wanted to forget, and he’s done it.”

She said she knows most of her husband’s stories by now, but he will periodically tell her new ones, even after 75 years of marriage.

The stories he does share, he tells with humor. He was discharged from the Air Force on Dec. 26, 1945. He recalled the story of taking a cab all the way from San Bernardino to Salt Lake City with a group of four other discharged soldiers.

“I remember it right to the dollar: We paid 83 bucks apiece,” Kimose laughed.

He also has a great fondness for the men he served with.

“They were something else,” he said. “Those were really good guys.”

Fifty-eight years after serving in Iwo Jima, Kimose was reunited with fellow veteran Donald F. Hardy Sr., of Pennsylvania. His daughter Shelley Nelson said there were many tears.

“It was like no years had passed, like it was just yesterday,” Nelson said.

Kimose kept in touch with several of his fellow veterans until their deaths. He believes he is now the last survivor of the U.S. Air Force who was stationed in Iwo Jima.

The war at home

Diane Brown, Kimose’s last surviving sibling, recalled the anxiety of growing up with so many of her loved ones away at war.

“In Farr West when I was a little girl, there were no men,” Brown said. “Every uncle that I had, every cousin that I had, every brother that I had, every brother-in-law that I had — was in World War II fighting. We had no men.”

(James Kimose, Farr West, talks with his great-great grandson Tad Fox, 5, as he celebrates his 101st birthday in Ogden on Sunday. Kimose is a WWII marine veteran and fought at Iwo Jima. (Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

She said a taxi would come to Farr West every time a family had to be told that one of their family members had been killed. Brown said the women of the town would watch anxiously as they waited to see whose driveway the taxi would pull into.

“It was terrible here, too, waiting and worrying, never knowing who was going to get killed and who was going to make it home,” she said.

After the war

After he returned home from the war, Kimose worked with his father as a bricklayer for more than 30 years. He has stayed active, even laying the brick for Nelson’s house in Plain City just a few years ago when he was 96 years old.

Jim and Betty Kimose were married on April 30, 1948. They have four children: Jim, Buck, Kathy and Shelley. Both of their sons have served in the military. They also have 11 grandchildren and more than 30 great-grandchildren.

“We’ve had a good life,” Betty Kimose said.

“He’s given us a good life,” Nelson added. “He’s all of our hero. Not many people can be the dad and grandpa that that man is.”

Both Nelson and Buck Kimose said their father is always helping someone in need, including building a house for one family and bringing monthly food deliveries to another. When they were growing up, he would sometimes even miss holidays with his family to ensure that other families could have a happy Thanksgiving or Christmas.

“He’s everybody’s hero,” Nelson said.

KSL 5 TV Live

Local News

A Utah Highway Patrol emblem is pictured as shown on the side of a UHP vehicle. (Utah Highway Patro...

Mary Culbertson

Motorcyclist fatally thrown from Highway 66

A motorcyclist was fatally thrown from the roadway of Highway 66 after attempting to pass another vehicle, UHP says.

12 minutes ago

K9 arrives at The King's English...

Cary Schwanitz, Mary Culbertson, and Brianna Chavez, KSL TV

UPDATE: SLC police give ‘all clear’ after King’s English incident

Salt Lake City Police Department closed off streets late Sunday morning after a bomb threat was posed at King's English Bookshop.

6 hours ago

An astroid sample dropped near Dugway, Utah Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023, marking the end of a journey to...

Ashley Strickland, CNN

NASA brings long-awaited asteroid sample to earth, lands it in Utah

Seven years after launching to space, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft flew by Earth Sunday to deliver a pristine sample collected from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu. It’s NASA’s first time returning an asteroid sample from space.

8 hours ago

A warning sign at Willard Bay State Park warning visitors about  potential dangers in the water. (K...

Brianna Chavez

Pet owner asking others to stay cautious when taking their pets to local reservoirs

Despite the end of summer, a Brigham City woman is calling on pet owners to stay cautious when taking their furry family to revisors.

20 hours ago

Traffic halted on I-15 north of St. George due to the chase...

Michael Houck

Police chase closed I-15 traffic north of St. George, suspect in custody

A driver of a stolen truck gave police a chase in Washington County Saturday afternoon. 

23 hours ago

The car used by the two juveniles that gave police chase. (Heber City Police)...

Cassidy Wixom, KSL.com

2 juveniles arrested after allegedly leading police on 140mph chase in Wasatch County

Two juveniles were arrested after attempting to evade police in a high-speed chase that reached 140 mph, police said.

1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Design mockup half in white and half in color of luxury house interior with open plan living room a...

Lighting Design

Lighting Design 101: Learn the Basics

These lighting design basics will help you when designing your home, so you can meet both practical and aesthetic needs.

an antler with large horns int he wilderness...

Three Bear Lodge

Yellowstone in the Fall: A Wildlife Spectacle Worth Witnessing

While most people travel to this park in the summer, late fall in Yellowstone provides a wealth of highlights to make a memorable experience.

a diverse group of students raising their hands in a classroom...

Little Orchard Preschool

6 Benefits of Preschool for Kids

Some of the benefits of preschool for kids include developing independence, curiosity, and learning more about the world.

rodeo contestant on a saddle bronc...


Get Ready for the Days of ‘47 Rodeo!

The Days of '47 Rodeo is a series of events everyone in the family can enjoy, with world-class rodeo contestants vying for the gold medal.

Electric LED Lightbulb Change In Light At Home...

Lighting Design

How to Know When to Upgrade Your Lighting

This guide explores indicators that suggest it’s time for a lighting upgrade with tips to make an informed decision when you’re ready to buy. 

Brunette guy in headphones playing games on his desktop computer...

PC Laptops

Looking For a New Computer? Use This Desktop Buying Guide

Choosing a new desktop computer can come with a lot of questions, so we created this desktop buying guide.

Utahn — perhaps the last Air Force Iwo Jima veteran — turns 101 on Memorial Day