Iwo Jima: 60th Anniversary
In commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Iwo Jima, the 2005 “National Memorial Day Concert” on PBS will honor the men who fought in the ferocious battle for this Pacific island during World War II.
Please click on the links below to learn more about Iwo Jima and those who served there:
This year's Concert will feature the story of nineteen year-old medic, Navy Corpsman Danny Bert Thomas from Blossom, Texas, who was with some 75,000 Marines who fought on Iwo Jima. Danny landed with the second wave on Feb 19th on February 19, 1945, D-Day. He recalls ...
"I was in a shell crater, doing my job ... plugging chest wounds, injecting morphine if needed. Then I was dodging artillery, mortars — you name it— to get to the next crater where more wounded lay."
Danny kept working, even as he watched his brothers in arms fall around him ...
"One of the casualties was a fellow corpsman, Jerry, who had taken me under his wing. My big brother, my friend, my mentor, was dead, and I didn't know why."
Nightmares of those bloody weeks haunted Danny Thomas until he returned to Iwo Jima with his fellow vets and finally buried those horrible memories in the black sands of those barren shores.
On May 29th, during the Concert broadcast on PBS, hear Danny's story, in his own words, in this stirring recitation by distinguished actor and decorated World War II veteran Charles Durning.
Click below to view:
This year, Danny Thomas and other of the veterans of the Battle of Iwo Jima returned to the island for the 60th Anniversary Memorial Service and Reunion of Honor. The Island is now Japanese territory and considered a sacred burial ground for the estimated 20,000 Japanese soldiers who died there. Most of the time, it is off limits to Americans; yet once a year, the Japanese and the Americans collaborate to make this annual pilgrimage possible. Each country has a stake in healing the emotional wounds of that fierce battle.
Many of the veterans who visited Iwo Jima shared their experiences for the first time -- finding peace and reconciliation at last. The following exerpts are from interviews with three of the veterans who attended this year's Reunion of Honor Anniversary Tour on Iwo Jima.
Al Abbatiello's Story
Robert Barnett's Story
Doug Barnett's Story
For these and other veterans of Iwo Jima, the memories, images and flashbacks are so painful that they have had great difficulty talking about them with others. Yet sharing these stories can have a powerful healing effect. The Sharing Your Stories section of this website features a Veterans Questionnaire that can help you get started.
The courage and uncommon valor of the young Marines who fought at Iwo Jima was an inspiration to the nation during World War II; however, as with fallen soldiers today, their children paid a heavy price. As the Marine Corps motto — Semper Fidelis, or "Semper Fi," meaning "Always Faithful" — implies, the Marines have a long history of commitment to each other, to the organization, and to our country. In this tradition, the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation helps children of Marines killed or wounded during wartime afford a college education.
Started in 1962, the Foundation is a non-profit, tax exempt corporation of volunteer men and women dedicated to providing higher education scholarships to sons and daughters of current and former U.S. Marines, with particular attention to those with a parent who was killed or wounded in action. Funds are raised primarily through more than a dozen golf tournaments held nationwide, five formal balls, endowments from Marines and their families and public support. Since its inception, the Foundation has awarded scholarships to more than 16,000 students, with a total value of than $25 million.
Brigadier General Michael C. Wholley USMC (Ret.), Executive Director of the Foundation for the past seven of its twelve years, calls the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation "a remarkable organization" and says that its members and supporters "have every right to be proud of what the foundation has accomplished, and what it will continue to do in the future."
You may contact the the Marine Corps Scholarship Fund at: http://www.marine-scholars.org/index.html
For a list of other organizations that help children of soldiers killed or wounded in battle, see our Resources for Healing section of this website.
The island of Iwo Jima lies 660 miles south of Tokyo. Its predominant geographical feature is Mount Suribachi, an extinct volcano that forms the narrow southern tip and rises to an altitude of 400 feet. Though only roughly one-third the size of Manhattan, this small island was the site of one of the most inspiring episodes of American history: the heroic capture of Iwo Jima by U.S. Marines during World War II.
By February 1945, U.S. troops had recaptured most of the territory taken by the Japanese in 1941 and 1942. Still under Japanese control was Iwo Jima, which became a primary objective in American plans to bring the Pacific campaign to a successful conclusion.
After a long bombardment by the Army Air Corps and Navy lasting 75 days, the 4th and 5th Marine Divisions invaded Iwo Jima on the morning of February 19, 1945, D-Day. The 28th Regiment, 5th Division was ordered to capture Mount Suribachi. The regiment reached the base of the volcano on the afternoon of February 21, and by nightfall the next day had almost completely surrounded it.
Two days later, the Marines of Company E, 2nd Battalion, and the 28th Marines, 5th Marine division, started the arduous climb to the top of the mountain. At about 10:30 a.m., men looking up from all over the island were thrilled by the sight of a small American flag flying from the top of Mount Suribachi. That afternoon, a second, larger flag was raised by five Marines and a Navy hospital corpsman: Sgt. Michael Strank, Cpl. Harlon H. Block, Pfc. Franklin R. Sousley, Pfc. Rene A. Gagnon, Pfc. Ira Hayes and PhM. 2/c John H. Bradley, USN.
The battle for Iwo Jima was unique in its setting: More than 100,000 men fought on a small island that is one of the most populated 7.5-mile areas on earth. In the 36 days of fighting, there were more than 26,000 U.S. casualties (one in three were killed or wounded). Of these, 6,825 lost their lives. Virtually all 22,000 Japanese perished.
The island of Iwo Jima was declared secure on March 26, 1945. The Marines efforts there provided a vital link in the U.S. chain of bomber bases used during World War II. By war's end, 2,400 B-29 bombers carrying 27,000 crewmen had made emergency landings there.
The flag-raising atop Mt. Suribachi during the battle for Iwo Jima is the most recognized symbol of World War II in the Pacific. News photographer Joe Rosenthal captured the afternoon flag-raising in an inspiring Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press photograph. "In that moment," wrote the editors of Camera Magazine, "Rosenthal's camera recorded the soul of a nation." When the picture was released, sculptor Felix W. de Weldon, then on duty with the U.S. Navy, was so moved that he constructed models that were to become the prototype for the Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington, DC. Gagnon, Hayes and Bradley, the three survivors of the flag-raising (the others were killed in later phases of the Iwo Jima battle), posed for the sculpture. Pictures and statistics of the three who gave their lives in battle were collected and used in the modeling of their faces.
Once the statue was completed in plaster, it was trucked to Brooklyn, NY for casting in bronze, a process that took nearly three years. The Memorial now stands in the Nation's Capital as a symbol of esteem for all Marines who have given their lives in the defense of the United States since 1775. It was officially dedicated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on November 10, 1954, the 179th anniversary of the U.S. Marine Corps.
When President Franklin D. Roosevelt initiated the "7th Bond Tour" to raise money for the war effort in 1945, an artist's rendition of Joe Rosenthal's famous photograph was used as a symbol. For two months, virtually every American saw the picture again and again. It is estimated that the photograph was displayed in 1,000,000 store windows, 16,000 movie theatres, 15,000 banks, 200,000 factories, 30,000 railroad stations, and on 5,000 billboards. The 7th Bond Tour raised $24 billion (1945 dollars) for the U.S. Treasury, more than any other. As a point of comparison, the total U.S. budget in 1946 was $56 billion.
So popular was the photograph that the American public demanded that it be used on a commemorative postage stamp. The design was initially rejected by the U.S. Post Office since "no living person(s) can appear on a U.S. stamp." But the outcry was so great that Congress intervened, and the stamp was issued just five months after the event. In July 1945, on the first day of issue, people stood patiently in lines stretching for city blocks. More than 137 million stamps were purchased.
When it premiered in 1949, the legendary World War II film Sands of Iwo Jima, starring John Wayne, was a huge hit for Republic Pictures. The film earned Wayne his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor as well as nominations for Best Film Editing, Best Sound Recording and Best Writing, Motion Picture Story