Sixty years later


For many of the veterans who lived to tell tales of the battle for Iwo Jima in 1944, life on the island was a mixture of death and desperation. Although the 1950 film "Sands of Iwo Jima" paid tribute to the thousands of U.S. Marines who landed on, fought on and very often died on that small Japanese island, many vets remember hitting the beach in a sequence better depicted in the more recent film on the invasion of Normandy ("Saving Private Ryan"), and of the weeks and months living short of rations, and boiling water in their helmets for coffee between engagements with an entrenched enemy.

It was on this island that the most famous photograph of World War II emerged when Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal snapped a picture of five Marines hoisting a large flag on a peak of Mt. Suribachi after five days of terrible fighting. While the combat lasted for more than a month afterwards, that moment became one of the great patriotic symbols of the American war effort.

The Battle for Iwo Jima in World War II lasted from Feb. 19 to March 16 in 1945 on an island that was about two miles wide and four miles long, and located about 650 miles south of Tokyo, Japan. Iwo Jima was the first native Japanese soil invaded by Americans during the war and involved about 60,000 Americans and 20,000 Japanese.

 Almost 7,000 Americans were killed in the action at Iwo Jima and more than 20,000 Americans were wounded. Approximately one-third of all Marines killed in action in World War II were killed at Iwo Jima, making Iwo Jima the battle with the highest number of casualties in Marine Corps history.

Twenty-seven Congressional Medals of Honor were awarded in the battle - more than were awarded to Marines and Navy in any otherbattle in our country's history.




In commemoration of the flag-raising pictured in the world-famous photo, members of the Bayonne Detachment of the Marine Corps League will be holding a flag-raising ceremony of their own on Feb. 23, 2005.

"We wanted to do something special," said Barry Dugan, who, along with serving as Bayonne's freeholder, served on the event's committee. A veteran of the Korean Conflict, Dugan also is a past commandant of the Bayonne Detachment of the league.

The ceremony will be held in the Bayonne City Hall Council Chambers at 10 a.m., Feb. 23, followed by the flag-raising.

The event is being coordinated by Commandant of the Detachment Lou Giovanni, a Korean War veteran who participated in the similar protracted conflict known as the Chosin Reservoir campaign in 1950, as did former Detachment Commander Al Czarnecki.

Giovanni is being assisted by Detachment Paymaster Bob Geis, who is a Vietnam veteran and a retired Bayonne Police Officer, and Joseph Calcaterra, a World War II veteran who was involved in the assault on Guadalcanal and Guam. Calcaterra has also served as commandant of the Bayonne Detachment on two different occasions.

In addition, Frank Slivocka will be there. Slivocka is also a World War II veteran who participated in the assault on Tarawa and served as national commander of the Second Marine Division Association.

The six participants in this world-famous photo were Harlon Block, a Marine from Rio Grande Valley, Texas; John Bradley, a U.S. Navy Corpsman from Appleton, Wisc. (Navy Corpsmen assigned to a Marine unit are accepted as Marines by their comrades); Rene Gagnon, a Marine from Manchester, N.H.; Ira Hayes, a Marine who was Pima Indian from the Gila River Indian Reservation in Arizona; Franklin Sousley, a Marine from Hilltop, Ky., and Mike Strank, a Marine from Franklin Borough, Pa. Three of the flag raisers - Block, Sousley and Strank - were killed in action at Iwo Jima before it was finally secured.

Ira Hayes died in 1955 from alcoholism, while Rene Gagnon died in 1979 and John Bradley died in 1994.



war menu

Main Menu

email to Al Sullivan