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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
ceremony will be held in the Bayonne City Hall Council Chambers at ,
Feb. 23, followed by the flag-raising.
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
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.
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
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.
Hayes died in 1955 from alcoholism, while Rene Gagnon died in 1979 and John Bradley died in 1994.