Saturday, February 19, 2005

Iwo Jima vet: I was proud to be part of it

Marines raise American flag on Mount Suribachi
By Jules Crittenden Saturday, February 19, 2005

Veterans of wars from the Pacific to Iraq gathered at the State House yesterday to mark the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Marine Corps' bloodiest battle - the monthlong fight to take Iwo Jima in 1945. "It was an honor to be there with them,'' said James Crosby, 20, a wounded Marine veteran of Iraq who was assisted out of his wheelchair to stand at the podium and address the crowd. "You see the statue and you hear about it,'' Crosby said, referring to the Iwo Jima flag-raising that has become a Marine Crops icon. ``It inspires Marines today. But no one can understand what it's like to be in combat until they've been there.'' Robert Johnston, 83, of Woburn, was one of several Iwo Jima veterans who remembered friends that didn't survive the bitter fighting. "It's heartbreaking. My best friend was killed the first day . . . Out of 60 in my platoon, there were 19 of us left when we left the island,'' said Johnston, who was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star and received a battlefield promotion from corporal to lieutenant. But Johnston said, "I was proud to be a part of it.''
Nearly 20,000 Marines were wounded and 6,821 were killed taking the island so it could be used as an emergency landing base for B-29s bombing Japan. The Medal of Honor was awarded to 27 men - more than in any other battle. An estimated 20,000 Japanese were killed.


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