Honor the heroes who fought at Iwo Jima

Nils Mockler

Nils Mockler

Sal Famularo

Sal Famularo

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith

Ambrose Anderson

Ambrose Anderson

To the Editor:

Once a month, without fail, we would gather at Altamont’s Home Front Cafe with our local group of Iwo Jima survivors, and every Feb. 19, we would join them to commemorate the beginning of that bloody 36-day battle, and to remember their friends who never made it home.

By February of 1945, Iwo Jima was part of Japan’s last line of defense. Before the invasion, the eight-square-mile island had been subjected to more than two months of continuous bombardment by American ships and planes.

Unbeknownst to the invasion strategists, this bombardment had had little or no effect on the island’s vast secret underground complex, its fortifications, or the 22,000 Japanese soldiers stationed there. It was believed the invasion forces would be facing a three-day “mopping up” exercise.

Three days became 36 days and, in the end, 21,000 Japanese would be dead. Nearly 7,000 Americans were killed, and more than 20,000 wounded.

The victory at Iwo Jima eliminated the threat of Japanese fighter planes, which had been intercepting and inflicting damage on squadrons of American B-29 long-range bombers as they flew sorties from the Mariana Islands to Japan. The threat of Japanese bombing runs against American air bases was also neutralized.

By the end of the war, more than 2,000 B-29s made forced landings on Iwo Jima, due to damages sustained during bombing runs, or for refueling. That represents over 20,000 airmen who might otherwise have lost their lives after being forced to ditch at sea.

Much has changed over the past year. The monthly Iwo Jima Survivors breakfasts ended with the arrival of COVID-19 and the Home Front Café has now closed its doors permanently.

Most heartbreaking of all, we lost three of our survivors since September 2020. The group of regular monthly local attendees has now dropped to three. Ambrose “Cowboy” Anderson, 5th Marine Div, and Sal Famularo and Dr. Thomas Smith, both 4th Marine Div, are still with us. Nils Mockler, formerly of Altamont, now resides downstate.

Feb. 19, 2021 is very significant, in that it marks the 76th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima. This day should not come and go unnoticed.

Of the 70,000 Marines who fought in this battle, an estimated 2,000 are still living. We are rapidly running out of time to honor these heroes for the valor displayed and sacrifices made during this epic 36 days of battle. 

Sadly, we are also running out of heroes to honor.

Please help us express “virtual” gratitude to these heroes and acknowledge the 76th anniversary of this epic battle of World War II.

Videos and photos of our local survivors can be found on a Facebook page dedicated to them: Iwo Jima Survivors of New York's Capital Region.

Mark Yingling

Clifton Park

Joined: 07/17/2015 - 18:50
Iwo Jima veterans

The spelling of one of the veterans' names in paragraph 8 should be Nils Mockler. Thanks for correcting this.

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