Newington Remembers Battle of Iwo Jima
NEWINGTON - A group of Marine veterans and their supporters spent Sunday afternoon, the 68th anniversary of the World War II. Battle of Iwo Jima, viewing a showing of the 1949 film Sands of Iwo Jima, at Newington Town Hall.
The presentation was put on by the National Iwo Jima Memorial Historical Foundation, a non-profit organization that maintains the newly-erected National Iwo Jima Memorial at the Newington/New Britain town line.
Members of the audience of elderly veterans sat, gripped by the cinematic fire fights unfolding on black and white display, chuckled at the movie’s few lighthearted scenes, and even finished many of the film’s famous lines--most had seen Sands multiples times already--ahead of the rolling dialogue.
Sands of Iwo Jima has a high profile in the military--particularly The Marines, which was literally sustained by funds generated from the film.
“They took a lot of care to make it as authentic as possible,” said Marianne Mihalyo, secretary of the National Iwo Jima Memorial Historical Foundation. “They did consult with a lot of people who were part of the battle.”
Michael Aaron was one of the few attendees seeing the movie for the first time. The film came a little bit a head of his generation--he served during the Vietnam War.
“[It was] pretty impressive; very grim,” Aaron said after the viewing. “But I imagine the real thing was worse.”
The film was attended by at least one veteran who can attest to that. Eighty-nine-year-old Joe Roman, soon to be 90, is a survivor of the 1945 battle, and he had some things to say about it in a question and answer session that followed the movie’s viewing.
“I was the radio operator with the Third Joint Assault Signal Company,” Roman said. “We supplied communications for the Third Division.”
This was often a critical role, as one instance, in which a company of 250 U.S. soldiers was encircled by the Japanese. Under the direction of Roman and his team, the group was able to escape the situation.
Although Roman was at Iwo Jima from Feb. 19 to March 26, the day U.S. forces took control of the island, he and his team were never sent ashore, but continued to provide timely information to troops that were in the thick of it.
“I was standing by, did what was required of me, and watched many of the unfortunate casualties that were buried at sea,” he said.
Iwo Jima served as an early warning station for mainland Japan against U.S. air assaults. Taking the island, which sat 600 miles from the Japanese shores, would allow American air fighters easier access to air space over the mainland while providing three landing strips for escort aircrafts to assist them.
Although the U.S. flag raising is memorialized as the battle’s most iconic image, American and Japanese forces actually continued fighting for 32 days after this occurred, according to speakers from the Foundation. While many veterans have returned to the island years later, it is largely kept off limits by Japan, which considers it sacred ground, said Ray Carrier, a member of the Foundation’s Board of Directors.
“As a matter of fact, we learned that the Japanese soldiers are still where they were killed,” Carrier said. “It’s like their fox hole--their grave.”