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Cape to mark Iwo Jima anniversary

By Staff | Feb 19, 2015

The picture has become one of the most recognizable images of World War II and a symbol of American strength. A group of five U.S. Marines and a Navy Corpsman raising the U.S. flag on Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Monday marks the 70th anniversary of that day, and the city of Cape Coral will commemorate the occasion Saturday at 10 a.m. with a program at the pavilion at the Veterans Memorial at Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve.

The event will pay tribute to those who fought and died in that battle (including three of those flagmen) and to thank those few remaining survivors, who are now around 90 or older, still with us.

George Colom, an Iwo Jima historian and archivist, has put on this event annually at the park since 1998, and expects a larger-than- usual ensemble of survivors for this one.

“We’re going to have 13 survivors for this event. That’s important because most of them are in their 90s now,” Colom said. “We’re hearing some of them are going to assisted living or moving away and can’t travel anymore. This is an important event for them.”

Cape Coral Councilmember Derrick Donnell, a Gulf War veteran, said that battles serves as one of the great military triumphs in history, but at a cost.

“If you look at it from the Marine Corps perspective, it is one of the greatest battles ever fought. What they accomplished helped save thousands of airmen,” Donnell said. “But there were heavy casualties. It was a very catastrophic battle, but through our resolve we came out victorious.”

More than 6,800 Americans lost their lives in the battle. Another 21,000 were wounded. Only 200 or so of the 22,000 Japanese defenders were captured alive.

All Iwo Jima survivors present will be recognized and called by name, unit and/or ship.

The event will feature the VFW Post 8463 Honor Guard, a pipe and drum group, and a bugler will play “Taps” for the placement of a commemorative wreath.

The event also marks the 50th anniversary for the Cape Coral Iwo Jima monument. It is one of three originals of that size made by famed sculptor Felix de Weldon, who also created the larger Iwo Jima bronze memorial in Arlington, Va.

The local statue has quite a story. It has been moved and vandalized and fallen into disrepair. But it was renovated in 2012 and is as strong as ever, Colom said.

“There were only three statues made from the same mold. The first two were done in 1945 and went on a war bond tour,” Colom said. “It’s truly a historic piece of work.”

At the conclusion of the event the State of Florida’s Heritage Historical Marker will be unveiled in recognition of the statue, which will be the first such designation for the city.

But the big stars will be those who put their lives on the line to win a battle that marked the beginning of the end of World War II.

“It’s a tendency for someone who isn’t militarily inclined to think it was something they did at the time. It’s a reminder freedom is not free,” Donnell said. “The things we do daily are taken for granted. It came at a price, so we have to continue to protect our democracy.”

The Four Mile Ecological Preserve is at Southest 23rd Terrace near the Veterans Memorial Bridge.