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Thursday, March 16, 2000

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Marines who were on Iwo Jima 55 years ago were
honored today along with the unveiling of a replica
of a bronze statue of the famous flag raising National
Cemetery of the Pacific, Punchbowl.

Marine Corps
memorial to grace
Kaneohe base

It will become the centerpiece
of a Navy-Marine Corps park

By Gregg K. Kakesako


Bill Lazzareschi spent less than 30 hours on the beach at Iwo Jima 55 years ago and had to be evacuated after being wounded three times -- the last wound a .50-caliber round from a Navy fighter providing air cover.

"I was told that I would never walk again," said the Rhode Island native, 74. But he proved the military doctors wrong. Along with 25 other Iwo Jima survivors, Lazzareschi last week made a pilgrimage to the tiny Pacific island and was honored this morning at a special wreath-laying ceremony at the National Cemetery of the Pacific.

Part of this morning's remembrance included the unveiling of a model of a monument of the Marine Corps' most famous image -- the raising of the American flag atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima -- that will be erected at Kaneohe Bay next year.

Lazzareschi, who was instrumental in getting a stretch of Rhode Island highway named after the Pacific battle, believes a Hawaii memorial is "a good idea."

But for Don Mates, 74, any remembrance brings back painful memories.

"I just break down," said Mates, who turned 19 just 12 days before the invasion. "Eighty percent of my platoon is buried here (Punchbowl). This is the first time in 55 years I have gotten the strength to visit their graves." Alice Clark, chairwoman of the Pacific War Memorial Association, said the bronze monument will become the centerpiece of a Navy-Marine Corps park inside the entrance of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, which also will include aircraft, helicopters and equipment.

After trying unsuccessfully since 1996 to get Navy approval to erect the memorial on Ford Island, Clark said Marine Corps officials approached her organization two weeks ago with a proposal to include it at Kaneohe Bay.

The Kaneohe memorial will be a replica of the National Iwo Jima Memorial erected in Newington, Conn., in 1995, Clark said. It will not be a copy of the more widely known monument near Arlington Cemetery in Virginia.

Both the Virginia and Connecticut memorials are based on Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal's famous photograph taken on Feb. 23, 1945.

Approximately one-third of all Marines killed in action in World War II died on the 5-mile-long island. Nearly 7,000 Americans were killed taking the Japanese-occupied island between Feb. 19 and March 16.

The sculptor of the Connecticut statue was Joseph Petrovics of Sculpture House Casting Inc. in New York. Felix De Weldon was the sculptor of the Arlington statute.

The six figures in the monument are each 9 feet tall, Clark said. The monument, measured from the top of the flagpole to the bottom of its granite base, is almost 40 feet tall.

Clark said a reunion involving Marines from the 5th Division, 28th Regiment -- who trained at Camp Tarawa on the Big Island to take Iwo Jima and Suribachi -- was the catalyst for a Hawaii veterans monument.

The granite base of the Kaneohe monument will be special, Clark said, "because it will tell the story of the teamwork between the services that it took to take the island -- what a great symbol for generations to come."

Clark said the Pacific War Memorial Association estimates it has to raise at least $300,000 to buy the mold for the monument, cast it and transport it to Hawaii. The money also will be used to build the granite base.

Iwo Jima

Bullet Location: 900 miles south of Tokyo
Bullet Date of battle: Feb. 19-March 16, 1945
Bullet Combatants: 60,000 Americans and 20,000 Japanese.
Bullet U.S. medals: 27 Medals of Honor
Bullet Status: Returned to Japan in 1968

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