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Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, September 29, 2000

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
A replica of the Iwo Jima statue that will be placed at the
entrance to Kaneohe Marine Corps Base was displayed
during the groundbreaking ceremony in May.

Kamuela couple
spearheaded drive
for symbol
of hope

Alice and 'Bee' Clark said the
planned Iwo Jima statue at
Kaneohe will tell a story
that needs to be told

By Burl Burlingame

NEVER underestimate the power of an image. After days of fierce combat in the smoking sands of Iwo Jima, a squad of Marines ascended Mount Suribachi, the highest point on the island, and planted a small American flag.

Dissatisfied with the tiny banner, the Marines hustled up a larger flag, and a group pushed up a flagpole. Combat photographer Joe Rosenthal, who wanted an image of the flag on Suribachi, snapped a frame of the flagpole going up, but it wasn't the picture he was trying to get.

Only later, going through the negatives, did the Marines realize Rosenthal had captured the most-recognized image of World War II -- a pyramid of faceless servicemen working in unison. Within a few years, a larger-than-life sculpture of the picture became the Marine Corps Memorial in the nation's capitol.

On a griddle-hot day a couple of months ago, ground was broken near the entrance of Kaneohe Marine Corps Base Hawaii for another edition of the monument. "It's an icon of the conflict," said master of ceremonies Ray Lovell at the time. "It's not an image of warriors carrying weapons into battle, but raising a symbol of hope."


For more information, or to contribute, contact the Clarks at 808-533-3759 or at or at

Hawaii has few remembrance exhibits of the great Pacific War, and the planned Kaneohe memorial is not courtesy governmental sensitivity. It's largely due to a grass-roots effort by a Big Island couple who admit history wasn't exactly their favorite subject in school.

Five years ago, Alice and Sefton "Bee" Clark of Kamuela were asked to donate items to a fund-raising auction for Hawaii Preparatory Academy, Bee's alma mater. A neighbor gave them a large print of Rosenthal's photograph, which had been signed by 60 of the Marine veterans shortly after the battle.

"Gosh, we thought, shouldn't this be going to the Marines instead of a charity auction?" said Bee. "We asked some Marine friends in Washington and they sent us to the Marine history office, and before long, it was accepted by the Marines and it's now hanging at Camp Smith in Aiea. Gen. (Charles) Krulak, Marine Corps commandant, recognized it in a ceremony."

While dealing with the Marine history division, the Clarks were startled to discover that Kamuela had been home to a gigantic base during the war. "Camp Tarawa" had unleashed 25,000 Marines on the tiny ranch town, and many of the old-timers remembered the Marines fondly.

"We'd heard that there had been a Marine base somewhere around here, but we didn't know it had been so large or that it was the Fifth Division's staging area and training ground for Iwo Jima," said Alice. "Nearly a third of all the Marines killed in the Pacific died on Iwo Jima. There was nothing to commemorate that fact. The Marine history office let us know that several Iwo Jima veterans were going to be visiting Kamuela to see the old base -- but there was nothing left to see."

The Clarks became determined to erect a monument in Kamuela and formed an organization to do so, collecting oral histories and photographs for an ongoing educational archive. A couple of years ago, a "storybook" type monument was erected thanks to donations.

While traveling around the country collecting data and dollars for the Kamuela monument, the Clarks met Dr. George Gentile, president of the Connecticut chapter of the Iwo Jima Survivors Association. Connecticut had contracted with sculptor Joseph Petrovics and bronze-caster Salvatore Perrotta to create another work based on Rosenthal's photograph -- it's not a direct copy of the D.C. sculpture, being more human-scaled, with details actually cast from Iwo Jima survivors' weapons and gear -- and Gentile told the Clarks it would be a shame to let the molds be destroyed after casting only one statue.

By Ronen Zilberman, Star-Bulletin
Bee and Alice Clark with the replica Iwo Jima statue.

The Clarks quickly organized the Pacific War Memorial Association with the aim of placing the monument in a place of honor on Oahu. The monument's base would include historical information, and the area around it would create a positive space for reflection. Great idea, said everyone who was contacted.

Because the Navy was planning some sort of historical center as part of its Ford Island redevelopment, that seemed a logical space to put it, nestled along with the USS Missouri, the USS Bowfin and the Park Service's USS Arizona Memorial Center.

But logic rarely plays a part in emotional issues. The memorial -- small by most standards -- was on and off Ford Island blueprints for years while the Clarks and their executive board gamely attended planning sessions. Then it was left off, and the Clarks were no longer invited to the meetings.

One person, however, had been impressed by the Clarks' vision. Marine Gen. Chip Parker, commander of the Kaneohe base, proposed the monument be placed at the entrance to the base.

"Suddenly, we were being treated royally, and things began to move efficiently," said Alice. "It's a beautiful location. It worked!"

Architect John Wheeler, engineer Tom Lum and artist Hitoshi Hida -- born in Hiroshima -- donated labor to design the monument.

At the May groundbreaking, Parker noted the monument will work on several levels. "To show how truly great that 'greatest generation' was. To show that the active-duty and reserve servicemen is still on duty every day throughout the world. And to illustrate the jointness of effort between the armed forces."

"There aren't many who give so much of themselves," said Kaneohe deputy commander Col. Michael Olson. "These are very tenacious people!"

"Oh! We just feel it's a story that needs to be told," said Alice. "Hawaii was the gateway to peace. We learn this in bits and pieces, if you look hard enough, but it has never been presented to citizens as a whole."

This week they visited with a group of Marine veterans having a reunion in Honolulu, taking along with them former Marine musician George Durham, composer of the "Men of Iwo Jima March."

Casting has begun on the sculptural portion of the monument, and the Clarks are busy raising the estimated $600,000 it will take to prepare the land and build the work. As Gen. Krulak wrote to the Clarks, "Let's keep charging -- the top of Mount Suribachi is only dollars away!"

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