Friday, February 18, 2005

Valuable History Lesson

Tomorrow marks the 60th anniversary of the start of the battle at Iwo Jima. 110,000 Americans and 880 ships began their assault on this small volcanic island where the Japanese had put in miles of tunnels and bunkers with 361 artillary pieces, 65 heavy mortars, 33 large naval guns, and 21,000 defenders ready to die. The American defenders were willing to take 40% casualties in the first assault and even before the assault, the Navy's bombardment of Iwo Jima cost more ships and men than we lost on D-Day. At 9 a.m. on the 19th, the marines loaded down with 70 to 100 pounds of equipment hit the beach and immediately sank into the thick volcanic ash. Some 556 feet above this beach stood Mount Suribachi where the Japanese could direct their fire along the entire beach. Some 1800 marines were killed or wounded in the first 18 hours of the invasion. It took 4 days of bloody fighting to capture Mount Suribachi and that was only the beginning of the battle for Iwo Jima which drug on for another month and cost nearly 26,000 men. Forty men were in the platoon which raised the flag on Suribachi and only 4 would survive unhurt. Their company would suffer 75% casualties. Twenty out of 21 Japanese would die where they stood. One in three Marines would be either killed or wounded and 27 Marines and naval medical corpsmen would receive Medals of Honor.

The lesson for today according to Arthur Herman, the author of the article in today's Wall Street Journal recounting these events, is that free societies can afford only one response to totalitarians who confront democratic societies. Who outlasts whom? At Iwo Jima, it was the Americans who prevailed and in Viet Nam and Cambodia, it was the totalitarians with consequences which we are facing today in Iraq. Today, some in this country think the totalitarians may still win in Iraq and a few even hope so. This will not be the case if we remember those who served at Iwo Jima.

Personal Unsecured Loan