Lest We Forget the Other Theatre of the 'Greatest Generation'

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by Annie, Jun 16, 2004.

  1. Annie

    Annie Diamond Member

    Nov 22, 2003
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    Bob Greene isn't available, ahem, to describe Tibbets last hurrah! Here it is:



    June 16, 2004
    In D-Day's Shadow, Pacific Veterans Celebrate

    AIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands, June 15 - Sixty years after they charged onto beaches here, aged American veterans strolled past tourist hotels on Beachfront Street on Tuesday in a parade marking the start of the 60th anniversaries of a series of battles that they describe as the "D-Days of the Pacific."

    On June 15, 1944, thousands of United States marines poured off a floating city of steel and launched a bloody 25-day battle here that set the stage for the end of Japanese power in the Pacific.

    Washington dignitaries could not make it. The Marine Corps Band had other commitments. The biggest out-of-town press team was The Pacific Daily News, from Guam.

    "It's the old story: out of sight, out of mind," Brig. Gen. Paul W. Tibbets of the Air Force, who is retired, said Tuesday on this remote island 3,700 miles west of Hawaii. "The world knew about Normandy right away."

    As a tropical drizzle fell on the veterans' parade, the 89-year-old general, a former bomber pilot, rode in the passenger seat of a white golf cart. The last time he was in the Northern Marianas, almost 60 years ago, he piloted the Enola Gay, a B-29, on its Aug. 6, 1945, sortie to Hiroshima, the world's first nuclear bomb attack.

    After a week of Atlantic D-Day television specials culminating with the June 6 gathering of heads of government in Normandy, many Saipan veterans and their supporters gathered here on Tuesday said that just as in World War II, the American popular mind continued to relegate the Pacific theater to second-class status.

    "I used to say that everyone was willing to cross the Atlantic to honor the European theater, but no one was willing to cross the Potomac to honor the Pacific theater," Robert A. Underwood recalled Tuesday of a badgering campaign he waged 10 years ago as Guam's Congressional representative to cajole high-ranking officials in Washington to turn out for a Pacific theater wreath ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

    Jerry Facey, co-chairman of the Saipan's 60th Anniversary Committee, said that during two years of organizing Tuesday's events, he received a long series of "no's" from Washington politicians and Pentagon brass who were invited to attend the ceremonies. Recalling the last big commemoration that he organized, he said: "It is just like the 50th, we were overshadowed by Normandy. We are so remote, people just forget."

    On July 21, Guam will celebrate the 60th anniversary of its liberation from Japanese military rule. Although the battle for Tinian started three days later, Tinian and Saipan are jointly marking the 60th anniversaries of their liberation this week. Guam, Saipan and Tinian are focusing events on honoring the returning foot soldiers and on educating younger islanders about the Japanese occupation and the American liberation. They no longer hold out much hope for national attention from the news media and high-level visits.

    "We are disappointed, but we don't think our veterans necessarily are insulted by the lack of attention because they know in their hearts what they have done," Mr. Facey said of the fight over this 72-square-mile island, a raging battle that left 30,000 Japanese dead, 3,144 American soldiers dead, and another 10,952 Americans wounded.

    In Guam, where the fighting and carnage was often equally intense, Tony Lamorena, an organizer of its anniversary event, said Tuesday by telephone: "We are not necessarily going to get CNN or any of the major networks to cover us, but we are going to get 200 actual veterans for sure. We want to say thanks to our liberators and to teach our young people about what they did."

    Historians say that the American victories in Saipan, Guam and Tinian irrevocably turned the tide against Imperial Japan's military.

    "With the capture of Saipan, the U.S. forces could put long-range bombers on it, and the end of the Japan was inevitable," Daniel Martinez, historian of the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial in Hawaii, said here Monday during a break in a day of historical seminars, referring to Japan's defeat in World War II.

    Speaking of Saipan's close neighbor, Tinian, about 1,250 miles south of Tokyo, Mr. Martinez added: "This is where the massive air raids were launched against Japan. This is where the two B-29s took off with the bombs against Japan."

    F. Haydn Williams, a retired diplomat with long service in Micronesia, sent a message to the veterans: "The fate of the free world was just as much on the line here in the Marianas, as it was at the cliffs of Pointe de Hoc, St. Lô and Caen in Normandy."

    On Sunday, a memorial was dedicated to the 933 indigenous people who died in the World War II battles and their aftermath.

    On Tuesday, this new monument was at the end of the short parade, which saw some of the octogenarian veterans walking, others riding while standing in the backs of two balky World War II-era military trucks.

    "It's changed a lot, but we sure love it," Hal Olsen, a Navy veteran from New Jersey, shouted down from one truck, referring to Saipan, and perhaps to the open-air thrill of riding in the back of a truck. In World War II, Mr. Olsen won a rapt following among airmen for the scantily clad women he painted on the nose cones of American bombers. Six decades later, his cult-like following was so strong that he gave a well-attended lecture Tuesday on "Nose Art and Air Corps Morale."

    For the veterans, the return to Saipan has been a cocktail of emotional highs and lows.

    "So many of the young fellows did not come back, so many good young boys," David McCarthy, a former Navy medical corpsman, said Monday night while nursing a beer at the bar of the Pacific Island Club, a resort built on Chalan Kanoa, one of the beaches where marines first stormed ashore.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
  2. Avatar4321

    Avatar4321 Diamond Member Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 22, 2004
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    God bless these soldiers.
  3. dilloduck

    dilloduck Diamond Member

    May 8, 2004
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    Austin, TX
    Amen--lived on Okinanwa for two years and saw much of the aftermath and history in person. Quite a sacrifice they made for us!

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