Men cried yesterday. Older men, standing beside their wives in the vast and splendid Washington Cathedral. In topcoats many of them, though it was clear and sunny outside. "I think every day of the men we lost -- good friends. On and on, I think about it, pray about it. It could drive you to drink," says Frank S. Brown, 72, a tall, gray-haired man who left the U.S. Marine Corps in 1946 and sold cars at Steuart Ford here for two decades. Yesterday, he came up from retirement in Georgia to help commemorate, along with other survivors of the battle from all over the country, the 40th anniversary of the invasion of Iwo Jima.
Brown was there, on the beach at Iwo.
Supply sergeant, E Company, 2nd of the 28th. Wounded in the shoulder on D-plus-two, evacuated to a hospital ship. Alive.
May not sound like much on a blissful holiday in the Nation's Capital with people strolling about in the winter warmth: An old man with a limp telling his story.
But consider this:
The invasion of the small island of Iwo Jima by U.S. forces shortly after dawn 40 years ago today was the greatest "classical amphibious assault of recorded history," according to Jeter A. Isely and Philip A. Crowl in their book, "U.S. Marines and Amphibious War." Most of a great battle fleet of 800 ships lay off Iwo's beaches of black volcanic ash. The American invasion force consisted of three Marine divisions comprising, with Army and Navy attached units, 80,000 fighting men. Some 6,800 of these would die and more than 18,000 suffer wounds. The island, which lies 760 miles south of Tokyo along what were Allied bombing lanes stretching from the Marianas to the Japanese mainland, had to be taken. It was defended by 21,000 well armed and well dug-in troops, all but about 1,000 of whom died defending it.