Local veterans remember hell in the Pacific during WWII 


* By Staci Sturrock Palm Beach Pulse *

Sometimes he could see the body. Sometimes he could smell the body. Sometimes he first heard the flies.

And when he located a fellow, fallen Marine on Iwo Jima, rifleman Jack Cole and another boy — really, they were boys; Cole had turned 18 only a month earlier — would lift them onto “stretchers so badly soiled they could no longer be used to transport wounded men,” he says.

“You know what a Jackson Pollock painting looks like?”

They worked without gloves, face masks or body bags, loading the corpses onto a truck, stacking them in two layers.

Cole, now 83 and a part-time Boca Raton resident, served 31 days on Iwo Jima — that desolate speck of Pacific island, all black sand, craggy hills, sulfur pits, and caves, tunnels and pillboxes concealing the enemy.

This is how the retired manufacturing engineer now measures the results of that assault, which lasted 37 days in February and March of 1945:

“If you took their 21,000 dead, if you took the 6,000 or 7,000 dead that we had, if you laid them out on Iwo Jima … you could make a carpet of bodies that would be almost 15 feet wide and about 3 miles long, and you could walk from one end of the island to the other on those bodies, without touching the soil.

“That’s what happened there.”

What happened there — and on Guadalcanal and Peleliu and Okinawa — is the subject of The Pacific, a 10-part miniseries that begins on March 14 at 9 on HBO. Produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, who also collaborated on the WWII epics Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers, the miniseries dramatizes the Pacific campaign through the real-life stories of three Marines.

Read more at pbpulse.com


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