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Navy Honors Iwo Jima Vets With New Ship

July 01, 2001|From Associated Press

PENSACOLA, Fla. — The Iwo Jima, an amphibious assault ship named in honor of the sailors and Marines who fought in one of World War II's bloodiest battles, was commissioned Saturday at the Pensacola Naval Air Station.

Hundreds of veterans who survived the 1945 battle, which claimed about 6,800 American lives, watched in pouring rain as a crew of about 1,000 in dress white uniforms boarded the ship.

"The veterans that are left, it tells them that there's still patriotism in this country," Marine Corps veteran Darol "Lefty" Lee said.

Lee, 77, of Winona, Minn., was among about 19,000 Americans wounded during the 36-day battle for the Pacific island.

Also at the commissioning was Jacklyn "Jack" Lucas, 73, of Hattiesburg, Miss., who was 17 when he used his body to shield others from an exploding grenade. Lucas was among 27 who won the Medal of Honor at Iwo Jima, the most awarded in any battle in the war.

The battle, in which about 19,000 Japanese died, produced one of the war's most enduring images, the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph by Joe Rosenthal showing five Marines and a Navy corpsman raising the U.S. flag atop Mt. Suribachi.

The Iwo Jima is the second Navy vessel named for the battle. It will be based at Norfolk, Va.

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