Tuesday, February 22, 2011
From February 19th through 25th, 1945, a battle on Iwo Jima left an enormous number of casualties on both sides, and mass graves. It was late in the war, this would be the last winter, but the snows of New Hampshire were missing from this Pacific island, awash in human blood and gore, and close enough to Japan to make giving up unthinkable to both American and Japanese forces.
A monument sits in a quiet place in a Manchester, New Hampshire park, and the green of last summer seems too-vivid, garish in the snows of today. The memorial is dedicated to Rene Gagnon, who was born and raised in Manchester, and to all Manchester service personnel who “answered their country’s call.”
His moment in history seemed to be something he tried to live up to, and also from which he tried to capitalize. He appeared as himself in “The Sands of Iwo Jima” (1949), and in a documentary short called “To the Shores of Iwo Jima” (1945), and a couple of TV appearances, but his notoriety as a common man captured in one of the most famous photos on one of the important events of World War II was a doubled -edged sword. He spent the rest of his life in menial jobs, alcoholic and embittered by failing to live up to, or beyond, that moment of destiny. He died in 1979. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
For more on PFC Rene Gagnon, have a look at this website. For more on the Battle of Iwo Jima, have a look here.