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Archive for Sunday, December 9, 2001

Former Marine relives horrors of Iwo Jima

December 9, 2001

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Although compact and brief, "Nightmare on Iwo" (Naval Institute Press, 164 pages, $23.95) eloquently describes the horrors of the World War II battle for Iwo Jima, which began on Feb. 19, 1945.

Author Patrick F. Caruso was a Marine rifle company junior officer in that battle. Before he was wounded and evacuated two weeks into the fighting, he witnessed the extensive carnage that took place upon the soft, sulfurous sands of that tiny Pacific island, an island of such strategic value that vast military, naval and air resources were allotted to its capture.

Details of the hard struggle for Iwo Jima have been covered in many books. What makes "Nightmare on Iwo" special is that from the start, Caruso was determined not to let his dead comrades fade into the inevitable anonymity of history. While hospitalized, first on Guam and later in Hawaii, Caruso jotted down, on whatever scraps of paper he could find, all the particulars he could remember of the action on Iwo Jima, especially the circumstances of the deaths of his buddies.

At the book's end, Caruso writes that Iwo Jima "was a surrealistic experience, a nightmare in hell." From such a nightmare he has managed to build a significant literary memorial, a clear and lasting picture of a handful of fighting Marines that undoubtedly will prove valuable to historians.

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