Letters to Iwo Jima

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by syscom3, Feb 7, 2007.

  1. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

    Jun 4, 2005
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    Orange County, CA
    Vet seeks to translate, return letters found during WII
    Associated Press
    Feb. 6, 2007 03:09 PM

    GARDINER, N.Y. - A World War II veteran who found a bundle of
    Japanese postcards and letters amid the carnage on Iwo Jima said
    Tuesday he wants to have the correspondence translated and returned
    to Japan "to bring a little peace and quiet to the world."

    Vic Voegelin, 80, said he kept the 100 postcards and eight letters
    stored at his home in Ulster County until late last year, when he
    heard about the Clint Eastwood film "Letters From Iwo Jima," which
    has been nominated for several Academy Awards, including best picture.

    "I just sat on this thing for 62 years," the retired utility worker
    told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from his home 70
    miles south of Albany. advertisement

    Voegelin was an 18-year-old sailor aboard a Navy landing ship taking
    part in the attack on Iwo Jima that started on the morning Feb. 19,
    1945. His ship - LSM 60 - was battered but still afloat when the
    fierce fighting was officially declared over in late March.

    "We thought it was going to be a piece of cake," he said. "Forty-five
    days later, the cake was done."

    Voegelin said at some point during the battle, after the fighting had
    moved inland, he and a shipmate walked up from the beach and came
    upon a Japanese pillbox that had been blown up. Sticking out of the
    black volcanic sand was a piece of canvas. He dug it out and found
    that it was a satchel stuffed with postcards and letters written in

    He kept the correspondence, which he stored in his Navy duffel bag
    and later in a suitcase at his home in Gardiner. It wasn't until late
    last year, as accolades piled up for the second of Eastwood's two Iwo
    Jima films, that Voegelin brought out the souvenirs.

    "They're really in nice shape. A little brittle, but not bad," he
    said, adding that the handwriting is "exquisite."

    Voegelin said he contacted Eastwood's film company in California to
    find out if it would be interested in the correspondence, but didn't
    get beyond the receptionist. He said a call to Japanese diplomatic
    offices in New York City wasn't returned. But he's hoping articles
    about media interest in the letters will lead to getting them
    translated, and possibly returned to relatives of whoever wrote them.

    An article about the letters was posted Tuesday on the Middletown
    Times Herald-Record Web site. The article was seen by a former
    Middletown man now living in Brisbane, Australia, and he has offered
    to find a translator, Voegelin said.

    "Here's a chance to bring a little peace and quiet to the world," he
    said. "Maybe someone in Japan will sit back and think, 'We've got
    grandpa's letters back.'"

    Unlike the actual letters that served as the basis for the Eastwood
    film, Voegelin believes the correspondence in his possession was
    written for delivery to Iwo Jima. As proof, he points to the coarse
    twine that was used to tie the postcards and letters together.
    Homesick American sailors did the same with any correspondence they
    received from back home, often bundling it together for safekeeping,
    Voegelin said.

    When the battle for Iwo Jima was over, more than 6,000 Americans had
    died and all but about 1,000 of the 22,000 Japanese defenders were
    killed. Most of their bodies remain entombed in the island's
    extensive tunnels and caves.

    Voegelin came away from the battle unscathed after more than six
    weeks at Iwo. He said he hopes the postcards and letters make it back
    to people in Japan who may be connected to someone mentioned in the

    "I hope it makes somebody happy because that's the whole intent,"
    Voegelin said.
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