Veteran Voices: WWII Veteran remembers Iwo Jima

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Gene Boyle will be honored again this year at the Altoona Veteran’s Day Parade.
November 7th

ALTOONA, Pa. (WTAJ) — Most Americans have a reverence for veterans who fought in WWII.

There is a feeling that they went through hell, and then returned to America to build it into the world’s greatest nation.

Gene Boyle of Altoona was one of many in his community who answered the call.

93-year-old Gene Boyle has a story that is hard to believe or imagine. In 1944, when he was 16-years-old, he lied about his age and joined the marines.

His first assignment after boot camp was to take the Japanese-held island of Iwo Jima. 110 thousand American troops against 21 thousand Japanese fighters, Boyle was in Wave 3 on the first day.

“You didn’t sleep, at night, slept with one eye open. Two guys to a foxhole, one guy stayed awake while the other slept, you took turns,” said Boyle.

Boyle was looking up at Mount Suribachi as the most iconic photo in American history was taken–the raising of the American flag.

A symbol of America’s fierce determination during that terrible war.

Before they could get the island secured, there were 19,000 Americans wounded, 6,821 killed.

It turned out to be among the bloodiest battles in the Pacific War. Amazingly, Boyle learned that his brother, who was also a marine, was fighting alongside him and both survived.

A photo of the two in the Altoona Mirror caught their parents by surprise.

When Boyle was asked to return to Iwo Jima many years later, he refused, saying, “I was there for 28 days…I saw the worst of it. I didn’t want to go back to that hell hole. 7,000 Americans lost their lives on that island. I know because I helped bury them.”

Boyle returned to Altoona and raised a family, following the request made to him by President Truman in his letter of thanks. Truman wrote, “because you demonstrated the fortitude, resourcefulness and calm judgment necessary to carry out that task, we now look to you for leadership and example in further exalting our country in peace.”

Gene Boyle will be honored again this year at the Altoona Veteran’s Day Parade on November 7th.

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