Ghosts of Iwo Jima
70 Years After the Battle Began
Deafening silence. Snow lightly dusts the branches of the Christmas trees on this cold, gray Galloway, New Jersey morning.
The rows are neatly lined - this is a farm, after all. Its principle crop is Christmas trees. However, its true purpose seems to be the sale of home and family, of comfort, of peace and safety ... of silence.
A sharp, shrill metallic buzz slices the early morning tranquility. It sounds like a chainsaw at first, but soon reveals itself as a four-wheeled, all-terrain vehicle.
Wally Kaenzig sits at the helm, gleefully carving a path through the fresh-fallen snow. He laughs - zipping around with the wild abandon of youth. Wally is 94 years old. If anyone has earned the right to laugh, it's Wally. He spent 26 days in hell.
Wally is a survivor of Iwo Jima.
The Rutgers University Junior was well on his way to a career in agriculture when the shocking news crackled across the radio that December in 1941. In an instant, Wally and many of his classmates dashed to the nearest military recruiting station - they were going to fight.
Turned down by the Navy, ("You ain't gonna be able to grow squash very well on a ship," laughed the recruiter) Wally found himself walking through the next door in the building. He was going to be a Marine.
Wally became a member of the Corps' legendary 4th Marine Division. Before long, he was training extensively at Camp Pendleton, California for an invasion like no other. The Marines knew they were working toward something huge - the secrecy surrounding the operation was highlighted one day by the unannounced arrival of a black convertible limousine. The silent, bespeckled stare of the commander-in-chief studying the drills in the dunes below was all the proof needed.