Wednesday, January 21, 2004


Iwo Jima
veteran dies
Fred J. Walcsak
appears in one of two
famous photographs
Staff Writer

Fred J. Walcsak

MANALAPAN — Easy Company 28th Marine Patrol has lost another of its heroes.

World War II veteran Fred J. Walcsak, 85, who was present on Feb. 23, 1945, to see the United States flag raised on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima, died Jan. 9 at CentraState Medical Center, Freehold Township.

Walcsak’s place in history was assured when he and his fellow Marines posed for Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal on Mount Suribachi in a group picture which later became known as the "Gung Ho" photo. The picture was featured in The New York Times best seller "Flags of Our Fathers" by James Bradley.

Another photo taken by Rosenthal that day has achieved legendary status — it shows several Marines pushing the U.S. flag upright on Mount Suribachi, which was captured from Japanese forces.

Walcsak once said he believed the group photo — the "Gung Ho" picture — that was taken during the second flag raising was the more memorable shot because it included all 18 members of the patrol who were present.

Walcsak was wounded in the chest, neck and back on March 9, 1945, as the patrol moved farther inland in an effort to capture the island. He received a Purple Heart after being wounded in combat.

A resident of Manalapan, Walcsak could frequently be seen driving his white and blue vehicle which proudly displayed a license plate with the letters IWO-28. At the supermarket, Walcsak would give out autographed photocopies of the "Gung Ho" picture to people he met. He enjoyed chatting and telling stories about his service on Iwo Jima.

Anthony Joswick of Marlboro, a Vietnam-era Marine Corps veteran, knew Walcsak for 30 years. Initially, they shared a hobby of racing pigeons; Walcsak was from Staten Island, N.Y., and Joswick hailed from Bayonne. After they discovered their shared military background, their friendship deepened and remained strong for three decades after Joswick moved to Marlboro and Walcsak moved to Manalapan. They were both members of the Cpl. Philip A. Reynolds Detachment of the Marine Corps League, Freehold.

"Fred was an Iwo Jima hero, although he never considered himself a hero," Joswick said. "He looked up to his brother Marines."

Joswick said he accompanied Walcsak to Marine functions where people recognized and honored him for the sacrifices that he and his fellow Marines made on Iwo Jima. Joswick said Walcsak served as an adviser during the making of the John Wayne film "Sands of Iwo Jima."

Joswick said Walcsak still served as an inspiration to America’s fighting forces up until the time of his death. After Joswick came to know Karen Clifton, the mother of a young Marine from Oklahoma who was serving in Iraq this year, Walcsak sent Lance Cpl. Colby Clifton autographed pictures of the Iwo Jima flag raising. Joswick said Clifton and the men in his unit reported that they were inspired by those pictures and the interest that Walcsak had taken in them. Clifton has since returned home to Oklahoma, Joswick said.

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By R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
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