Sea Foam: Beaufort vet shares WWII memories in documentary

November 22, 2010 

Thanks to Charles S. Aimar Sr. of Beaufort for sharing some thoughts about Iwo Jima, where he earned a Purple Heart in 1945 with the 5th Marine Division.

His note arrives as the community honors veterans in two ways.

Charles will be among those featured in the upcoming documentary, "Shoe Box Memories: A Collection of Stories from WWII Veterans." The premiere will be at 7 p.m. Dec. 7 at the University of South Carolina Beaufort's Center for the Arts on Carteret Street in Beaufort. The event will be hosted by the arts center and South Carolina ETV.

Also sharing memories in the documentary are local veterans Fred Anderson, Elaine Barlett, Fly Flanagan, Hal Harriman, Bob Holly, Sam Najarian, Earl Rogers, George Scuffos and Bernard Warshaw.

In addition to the film, the evening will include:

  • A performance by the Beaufortettes, who have been tapping together since 2006. The group is under the direction of Jenn Shand.

  • World War II Christmas songs performed by the Sharktones, the USCB vocal ensemble.

  • A question-and-answer session with some of the veterans featured in the documentary.

    Tickets are available at the door or at the box office by calling 843-521-4145. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and $10 for USCB students and those younger than 18.

    Arts center director Bonnie Hargrove said "<2009>'Shoe Box Memories' is a documentary that, in its dialogue with a handful of veterans, pays tribute to all individuals who contributed to the effoRT."

    HONOR FLIghts

    Aimar also was among a group of local veterans who participated in the Honor Flight program, a nonprofit effort to get World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to see the memorials established in their honor. Veterans travel aboard an Amtrak train from Savannah to Washington.

    Those who made the trip were honored last week at the Rotary Club of Beaufort's special Veterans Day program led by Owen Hand.

    Hand honored other members of the Beaufort and Hilton Head Island boards that work with Savannah Honor Flight to make the trips possible, and sometimes ong as "guardians" on the quick round-trip.

    Beaufort board members, led by Hand, include Andy Beall, Fletch Maffett, Nick Davidson, Howard Heckrotte, Jack Cummings, John Gray, Rick Stearns, Van Willis, Randy Wall and Warren Williamson. Hilton Head board members include Linda Gray, John Miller and Jeff Bradley.

    Contact any board member to learn about ways to help. The national organization website is www.honorflight.org.

    'DEAR FOLKS'

    To help new generations understand the sacrifice that took place on Iwo Jima, Aimar quotes a letter written home from the commanding officer of a reconnaissance platoon, Col. Victor Kleber. He wrote to his "dear folks" in April 1945, after 32 days of battle. The letter is included in the book, "The Lions of Iwo Jima."

    Aimar said: "Colonel Kleber's thoughts were typical of so many other commands of the 5th Marine Division and give an insight of the battle that cost the Japanese 21,000 men, and the United States 6,000 Marines and 26,000 Marine casualties on an island of eight square miles. Only 300 prisoners of the Japanese forces were taken alive. A total of 53,000 dead and wounded was the price of Iwo Jima."

    A portion of Victor Kleber's letter also helps explain the importance of the local efforts behind the Honor Flights and "Shoe Box Memories."

    Kleber wrote: "My health is excellent, my spirits are on the way up, because I am now back at our old camp. After a little acclimation, we will settle down in preparation of what the future holds.

    "Before going to our ships on Iwo, we marched to our cemetery -- the largest Marine burial ground in the world -- the regiment, or what remained of it, followed into the grounds to stand at attention between the white crosses. I was the last man to enter as I was company commander of the last company in the order of march.

    "As I stood there among my comrades -- bearded, dirty (we hadn't bathed for over 30 days) and very tired -- I felt like sobbing because I remembered the day at our tent camp, amidst the mountains of California, we proudly passed in review after receiving our regimental colors. We were 3,000 strong -- the world's best and we were damn proud of it -- but now just a handful remain.

    "Our colonel, 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds and 54 years old, was respected and loved by all who knew him. His speech was short and simple, but it hit home. While he spoke, newly arrived P-51s cavorted in victory rolls overhead.

    "Yes, 'Harry the Horse,' the famous leader of the First Raider regiment, known for his courage and drive, gave the word to his men as a patriarch speaks to his children. He looked tired -- oh, so tired -- but his posture was erect and head high as he mentioned in closing that our job now was to rebuild the regiment, and go on as those we would be leaving behind would go on: as United States Marines."

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