Heroics That Inspired The Nation
DAVID HENCH Staff WriterBy DAVID HENCH, Staff Writer,
October 20, 2006
Final, Front, page A1
Flags of Our Fathers,'' a film about the World War II assault on Iwo Jima
and the famous flag-raising that rallied the nation, opens in theaters
today, and Robert Carr plans to be watching closely for the role that a
Portland native played in the saga.
''A movie like that ... it gives everybody an opportunity to remember local
guys,'' said Carr, a former Marine who lives in South Portland and has
made a mission of chronicling the Mainers killed in World War II. ''I don't
think we would have had that opportunity otherwise.''
The Clint Eastwood-directed movie tells the story of the six servicemen
who fought their way across the Pacific Island to raise a U.S. flag on
Mount Suribachi, an act that was captured on film in one of the most
powerful war photographs ever taken.
Almost 7,000 Americans died taking the island, but that image of
determination and teamwork, printed in newspapers across the country,
inspired the nation.
Second Lt. Edward S. Pennell, a graduate of Portland High School who
left Bowdoin College to join the service, was the company commander
for three of the Marines who raised the flag, but he had been wounded
badly in the assault and was being treated on a medical ship when his
soldiers reached the summit. Pennell, who died in 1998, was awarded
the Navy Cross for heroism, but his story has been largely obscured
Carr thinks it's time to remember, even though the focus of the movie is
on the five Marines and one Navy corpsman who raised the flag, and
how the act affected their lives.
''Why this is so interesting,'' Carr said, ''is it's going to give us that
connection. ... To think somebody from Portland was part of that, we can
relate to it. You understand more of the sacrifice.''
Tom Verica, the actor who portrays Pennell in the movie, said the
Portland native has a supporting role in this story, though Verica
learned much more about Pennell's exploits to prepare for the part. In
researching the battle, the cast came to understand how profound the
experience must have been for everyone who lived it.
''The story we told is the story of just about everybody who served in
that battle,'' he said. The carnage that accompanied the heroism, he said,
led many to avoid speaking about it when they returned home.
The story of the flag-raising photograph tells the story well, Verica said.
''The image captured a nation and gave (Americans) a sense of hope, but
not really understanding the personal journey these guys went through,
seeing their buddies die next to them and coming home and being put
on a pedestal for something these guys felt really uncomfortable about,''
The flag was raised five days after the landing, but it took another month
to secure the island from the 23,000 Japanese entrenched there. By
then, three of the soldiers pictured were among the dead.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning photo was taken Feb. 23, 1945, by Associated
Press photographer Joe Rosenthal, who died this summer. The image
was so compelling that the government had the survivors re-enact the
flag-raising in front of crowds to help sell war bonds.
Carr, who maintains a Web site called mainegavemany.com, discovered
Edward Pennell's service record while researching his brother, Robert
Pennell Jr., who also went to Portland High, was a championship
swimmer, graduated from Bowdoin and became an Army paratrooper.
Robert Pennell was killed in Operation Market Garden, when
paratroopers landed in Holland.
Edward Pennell attacked Iwo Jima knowing his brother had been killed.
He was awarded the Navy Cross for risking his life to rescue five injured
men who were pinned down by Japanese machine gun fire.
Later, an artillery shell erupted in front of him, sending him 30 feet
through the air and costing him his heel and a chunk of his thigh,
according to interviews Pennell gave to the author of ''Flags of Our
Fathers.'' Pennell was rescued hours after being wounded and was
taken to a hospital ship. He received his Navy Cross while in a military
hospital later that year.
Eastwood's film is based on the book, which was written by James
Bradley, son of one of the flag-raisers who survived.
Carr's research provided little additional information about Pennell's life
in Maine. It appears he moved to California many years after the war and
died there on Nov. 12, 1998.
It's no surprise Pennell's accomplishments didn't get a lot of attention.
Many soldiers distinguished themselves, but many also never returned.
Alfred Fogg was one of the fortunate ones. A Navy Seabee, he landed on
Iwo Jima with the second wave to set up a post for ammunition and
water. Within hours, and long before he reached his destination, a
Japanese artillery shell landed nearby and knocked him out cold,
leaving him with a severe concussion. He woke the next day on a ship
off the coast.
Fogg will receive his long-delayed Purple Heart at a ceremony at
Freeport High School today.
Sixty-one years later, he can remember looking up from the ship where
he was convalescing and seeing the American flag flying over Mount
Suribachi. To him it was a workmanlike image.
''It said to me they were making progress,'' he said.
Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:
Web Site Honors Fallen of WWII
GISELLE GOODMAN Staff Writer
March 24, 2005
Final, Your Neighbors-South, page G1
Joseph Boulos, 25, killed in action aboard the "Dragon Lady" on April 27,
1944. Fred Cressey, 26, killed in action in Okinawa on May 28, 1945.
Edward Bennett, 19, killed in action on Nov. 14, 1944. They are the names
of men who died in World War II, and Robert Carr cannot, will not, forget
them. To keep their memory alive, he has created a new Web site as an
ongoing memorial to them, and all the other men from Maine who died in
World War II.
"I'm not saying if I don't do it, who will, but to have that information all in
one place to me is important," said Carr. "They deserve it and it's the
least I can do."
Carr began working on www.mainegavemany.com three months ago for
no other reason than he felt compelled to do it. The idea came after the
year 2000 when he self-published "Some Gave All," a book that lists the
names from the WWII memorial plaque in Portland City Hall and gives the
history and service information of the veterans.
Carr knew that his book only told a small part of the tale. More than 2,000
men in Maine died during the war and Carr wanted them to be honored,
The Web site, he said, has become the perfect vehicle for his memorial.
He can update it as he finds information about the veterans, and it can
be accessed by anyone, anywhere.
Which, to veterans living today, is wonderful.
"It can serve as a useful resource for school children that may be doing
some research on World War II," said Dick Flanagan, communications
director for Amvets. "It's an educational thing as well. Much like the
Vietnam wall. It will not only keep the memory alive, but also, I think,
prompts people to look at in more detail the conflict these people were
Carr, 44, and a South Portland native, has always been drawn to the
stories of World War II. His father's cousin was killed in Luxemburg, and
like many in his generation, Carr grew up hearing the stories of the
conflict and how the country came together to support the war effort.
"Just the commitment of the people and the sacrifice on a grand scale is
just fascinating," he said.
To begin his project, he compiled all the names of Maine men who
served and died from the federal government.
Once he had the names he began going through local newspapers,
literally reliving the war day by day, page by page, looking for clippings
that corresponded with the names he has. The years 1944 and 1945
stunned him. He is learning that a large majority of men died during
those years, with as many at 70 men from Maine dying in a month.
Anytime Carr finds a newspaper clipping, he adds it to his Web site.
He has been at it for three months, working nearly 18 hours a week at
the library (this, on top of his part-time job as a printing press operator),
flipping through microfilm. He estimates he has information from only 10
percent of the veterans.
"I'm only adding names as I get newspaper articles," he said. "It's
satisfying because you're taking the time to find something and you are
putting it out there. You're uncovering something people have
forgotten about. I don't think it'll ever be done. I'll always be working on
What Carr would really like to add to the names are personal notes,
letters and remembrances from the family members. But he knows time
for that is short.
"In the coming years, I don't know how many people will have a personal
recollection of the war," he said.
Certainly, the generation of men and women who served in World War II
is dwindling. It is estimated that America's World War II vets are dying at
a rate of 1,100 a day. Of the 16 million who served only about 4 million
As that number shrinks, information of the type Carr is compiling could
prove useful for people who are trying to learn more about their roots,
said Thelma Brooks, president of the Maine chapter of Gold Star
Mothers, a group of women who have lost sons to war.
"I can see a lot of useful genealogy factors," she said. "Time will come
when kids want to know who their grandparents were and what they did."
That is why Carr wants to make sure that for people like Boulos, Cressey
and Bennett, there is more to know then just their names.
"How young does this guy look?" he asked as the face of Edward E.
Bennett looked out from the screen of Carr's computer. "Is he so much
older than my 13-year-old? Does he look that much different? I would
like people to know their stories and at least know a little bit about
Staff Writer Giselle Goodman can be contacted at 791-6330 or at: