Iwo Jima Veteran Turns 100; Thought He Wouldn't Survive War

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Retired Marine Cpl. Samuel “Lee” Anderson, a former member of the 5th Marine Division, points at the place he landed on the beach 73 years ago from atop Mount Suribachi March 24, 2018 on Iwo To, Japan. (U.S. Marine Corps/Jamin M. Powell)
Retired Marine Cpl. Samuel “Lee” Anderson, a former member of the 5th Marine Division, points at the place he landed on the beach 73 years ago from atop Mount Suribachi March 24, 2018 on Iwo To, Japan. (U.S. Marine Corps/Jamin M. Powell)

LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) — A U.S. Army Air Corps veteran who helped capture the Japanese island of Iwo Jima during World War II turned 100 on Sunday.

Andy Bosko, who lives in a Lakeland nursing home, spent weeks on the desolate volcanic island, the 1945 battle made famous by The Associated Press photo of American soldiers raising the flag atop a hill. He was so sure he was going to die, he wrote his wife asking her to take care of herself and their daughter.

“I went over on a troop ship and had to go down ropes — a rope ladder — to get into the landing ship,” Bosko told The Ledger recently, saying they slogged through several feet of water in full battle gear to reach the beach. “As soon as I landed, the shells were going over. I didn’t think I’d ever come back.”

He slept in foxholes, using his duffel bag as protection from the Japanese soldiers.

“They used to sneak in and cut the guys’ throats and you wouldn’t know it,” he recalled. “I didn’t think I’d ever come back. I did pray to God.”

But Bosko survived and returned home to Warren, Pennsylvania, where he worked as a machinist in a forge. He and his wife, Sophia, added four sons to their daughter. The couple moved to Florida in the 1980s after he retired. She died in 2017.

“She was a wonderful, wonderful wife — very good for me and the children,” Bosko said. When asked if he had a girlfriend now, Bosko said, no. “My girlfriend is up in heaven. I miss her and say a prayer for her every day.”

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