Diocesan News

Catholic Hero Honored on 75th Anniversary of Iwo Jima


STATEN ISLAND — An American who fought in one of World War II’s fiercest battles was honored during the 75th anniversary of Iwo Jima Feb. 19 at the Staten Island U.S. Marine Corps League headquarters.

Veteran Nick Troianiello believed he survived his wounds during that battle, because of God. “There is a God,” Troianiello said. “I believe deeply and believe in God, family and country.

“I kept going to church all the time … I went to church every Sunday …  going to church every morning and praying for everybody. I pray for everybody, every night and always the guys that never came home.”

The devout Catholic said that the day after he graduated from high school in Staten Island, he went to a military boot camp to become a U.S. Marine. He started off as a state guard in 1943, and by 1944, he was in the 3rd Marine Division, in what was called a floating reserve.

“We weren’t even supposed to land on Iwo,” he said. “The report was that it was going to be taken in three to five days. How mistaken they were! Thirty-six days, over 7,000 killed and over 20,000 wounded, which I was one of them.”

In the battle, U.S. forces captured an island south of Japan that served as a strategic place for planes to land and refuel.

On the wall inside the U.S Marine Corps post for Detachment No. 246 in Staten Island, there is a list of veterans from the area who fought in Iwo Jima. Names are marked with asterisks representing those who died during World War II.

“The thing that stands out for me is the fact that one day you’re with your comrades going in, and the next thing you know, either a mortar comes down and knocks out God knows how many … and all you see is flesh and metal and stuff flying all over the place and one of your comrades is gone and you kept thinking, ‘When is it my turn to get blown away?’”

Troianiello suffered from a gunshot wound in his right forearm and a piece of shrapnel near his right eye. The veteran is said to be the last surviving Marine from Staten Island who fought in the battle.

He was one of the first people to welcome Marine Volker Heyde when Heyde joined his detachment in Staten Island almost 10 years ago. Heyde said that Troianiello is one of the “nicest, kindest gentlemen” he knows.

“He’s just like a shining light because of what he did back in 1945,” Heyde said. “We honor him as long as we hopefully have him for many more years to come.”

Catholic Marine Veteran Nick Troianiello survived the bloody battle of Iwo Jima during World War II in Japan. (Photo: Currents News)

Presidential Message on the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima

Commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Iwo Jima battle, President Donald J. Trump released a statement on Feb. 19.

“In the long record of American heroism in combat, few episodes capture the indomitable will and the stouthearted spirit of the American warrior better than the triumphs on the island of Iwo Jima in early 1945. Seventy-five years later, we pay tribute to the immeasurable sacrifice of those killed in action on Iwo Jima, and we honor the heroic efforts of all who took part in one of the most costly and significant battles in our country’s history”, the message said.

“By February 1945, despite American forces possessing aerial and naval supremacy, the Japanese forces at Iwo Jima were well dug-in and prepared to fight to the last man for the strategically important airfields on this small piece of land. This was the first time in World War II that the Japanese were defending what they considered home soil. For 5 weeks, our Marines and Navy sailors endured a harrowing trial by fire, fighting to secure this remote volcanic island from more than 20,000 determined Japanese soldiers. Nearly 7,000 Americans died in the effort,” continued the White House statement.

“The fighting on Iwo Jima was some of the bloodiest and most costly in all of World War II, but it also gave rise to some of the greatest examples of patriotism and heroism in our Nation’s history, inspiring Admiral Chester Nimitz’s famous statement that “uncommon valor was a common virtue.” Few images evoke as much emotion from the American soul as Joe Rosenthal’s photo of six Marines raising our Flag atop Mount Suribachi in the opening days of the battle. In addition, 27 Medals of Honor—the highest honor given to members of the military—were awarded for actions of conspicuous gallantry during the battle. Of these, 22 medals went to Marines, making up more than 25 percent of the total Medals of Honor awarded to Marines throughout the entirety of the war.”

“Among the heroes at Iwo Jima were non-combatants, like Rabbi Roland Gittelsohn. In the days following the battle, Rabbi Gittelsohn delivered a powerful, stirring message at the Fifth Marine Division Cemetery on Iwo Jima. There, he stated, “Here lie officers and privates, blacks and whites, rich and poor together. Here are Protestants, Catholics, and Jews together. Here no man prefers another because of his color.” For his service ministering to men in the thick of the combat zone, Rabbi Gittelsohn was awarded three service ribbons, and today his words resonate as a powerful testament to the founding principle of our Nation that liberty and democracy are the rights of all men and women of every race, religion, and creed.”

“On this anniversary, we honor those who answered the call of duty and ensured that the forces of freedom emerged victorious in that fateful battle. As a Nation, we remain forever indebted to the Greatest Generation,” concluded the Presidential message.

Contributing to this story was Tim Harfmann.

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