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'Every day was death,' veteran's Web site says

Al Perry has created a site that recounts his experiences as a Marine from 1943 through 1948.

By JULIANNE WU

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 6, 2000


CLEARWATER -- Al Perry, a veteran of World War II and a Silver Star recipient, considers himself lucky.

Not only did he escape injury in the four bloody battles in which he took part in the Pacific, but he also missed going to Korea through a fluke.

"After the War, I was working for the federal government in Detroit, when five of my buddies urged me to go with them to sign up for the reserves," Perry said.

"Because I was getting married soon, I had been dieting. But I got so hungry, I told them to hold my place in line while I went for a hamburger," Perry, 75, said. "When I returned, I found the recruiting line closed."

He paused. Then, his voice cracking, he said: "All five of my buddies went to Korea and were killed."

Perry, who resides in Island Estates in Clearwater with Ellie, his wife of 53 years, has created an Internet Web site that recounts some of his experiences as a Marine from 1943 through 1948.

Perry grew up in Detroit. Because he was too young to enlist in the military, he begged his parents to give their permission. They did, and he joined the Marines at 17. He left high school in the 10th grade. He started as a private in February 1943, re-enlisted once and stayed in the Marines until August 1948, when he was a corporal.

On his Web site, Perry recounts the four battles he was in between 1944 and 1945, including Operation Flintlock in the Marshall Islands; Roi-Namur in the Kwajalein Atoll; Saipan; Tinian; and Iwo Jima, from February through March 1945.

About Saipan, he wrote:

The Division (approximately 20,000 men) landed on Saipan 15 June 1944. The severity of this battle was indicated by the 2,000 casualties suffered in the first two days of battle. The Flag was raised on Saipan after 25 grueling and bitter days of combat. Discussing Iwo Jima, he said: "Every day was death. The Japanese were buried in holes ... and we were standing up like a shooting gallery. We probably lost more people on Iwo Jima than all of the Allied forces lost on Normandy (in France)."

Of the 242 men originally in Perry's company, Company A, all but seven were wounded or killed. Perry proudly displays his Silver Star -- the third-highest military award -- and ribbons from the four battles in which he participated.

While he was not injured physically, Perry said World War II left him emotionally scarred for years.

"I used to get such bouts of anxiety ... as if I was getting ready for another war," said Perry, who didn't start attending reunions of the 4th Marine Division until about six years ago. "Mine got so bad, I used to go to the library and read Freud and ask myself "What's wrong with me?' I still have anxiety sometimes."

Now to get rid of his anxiety and stay in shape, the retired Honeywell employee plays racquetball several times a week with his son Mitch of Tampa. Another son, Mark, is a Fort Lauderdale attorney.

"We golf on the other days," Mrs. Perry said. "I try to keep him busy."

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