Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Leon Cooper, American Hero of Tarawa and Beyond Died

Celebrating the Best While Being Governed by the Worst in Both Parties

In World War II the Battle of Tarawa is largely forgotten. In part because it was a terrible battle that cost a horrible number of lives. The NYT obituary of a survivor Leon Cooper who just died explains.

There was no way to get out of the line of fire,” Mr. Cooper said in Return to Tarawa,” a documentary film about his battle experiences that was televised on the Military Channel in 2009. “Every goddamned angle was covered. We bumbled and stumbled into all this slaughter.”
The American forces took the island in 76 hours, but the toll was brutal: About 1,000 Marines died, and 2,296 were wounded. The New York Times wrote, “Riddled corpses form a ghastly fringe along the narrow white beaches where men of the Second Marine Division died for every foot of sand.”

Mr. Cooper lived a nice, successful life. But after the war, after going back this is what he saw and what he did.

In the 1990s he began to write books, all but one about war. While researching The War in the Pacific: A Retrospective” (2006), he learned that Red Beach on Betio, where he had delivered Marines, had become a dump, strewn with trash and in some places human excrement.
Garbage lay everywhere on what to me was hallowed ground, where I saw so many of my countrymen killed or wounded by Japanese,” he said in the Armchair General interview.
Revisiting his past kindled Mr. Cooper’s late-in-life activism, which suited his gregarious, blunt-spoken and profane personality.
Disgusted by the conditions on the beach, he began contacting members of Congress to authorize funding to clean it up, a campaign that has not yet succeeded.

That's right, a Congress obsessed only with tax cuts for the wealthy will not fund the clean up of a sacred battlefield, a place where real Americans, not politicians, gave their lives for freedom and protection of the nation.

So John McCain, as a military hero and one who says he reveres military sacrifice maybe you can stop being a Republican toady long enough to help here. Some Democrats at least used to be on board.

But Representative Henry Waxman, another California Democrat, was more sympathetic. In remarks in 2006 in the Congressional Record praising Mr. Cooper, Mr. Waxman said, “The sanctity of our battlefield, monuments and veterans’ institutions is of utmost importance to preserve military history and pay respect to those who fought.”

. . .

The broadcast led Representative Dan Lipinski, Democrat of Illinois, to draft language in the 2009 National Defense Authorization Act in the hope of persuading the Pentagon to make the return of Marines’ remains from Tarawa a higher priority.

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