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Classic war movie gets Memorial Day screening

VERGENNES - The Vergennes Opera House will screen the classic World War II drama "Sands of Iwo Jima" on May 22 at 7:30 as part of its Friday Night Flicks movie series.

The film, directed by Allan Dwan in 1949 and starring John Wayne as Srgt. John Stryker, tells the story of Srgt. Stryker and his troops, following them from boot camp to the theater of war and the epic battle at Iwo Jima, Japan. Veterans of foreign wars will be given free admission in recognition of their service.

Tough-as-nails career Marine Sergeant John Stryker (John Wayne) is greatly disliked by the men of his squad, particularly the combat replacements, for the rigorous training he puts them through. He is especially despised by Private Peter Conway (John Agar), the arrogant, college-educated son of an officer Stryker served under and admired, and Private Al Thomas (Forrest Tucker), who blames him for his demotion.

When Wayne's character Stryker leads his squad in the 1943 invasion of Tarawa, the men begin to appreciate his methods, except Conway, who considers him brutal and unfeeling when he apparently abandons a wounded comrade to the enemy. During the battle, Thomas goofs off when he goes to get ammunition for two comrades, stopping to savor a cup of coffee. As a result, he returns too late-the two Marines, now out of ammunition, are overrun; one is killed, the other badly wounded. When Stryker discovers the truth, he forces Thomas into a fistfight. This is seen by a passing officer, but Thomas unexpectedly gets Stryker out of trouble for hitting a subordinate by claiming that he was being taught judo. His conscience ravaging him, Thomas breaks down and abjectly apologizes for his dereliction.

Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes, and John Bradley, the three survivors of the five Marines and one Navy corpsman who raised the second flag on Suribachi during the actual battle, appear briefly in the film just prior to the reenactment. Hayes was also the subject of a film biography, "The Outsider", and Bradley the subject of a book by his son, "Flags of Our Fathers".

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