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Local

Veteran returns to site of battle

World War II vet Paul Linden (left), of Aurora, and Korean War vet Ron Altman, of Batavia, visited the Chronicle offices on Thursday March 27th to speak to Eric Schelkopf about their recent trip to Iwo Jima.  (Rob Winner photo)
World War II vet Paul Linden (left), of Aurora, and Korean War vet Ron Altman, of Batavia, visited the Chronicle offices on Thursday March 27th to speak to Eric Schelkopf about their recent trip to Iwo Jima. (Rob Winner photo)

AURORA – World War II veteran Paul Linden of Aurora didn’t count on visiting Iwo Jima the first time around. In July 1945, his B-29 Superfortress had to make an emergency landing on the Pacific island. Linden, an Air Force radio operator, flew in 39 bombing missions against Japan. Linden was on his last mission. “We had to shut down two engines and stay there,” the 84-year-old Linden said. “We were there for almost two days.” He was a member of the 73rd Bomb Wing. During one mission over Tokyo, enemy flak pierced his plane and sheared the skin off his left leg. He was awarded the Purple Heart. Memories came rushing back for Linden in March during his first trip back to Iwo Jima. “I still remember how difficult it was to walk in that volcanic ash,” Linden said. Linden made the trip out of respect to those who lost their lives on Iwo Jima. “More than 24,000 were killed among the American forces in the taking of Iwo Jima,” Linden said. “I wanted to pay my respects to the airmen we lost.” During the trip, he attended the 63rd anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Iwo Jima. While on the island, Linden climbed up Mount Suribachi and flew an American flag for fellow World War II veteran George Gebes. See RESPECTS, page 5A • RESPECTS Continued from page 1A Gebes served in the Navy during the war and had climbed Mount Suribachi after it had been taken by the Marines. Visiting Iwo Jima and the surrounding islands, Linden found out their efforts have not been forgotten. “A good part of my enjoyment was talking with the natives,” Linden said. “Many of them came up to me and thanked the Americans for giving them back their islands. I really was taken back by that part of it.” Accompanying Linden on the trip was Korean War veteran Ron Altman, 76, of Batavia. “Paul and I have been friends for a long time,” Altman said. “Anybody who can handle 39 missions and come back alive, that’s pretty good.” Linden and Altman volunteer at the Air Classics Museum of Aviation at Aurora Airport in Sugar Grove. “We are trying to keep history alive,” Linden said.

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