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Goin’ Back: Iwo Jima, a documentary marking the 60th anniversary of the World War II invasion, features interviews with Peter Burns ’50. For the film, Burns and other WWII veterans traveled to Iwo Jima to discuss their involvement in the 1945 battle in the Pacific. Of the approximately 200 veterans who accompanied the film crew, only Burns and about nine others had actually participated in the invasion.

Burns served from 1943–46 as a signalman in the U.S. Navy, attached to the 3rd Marine Corps Division. Starting at 19 years old, the sailor’s duties in the Pacific included relaying to small boats what the soldiers needed on land and arranging for them to get the necessary supplies, which included food, arms, and even body bags.

Among the places Burns and other veterans visited during the course of filming was Mt. Suribachi, site of the famous raising of the U.S. flag. Burns found the foxhole he had occupied 60 years ago. The veterans also viewed enemy machine guns and a Japanese hospital constructed in the bowels of the mountain. During filming, there was a large ceremony commemorating the Battle of Iwo Jima that included members of the Japanese parliament and the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps.

“I never saw so much brass in my life,” says Burns.

He showed the documentary at the VA hospital in Phoenix and fellow veterans asked him questions about his experience. The film was well received there.

“It was candid,” Burns says of the film. “I was as open as I could be from what I could remember from 60 years ago. I’m proud of it.”

After returning home from the war, Burns enrolled at Lafayette and earned a degree with an economics major.

“I enjoyed my four years at Lafayette,” he says. “I made lots of friends.”

Following graduation, Burns served as a commissioned officer in Panama on the admiral’s staff during the Korean War. He later had a successful advertising career in New York, holding the titles of senior vice president and director.

Categorized in: Alumni Profiles