Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Ever the Englishman, writer, actor, and comedian Stephen Fry traveled across the United States in a black London cab, visiting all 50 states to experience first-hand what makes America unique. Fry stopped in Georgia for Thanksgiving, marched in a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, learned how to pick a banjo with hillbillies, and palled around with Ted Turner on his Montana ranch. Fry’s book is appropriately titled, Stephen Fry in America: Fifty States and the Man Who Set Out to See Them All. Then, in November of 1943, U.S. Marines landed on Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands and met a Japanese force of 4,500 who fought nearly to the last man. Nearly two thousand Marines and Navy personnel were killed. Leon Cooper was one of the Navy officers who landed Marines on the island and never forgot the carnage he witnessed. Along with documentary filmmaker Steve Barber, Cooper returned to the island in February, 2008 to check out reports that garbage littered the battlefield. While there, he learned that hundreds of American dead remain on the island in graves that receive no care. The film, Return to Tarawa: The Leon Cooper Story, is part of an effort to give proper respect to the fallen heroes of World War II.