~Veterans saluted in uplifting, moving ceremonies

Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 11:05 AM.

He told students about Guadalcanal in the Pacific and how six months of fighting ultimately boiled down to hand-to-hand combat for possession of the island.

“We don’t call them the Greatest Generation for nothing,” Colbert told the crowd of students, veterans and the public who attended the event before speaking about D-Day and the June 1944 invasion of Europe that would lead to the end of the war with Germany.

“Nothing like it had been seen before or since,” Colbert said of the Normandy invasion. “It was unbelievable. Two thousand died before noon but by the end of the day the American flag was up over France. Within a year we would be in Berlin.”

For Colbert, the war in the Pacific carried more personal import. His father fought on the Island of Biak. His father’s company had been lured to the interior of the island by the Japanese, who chose not to offer defense on shore.

His father and his fellow soldiers were surrounded by the Japanese and they fought for 16 days, day and night, until relief arrived. Among those fighting to reach Colbert’s father’s unit, Howard Rogers, was among the veterans gathered last week.

Colbert said his father talked to him about arriving in San Francisco harbor after the atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima and the Japanese surrender.

Colbert said his father told him of the American flag that had been draped across the Golden Gate Bridge to welcome the troops.

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