Prelude to Iwo Jima: The Untold Story of LCI-449 and Clifford Lemke

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Prelude to Iwo Jima: The Untold Story of LCI-449 and Clifford Lemke

Dennis Blocker presented the second in our series of webinars commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the end of WWII on March 18, 2020. Following the suicide of his maternal grandfather Clifford Lemke in 1998, Blocker was tasked by his mother to, “Find out what happened to daddy during the War.” Thus, Dennis began a 14-year journey that would see him travel the United States and interview men who knew and served with his grandfather. Blocker’s talk Prelude to Iwo Jima: The Untold Story of LCI-449 and Clifford Lemke, is a rare collection of stories by men who fought in the lead up to the U.S. Marines landing on Iwo Jima, and their accounts paint a picture of the courage and sacrifice that took place there.

In all, Dennis interviewed over 300 veterans of the Pacific War. With the effort, complete Dennis approached Pulitzer Prize-winning author Mitch Weiss with his research and the two agreed a book needed to be written. In March of 2016, this became a reality when Dennis and Mitch released the book, The Heart of Hell: The Untold Story of Courage and Sacrifice in the Shadow of Iwo Jima. The book received critical acclaim and made the New York Post “Must Read List.”

During this time Dennis became the Pacific War Historian for the National WWII Landing Craft Infantry Association. In this role, Dennis sought to grow the association’s archive. Through letters, phone calls, and emails Dennis tasked the men with recording their memories and turning in their memorabilia and pictures so the world would have a full account of their operations in WWII. The men responded. Under Dennis Blocker’s leadership, the LCI Archive grew from a fifteen-page index to over one-hundred and fifty pages. On March 9, 2013, Dennis and the Admiral Nimitz Foundation held an event in which the LCI Archive was turned over to the care of the National Museum of the Pacific War.

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