3/15/2012 By Lance Cpl. Alyssa N. Hoffacker , Marine Corps Bases Japan
U.S. Marines stormed the beaches of Iwo Jima on Feb. 19, 1945, and on the fifth day raised the American flag atop Mount Suribachi. The island was secured March 26, 1945, after what is known by many as the fiercest fighting in the Pacific theater of World War II.
“Standing here on this island brings back so many vivid memories,” said Dr. E. Bruce Heilman, a World War II Marine veteran. “My memories had become what seemed like distant dreams, but today brings it back to life.”
This annual ceremony also offered the chance for both nations to come together and honor all who fought and the approximately 30,000 Japanese and American fighters who lost their lives during the 36-day-long battle.
“Let us reaffirm here today that the loss of so many, was not in vain. We gather here today as men and women representing two nations,” said Lt. Gen. Kenneth J. Glueck Jr., commanding general of III Marine Expeditionary Force. “Two nations, who after this battle, came together to build an alliance, an alliance, which some consider to be the most successful in the history of mankind, achieving over 60 years of peace and stability in this critical region of the world.”
Distinguished speakers from the U.S. Marine Corps and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force spoke of the alliance the two countries have formed because of this battle.
“The fact that we can all come together as friends, shows that this battle was not for nothing,” said Ira Charles Rigger, a World War II Navy veteran. “We once were enemies, but now true allies.”
The guests of the Reunion of Honor had the opportunity to walk the beach landing site and visit Mount Suribachi.
“To be able to come back to Iwo Jima and see Mount Suribachi again is a very sobering experience,” said Heilman.
The reunion was sponsored by the Iwo Jima Associations of America and Japan and coordinated with assistance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the government of Japan and the U.S. Marine Corps.
The reunion event took place near a granite plaque presented by veterans at the 40th anniversary, 27 years ago. The English translation faces the beaches where U.S. forces landed, while the Japanese translation faces inland where Japanese troops defended their position, and reads:
“On the 40th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima, American and Japanese veterans met again on these same sands, this time in peace and friendship. We commemorate our comrades, living and dead, who fought here with bravery and honor; and we pray together that our sacrifices on Iwo Jima will always be remembered and never be repeated.”