CAMP KINSER, Japan - Heroes are everyday individuals who are called upon because they have the innate ability to conquer insurmountable challenges. The Iwo Jima battle grounds where Japanese and American heroes fought valiantly were visited by 68 Marines and sailors for a professional military education tour Dec. 19 to reflect on their shared past and lessons learned.
Service members with 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, had the opportunity to reflect on the battle and observe significant artifacts, such as pill boxes and bunkers.
They also hiked to the top of Mount Suribachi, a place immortalized by the 1945 Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of five Marines and a Navy Corpsman raising the American flag over the highest point of the island.
The Japanese government reverted the name of the island on which the battle was fought to its pre-World War II name of Iwo To in 2007.
The service members met for a briefing Dec. 17 at Camp Kinser prior to the visit to Iwo To to discuss the history and how logistics played a key role in the battle.
“We held the classroom brief to get a better understanding of the battle before we stepped foot on the island,” said Gunnery Sgt. Christopher D. Battle, the information management office chief with Combat Logistics Regiment 37, 3rd MLG. “It helped us gain a deeper meaning of what the Marines went through during the battle.”
Many service members left various items at small memorials at the top of Mount Suribachi, including dog tags and rank insignias, to show their respect for those who gave their lives.
“I saw a lot of Marines staring off into the horizon in silence,” said Battle. “I think being at the top of the mountain reminded the Marines of our history. (Those) who left things left a part of themselves for those Marines who sacrificed it all during the battle.”
While on the beach, Marines discussed the initial assault and reflected on those who fought gallantly.
Service members could be heard reminding each other that they may not get this opportunity again during the long walks up the mountain and along the beaches.
“Throughout the day, I overheard Marines talking about how much they appreciated the opportunity to be here and reflect on the history,” said Col. Walter T. Anderson, the assistant chief of staff, G-3, operations and training, 3rd MLG. “For the majority of the Marines, it was their first time coming out here, and we wanted to focus not only on the battle itself, but on the logistics of the battle. The Marines who fought were all sustained and supported by logistics, and it is important for 3rd MLG Marines to be aware of that.”
The battle of Iwo Jima resulted in more than 26,000 American casualties, including 6,800 dead. Of the 20,000 Japanese defenders, only 1,083 survived, according to the Navy Department Library.
Given Okinawa’s close proximity, the opportunity to visit Iwo To is much more feasible for Marines and sailors stationed in Okinawa than their counterparts in the U.S.
“I think it is very special that we get to be here because not a lot of people get that chance,” said Lance Cpl. Caitlin M. Carmella, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense specialist with 3rd MLG. “This is part of our history as Marines, and being on Okinawa is a great opportunity for us to get to visit the island.”