By 1st Lt. Taylor Clarke, III Marine Expeditionary Force
Japanese and U.S. veterans of the Battle of Iwo Jima, along with active-duty service members, came together on Iwo To, Japan, for the annual Reunion of Honor Ceremony March 13, commemorating the 68th anniversary of the battle.
The ceremony is a testament to the hard fought battle of the past and the relationship that arose from that prior clash of arms.
“The war ended 68 years ago, and now we’re good friends with Japan, so I have a different attitude,” said retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Lawrence Snowden. “We may not forget, but we certainly can forgive.”
The island has been overtaken by foliage since the days of the battle, and the vegetation has grown like the Japan-U.S. alliance, said William Schott, a former Marine sergeant and veteran of the battle.
“This ceremony has been a wonderful experience, to return to where we once fought now as allies and partners in peace” said Schott.
Approximately 30,000 Japanese and American service members lost their lives during the 36-day battle that took place 68 years ago, a battle which has been transformed in the minds of Marines to mean much more, according to Gen. John M. Paxton Jr., the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps.
“The battle of Iwo Jima has become central to the history of the Marine Corps,” said Paxton. “For Marines, this battle long ago transcended the physical realm and became part of our ethos.”
Marines and Japanese service members fought hard during the arduous battle, and their reputation lives on to this day.
“I had an opportunity to watch young Marines earn the title ‘The Greatest Generation,’ and they truly earned it,” said Snowden. “They fought tenaciously and had no lack of courage, lots of determination, and a willingness to do whatever was needed because they were not going to fail.”
The reunion ceremony centered around a granite plaque presented by veterans during the 40th anniversary of the battle. The English translation faces the beach where the U.S. forces landed, while the Japanese translation faces the 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 repeated.”
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