January 22, 2017

Iwo Jima memorial service planned for Camp Pendleton

The Iwo Jima Association of America of Quantico, Va., and the Iwo Jima Commemorative Committee of San Diego, Calif., are joining together Feb. 15-19 at Camp Pendleton, Calif., to commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima.
      Both organizations have met separately in February for many years to remember one of the bloodiest and most brutal campaigns in the most costly war in history. For 36 days, more than 70,000 United States Marines and sailors, aided by tens of thousands of airmen in the air and sailors at sea, fought tooth and nail, inch by inch against 22,000 Japanese defenders led by LtGen Tadamichi Kuribayashi.
      The battle for the island was critical because of its location between the U.S. airbase in the Mariana Islands and the Japanese mainland. The radar that warned the mainland of pending U.S. air raids needed to be disabled so the bombers could fly undetected all the way to Japan, and any U.S. planes damaged in the raids would have a place to land on the return flight of nearly 1,500 miles rather than being lost at sea.
      Nearly 6,000 Marines gave their lives of the total 6,821 Americans killed on the island of 8 square miles of volcanic soil 650 miles from Tokyo. Another 19,000 Americans were wounded, and nearly all of the 22,000 Japanese died in the battle. Twenty-seven Medals of Honor were awarded on Iwo Jima, 22 of them to Marines of the Third, Fourth and Fifth Marine Divisions, which was more than a quarter of the MOHs awarded to Marines during World War II.
      So the spirit of those who fought so gallantly for the principles of our nation and to preserve democracy and free those oppressed by tyranny won’t be forgotten, these two groups are committed to perpetuating that spirit and ensuring that future generations remember the battle long after the last Iwo Jima veteran is gone.
      The Iwo Jima Memorial Service begins at 4:30 p.m. Feb. 18 at Camp Pendleton on the westerly side of the Pacific View Events Center near where Laura Dietz, founder of Iwo Jima Monument West, is leading the initiative to erect a Marine Corps War Memorial much like the Joe Rosenthal photo of the iconic flag raising on Mount Suribachi that sculptor Felix de Weldon used as a model for the memorial at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
      A wreath will be laid at the current Iwo Jima Memorial in Camp Pendleton that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. The program will close with a 21-gun salute and Taps for the men who died on Iwo Jima.
      After the ceremony, a World War II memorabilia display will be open in the rear of the banquet hall. At 5:30 p.m. there will be a concert by the First Marine Division Band, followed by a call to order, the Presentation of Colors and a program that will include an invocation, welcome remarks and a keynote speech by distinguished guests, the Empty Chair Tribute, an Iwo Jima flag-raising tableau, closing remarks and dinner.
Prior to the Memorial Service, IJAA (
www.iwojimaassociation.org) will host a symposium at the Grand Pacific Palisades Hotel in Carlsbad that will include several distinguished speakers who will address the historical events leading up to WWII and Iwo Jima, the actual battle and the aftermath to current times. Also expected at the symposium will be the Joe Rosenthal Chapter of the USMC Combat Correspondents Association.
      Rosenthal’s photo is arguably the most reproduced photo in history and is a recognized symbol of Iwo Jima and the Marine Corps. In addition to bringing the history and significance of the photo to younger generations and teaching them about the Marines, Iwo Jima and the sacrifices of WWII veterans, the group has begun a petition drive in hopes of having a U.S. Navy warship named after Rosenthal. Members of the public can sign the petition online at www.USSJoe.org.
      Both IJAA and the IJCC will tour Camp Pendleton on Thursday and visit the Stu Segall Strategic Operations Studio on Friday and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. Lunch at a base mess hall will be included each day.
      Additionally, Military Historical Tours (www.miltours.com) of Woodbridge, Va., will host a trip to Guam March 20-27 and on to Iwo Jima for the annual Reunion of Honor that is held in conjunction with a delegation from Japan that includes Yoshitaka Shindo, the grandson of Gen Kuribayshi.
      Funds are currently being raised to send seven Iwo Jima veterans on the annual “Reunion of Honor” tour in March. Two have been financed to date. Tax-deductible contributions of any amount may be sent to “IJAA,” P.O. Box 680, Quantico, VA 22134.

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