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WWII Veterans, Guests Remember the Battle of Iwo Jima

WWII Veterans, Guests Remember the Battle of Iwo Jima

IWO TO, Japan — At the base of Mount Suribachi on Iwo To, among the most iconic places in Marine Corps history, U.S. Marine, Army and Air Force veterans, families alongside U.S. and Japanese leaders and other distinguished guests gathered to commemorate fallen service members during the 72nd Reunion of Honor ceremony, March 25, 2017.

The ROH ceremony offers active and veteran service members and their families an opportunity to celebrate the allied relationship between the U.S. and Japan over the last 72 in which they have worked together to advance common interests in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

In a speech to the attendees of the ceremony, the Commander of Marine Forces Pacific Lt. Gen. David H. Berger said, “We didn’t come here only to see once again what this volcanic island feels like. We came here today, for this reunion, to think about the past and ask what we must do to prevent that type of horrific battle from ever happening again.”

The alliance serves as a model of the power of reconciliation; former adversaries who became unwavering allies and who now work together to advance common interests in the region.

Berger continued, “We have learned from that epic battle. We have moved ahead together, as an alliance, serving shoulder to shoulder around the world.”

While the number of surviving service men from the infamous WWII battle are dwindling, those who were at the ceremony had an air of reverence and humility about them. They appeared occasionally distant and reflective about their time spent here more than 70 years ago.

However, the eight Iwo Jima veterans were also the stars of the show, as they were constantly surrounded by active duty service men and women, of all ranks, who said they wanted to stand near the greatness of these veterans. The veterans were happy to share tales of their days as active duty members and what being on Iwo To meant to them.

Iwo Jima veteran, Marine Corps Sgt. Edwin Hunsberger said he felt a variety of emotions upon returning to the island.

“It looks so different,” said Hunsberger, who is now 90 years old was here when he was just 18. “There wasn’t any vegetation when we were here, and this could be a completely different place from the one that I remember.”

Hunsberger, along with several other veterans, said that if they had been asked about returning to Iwo Jima years ago, they never thought they would have returned.

The friendship that has developed surpasses the treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan. The two countries have become invaluable allies over the last 72 years.

Ichiro Aisawa, a member of the House of Representatives of Japan, said during his speech, “I am deeply moved to see, on this very island where the fierce battle was fought, veterans of the two countries and their families transcend the history of more than 70 years ago and reunite and reaffirm their friendship.”

The alliance serves as a model of the power of reconciliation; former adversaries who became unwavering allies and who now work together to advance common interests in the region.

Aisawa said, “Japan and the U.S., which fought against each other 72 years ago, are now working hand-in-hand to achieve international peace and stability. I believe such cooperation consoles the souls of the soldiers from both countries who fought and died on this island.”

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Lester Utley - April 13, 2020

TO SGT. Frank Nelson, Re Iwo Jima: I CPL. Lester Utley was with the 3rd Marine Division, March 1954 we Landed on IWO East Side. Spent two weeks on the very HOT Island. The last day Chesty Puller asked me to play Taps as the Third American Flag was lowered off Mt. Suribachi. Chesty carried that American flag off Iwo Jima. I still Have a few souviners from Iwo. I still Play Taps at Funerals and Marine Corps League.

John Durant active duty August 54-57 - April 13, 2020

I wish that I had Maintained a diary like my dad did while with 55th Co. 5th Marines of his experiences in France from july of 1917 through to medical evacuation in August of 1918, but I didn’t. By my memory our replacement battalion sailed on the “MARINE PHOENIX” on St. Joseph’s Day March 19,1955 from San Diego to Yokohama via Kodiak Island Alaska. After that went by trainin pitch dark to Camp McNair where I was assigned to Easy Battery 12th Marines. Trained to become Battery Fire Controlman (MOS 0844) Went on many Hikes to and around the lake near Fuji-Yoshida. That summer of 1955 the entire 12th Regiment (Artillery)was transferred to Okinawa through Yokosuka by LSTs. We did a mock assault on the original beaches of “IWO” on the way to Okinawa. Remember the beach’s black gritty volcanic beads that was like trying to walk on Packing Peanuts NO support. Every step your foot just pushed back against fluff..After a couple of days all the guns, 105’s and 155’s were finally lined up on the opposite shoreline to fire for registration and calibration. Just as everybody was anticipating receiving Ammunition for the guns the orders came down to “CSMO” close station move on. So we reembarked for Okinawa. Served there with “Easy” Battery which then became “Echo” Battery, Battery, Battery. Well we thought it was funny! Until the Summer of ’56, don’t ask for exact dates, remember I didn’t Keep a Diary, I thought that they were against regulations. Mad and Sorry that we ever gave Iwo back to the Japs. We should haveretained a small detachment tend the graves of those not repatriated to the states and protect from interlopers and scrap metal thieves.

Cpl J. W. Hornsey Mike 3/1 CUPP RVN 1970 - April 13, 2020

Every year I get a little teary eyed at this time. My dad was an 18 year old kid you landed on Iwo Jima with Foxtrot Co, 2/27, 5th Div. They landed between the base of Suribachi and airfield #1. My grandfather was a Navy surgeon on one of the hospital ships off the coast. My mom and dad grew up only a block apart in Alton, Illinois. Dad died from a brain aneurysm in 1997. My former brother-in-law was on Iwo a couple of times for the annual event. He was able to get some pictures and sand for my dad. Myself I got out of high school in 1969. Figured I would get drafted so I too joined the Marines. Mike 3/1 CUPP RVN 1970. Would I do it again? You bet your Semper Fi I would!

Former Sgt. John T. Lefker - April 13, 2020

When I was stationed in Okinawa in ’54 and ’55 we made the Iwo Jima landing each year. I don’t know if the Marines still do or not. At that time I was with How Company, 3rd battalion, 9th. Marines, 3rd Marine Division.

michael j. klopchin - April 13, 2020

When my uncle Guy Davis was alive he always told us about his service on Iwo. On the fourth day when they raised the Flag he and fellow Marines stood up to cheer and as he did he was shot in the leg…….. In 1995 as a legislator in the state of Vermont I had the opportunity to have a conversation with Joe Rosenthal via phone and he told me the story about the day he took that famous picture. He was proud to tell that story as I did relay the story about uncle Guy. I am a Marine Vietnam Vet and he thanked me for my service!

Buzz Barkovich - April 13, 2020

Thank you for this story. I tried to go on the trip this year but thinks didn’t work out. That is why I find this story so important. Iwo is a hallowed place. Maybe next year. Buzz Barkovich Vietmam .

Frank Nelson Sgt 141xxxx 53-56 - April 13, 2020

In February 1956 To commemorate the 11th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima I was with the 3rd Marine Division when we (the whole Division) landed on Iwo (the 11th anniversary) to commemorate that historic event. Several members of my unit landed in the first & second wave in 1945. We were there for over a week. It was very solemn. The Iwo vets were very appreciative to be recognized and thanked by their fellow Marines. Frank Nelson Sgt 141xxxx 53-56 — 4/23/2017

L. D. Downs, Sgt. USMC, 1959-1962 - April 13, 2020

Iwo Jima: my uncle, Pfc. Milton A Seils, a flame thrower in the 4th Marine Div. was killed on Iwo, February 25th, 1945, I believe. His unit veered away from Suribachi to take the airfield. He has been my hero all my life; I was 6 years old when he got it. He was my inspiration to become a Marine.

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