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Historic Iwo Jima

By Susan Carlisle

Iwo Jima

Iwo Jima is an extremely small volcanic island between Guam and Japan. By the way, Jima means island. The sand is black and  feels like small BBs. When I walked across it my feet rolled out from beneath me. The island is of little value outside of being a place to land if in trouble.

This is the role it played during WWII and was the bloodiest battle of the war. More Marines were sent to Iwo Jima than to any other battle. More medals for heroism were awarded for action than any other battle in US history. This is the place where the famous picture was taken of the men pushing up the American flag.  The statement was made that on Iwo Jima “Uncommon Valor was a common Virtue.”

The Japanese only allow visitors to Iwo Jima one day a year. My husband and I arrived on a charted jet along with 135 other people. We were met by a  representative of the Japanese government and US Marines from Okinawa and escorted to a hanger on the airfield where we went through customs. After all, we were now in Japan. Technically we are guest of the twelve veterans traveling with us. One I know of was 90 years old.   

After  customs we loaded onto small buses and driven two miles to an area where a memorial service would be held later in the day. From there the group hiked up the 545 feet of Mt. Suribachi which is the highest point on the island. During the war, the Japanese had built over ten miles of tunnels in the mount. The island was bombed for seventy-seven days and the Japanese said no one was killed. They had all gone underground or into caves.

We returned around noon to the memorial site for the ceremony commemorating the soldiers’ lives lost in the thirty-seven day battle. A four-star Marine general and the Navy rear admiral for the South Pacific were there to place a wreath honoring the men.

The Japanese representatives were dressed in their traditional white shirts and blacks suit. I have to admit I was disappointed that none of them had worn top hats but still they were impressive.

After the ceremony we walked down to the beach. The beach today is actually three feet further out  than it was  in 1945. The  island is growing. From the beach we  climbed up to  a gun  emplacement that is still sitting high off the beach.

As I climbed I could only imagine what it was like to carry a fifty pound pack on my back, a gun in my hand, the sand rolling out from under  my feet, my heart pounding, navel guns shelling where I was just minutes before and Japanese soldiers firing at me. I’m surprised more men didn’t die of fear alone.

It really made me think of what our young American men sacrificed for the freedom wehave today.

We hiked back toward the hanger. Okay, I got a ride with a nice Marine major and was very thankful for it. It was ninety degrees and no shade. I wouldn’t have made a good soldier.

Everyone was required to pass through a metal detector before loading the plane. We were allowed to bring all the sand and rocks off the island we wished but no shrapnel. It was everywhere. Some people with us found shell casings. We had truly stepped back in history.

My husband and I returned to Guam and were more than happy to find our bed.

Thanks for joining me on my trip to the South Pacific. It was certainly a journey.

Carol Burnside / Annie Rayburn - June 28, 2013 - 2:41 am

Interesting as always, Susan. The trip sounds tiring, but fascinating too.

Carol Burnside / Annie Rayburn - June 28, 2013 - 2:42 am

Forgot to say – Love the hat! :-D

Mary Preston - June 28, 2013 - 3:33 am

What a memorable trip for you. History coming alive.

Marilyn Baron - June 28, 2013 - 5:36 am

Wow, what a fascinating post. I love the picture of you in the hat and all of the pictures and the detail about the sand. Did your husband have a relative who fought on Iwo Jima? One day we are going to have to talk about our mutual WW II obsession. What an amazing opportunity that most people will never have to visit such a sacred and historic place.

Maxine - June 28, 2013 - 8:55 am

Susan, I have enjoyed, so very much, traveling “with you” on this historic journey. That must have been a wonderful, wonderful trip. I, too, am a hat person. I think I have a red one like that. I would love the see your pictures one day.

Sandra Elzie - June 28, 2013 - 11:52 am

Susan, Your articles are so interesting….and your pictures are fantastic. Can you imagine allowing visitors to one of our cities/memorials, etc only one day a year? How about the Grand Canyon….one day a year. LOL

BJ - June 28, 2013 - 6:58 pm

Great story, a H.S. friend of Sandy’s and mine, had a father that was a very young Marine that landed on Iwo in the 2nd wave and was ultimately wounded twice. :flagus:

Pam Asberry - June 28, 2013 - 8:47 pm

What a great post, Susan! I would love to visit there someday.

Susan Carlisle - July 1, 2013 - 6:25 am

So sorry to be late. I’m already celebrating the holiday those men fought and died for on Iwo- the 4th of July.

Susan Carlisle - July 1, 2013 - 6:30 am

Thanks for stopping by.

Susan Carlisle - July 1, 2013 - 6:32 am

Yes we do need to talk some time. My husband didn’t have anyone who fought but I had an Uncle who did.

Susan Carlisle - July 1, 2013 - 6:33 am

I made good use of the hat. I have three like that.

Susan Carlisle - July 1, 2013 - 6:36 am

I agree Otis are to imagine the once a year thing. It the isn’t set up for tourist. It is a military base.

Susan Carlisle - July 1, 2013 - 6:38 am

Thanks for stopping in. I appreciate very Marines service.

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