A ceremony was held this week on the small island of Iwoto with both Japanese and American veterans honoring the 29,000 soldiers that died during the Battle of Iwojima, one of the most grueling of World War II. Around 270 surviving veterans, along with relatives of the deceased and government officials from both countries, took part in the 14th such ceremony meant to promote bilateral friendship.
The first ceremony with both sides was held on the island in 1995, in honor the 50th anniversary of the end of WWII. At Wednesday’s event, Yasunori Nishi, the chairman of a group that represents relatives of those lost in battle, said that the memories of the war and those who died should be passed on to future generations with a goal of making sure it doesn’t happen again, and that the U.S.-Japan friendship is further strengthened. Lawrence Snowden, a former U.S. Marine lieutenant-general who survived the battle, said, “Time has not dimmed the honor that we owe all those Japanese and American fighting men for their sacrifices.”
Among the Japanese government officials participating were Vice Foreign Minister Kenta Wakabayashi and House of Representatives member Ichiro Aisawa. They and the other ceremony participants visited a trench where the Japanese Imperial forces were commanded by Lt. Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi, as well as Mt. Suribachi, where the iconic picture was taken of American soldiers raising the U.S. flag. The Battle of Iwojima, a part of the Pacific campaign of WWII, lasted for about a month after U.S. forces landed on the island in February 1945. 7,000 U.S. soldiers, and nearly 22,000 Japanese died in the fighting, with only around 10,000 remains collected.
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