Our squadron did a month long detachment to Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan. The Marines have many spots around the Western Pacific that are historic due to the many battles fought throughout WWII; Okinawa being one of them. However, whenever someone speaks of the Marines, what image comes to mind? I would submit to you that a picture of the flag raising at Mt. Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima comes to mind. The battle was the bloodiest battle for the Marines throughout the entire war. Almost 1/3 of the Marines killed in WWII died fighting for this tiny island. Over the month long battle that lasted from Feb 19 to March 26, 1945, 27 Medals of Honor were bestowed on 23 Marines and 4 Navy Corpsmen; 30% of the total Medals of Honor awarded during WWII.
Iwo Jima just happens to be approximately 600 miles east of Okinawa. Back in 2004, I was fortunate to be able to fly out there in an F/A-18 and tour the island with 7 other officers. All it cost was a bottle of Jack Daniels for the local Japanese as a bribe to get them to drive us to a few locations around the island. And, as I found out this time around it was well worth it.
This visit was entirely more strenuous. The squadron set up a trip to the island for the entire squadron. We all flew out on 3 C-130's from one of the local Marine squadrons. The plan was to take a 6 F/A-18s, refuel them with the C-130s and conduct an attack on the island. The trip out was to take 2 1/2 hours but ended up taking almost 5. The hornets were not able to take off on time due to airfield issues and never ended up joining the C-130s in flight. So we circled the island waiting.
Subsequently, the tour of the island was cut short almost 3 hours. This meant that the hike, yes, I said hike, would not make it's way up to the top of Mt. Suribachi. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Most of the Marines were upset since most of them have never been to the island and wanted to see the top of the hill, the sight of the historic flag raising. However, to do this all on foot in one day was tough. The turnaround point ended up being the beach where the amphibious assault took place. At least the Marines were able to collect some of the black volcanic sand from the beach.
At the end of it all, we were drenched with sweat (soaked from head to toe, literally), blistered feet and sunburned from the hot August sun. Below are some pictures of the trip.
The historic (2nd) flag raising.
A quick photo opportunity in the midst of battle.
A couple of Majors take a nap and read a book on the long flight out.
The English pronunciation of the island was changed to it's previous name of Iwo To, which means the same thing as Iwo Jima. It was updated on the side of the tower. I have a photo that has this tower with Iwo Jima on the side.
Picture of Marines on the beach during the battle in 1945 with Mt. Suribachi in the background.
A picture of a couple of knuckle-head Marines on the beach in 2008 with Mt. Suribachi in the background.
Another picture of the beach during the battle.
A photo of our squadron coin. The front side is our current squadron logo. The reverse is the WWII logo of our squadron that was born and cut it's teeth supporting Marines during WWII.
The Passing of a Hero - Ken Taylor
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