CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, JAPAN --
On Dec. 10, 2022, Japanese and U.S. distinguished visitors gathered for the Reunion of Honor Ceremony, which is an annual event founded by retired U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Lawrence F. Snowden in 1995 to commemorate the warriors who fought in the Battle of Iō Tō (Iwo Jima). Maj. Gen. Eric E. Austin, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing Commanding General, had the honor of speaking alongside Tetsuro Teramoto, Iwo Jima Association of Japan president, Ichiro Aisawa, member of the National Diet of Japan, House of Representatives, and Philip Roskamp, the counselor of public affairs, U.S. Embassy Tokyo.
“Seventy-seven years ago, in the Spring of 1945, the toughest and best young warriors of Japan and the United States faced off on this small island in a fight that remains one of the fiercest and savage battles in history. Their heroism and their sacrifice will never be forgotten,” said Maj. Gen. Austin.
The thirty-six straight days of intense combat began on Feb. 19, 1945, when three Marine divisions invaded the eight square-mile volcanic island. The battle is perhaps best-known for a pivotal moment, four days into the fight, when six Marines raised the U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi.
“What a day that was,” said Austin. “As the flag came to a vertical position, the Pacific winds caught it, and it unfurled and showed its beautiful stripes. Across the island, tens of thousands of Marines and Sailors, who were locked in ferocious fighting, looked up and saw Old Glory.”
Most Japanese defenders, fighting from caves, bunkers, and hidden entrenchments, did not see the raising of the flag. Eventually, the news passed from solider to solider, indicating that a U.S. victory was inevitable. This, however, did not sway the defenders from their cause.
“They remained dedicated and brave,” remarked Austin. “They steeled their hearts and tenaciously fought on, nearly to the last man. Very few fighting forces in history had the sense of duty and discipline to do what those brave Japanese soldiers did. They were pitted against American Marines and Sailors of the same resolve and character.”
The Reunion of Honor Ceremony is a testament to the strength of the U.S.-Japanese Alliance and the importance of our partnership.
“The bitterest of enemies then are now the closest of friends. We have made a common cause, we need each other, and we have come a long way indeed. The black sand and rock of this sulfur island bear a testimony to the resolve of both our countries. Let would-be enemies take pause, and friends be assured,” said Austin.
Austin concluded the ceremony expressing deep gratitude and respect for the Government of Japan and the Japan Self Defense Force.
“Never has our partnership been more important,” Austin said, “and never has it been better than it is today.”