Japan and the United States held a ceremony Wednesday on the island of Iwojima to commemorate the 29,000 who died in one of the most horrific battles of World War II, with around 270 veterans, their relatives and government officials from the two countries attending.
The first such ceremony was held in 1995 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the end of the war, with the aim of promoting bilateral friendship, and this was the 14th.
“Let’s pass on the memories of the battle correctly to future generations. With our strong bond, we’d like to further enhance Japan-U.S. friendship,” said Yasunori Nishi, chairman of a group representing people who lost kin in the battle.
Lawrence Snowden, a former U.S. Marine lieutenant general who fought in the battle, said, “Time has not dimmed the honor that we owe all those Japanese and American fighting men for their sacrifices.”
After the joint ceremony, around 130 Japanese relatives of the dead and other participants laid flowers at a cenotaph dedicated to Imperial Japanese Army dead.
Parliamentary Vice Foreign Minister Kenta Wakabayashi and House of Representatives member Ichiro Aisawa, who chairs a Diet caucus on the recovery of the remains of the war dead, also attended the ceremony.
The participants visited a trench where Lt. Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi commanded the Japanese forces as well as Mount Suribachi, known for the iconic photograph of U.S. soldiers hoisting the Stars and Stripes.
The fierce fighting on the Pacific island, now officially known as Iwoto, which is another way of reading the kanji for Iwojima, raged for about one month after U.S. forces landed in February 1945. About 22,000 Japanese and 7,000 U.S. soldiers died during the combat.