MCB HAWAII, KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii -- Iwo Jima is a small strip of land that lies alone, surrounded by the blue water of the Pacific Ocean. In early 1945, during World War 2, the island was heavily infested with Japanese forces intent on defending it to the death.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the American forces needed to secure the island for their own needs. It would provide a landing strip for long range bombers to conduct missions on the mainland of Japan.
This set the stage for one of the most historic battles in history. The island, which is only five miles long, claimed the lives of thousands of fighting men from both sides. Some 60,000 U.S. servicemembers stormed the beachheads and took over the island in two months of grueling fighting.
Five Marines and one Navy Corpsmen, ascended the island's pinnacle, Mt. Suribachi, and raised the stars and stripes upon a makeshift flagpole, unaware that all the while they were being photographed.
The picture that resulted has become one of the most recognized monuments in the world. Iwo Jima did not only go down in history, but has become a great landmark to today's Marines and Sailors.
December 6, 2001, a hundred Marines and Sailors from Combat Service Support Group 3 and other commands based here at MCB Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay made the pilgrimage over the Pacific to visit Iwo Jima.
"This trip was organized to give the Marines and Sailors attending the opportunity to visit one of the most historical landmarks in Marine Corps and Navy history," said 1st Lt. Steven Shultze, assistant operations officer for CSSG-3.
Enroute, the group stopped at another small atoll imbedded in Marine Corps lore. Wake Island was the refueling point before the group could arrive at Iwo Jima.
A tour was given of the island and the battlefield by members of a small Japanese Naval Garrison currently located there and manned by two to three hundred Japanese sailors.
Much of the history of the island came to life for the visitors. They walked along the beaches and even explored caves where Japanese soldiers hid from view and the fire of the American forces.
Bottles of wine were still embedded in the walls of the caverns where they once lived, fought and died.
"No amount of reading or PMEs in the world can compare to actually walking the field of battle," said Schultze.
"It is much more effective to walk up Mt. Suribachi and to walk the sands of the beach than it is to try to explain how much of a factor the terrain was," he added.
The group ascended the historical Mt. Suribachi to its summit, where several of the Marines would take the opportunity to reenlist in the branch of service that captured the island during World War II.
Several Marines also were promoted and given awards on top of the mountain.
"It was a motivating experience, being on a sort of hallowed ground where many Marines lost their lives to take that island," said Cpl. Joshua Whann, a legal assistance clerk with Headquarters Bn. at K-Bay.
Whann was presented with a Navy Achievement Medal by Col. P. Adams, the commander, CSSG-3, while on the trip.
"Being there as a Marine on active duty made the trip worth its weight in gold," he added.