YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- Sailors of the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 67), had the opportunity to travel to the island of Iwo To, formerly Iwo Jima, April 20.
The purpose of the trip was to inspire the Shiloh Sailors to act with courage, valor, and toughness as exemplified by those who fought at the Battle of Iwo Jima, as well as to honor the veterans of both nations and celebrate the unity that currently exists between the United States and Japan.
Electrician's Mate 2nd Class Kevin Parker, of Colona, Illinois, participated in the trip to honor some of his closest friends, who are United States Marines.
"My Marine buddies talk a lot about Iwo Jima," he said. "It is a sacred place for them. Many of them never had a chance to come here while they were on active duty. I am here for them."
"Studying the Battle of Iwo Jima is an important aspect of our leadership continuum and visiting the island will help build a better team," said Aycock. "By learning of the sacrifice etched in the sands of Iwo Jima and atop Mount Suribachi, we, as leaders and Sailors, are able to find greater strength and more courage."
The Sailors spent the day trekking over the island and were able to the view intricacies of the Japanese defense system and the vast array of memorials that have been raised since the battle. Some of the Sailors had the opportunity to climb Mt. Suribachi and survey the place of the famous flag raising by five Marines and a Navy corpsman.
Yeoman 1st Class James Nichols, of Saginaw, Texas, said the trip was especially significant to him.
His grandfather, Monte K. Nichols, was a U.S. Navy Corpsman who served in the Pacific in World War II. Nichols' grandfather would have been a Corpsman at the Battle of Iwo Jima, had he not been wounded in a previous battle. Rather, his friend and fellow A-school graduate, Corpsman John Bradley, would be the Navy's representative to plant the American flag atop the summit of Mt. Suribachi.
"This is a moving experience," he said. "Just to be up here where my grandfather's generation once stood - it is like I am seeing what they saw."
Iwo Jima was one of the largest sustained amphibious offensives of the war in the Pacific. The United States sent more than 110,000 Marines in 880 ships in what became the largest invasion force of the Pacific Campaign. The battle took 36 days of fighting and more than 26,000 U.S. casualties to bring the island under American control.
The impact and the depth of the battle was made evident to Shiloh Sailors as they toured the island.
"Exploring the tunnels was especially powerful for me," said Lt. Jason Olson, of Scottsdale, Arizona, Shiloh's chaplain. "I learned that the Japanese prepared for over a year to defend this island, a part of their homeland, prior to the American invasion. The bravery of our Marines in engaging such a deadly foe fills me with reverence for their sacrifices here."
The Shiloh Sailors returned to Yokosuka, Japan, to relay the lessons they had learned and how impactful the trip had been.
Shiloh is forward-deployed to Japan in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.