IWO TO, Japan (NNS) - U.S. Sailors and Marines from the U.S. 7th Fleet staff
were warned to stay on the trails to keep safe from unexploded ordinance,
poisonous snakes and other hazards on the historic volcanic island.
On the island commonly known as Iwo Jima, with a heat index of 95 degrees
Fahrenheit, 70 percent humidity and almost no shade, 63 personnel took the
roughly 8,500 step journey, July 7, from the airfield terminal to the top of
Mount Suribachi where the iconic flag was planted - 3,000 of those steps
from the base of the mountain to the top.
"I mainly reflected on what it had been like in 1945," said Chief Religious
Program Specialist Alan Grow. "As much as I was suffering in the heat, it is
nothing compared to what the Marines and Sailors went through ... the fire
in the black sand ... in that heavy gear."
The trip took weeks of coordination by Chief Damage Controlman Andrae
Sutherland, assigned to U.S. 7th Fleet. "I thought it was important for
military personnel to experience one of the most iconic and historical part
of American and Japanese history," Sutherland said. He called it a "once in
a lifetime experience."
Rusting B-29 propellers, a wrecked ship still grounded on a beach, bunkers,
and memorials are among some of the things 7th Fleet staff members saw on
the approximately 9-mile trek from the airfield to Mount Suribachi and back.
Marine Cpl. Joshua Anair said he's glad he climbed Mount Suribachi with his
squadron. His group was one of the first to reach the summit. "The raising
of the flag on Iwo Jima is one of the most iconic photos of World War II,
and to be able to connect in that moment in history is - priceless."
For U.S. 7th Fleet Chaplain Capt. Cameron Fish it was a spiritual
"When I was walking, I was praying, fully reflecting on the events that took
place there from both sides and offering prayers for peace that this sort of
thing does not need to happen again," Fish said.
More than 6,500 Americans and an estimated 20,000 Japanese troops died in
the 36-day battle for control of the 8 square mile volcanic island located
575 miles from the Japanese coast.
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