“Uncommon valor was a common virtue.” — Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN, 16 March 1945.
Guadalcanal. Bougainville. New Britain. Saipan. Tarawa. Peleliu. Guam. Tinian. Iwo Jima. Of all the names steeped in blood and honor during Marine campaigns of World War II, Iwo Jima has always resonated most deeply in the American imagination. The March-April issue of Semper Fi magazine, which we publish for the Marine Corps League, commemorates the American capture of that desolate little volcanic island.
But neither casualty statistics nor the strategic importance of its airfields explains why Iwo Jima emerged as an icon. It’s the photograph … THE photograph. Joe Rosenthal’s image of four Marines and one Navy Corpsman raising the second American flag atop Mt. Suribachi flashed around the world days after the event.
The photograph electrified a war-weary nation; it changed the lives of those five warriors; it gave the Marines a venerated icon and ultimately conferred upon those who fought there a special status. To quote William Shakespeare’s Henry V rallying the troops before the Battle of Agincourt, “From this day to the ending of the world, But we in it shall be remembered—We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.”
Sixty-five years after Iwo fell, that band of brothers is dwindling fast. Our photo essay salute to the survivors of Iwo Jima shows some as they were then and others as they are today. They’re in their 80s now; we have to look closely to see the lean jaw lines, the wry twinkle in an eye, the cocky assurance so evident in sepia-toned boot camp photos.
But, to quote the Bard again, when the words “Iwo Jima” are spoken, “He that outlives this day, and comes safe home, Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d.”
Also in this issue, which will be distributed at the League-sponsored Marine South Expo aboard Camp Lejeune, NC, on 21-22 April, we report on the Marine Corps’ effort to modernize and integrate its command-and-control (C2) communications and intelligence-gathering systems. And we review what Marines aboard Camp Pendleton, CA, saw in January at the Marine West Expo.
The new issue also contains a brief preview of HBO’s upcoming miniseries, “The Pacific,” which follows the lives of several Marines who fought in many of those island-hopping battles to close the noose on Japan.
This year marks the 65th anniversary of the ending of World War II, and the coming months will be filled with historic anniversaries and remembrances. It is also 60 years since the start of the Korean War, whose veterans are now in their 70s. The legacies of those wars are with us still, and we enjoy the lives we have because of the sacrifices of that generation.
We urge you to learn all you can about what they accomplished, to encourage those veterans to speak of those times, and to pass what you learn on to the next generation.