By ERIC TALMADGE, The Associated Press, March 12, 2005
IWO JIMA, Japan - Aging American combat veterans and a handful of former Japanese soldiers gathered on a hillside over the landing beaches of the Battle of Iwo Jima on Saturday to mark the 60th anniversary of one of the bloodiest and most symbolic battles of World War II. About 50 U.S. vets, many dressed in their uniforms and helmets, gathered with hundreds of family members at a Japanese military base on the island.
A handful of Japanese survivors - only about a dozen are still alive - joined in the "honor reunion," during which they offered prayers and wreaths for the dead. After the ceremony, they split off to visit battlesites or to pose for photos in a landscape that 60 years ago became a symbol of the savage fighting of the Pacific War. "The battle of Iwo Jima stands out as an exceptionally hard-fought battle in world war history," said Kiyoshi Endo, who commanded Japanese troops on the northern part of the island.
During about a month of fighting that began Feb. 19, 1945, some 100,000 Americans battled more than 22,000 Japanese desperate to protect the first Japanese home island to be invaded. Nearly 7,000 Americans died. Fewer than 1,000 of the Japanese survived. Japan surrendered the following August, after one more bloody battle, on Okinawa, and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Iwo Jima produced one of the iconic images of American combat, when after the battle for Mount Suribachi six troops raised an American flag, a moment that for many Americans symbolizes the Pacific theater of World War II. The Pulitzer Prize-winning photo was later used as the inspiration for the Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington D.C.---------------