By Julia LeDouxFebruary 22, 2013
Today's Marines saluted the uncommon valor of yesterday's Marines Feb. 22 as members of Headquarters and Service Battalion, Headquarters Marine Corps, Henderson Hall, marked the 68th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima by participating in a wreath laying ceremony at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington.
"We honor our past and present," said H & S Bn. Sgt. Maj. Craig D. Cressman, who along with H & S Bn. Commanding Officer Col. Ira M. Cheatham and James P. Donovan, Marine Corps War Memorial Foundation founder and president placed the wreath at the memorial.
Donovan said that the wreath was laid in honor of not only the Marines who died on Iwo, but for all who have died since the founding of the Corps in 1775.
"It's important to me to see that [the memorial] is taken care of and that the public knows that this is a memorial dedicated to Marine history," he added.
Following months of air and naval bombardment, Marines invaded Iwo Jima Feb. 19, 1945. The volcanic island, located about 660 miles south of Tokyo, was being used as an airfield by Japanese forces. Japanese fighter planes were intercepting American B-29s, as well as attacking U.S. airfields on Mariana, from their airfields on Iwo. American commanders determined that the island had to be wrested from Japanese control and launched the battle.
The flag raising atop Mount Suribachi took place Feb. 23, 1943, five days after the battle began. Joe Rosenthal, an Associated Press photographer, took the famous photograph of marine Cpls. Harlon Block, Rene Gagnon and Ira Hayes, Sgt. Michael Strank and Navy Pharmacist's Mate John Bradley raising the flag. Strank, Sousley and Block were killed before the battle for Iwo Jima ended on March 16, 1945.
Rosenthal's iconic photo was wired around the world and printed in countless newspapers across the United States and was used as the model for the Marine Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.
"The concept [for the memorial] started five days after the flag raising on Iwo Jima," noted Donovan.
Approximately 70,000 Marines and 18,000 Japanese soldiers took part in the battle. In the 36 days of fighting on the island, nearly 7,000 Marines were killed and another 20,000 were wounded.
"I will retire in July, but I will continue to come back here," said Master Sgt. William J. Dixon of H & S Bn., who participated in the ceremony.
H& S Battalion supports the Battle of Iwo Jima on an annual basis.
For more photos from the ceremony, log onto www.flickr.com/photos/jbm-hh.