Iwo Jima: a volcanic island 660 miles south of Tokyo; 2 miles wide by 4 miles long. Today, seventy-two years ago U.S. Marines invaded Iwo Jima after months of naval and air bombardment. The Japanese defenders of the island were dug into bunkers deep within the volcanic rocks. Approximately 70,000 U.S. Marines and 18,000 Japanese soldiers took part in the battle. In thirty-six days of fighting on the island, nearly 7,000 U.S. Marines were killed. Another 20,000 were wounded. Marines captured 216 Japanese soldiers; the rest were killed in action. The island was finally declared secured on March 16, 1945. It was one of the bloodiest battles in Marine Corps history.
As I do every year, I received an email Commander Victor H. Krulak, USN, Chaplains Corps (Ret) who was our battalion chaplain in Second Battalion, Seventh Marines at San Mateo, MCB, Camp Pendleton, CA in the early 70’s. He said:
As is my wont again on this 72nd anniversary of the landing on Iwo Jima, I am sending the remarks of Rabbi Gittelsohn at the dedication of the 5th Division Cemetery at the end of the battle as a reminder of the great cost of this battle that is so much a part of the legacy of the Marine Corps.
Rabbi Roland B. Gittelsohn at the Dedication of the 5th Marine Division Cemetery on Iwo Jima.
This is perhaps the grimmest, and surely the holiest task we have faced since D-Day. Here, before us lie the bodies of comrades and friends. Men who until yesterday or last week laughed with us, joked with us, trained with us. Men who were on the same ships with us, and went over the sides with us as we prepared to hit the beaches of this island. Men who fought with us and feared with us. Somewhere in this plot of ground there may lie the man who could have discovered the cure for cancer. Under one of these Christian
crosses, or beneath a Jewish Star of David, there may rest now a man who was destined to be a great prophet — to find the way, perhaps, for all to live in plenty, with poverty and hardship for none. Now they lie here silently in this sacred soil, and we gather to
consecrate this earth in their memory.
It is not easy to do so. Some of us have buried our closest friends here. We saw these men killed before our very eyes. Any one of us might have died in their places. Indeed, some of us are alive and breathing at this very moment only because men who lie here
beneath us had the courage and strength to give their lives for ours. To speak in memory of such men as these is not easy. Of them too an it be said with utter truth: “The world will little note nor long remember what we say here.” It can never forget what they did
No, our poor power of speech can add nothing to what these men and the other dead who are not here have already done. All that we even hope to do is follow their example. To show the same selfless courage in peace that they did in war. To swear that by the grace
of God and the stubborn strength and power of human will, their sons and ours shall never suffer these pains again. These men have done their job well. They have paid the ghastly price of freedom. If that freedom be once again lost, as it was after the last war, the unforgivable blame will be ours not theirs. So it is we the living who are here to be dedicated and consecrated.
Too much blood has gone into this soil for us to let it lie barren. Too much pain and heartache have fertilized the earth on which we stand. We here solemnly swear: This shall not be in vain! Out of this, and from the suffering and sorrow of those who mourn this, will come — we promise — the birth of a new freedom for the sons of men everywhere.
God Bless them all, each and every one of them. These events are all but forgotten to the youth of today’s America. Our new educational system rather teaches worldly events of no value or consequence to our own country. I pray that will change with the new leaders!