On Feb. 19, 1945, 30,000 Marines waited to assault the heavily fortified Japanese controlled island of Iwo Jima. The island is located a mere 750 miles away from Tokyo Japan, which made it a high value target for Allied forces in World War II. In total, 70,000 Marines would come ashore to secure the island. Difficult terrain and extensive fortification made this task a challenge for the Marines. Even with this challenge, four days into the fighting the Marines took Mount Suribachi; and after five weeks were able to secure the island in one of the fiercest battles of the war.
“Among the men who fought on Iwo Jima, uncommon valor was a common virtue,” said Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, March 16, 1945.
On Feb. 13, 2020, 75 years after this event cemented itself in Marine Corps history, the veterans of the battle and members of the West Coast Iwo Jima Committee visited Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton to spend the day witnessing first-hand many aspects of the modern-day Marine Corps. The day began at the 5th Marine Regiment Memorial Garden, where Marines both past and present paid tribute to the fallen Marines of various conflicts throughout history. From there, a static display was held where the latest tools of the trade were showcased by the Marines who operate them on a daily basis.
“We wanted to focus on showing the veterans modern Marine Corps equipment and technology,” said U.S. Marine 1st Lt. Christian Woo, the executive officer of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. “It’s important for the Marines to show appreciation for those that came before us.”
After the static display came to a close, the veterans enjoyed an interactive window tour of the base’s various historical sites and premiere training facilities. These facilities included the mess hall where active duty Marines shared a meal with the veterans. During the meal, Marines of all generations shared cherished stories, experiences, and wisdom with one another, effortlessly relating with each other regardless of age difference. Once the meal was complete, all members of the tour made the short walk outside to an adjacent parade deck. After having taken their seats, U.S. Marine Brig. Gen. Dan Conley, the commanding general of Marine Corps Installations West, addressed the crowd to offer his appreciation to the veterans for their outstanding service.Immediately afterwards, Marines with the 1st Marine Division band held a performance in their honor.
Master Gunnery Sergeant Maffioli, a retired United States Marine Corps veteran with 33 years of service to include Iwo Jima, the Korean conflict, and Vietnam, was asked what he thought about the younger generation of Marines he met during the tour of Camp Pendleton.
“They’re bigger, they’re smarter, and they’re in better shape,” said Maffioli. “We had 7 weeks of boot camp in 1943 when I came through, 7 weeks.”
He went on to say that the training this new generation of Marines receives is quite different from the 7 weeks he and his fellow Marines relied on during the battle of Iwo Jima.
The tour was significant in many different ways for both generations of Marines to participate in, not only to introduce these veterans to the current generation, but because it was the final time that Camp Pendleton would host this tour. It is viewed as a metaphorical baton being passed to the new generation, who are cementing their own place in Marine Corps history.