IWO TO, Japan (NNS) -- Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus arrived on Iwo To, the island formerly known as Iwo Jima, March 21 to attend the 70th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Iwo Jima.
On the island where, in 1945, the United States and Japan met in conflict, Mabus spoke of the bravery displayed by those who fought for both sides during the historic World War II Battle for Iwo Jima.
"Simply walk through the black sands of Iwo Jima's shores and spend a moment in one of its dark tunnels," said Mabus. "Only then can you begin to fathom the unbelievable, and at some level, past human, fortitude it took to charge these beaches under withering fire, or to fight from a subterranean labyrinth for 36 days. A few heroes here know that courage. The rest of us can simply wonder with awe and admiration and respect."
During the battle, the Japanese lost 21,750 members of their armed forces. The U.S. lost 6,821 and suffered 26,038 casualties.
The ceremony brought together representatives of the nations who fought so fiercely 70 years ago to honor the veterans of this battle, some of whom were in attendance.
"On behalf of generations of grateful Americans," said Mabus. "I thank the veterans who sit here among us and those who are here today only in spirit. Legends of your intrepidity here at Iwo Jima will echo through the ages."
Mabus also recognized the strength of the relationship between the U.S. and Japan, two former adversaries that have grown to become strong allies.
"While we gather here in commemoration of 93,000 sons of Japan and the United States, who fought on these sands as bitter enemies seven decades ago," said Mabus, "there is no better way to honor their legacy than to underscore the bond that now exists between our two great nations as a result of what they did here."
Joining Mabus at the commemoration, among others, were Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., Japanese Minister of Defense Gen Nakatani and Japanese Ambassador to the United States Kenichiro Sasae.
Similar commemorations have been held each year since 1995 when the the surviving veterans of the Iwo Jima Association of America and the Japanese Iwo To Association agreed to meet every year on Iwo To to remember the battle with a reunion of honor.
Mabus' stop in Iwo To is part of a multi-nation visit to the U.S. Pacific Command area of responsibility focused on reinforcing existing partnerships and visiting Sailors and Marines forward deployed.
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