Airmen walk the grounds of Iwo Jima

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Rey Ramon
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
It's been 65 years since U.S. Forces fought at Iwo Jima and, this past Memorial Day weekend, over 45 Airmen from the 353rd Special Operations Group and 18th Wing were given an opportunity to learn the history of one of the most infamous battles of World War II.

"The experience provides today's Airmen a better understanding of the type of fighting that took place on Iwo Jima - and later Okinawa - and the sacrifices made by those who came before us," said Mr. James D'Angina, 353d Special Operations Group historian.

The campaign for Iwo Jima is most identified with the United States Marine Corps. However, the purpose for taking Iwo Jima had more to do with the necessities of the Army Air Force, Mr. D'Angina said. The Army Air Force needed the island to aid a strategic bombing campaign. The airfields there served as emergency landing strips for B-29 Superfortress bombers returning from missions over mainland Japan, and was also utilized as a base for P-51 Mustangs flying bomber escort.

Mr. D'Angina and Dr. Ian Spurgeon, 18th Wing historian, gave the Airmen a better perspective of the historical conflict in the Pacific theater as they toured through the caves, tunnels, the airfield, and the most prominent feature of the island, Mount Suribachi. They spoke of the ground, water, and air aspects of the campaign, which all converged on an area roughly eight square miles in size.

One Airman said during the tour that he can only imagine the kind of fighting that took place and the lives lost. "It was kind of surreal," said Airman 1st Class Christopher Hall from the 17th Special Operations Squadron.

The Airmen caught a glimpse of the past through this history lesson and learn for what combat veterans fought. This is especially relevant to today's Airmen, particularly those serving in Japan, Mr. D'Angina said.

"This tour definitely put Iwo Jima in a different perspective for me and has given me a greater appreciation for those who fought, who are currently fighting, and those who will fight after me," Airman Hall said.