By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chris Cavagnaro
WATERS NEAR IWO TO – Sailors aboard the U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) honored the historic Battle of Iwo Jima as the ship transited past the volcanic island now known as Iwo To, Sept. 7.
Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery, commander, Battle Force 7th Fleet, and Capt. Greg Fenton, commanding officer of George Washington gave remarks as the crew observed the island from the ship’s flight deck.
“Today presents a very unique opportunity for the crew to observe Iwo Jima as the ship circumnavigates the island,” said Fenton. “The island has tremendous historical significance to the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, and I’m grateful that George Washington’s crew has an opportunity like this to see the island firsthand.”
Iwo Jima was the largest sustained aerial offensive of the Pacific War. The U.S. sent more than 70,000 service members from the Navy and Marine Corps and 450 ships in what became one of the largest invasion forces of the Pacific Campaign. At the end of the 36-day attack, the island was under American control, but the cost was high. More than 6,800 Americans and 18,000 Japanese soldiers lost their lives.
“I, along with many of the crew, have relatives that fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima,” said Montgomery. “I think it’s very appropriate for us to come down here and take some time to remember those who fought to defend the island.”
George Washington’s embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 trains annually on Iwo To, conducting field carrier landing practice (FCLP) in preparation for patrol.
“It’s important from a historical standpoint that CVW 5 gets to come down here every year to train,” said Lt. Dave Eshelman, a pilot from the “Dambusters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 195. “It’s truly a privilege to visit the island and see where Marines fought during the battle. It’s amazing to be able to see where they raised the flag at the top of Mt. Suribachi and an experience I won’t soon forget.”
The ship’s crew was welcomed to the ship’s flight deck to view the historic island and take photographs to remember the occasion.
“I think it’s important that we take time to honor all the military personnel who fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima and paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom,” said Eshelman.
For valor during the battle, 22 Marines and five Sailors received the Medal of Honor. Fourteen were awarded posthumously and the total of 27 was more than any other single operation in the war.