The Coastal Post - May, 1998

Let Iwo Jima Memorial Stand Alone


Inscribed in the base of the Iwo Jima Memorial-that majestic bronze monument to Leatherneck sacrifice and heroism-are the words, "Uncommon Valor Was a Common Virtue." Everyone who remembers the reason for that valor, who recalls the virtue in the 6,318 Marine deaths during that savage battle, who knows how Admiral Chester Nimitz came to speak those words, must wonder if the plan to put the unorthodox Air Force Memorial on the hallowed grounds of the Iwo Jima shrine is uncommon ingratitude or common insensitivity.

Like many Marine Corps Leaguers, we at headquarters were stunned to learn the Air Force Memorial Foundation had spent five years quietly obtaining government permission to build a 50-foot-tall monument just 435 feet from the Iwo Jima sculpture in what Marines have long thought as the Iwo Jima Memorial park. It never crossed our minds that anyone, much less a sister service, would consider such a thing as intruding a five-story rival memorial in a space so centrally sacred to the heart of the Corps.

When we thought of what was behind the bloodletting on Iwo Jima, well, then we were appalled. General Charles Krulak has reminded us of what it was all about. So has Dave Severance, the retired colonel who commanded the Marines who raised our flag on Mount Suribachi. The Corps took 25,851 casualties to secure that black scrap of sulfurous hell for no other reason than to protect Air Force flyers.

Saving the lives of Air Force pilots and crews bombing Japan was the only point of the costliest battle in Leatherneck history. The objectives were to stop the Japanese from using the island as an interceptor base and to provide our Air Force with a forward fighter-escort field where crippled bombers could land in emergencies.

We doubt anyone would deny the Air Force deserves a prominent and imposing monument to its manifold accomplishments and the manifest courage of its personnel. But the grounds of the Iwo Jima Memorial are no more the place for it than the lawn of the Marine Corps Barracks.

It may be that we should have been sooner aware of the Air Force Memorial's impact on the Iwo Jima site. But we agree "that a different location than what is planned would help preserve the traditional aesthetics and solemnity" of the Iwo Jima Memorial.

We doubt a single Iwo Jima Marine regretted helping the Air Force pilots and crews who risked their necks to shorten the war. We wonder if degrading the integrity and setting of the Iwo Jima Memorial is the way those pilots and crews would want to say thanks.

Like the Commandant and Colonel Severance, we ask: When it comes to Iwo Jima, haven't the Marines done enough for the Air Force?

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