Marines Returning To Iwo Jima On 70th Anniversary Of Famed World War II Battle

Hershel “Woody” Williams is returning after 70 years to Iwo Jima, where a flamethrower saved him from Japanese bayonets and where he earned the Medal of Honor.

His grandchildren urged him for years to relive the war on-site at annual ceremonies to commemorate the Marine Corps‘ bloodiest battle — the conquering of an 8-square-mile Pacific dot of black volcanic sand and dirt where B-29s could stage for flights to mainland Japan.

“I finally was convinced by my grandchildren,” said Mr. Williams, 91. “My feelings [for] not going back were because we gave the island back to the Japanese. I felt we should have kept it as a memorial and a showplace for the Pacific, something a little bit like Hawaii, more historical even than Hawaii, and that we should not have given it back to the Japanese. So I just had no desire to go back. But they convinced me I’m getting old and crotchety and I need to change my attitude on it, so I did.”

A return trip to the scene of one of World War II’s most famous and costly battles will not be easy for former Marines in their 80s and 90s.

But a group of about 45 American veterans of the battle of Iwo Jima, some needing financial help, plan to make the long journey March 21 for a 70th anniversary ceremony in the shadow of Mount Suribachi and the 1945 iconic flag-raising.

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