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by Chief Johnny

 

Japan Changes Name of Iwo Jima

U.S. Marines of the 28th Regiment, 5th Division, raise ...
TOKYO - Japan has returned to using the prewar name for the island of Iwo Jima _
site of one of World War II's most horrific battles _ at the urging of its
original inhabitants, who want to reclaim an identity they say has been hijacked
by high-profile movies like Clint Eastwood's "Letters from Iwo Jima."

The new name, Iwo To, was adopted Monday by the Japanese Geographical Survey
Institute in consultation with Japan's coast guard.

Surviving islanders evacuated during the war praised the move, but others said
it cheapens the memory of a brutal campaign that today is inextricably linked to
the words Iwo Jima.

Back in 1945, the small, volcanic island was the vortex of the fierce World War
II
battle immortalized by the famous photograph by Joe Rosenthal of The
Associated Press showing Marines raising the American flag on the islet's Mount
Suribachi.

Retired Marine Maj. Gen. Fred Haynes, who was a 24-year-old captain in the
regiment that raised the flag on Mount Suribachi, was surprised and upset by the
news.

"Frankly, I don't like it. That name is so much a part of our tradition, our
legacy," said Haynes.

Haynes, 87, heads the Combat Veterans of Iwo Jima, a group of about 600 veterans
that travels to the island every year for a reunion. He is working on a book
about the battle called "We Walk by Faith: The Story of Combat Team 28 and the
Battle of Iwo Jima." He doesn't plan to change the name.

"It was Iwo Jima to us when we took it," said Haynes. "We'll recognize whatever
the Japanese want to call it but we'll stick to Iwo Jima."

Before the war, the isolated spit of land was called Iwo To _ pronounced
"ee-woh-toh" _ by the 1,000 or so people who lived there. In Japanese, that name
looks and means the same as Iwo Jima _ Sulfur Island _ but it has a different
sound.

The civilians were evacuated in 1944 as U.S. forces advanced across the Pacific.
Some Japanese navy officers who moved in to fortify the island mistakenly called
it Iwo Jima, and the name stuck. After the war, civilians weren't allowed to
return and the island was put to exclusive military use by both the U.S. and
Japan, cementing its identity.

Locals were never happy the name Iwo Jima took root. But the last straw came
this year with the release of Eastwood's "Letters from Iwo Jima" and "Flags of
Our Fathers
," war films that only reinforced the misnomer.

In March, Ogasawara, the municipality that administers Iwo To and neighboring
islands, responded by adopting a resolution making Iwo To the official name.
Ogasawara residents and descendants of Iwo To evacuees petitioned the central
g overnment to fol low suit.

"Though we're happy for Iwo To, which has been forgotten by history, the
islanders are extremely grieved every time they hear Iwo To referred to as Iwo
Jima," the local Ogasawara newspaper quoted the resolution as saying of the
Eastwood movies.

The government agreed; an official map with the new name will be released on
Sept. 1.

Still, Iwo Jima is the only name that clicks with most Japanese who aren't from
the remote island chain, some 700 miles southeast of Tokyo in the Pacific Ocean.

Even some Japanese war veterans, like 84-year-old Kiyoshi Endo, who heads an
association commemorating soldiers killed in the battle, feel uncomfortable
about the switch.

"Naval maps have long used the name Iwo Jima," Japan's Sankei newspaper quoted
Endo as saying. "We should respect that history."

Today Iwo To's only inhabitants are about 400 Japanese soldiers.

The 1945 battle for Iwo Jima pitted some 100,000 U.S. troops against 22,000
Japanese deeply dug into a labyrinth of tunnels and trenches. Nearly 7,000
Americans were killed capturing the island, and fewer than 1,000 of the Japanese
survived.

The Americans occupied the island after the war, and returned it to Japanese
jurisdiction in 1968. The U.S. Navy still uses an airstrip on the island to
train pilots who operate from aircraft carriers.

___

Associated Press Writer Lily Hindy in New York contributed to this report.

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