The Iwo Jima Legacy Lives

By Captain Dana Gordon
Commanding Officer, USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7)

As executive officer and now commanding officer of USS Iwo Jima, I have always been very proud and honored to serve aboard a ship with such a powerful namesake. February 19th until March 26th marks the 70th anniversary of the battle of Iwo Jima.

U.S. troops near Coast Guard and Navy landing craft unload supplies to the blackened sands of Iwo Jima, a few hours after the Marines had wrested their foothold on the vital island, March 1945. (Department of Defense photo)

U.S. troops near Coast Guard and Navy landing craft unload supplies to the blackened sands of Iwo Jima, a few hours after the Marines had wrested their foothold on the vital island, March 1945. (Department of Defense photo)

The battle was fought desperately for more than one month in 1945 as three divisions of the U.S. Marine Corps took control of the tiny island from more than 20,000 determined Japanese defenders. In reference to the battle of Iwo Jima, Adm. Nimitz said, “Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue.” That statement lives on today aboard USS Iwo Jima as it is the ship’s motto.

The battle itself serves as a reminder of the bravery and gallantry displayed by those who have gone before us and why we, the Sailors and Marines of Iwo Jima, choose to serve and protect our country.  Flash forward to 2015, and the mighty USS Iwo Jima is deployed to the U.S. 5th fleet area of operations as the flagship of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group.

An aerial view of the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) conducting flight operations in the Atlantic Ocean, March 9, 2014. Iwo Jima was conducting flight deck certification in the Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Andrew J. Sneeringer/Released)

An aerial view of the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) conducting flight operations in the Atlantic Ocean, March 9, 2014. Iwo Jima was conducting flight deck certification in the Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Andrew J. Sneeringer/Released)

Aboard the USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), there is a small museum called the Suribachi Room that holds many treasures and mementos from the epic battle of Iwo Jima. The names of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice are forever displayed upon the walls in that room as a reminder and testament of their service to our nation. The room itself serves as a daily reminder to the crew and visitors of the history and legacy of our ship.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus looks at a wall dedicated to Marines and Sailors who fought at the battle of Iwo Jima inside the Suribachi Room museum aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) at Naval Station Norfolk, Dec. 8, 2010. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kevin S. O'Brien/Released)

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus looks at a wall dedicated to Marines and Sailors who fought at the battle of Iwo Jima inside the Suribachi Room museum aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) at Naval Station Norfolk, Dec. 8, 2010. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kevin S. O’Brien/Released)

Furthermore, there is a wall of photos and citations, one for each of the battle’s 27 Medal of Honor recipients. The flight deck aboard Iwo Jima is named Jack Lucas Airfield after one such recipient; both his Medal of Honor, which is melted down, and his citation are embedded in the hull of the ship.

As the ship’s captain, I’m very proud and honored to serve with the Sailors and Marines assigned to Iwo Jima, especially given the history this ship represents.

We commemorated the battle Feb. 16 throughout the day while underway in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. As it turns out, five Marines from the embarked 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and two Iwo Sailors have family who served in the battle of Iwo Jima, so we also organized a legacy photo for those folks.

That being said, I can say without a moment of hesitation that here on the USS Iwo Jima, we are all proud to continue the legacy, day in and day out, and we are truly honored and humbled to do so.

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The Iwo Jima Legacy Lives