YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) – Twenty-Three Officers and Chief Petty Officers, assigned to the Ticonderoga class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), visited the island of Iwo To, formerly Iwo Jima, March 27.
The trip, organized as a Professional Military Education (PME) event, provided a unique opportunity for the leaders of Chancellorsville to learn about the battle of Iwo Jima and the history still held on the island.
The Chancellorsville Sailors departed early in the morning from Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka and arrived at Naval Air Facility Atsugi. Prior to departing for Iwo To, Lt. Brandt Peacock, Chancellorsville’s Command Chaplain, delivered a brief history of the Battle of Iwo Jima in preparation for the once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The Battle of Iwo Jima began Feb. 19, 1945 as nearly 70,000 Marines assaulted the island, following a three day naval barrage from over 450 Navy warships. The bitter battle that ensued ultimately cost 6,800 American lives, more than 19,000 American casualties and more than 18,000 of the 21,000 man Japanese garrison were killed. The Marines finally secured Iwo Jima on March 26, 1945, and established an important airfield.
After arriving on Iwo To, Chancellorsville Sailors deplaned and set off towards across the island towards Mt. Suribachi, passing relics and memorials from the battle 72 years ago. Collapsed tunnels, battered pillboxes, bunkers and anti-aircraft weapons were scattered across the island, leftover from the battle that raged on Iwo Jima for well over a month.
“Being able to travel to Iwo To for our Professional Military Education trip was such a wonderful experience,” said Chancellorsville’s Command Chaplain, Lt. Brandt Peacock. “It is always sobering to be able to visit a place that is so rich in military history, and where so many sacrificed their lives for our country.”
During the hike, Chancellorsville Sailors were able to experience firsthand the extensive tunnel network that ran for miles beneath the island. The tunnels, many hidden in thick vegetation, wind through the island in all directions, providing refuge during the battle from American bombardment.
The Sailors stopped on the beaches of Iwo To, and learned about the tens of thousands of Marines who stormed the island. Chancellorsville Sailors discussed details of the amphibious landing and several incredible stories from a few of the battle’s 27 Medal of Honor recipients before continuing along the beach towards Mt. Suribachi.
On the summit of Mt. Suribachi, Chancellorsville Sailors, led by Command Master Chief Jason Dunn, conducted a flag folding ceremony in honor of the battle and all those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Peacock said, “I would say that the trip was a great success, and I am so grateful to be a part of an organization that allows us to have these kinds of experiences.”
The Chancellorsville Sailors returned home with a newfound knowledge and appreciation for the events that took place on the small island.
Peacock said, “It was a great learning experience, and one that I will always remember. I feel like the trip also helped bring our Officers and Chiefs Mess closer together by sharing in the pride that we all feel for our own service to our country.”
Chancellorsville is forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, and assigned to Carrier Strike Group Five supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.