View Full Version : Iwo Jima reverts to its old name

06-21-07, 06:46 AM
Iwo Jima reverts to its old name
A key battle site resumes its pre-WWII name of Iwo To. Reaction to the change was divided.
By Hans Greimel
Associated Press

U.S. Marines raise the American flag on Iwo To. Japanese navy officers wrongly called it Iwo Jima, and the name stuck.
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 such as 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 photograph by Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press showing Marines raising the U.S. 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," he said.

Haynes, 85, 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, We Walk by Faith: The Story of Combat Team 28 and the Battle of Iwo Jima. He says he does not plan to change the name.

"It was Iwo Jima to us when we took it," Haynes said. "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 - ee-woh-toh - by the 1,000 or so people living there. In Japanese, the name looks and means the same as Iwo Jima - Sulfur Island - but 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, the island was put to exclusive military use by both the United States 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.

In March, Ogasawara, the municipality that administers Iwo To and neighboring islands, responded by adopting a resolution making Iwo To the official name. The central government followed suit; an official map with the new name will be released Sept. 1.

The Battle of Iwo Jima

Who fought the battle

U.S. Marines battled the Japanese on Iwo Jima in February and March of 1945, during the Pacific campaign of World War II.

How many fought?

The U.S. pitted about 100,000 troops against 22,000 Japanese. Nearly 7,000 Americans were killed capturing the island; fewer than 1,000 Japanese survived.

What was at stake?

For the Americans, the capture of Iwo Jima provided a staging area for the eventual invasion of the Japanese mainland.

How is the battle


The battle is known for some of the fiercest fighting of the Pacific campaign, and for an iconic photograph by AP photographer Joe Rosenthal of five Marines and a Navy corpsman raising the U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi.

SOURCE: Associated Press