ROI-NAMUR, Republic of the Marshall Islands -- Members of the U.S. Navy and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force along with partner nations from Pacific Partnership 2019 held a ceremony March 26.honoring servicemembers who had died during the WWII Battle of Kwajalein.
The battle, which lasted from January 31 to February 4, 1944, took place from Kwajalein in the south to Roi-Namur in the north. In total, more than 8,000 men perished.
As U.S. Navy Cmdr. Grace Schonhardt said in her remarks, Pacific Partnership provided the opportunity to “gather to pay tribute to common cause and compassion, to sacrifice and valor, to patriotism and determination.”
“We cannot choose our history,” she continued, “but we can choose what lessons to draw from it. We can focus on the resilience grown from friendship and trust. We can look to our future with full hearts.”
Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force Lt. Cmdr. Hiroyuki Kosuga, a pilot by trade who is currently serving as part of the Pacific Partnership 2019 team, shared similar sentiments.
“I hope that our visit here contributes to the further development of our cooperative relations,” Kosuga said. “And I believe it is our duty as armed forces to preserve peace around the world. We never forget both Japanese and American soldiers who showed bravery in the battle and sacrificed their lives for each nation.”
The Deputy Chief of Mission from the U.S. Embassy in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Rachael Doherty, spoke to the importance of remembrance. “The act of remembering is as important to honoring the past as it is to guiding the future, and in this place where there is so much remembering to do it is my hope that we all are able to absorb some of that guidance. The United States, Japan, and the Marshall Islands are now inextricably linked here. We have intermarried; set down roots together; our fates are now shared, our partnership strong.”
Pacific Partnership began in response to one of the world’s most catastrophic natural disasters, the December 2004 tsunami that devastated parts of South and Southeast Asia. The mission has evolved over the years from emphasis on direct care to an operation focused on enhancing partnerships through host nation subject matter expert and civil-military exchanges.
Working at the invitation of each host nation, Pacific Partnership is joined by partner nations that include Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Peru, the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, and the United Kingdom to strengthen disaster response preparedness around the Indo-Pacific.
Pacific Partnership’s mission is to work collectively with host and partner nations to enhance regional interoperability and disaster response capabilities, increase stability and security in the region, and foster new and enduring friendships across the Indo-Pacific.