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NEWS | May 1, 2024

U.S. Marines, Okinawa citizens honor World War II casualties | Ie Shima Lighthouse Memorial Service 2024

By Lance Cpl. Brody Robertson, Marine Corps Installations Pacific

U.S. Marines, Japanese coast guardsmen, and Okinawan officials honored the casualties of WWII during the annual Ie Shima Lighthouse Memorial Service on Ie Shima, Okinawa, Japan, April 21.

Seventy-nine years ago, during the Okinawa campaign of WWII, a lighthouse keeper and eight of his family members were killed during an air raid on Ie Shima. Every year since then, a ceremony is held in remembrance of the family and the many other casualties of WWII.

During the ceremony, representatives in attendance and the honored lighthouse keeper’s descendants and family members place flowers and bow in remembrance of the casualties. This ceremony is set up by members of the Japanese Coast Guard, and the area is regularly maintained by the Marines who reside at Ie Shima Training Facility.

“It's one of the bigger things that we do here at Ie Shima,” said Gunnery Sgt. Luis Delao, a communication, navigation, cryptographic and countermeasures systems technician with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 36, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, and the staff non-commissioned officer in charge of the Ie Shima Training Facility. “We help maintain some portions of the lighthouse, but the biggest thing is fostering the camaraderie that we have in the community, not just with the Japanese locals on island, but also the Japanese Coast Guard that comes out to support.”

The Marines stationed on Ie Shima inspect the lighthouse daily to ensure that the area is clean and free of any trash or debris. Marines also make sure to report any damages to the lighthouse after any destructive weather.

“This ceremony allows us to extend that olive branch and repair those past injuries that have happened,” said Delao. “It’s intimate and allowing Marines to be a part of this every year enables us to help bridge the gap and strengthen the relationships that we have.”

These Marines conduct monthly beach clean-ups to remove trash left by the fishing boats, frequently volunteer at schools to help teach English and any other events they are asked to assist with, as well as supporting all the memorials at Ie Shima.

Next year marks the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa.

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