IWO JIMA, Japan, March 22 (UPI) -- On Saturday, veterans and officials joined the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of one of the most iconic battles of World War II: The Battle of Iwo Jima.
About 22,000 Japanese and nearly 7,000 Americans died in the five-week battle in the nearly 8-square-mile island in the Pacific. The ceremony was held at the Reunion of Honor memorial, built in 1985 for the 40th anniversary of the battle.
"We should not forget that the peace and prosperity that we in Japan and the U.S. currently enjoy is based on the sacrifice of those who perished," Japanese Defense Minister Gen. Nakatani said at the event.
Some U.S. veterans attended, many in their 90s, but no Japanese veterans were able to attend the event this year due to health concerns. Few Japanese survived the battle and only 216 were taken prisoner.
Fewer than half of the remains of Japanese soldiers have been recovered. A government-funded team of volunteers go to the island once or twice a year to retrieve remains, which are then sent to a war cemetery in Tokyo.
Tetsuro Teramoto, 70, whose father died in the battle, wants to complete the recovery of remains and work for peace.
"The important thing is that we never wage war again," he said. "There's nothing good about war, whether you win or lose."
U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus spoke at the event, praising the U.S.-Japanese relationship that he said has "grown ever stronger in the years since."
"Today, the United States and Japan are interdependent," he added, cooperating on "everything from international security to free trade. We depend on one another so that each nation may live in peace and prosperity."