Iwo Jima: War in the Pacific Tour

The tour has far exceeded our expectations. We have loved getting to know you and to share this wonderful experience with you. Many thanks to our extraordinary tour guides Ron and Judy Drez. You are treasures and we feel honored to have been able to spend this time with you.

– Gary and Joy Peck

The March 2016 Iwo Jima: War in the Pacific Tour is sold out. Please call 888.903.3329 to be added to the waitlist.

Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours is fortunate to have formed an alliance with Military Historical Tours (MHT) to offer our Iwo Jima: War in the Pacific Tour, traveling as their guests. Selected by the Combat Veterans of Iwo Jima, Reunion of Honor Committee to coordinate the annual anniversary on Iwo Jima, MHT has coordinated this trip for U.S. veterans since the 50th anniversary. We look forward to continuing and strengthening our relationship with them and providing our customers with the most genuine historic tour experience.

Highlights

  • Hawaii: Battleship row in Hawaii where the remains of the sunken USS Arizona rests.
  • Saipan: The invasion beaches of Saipan, Harakiri Gulch and Marpi Point where hundreds of Japanese jumped to their deaths.
  • Tinian: Tinian, the launching field for Enola Gay and the atomic bomb.
  • Guam: The key battle sites on Guam and the War Dog Memorial.
  • Mt. Suribachi: Climb Mt. Suribachi where the American flag was raised on Iwo Jima

Day-By-Day Itinerary

Day 1 Hawaii

Our Iwo Jima Tour will begin with a Welcome Reception and Dinner at our hotel in Hawaii. You will get a chance to meet our historian, veterans, and other tour participants. Captain Ron Drez will give opening remarks, and set the stage for our tour of the War in the Pacific.

Day 2 Hawaii

Ford Island is the centerpiece of the Pearl Harbor National Historic Landmark District and adjacent to Battleship Row. The original airfield, air tower, WWII hangars, a collection of bungalows and officers housing remain on the site. While on Ford Island, we will visit the Pacific Aviation Museum and the USS Missouri.

Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor occupies World War II-era hangars that still bear the scars of our nation’s first aviation battlefield. The museum houses many examples of WWII aircraft and exhibits relating the stories of these planes. Large maps of the Pacific adorn the floor, and it is here that our historian will give the first lecture on the War in the Pacific, utilizing the maps and photos in the museum.

The USS Missouri was part of the force that supported bombing raids over Tokyo and provided firepower in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. During the wars final month, the Mighty Mo served as Admiral William Bull Halseys flagship for the Pacific Third Fleet. The Missouri secured its place in history as the site of Japans unconditional surrender to the Allied Forces on Sept. 2, 1945, ending World War II.

Day 3 Hawaii

The morning begins at Battleship Row, home to the USS Arizona Memorial. The memorial is built over the remains of the sunken battleship USS Arizona, the final resting place for many of the 1,177 crewmen killed on December 7, 1941. The loss of life on this Day of Infamy became the focal point for a nation that was previously divided over the issue of involvement in the war.

Our next stop is to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, which combines two historic bases Pearl Harbor Naval Base and Hickam Air Force Base into a single joint installation to support both Air Force and Navy missions. After our exclusive tour of the base and lunch at the Officers Club, we will visit Hospital Point and see the memorial honoring the 60 killed and 109 wounded on the USS Nevada. The Nevada was the only battleship to get underway during the Pearl Harbor attack, but after sustaining torpedo and bomb hits, was ultimately beached off of Hospital Point. Then we will visit the Pearl Harbor Avenger, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park.

Our last stop of the day is a visit to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific and the Honolulu Memorial, referred to as the Punchbowl, which is located in Puowaina Crater. Roughly translated, Puowaina means Hill of Sacrifice. Stunning battle maps are displayed at the memorial, and here our historian will give us an overview of the entire Pacific War.

Day 4 Flight to Saipan

After a leisurely free morning in Honolulu, we depart in the afternoon for the group flight to Saipan. Due to the time change crossing the International Date Line, we will arrive the following evening.

Day 5 Saipan

The capture of Saipan was one of the turning points of the war in the Pacific. Following Japans surrender in 1945, Vice Admiral Shigeyoshi Miwa of the Japanese Navy said, Our war was lost with the loss of Saipan.

In Saipan, our group will visit the Invasion Beaches and battle sites of Operation Forager. Our historian will discuss the combat during the 24 days of furious fighting to secure the island. The place names testify to the bitter fighting: Death Valley, Purple Heart Ridge and Harakiri Gulch, where the last major battle of the island occurred.

We will visit Aslito Airfield, as well as Mount Topotchau, and Marpi Point. It was at Marpi Point that hundreds of Japanese civilian families jumped to their deaths. Droves of Japanese soldiers also committed suicide at the many cliffs around Saipan. They either jumped to their death, or fell on their own grenade.

Our day ends with a ceremony and wreath laying at the American Memorial Park, that honors the American and Marianas people who gave their lives during the Marianas Campaign of World War II.

Day 6 Tinian

After early morning private charter flights, we arrive in Tinian and will spend the morning studying the battlefields. The U.S. victory in Saipan made Tinian, just 3.5 miles south, the next logical step in the Marianas campaign. The 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions landed in July 1944 supported by naval bombardment and artillery firing across the strait from Saipan. A successful feint for the major settlement of Tinian Town fooled the Japanese and diverted defenders from the actual landing site on the north of the island.

The Japanese adopted the same stubborn defensive tactics as on Saipan. They retreated during the day and attacked at night. The gentler terrain of Tinian allowed the U.S. more effective use of tanks and artillery than in the mountains of Saipan, and the island was secured in nine days of fighting. Japanese losses were far greater than American losses, with 8010 dead and 313 prisoners. American losses stood at 328 dead and 1,571 wounded. Several hundred Japanese troops held out in the jungles for months.

Tinian is perhaps most famous for being the departure site for atomic bomb. Prior to its departure for the Philippines, the USS Indianapolis delivered this secret cargo to Tinian. Our historian will talk about the USS Indianapolis, its sinking and the survival of the crew in the shark-infested waters. While in Tinian, we will spend some time focusing on the Tinian airport, which in 1945, was perhaps the busiest and largest in the world. At North Field, look for the plaques that mark the location of the bomb loading pits for the Enola Gay and Bocks Car.

Day 7 Guam

Arriving in the morning, our study of Guam will begin with the Invasion Beaches, Asan and Agat beaches. These two invasion beaches, separated by the Orote Peninsula, are located six miles apart, on the west central coast of Guam.

Asan Beach contains many historic resources preserved from the war: Japanese gun emplacements on the beach, as well as numerous pillboxes, caves and tunnels on Asan Ridge. We will walk along the beach and stop at the many monuments that dot the area while our historian paints a picture of the battles that took place here. Among the monuments, we will see Liberators Memorial which honors all U.S. forces involved in the recapture of Guam; two Mabini monuments honoring the exiled Filipinos; a substantial Monument for the 3rd Marine Division erected on site by the Third Marine Division Association; and the US Landing Monument dedicated to the men who fought here.

From the beach we will drive to the Asan Bay Overlook, which features bronze sculptures depicting the events on Guam during the Japanese occupation in 1941-1944. This area affords a vantage point that shows how the Japanese defensive forces dug in, and how the U.S. forces advanced from the beach to secure it. Japanese defensive positions were placed on top and on both sides of Asan and Adelup Point, with obstacles and mines on the fringing reef. On the beaches were obstacles, tank traps, machine gun positions, pillboxes, heavy weapons, artillery, and coastal defense guns. When U.S. forces started the invasion, the Japanese had optimal observation and firing ports from high ground. The Overlook gives a good perspective and overview of how the battle developed. From here we will go to Orote Peninsula to visit Guams Naval Operating Base and its Interpretive Center.

After lunch, our study continues at Agat Beach. Gaan Point in Agat Beach was strategically chosen in order to help secure Orote Peninsula to the north, which was important because of the airfield and entrance to Apra Harbor as a supply port. The plan was to overtake Gaan Point, where the entire beachfront at Agat could be used to offload supplies and equipment critical for the inland advance. The historic resources that remain intact at Gaan Point include the stronghold. This stronghold was built into the rock outcropping and was heavily camouflaged; it was the reason so many U.S. soldiers lost their lives.

One interesting aspect of the recapture of Guam was the role played by the Navajo Indian code talkers, who operated the radios openly conversing in their native tongue, unwritten and unknown to the Japanese. This successful tactic completely baffled the Japanese, who expected to hear coded English. Another interesting place to visit in Guam is The War Dog Memorial. Located on the Naval Facility, it honors the Dobermans that served with the Marines in 1944 and who were killed in action performing duties such as leading scouting parties, exploring caves and serving as sentries.

Day 8 Guam

Our morning begins with a visit to the South Pacific Memorial Park, which houses the Peace Memorial. Built at the foot of Mt. Matagi, the Peace Memorial was built so that it might bring peace to the souls of the war victims of both Japan and the U.S., and further strengthen the ties of friendship between the two countries. The design of the 50 ft. tower is in the shape of palms pressed together in prayer for the souls of all the people who perished while loyally serving their respective countries. Unknown to most, located in caves underneath the Peace Memorial are the former Japanese Headquarters on Guam. We will go down to these caves and see where Lt. General Obata Hideyoshi, Commander of the Imperial Japanese Army in charge of the Marianas, Bonins and Carolines, planned Japanese defenses. When the resistance to the invasion failed and U.S. victory was certain, Obata committed suicide at his post.

The afternoon is spent at “North Field”, as Andersen Air Force Base was first named. Andersen AFB was the first air base built on Guam after its liberation from Japan. Constructed by the U.S. Navy Seabees, North Field was a massive installation, with four main runways, taxiways, revetments for over 200 B-29s, and a large containment area for base operations and personnel. Still an active runway, our tour of the base will mix some of the old with the new not only exploring and studying the base as it relates to WWII, but viewing the memorial to the Vietnam era B-52 crew, and, if were lucky, the opportunity to see modern military aircraft.

In the evening, we will be guests at a special event dinner featuring dignitaries and speakers, organized by Military Historical Tours.

Day 9 Iwo Jima

After an early breakfast at the hotel, the group will gather and take a charter flight to Iwo Jima. Our guests will join the Combat Veterans of the battle and their families for an Anniversary Ceremony on the island.

Iwo Jima, with its three airfields, was ideally located as a fighter-escort station; it was also a welcome sanctuary for crippled bombers returning from Japan. The U.S. Air Force fought in the longest sustained aerial offensive of the war, and more Marines were sent to Iwo Jima than to any other battle. More medals for heroism were awarded for action on Iwo Jima than any battle in U.S. history. Our historian will discuss the American and Japanese strategies and the bloody battle that raged for 36 days as we tour Iwo Jima. It is atop Mt. Suribachi that the flag was raised, to symbolize victory on Iwo Jima. It is this picture that is etched in our minds as we remember Iwo Jima, Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue.

Day 10 Guam

Our last day in Guam will be a free day. Participants will be able to explore and enjoy the island as they wish. Prior to dinner, our historian will give a final lecture and review all that we have covered during our Pacific War Tour. Our tour will conclude in the evening at our Farewell Fiesta Dinner hosted by the 3rd Marine Division Association.

Day 11 Flights Home

We say good-bye to our new friends before an early morning departure for flights back to the U.S.

 

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Map for Iwo Jima: War in the Pacific Tour

Tour Dates

  • March 2016 Sold Out!
  • March 2017 Accepting applications for 2017 tour.
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TRIP COST TBD

Prices for 2016 tour TBD

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