There are so many highlights of the trip my wife, Linda, and I took on the 2016 Iwo Jima: War in the Pacific Tour that it is hard to pick a favorite. My choice, however, would have to be the chance to honor my uncle, Cpl. Everett M. “Rusty” Lettow, a member of the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. After being involved in the Guadalcanal and Tarawa campaigns, he was killed in action after ten days of battle on Saipan.
Historian Ron Drez, allowed me to share a bit of his story, and to raise a flag at American Memorial Park in his honor, which I then presented to his only surviving sister and sibling at a Memorial Day gathering a couple months after returning home from the trip. I am very grateful to have had this opportunity to honor and pay respects to my uncle, and I know that dozens of my cousins and other relatives appreciate it as well. Now my grandchildren and my cousin’s grandchildren all know a little more about their relative and his service. Some are even sharing pictures and stories in their social studies and history classes, so I know what I learned and saw had an impact on these young people as well.
I also placed a total of 34 miniature flags that I carried for the entire tour on “green and red” landing beaches for the Battle of Saipan, and also on the black sand beach on Iwo Jima so that I could bring home a memento for each of Uncle Rusty’s nieces and nephews, as well as one for each of my ten grandchildren. Now each grandchild has an item with a small physical connection to those places.
I highly recommend the Iwo Jima: War in the Pacific Tour. We had a great tour guide and a great tour group as well. I hope that in a year or two, we will be able to make the Band of Brothers® Tour a reality for us as well.
This old photo was given to me by Raymond “Chick” Hill, a buddy of my uncle in 2001. He found this old photo in a book, which was his company landing on Tarawa on the morning of the 3rd day, and made a copy of it naming several of the friends that he could identify. He could not spot my uncle in the photo, but was positive that Uncle Rusty was nearby because he said, “we were together that day”. My uncle was a machine gun team leader at that time. I can now see these same guys both in photos and film when I watch “With the Marines at Tarawa” on Youtube. Raymond told me his group bobbed around in a crowded Higgins boat for 36 hours before they landed. You can only try to imagine how that would be with seasickness and using your helmet for a toilet. (As bad as that was, It had to be better than what the Marines who landed on day one had to endure.)
The above photo is of the landing beaches on Saipan. The photo below is of the 34 miniature flags on the beach at Iwo Jima.