Monday, February 9, 2015

Kwajalein Memorial Day 2015

D-Day Kwajalein

February 9, 1944
Liberation Day
Ebeye, Kwajalein, Marshall Islands
71 years ago this tiny island of Ebeye in the Kwajalein Atoll was liberated from the Japanese by the United States. It is celebrated and remembered each year by the local and area dignitaries on Ebeye with a parade, flag ceremony, basketball and volleyball tournaments, and a field day between all the local Ebeye schools.

The bloody battles in the Kwajalein Atoll primarily focused on Kwajalein, Roi and Namur islands where the Japanese stronghold existed. The Kwajalein Atoll is the largest atoll in the Marshall Islands and was a critical piece in WWII's island-hopping strategy to Japan. Kwajalein's strategic location became one of the primary objectives of the Pacific War. The bombardment was so complete that no demolition work by combat engineers was necessary. The Navy’s ships also provided crucial fire support during the invasion itself on 31 January 1944; the 4th Marine Division landed at Roi-Namur, while the Army’s 7th Infantry Division landed at Kwajalein.

It was several days later, on February 9, 1944 the island of Ebeye realized their liberation from Japan. Each of the Marshall Islands celebrates their individual anniversary of the day the United States liberated their individual island from Japan during WWII. 

The 2015 theme roughly translated means "We remember them today, but we will not forget them".

Marshall Island flag, Kwajalein Atoll flag, American flag
Local law enforcement

Kwajalein High School band marching from the dock
brings back memories of my high school marching days!

some of the local dignitaries walking behind the band to the ceremony
school children waiting for the ceremony

Tears streamed down my face, with my hand over my heart, as the American flag was raised and the band played the Star Spangled Banner.  It's been a long time since I have been able to participate in that ceremony.

The Marshall Island flag was raised first (blue flag on the right), then the American flag, then the Kwajalein Atoll flag (green flag)

One of the speakers, with the dignitary tent behind him

everyone wears green for Kwajalein!

The ceremony is over and the parade begins!

re-enactment of US soldiers capturing the Japanese

beautiful sight!

Catholic High School bus

nice day for a parade!

one of the re-enactments of the capture

nice painting on this one
some of the re-enactments were quite graphic

drawing of the atoll and the three flags: Marshall Islands, Kwajalein Atoll and US flags

styrofoam shoes?

photo op in front of the disco (the one that keeps us awake on the weekends!)

I always enjoy time with my dear friends from Kwajalein, Samantha and Alison
After the ceremony and the parade, it was on to the field and track activities.  Shade tents were set up for each school.  There were also vendor tents for groups to sell food items ranging from chicken and rice, cookies, drinks, coconuts, and candy.  That evening the finals for volleyball and basketball were held culminating weeks of practice and games.  Apparently, the final volleyball game didn't end until 4am the next morning!  I didn't stay up for that one!

one of the vendor booths

getting ready to race!
and they're off!

and the winner is.......!
tents set up for each school so they can have some shade

girls racing barefoot in the sand
at the finish line!

each school wore their uniforms, the orange ones are the public middle school

design on back of one of the shirts made for the day, this shows the Kwajalein flag, green w/ a flower

brown-eyed cutie

more food