The U.S. military transported a dozen World War II Marines to Iwo Jima on Wednesday in time for them to attend the 65th anniversary commemoration of their greatest victory — but not before some tense moments.
The 12 Marines from the Greatest Generation Foundation had asked Pentagon officials to help them get to Iwo Jima after a charter plane company that had volunteered to take them to the battle site canceled unexpectedly two weeks ago, Stars & Stripes reported.
But that request had not been approved or denied as of late Tuesday, less than 24 hours before Wednesday’s memorial ceremony was set to begin, and the group feared the 12 veterans would be stranded on Okinawa.
Maj. Maureen Schumann, a Pentagon spokeswoman, confirmed to FoxNews.com that a C-130 transport plane was eventually dispatched to take the veterans — ranging in age from 85 to 97 — on the final leg of their journey.
The Greatest Generation Foundation, a Denver-based nonprofit veterans group, reportedly spent $150,000 to get the group to Okinawa, where they were joined by a group of students from the College of the Ozarks who documented the trip.
Military officials had earlier recommended the foundation take a charter flight to Iwo Jima, but Timothy Davis, the foundation’s president, told Stars & Stripes the group did not have $50,000 to cover the trip.
Stars & Stripes reported that one of the veterans was hospitalized with stroke-like symptoms after arriving in Okinawa, but he was released Sunday. Another veteran reportedly suffering from an infection was hospitalized Tuesday.
Iwo Jima was the site of some of the fiercest fighting in the World War II campaign against Japan. U.S. troops captured the island in March 1945 after more than a month of fighting. Roughly 6,900 U.S. Marines and 20,000 Japanese soldiers died in the battle.
Robin Morgan, a College of the Ozarks student traveling with the group, characterized her time with the veterans as a blessing.
"All of the students were blessed with the opportunity to have a round table discussion with the veterans," Morgan wrote on a blog chronicling the trip. "I cannot begin to explain how powerful their stories truly are. The thing that most amazes me is that they do not desire any attention or praise. Instead they want the focus to be on those that gave the ultimate sacrifice."