Last Updated on October 1, 2023
On March 30, 2024, The National WWII Museum will return to the Japanese island of Iwo Jima with WWII veterans who fought there, marking the 79th anniversary of one of the fiercest and most famous battles of the Pacific war. The visit is part of the Museum’s 10-day Victory in the Pacific educational travel program that explores island battlefields and landing beaches in the company of expert historians.
Dr. Richard Jessor and Donald Graves fought as young Marines in the Battle of Iwo Jima, which raged for over five weeks in early 1945 on the tiny volcanic island and in the surrounding waters of the Pacific Ocean. A defining battle in World War II, Iwo Jima is known for its brutal combat as well as the iconic image of the flag-raising on Mount Suribachi by American servicemembers.
“Over the nearly eight decades since this 20-year-old Marine took part in the invasion and monthlong battle to secure Iwo Jima, I have sought to understand the impact that experience has had on me and my life. In many ways, it strengthened me: if I could get through the Battle of Iwo Jima, I could get through anything,” Jessor said. “And it made me acutely aware that, unlike so many of my buddies and comrades who landed with me, I had been uncommonly fortunate in surviving the battle. Going back to Iwo is another opportunity for me to discover its meaning, to think again of those we lost, and, above all, to honor them.”
Twenty-seven Medals of Honor, the United States’ highest military decoration, were awarded for action on Iwo Jima — more than any other battle in US history. Each year, an official Reunion of Honor ceremony is held for veterans from both sides of the conflict, honoring their service and sacrifice and fostering peace as American and Japanese servicemembers meet near the landing beaches.
Iwo Jima is open to civilian visitors just once per year, and guests must travel with an authorized tour company to gain access to the island. The Museum has been making the annual visit since 2018 with a planeload of travelers seeking a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to set foot on the black ash beaches.
Victory in the Pacific brings travelers from Pearl Harbor to the islands of Saipan, Guam, Iwo Jima, and Tinian, where exclusive access to battlefields, rich historical context from expert guides, rare archival materials from the Museum’s digital collections, and hand-selected oral histories reveal the lengths the Japanese would go to protect their inner defense ring as the Americans forged a road to Tokyo.
Travelers will experience sites where, in stark contrast to their tropical serenity today, brutal war once raged.
“Educational travel programs like this are so important to the Museum’s mission not only because they explore historic sites but also because they help carry on the legacy of those who sacrificed for our freedom during World War II,” Nathan Huegen, Director of Educational Travel at The National WWII Museum, said. “The Victory in the Pacific tour is made even more special by the inclusion of Dr. Jessor and Mr. Graves, heroes who fought so hard at Iwo Jima and whose stories we work to preserve.”
Victory in the Pacific tours from run from March 22 to April 1, 2024 and feature five-star accommodations, chartered flights, a comprehensive meal package, and exclusive touring throughout the itinerary are included. Featured historians Jonathan Parshall and James Scott will provide insight and commentary during tours and evening programs.
Extensions to the Philippines and Peleliu are available.
The National WWII Museum’s Victory in the Pacific tour is now available to book online here, starting at $17,999 per person. For additional information on the optional extended programs, call 504-528-1944 x 257.
National WWII Museum
The National WWII Museum in New Orleans tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world—why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today—so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn.
Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as America’s National WWII Museum, the institution celebrates the American spirit, teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifices of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and served on the Home Front.