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US, Japan Mark 70 Years Since Battle of Iwo Jima

U.S. Marines hoist the U.S. flag on the summit of Mount Suribachi, near the site of a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima, now known as Ioto, Japan, March 21, 2015.

U.S. and Japanese officials gathered Saturday on the tiny Japanese island of Iwo Jima to mark the 70th anniversary of one of the most iconic battles of World War II.

Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani spoke at the event, calling on everyone to remember the nearly 22,000 Japanese and almost 7,000 Americans who died in the 36 days of fighting.

"We should not forget that the peace and prosperity that we in Japan and the U.S. currently enjoy is based on the sacrifice of those who perished," he said, pledging to work hard to further strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance.

U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus also spoke, hailing the relationship the nations now share.

"Rising from the inferno of Iwo Jima, our partnership developed in the wake of war and has grown ever stronger in the years since," he said.

"Today, the United States and Japan are interdependent," he added, cooperating on "everything from international security to free trade. We depend on one another so that each nation may live in peace and prosperity."

U.S. veterans of the conflict, many of them in their 90s, also joined the commemoration, which was held at the Reunion of Honor memorial, built in 1985 for the 40th anniversary.

Few Japanese survived the Battle of Iwo Jima, which began when U.S. Marines invaded the island in February 1945.

The battle is well-known as the origin of the famous photograph showing six Marines raising an American flag into the air. The image, captured by an Associated Press photographer, was turned into a large statue located just outside Washington, known as the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, or more commonly as the Iwo Jima Memorial.

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