TINIAN-Some 130 U.S. Marines in 12 amphibious tracked vehicles landed on Tinian's harbor yesterday afternoon with a platoon of Japanese troops on standby in a nearby ship for a bilateral military exercise, some 67 years after troops from these two nations fought against each other on Tinian during World War II.
Within hours after the amphibious landing, the historic North Field was once again transformed into a battleground with U.S. Marines trying to seize and control an airfield manned by “enemies.”
At North Field, hundreds of shots were fired, smoke grenades were thrown, and troops aimed for their targets. Then came helicopters to transport casualties.
Maj. Jonathan Bossie, officer-in-charge of training and adviser with Special Operations Training Group with the III Marine Expeditionary Force out of Okinawa, said “this [certification] exercise is to conduct an amphibious assault from the sea, in this case, to an airfield so we can seize the airfield and conduct airfield operations.”
Tinian Mayor Ramon Dela Cruz and CNMI historian Don Farrell said this training exercise puts Tinian on the world map again, this time by hosting joint military exercises.
Farrell said this training exercise, as with the recent MAG-12 operation, “will continue to build the image of Tinian as an excellent training site for all U.S. military forces.”
“Adding the Japanese Self-Defense troops only heightens the exposure Tinian will get to other military organizations that need a place like Tinian to conduct training exercises,” he added.
Marine Lance Cpl Mark Malloy, 21, said it's his first time to be in this side of the world, and he's “honored” to be on such historic grounds, referring to the role Tinian played during World War II.
Tinian was the launching pad for the two atomic bombs that the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, hastening the end of the war.
Major Yohei Ito, from the Japanese Self-Defense Force, said he and other troops from Japan visited memorials to honor those who died during the war.
“This is very impressive,” he said. “Our grandfathers.they devoted their lives to this future of peace... Their devotion provided us this peace.”
Ito, 35, was one of four Japanese military officials who set foot on Tinian as observers yesterday.
He said a platoon or about 40 Japanese troops were on a ship. He said the Japanese platoon may not set foot on Tinian but remain on the ship, unless the mission calls for it.
Tinian's North Field has been closed to the general public since Monday because of the military exercise. North Field is one of Tinian's tourist attractions.
Some 65 U.S. Marines based in Okinawa arrived on Tinian Thursday night to prepare the training sites, followed yesterday by an additional 130 Marines.
The joint exercises, dubbed Mariana Islands Complex Certification Exercise or Certex, was earlier described by the mayor as another “history in the making.”
Two-thirds of Tinian lands are leased by the U.S. Department of Defense, and the Tinian mayor has been requesting the military to use their leased lands to help boost the island's economy.
Tinian, one of the main islands of the CNMI, had the busiest airstrip during the war.