United flies World War II veterans to Iwo Jima for the 70th anniversary of the pivotal battle
Author Pete Rapalus
United is the only U.S. airline that can take people to Iwo Jima—and that’s just one day a year, for the bilateral Reunion of Honor for American and Japanese veterans of the Battle of Iwo Jima and their descendants.
With our long history in the Pacific (including the founding of Continental’s Air Micronesia), our people and resources in Guam and our experience providing quality service for charter groups, it is only natural that the Iwo Jima Association of America has chosen United for these tours since their inception in 1995.
The first year, six Continental Micronesia 727s carried more than 1,000 people. Some years, the groups have been small enough to fit onto one jet. This year, we used three 737s for the more than 400 participants.
Dozens of United employees—from as close as Guam and neighboring islands and as far away as Chicago and Houston—worked the flights and the temporary airport we set up at an Iwo Jima hangar. (The island is now called Iwo To and houses a Japanese military installation.)
“It’s an incredible amount of work that goes on for months, leading up to the Reunion of Honor,” says Ron Ward, senior manager of government and military charters. “To me, these flights may be the most meaningful of all those we fly.”