Murphy's Law: Iwo Jima Disappears

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August 6, 2007: Last June, Japan officially changed the name of "Iwo Jima" island to "Iwo To." The island inhabitants have long called the island, the scene of a major World War II battle, Iwo To. But when Japanese troops arrived in 1944, to defend the island against expected American attack, the officers in charge used an alternative term for "Sulfur Island." Both names basically mean that in Japanese, but the descendents of those thousand ilanders, have long sought official government recognition of the traditional name.

After World War II, the inhabitants were not allowed to return, partly because of all the unexploded munitions lying about, the shortage of room, and Japanese soldiers who refused to surrender and kept shooting at people. These holdouts hid in the many caves on the island, and lived off food, or garbage, they stole from the American garrison. The last of these holdouts surrendered in 1949. Since then, Iwo Jima has been exclusively a military base. The U.S. will continue to call the island Iwo Jima, and the names on the military memorials there, at least the American ones, will not be changed. But Japan will issue new maps next month, labeling the island Iwo To. Iwo Jima will disappear from Japanese records.

 


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