A Marine base on Parker Ranch in Waimea played an important roll in the battle for Iwo Jima. To honor the 75th anniversary (1945-2020) of the flag raising on Mt. Suribachi, Kathy Painton was the featured speaker at the Camp Tarawa Detachment #1255 Marine Corps League’s monthly meeting held at the VFW in Kona.
Painton’s father was in the 5th Marine Division and lost his life on Iwo Jima, and she gave an interesting presentation on the important role the Big Island of Hawaii played in preparing the 5th Marine Division for the assault on Iwo Jima.
When the 2nd Marine Division came to the Big Island in December 1943, a Marine base was established on Parker Ranch land in Waimea so the men could have a place to recuperate after the battle on Tarawa and to train for the Saipan-Tinian campaigns. They named the base “Camp Tarawa” in remembrance of the famous battle fought on the island.
After the 2nd Marine Division left, the 5th Marine Division moved from Camp Pendleton to Camp Tarawa to continue training for the assault on Iwo Jima. Camp Tarawa was located between Mauna Loa and Maunakea. It had a small cinder cone called Buster Brown about the same size as Mount Suribachi where the Marines raised the flag on the 5th day of the 36-day battle. The Marines of the 5th Division climbed it and other hills almost daily in training.
Waimea had a population of approximately 450 people in 1943-45 when 25,000 Marines moved next door. The Marines and Seabees brought electricity, water storage and refrigeration to the town.
Of the 55,000 Marines, Navy Corpsmen, and Seabees who trained at Camp Tarawa for the invasions of Saipan-Tinian and Iwo Jima, a total of 5,145 were killed in action or died of their wounds and 18,029 were wounded.
The Camp Tarawa Detachment encourages all Big Island Marines to join the Detachment and participate in the monthly meetings. To learn more, please visit www.camptarawamcl.com.