U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific, Hawaii -- There is a long-standing, strong relationship that exists between the Australian Army and the United States Marine Corps.
This bond extends far back in our respective histories when we fought side-by-side to assist in the defense of Australia and New Zealand in World War II, and extends to today as Marines and soldiers of the Australian Army serve side by side in Southwest Asia.
Our services enjoy a very successful officer exchange program, and train together regularly, both in the United States and in Australia, in exercises such as Crocodile and Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC).
Additionally, the Marines Corps' 20th century history has been shaped, in large part, by the Australia-New Zealand Army Corps.
The ANZACs' battle for Gallipoli in World War I was the only major amphibious assault of that war. In the 1920's and 30's, the Marine Corps carefully studied that campaign, and those studies directly impacted the Corps' amphibious doctrine put into successful play in the island-hopping campaigns of the Pacific in World War II.
The battle for Gallipoli is still taught today at the Marine Corps' Expeditionary Warfare School.
One of the more visible reminders of the special bond our nations and services share is U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific's support for the annual ANZAC Commemoration here.
Since the presence of Australian and New Zealand military in Hawaii is at a minimum, American military support is required to observe this occasion. The first request from the Australian Consul-General for Marine Corps support for this annual event came in 1973; the Marines have honored that request every year since.
"The participation of the men and women of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific has ensured for more than 20 years the ceremony in Honolulu is one of the most memorable ANZAC Day celebrations anywhere," said the Honorable Paul Robilliard, the Australian Consul-General in Honolulu.
"The contribution is a reflection of the close relationship our countries have enjoyed for the past 100 years, including the outstanding record of service our forces have shared with the Marine Corps in the Pacific Theater during World War II; in Korea, Vietnam, Somalia, the first Gulf War and, most recently, in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"Our military and the Marines train together and fight together, and we are honoured that the Marines join us as we mark a campaign that began with one of the most famous amphibious assaults in military history."
The ceremony here has become, over the years, a very special one.
It's held at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as "the Punchbowl," a magnificent cemetery located in the heart of downtown Honolulu in a natural crater, which shelters this hallowed ground from outside noise. Lined with lush trees, bathed in warm, tropical sunlight and caressed by gentle breezes, the Punchbowl is a magnificent venue for this ceremony.
Its Hawaiian name, "Pu'owaina," literally means "hill of sacrifice." More than 45,000 military men and women (and their family members) are laid to rest there. The cemetery also is the final resting place for famed World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle, and Space Shuttle Challenger astronaut Ellison Onizuka.
Additionally, the names of more than 28,000 American servicemen whose remains have never been recovered are engraved on marble tablets in the Courts of the Missing, including some 28 Medal of Honor recipients.
The Courts lead up a long marble staircase to the chapel of the Honolulu Memorial, and serve as an appropriate setting for the ANZAC ceremony. Much of what occurs during this commemoration takes place either at the base of or on this magnificent marble staircase.
"The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at the Punchbowl has become an appropriate venue for the nations of Australia and New Zealand to commemorate ANZAC Day because this site is known as a symbol of international service and sacrifice to one's nation," said Col. Gene Castagnetti, USMC (Ret.), director of the cemetery.
"This natural shrine has more than five million visitors annually from all parts of the globe, and has hosted U.S. Presidents, foreign heads of state and numerous other ambassadors from all around the Pacific Rim."
Honolulu's ANZAC Ceremony is held at 11:00 a.m. (local time) every April 25th, so that it coincides with the dawn services in Australia and New Zealand.
The service here is attended by representatives of the governments of Australia and New Zealand, as well as their respective militaries; by Consuls-General from several other nations, including Japan, Korea and the Philippines; by flag officers and other representatives of the U.S. Pacific Command and its service components; by officials from state and local government; and by veterans organizations from Australia, New Zealand and the United States. The ceremony is open to the public, and usually draws several hundred people.
Planning for this annual event begins months earlier, and the Marines have always been proud to participate in the ceremony here, a reflection of our pride in serving side-by-side with the men and women of the Australian Armed Forces.
"This year's celebration once again sees American and Australian armed forces in the field, fighting a common foe," said LtGen. Wallace C. Gregson, Commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific. "Our rich legacy, from Belleau Wood and Gallipoli in World War I, through Milne Bay, Guadalcanal and the 'Coast Watchers' of World War II, through Korea, Vietnam and the previous desert wars is once again on display.
"Whenever freedom is threatened, strong men armed from Australia and the United States have met the challenge. We will again."
Musical support for the ceremony is provided by the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific Band, and includes renditions of "Advance Australia Fair," "God Defend New Zealand" and "The Star Spangled Banner."
"On behalf of the band, I am very proud to have been able to support the annual ANZAC Day commemoration for several years. Our participation in this ceremony illustrates the steadfast commitment that the United States Marine Corps has to its friends and allies in Australia and New Zealand," said Gunnery Sgt. Rich Bean, the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific Band Master.
Two color guards present the colors of Australia and New Zealand, as well as the U.S. and the Marine Corps. A ceremonial Honor Guard, a platoon of 42 Marines, is resplendent in their Dress Blue trousers, khaki shirts and white dress covers. The rifle manual is always crisp, resounding in the spring air.
The U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific Chaplain delivers the invocation, and either the Australian or New Zealand Consul-General will deliver the Commemorative address (they alternate years) or read lines from "The Fallen."
Marine wreath bearers assist in the laying of more than 35 wreaths each year; wreaths are presented by representatives of government and the military, as well as by businesses and individuals. This solemn procession is the highlight of the ceremony.
At the conclusion of the wreath laying, a bugler, located high above the ceremony atop the Courts of the Missing, plays "Last Post," and the 12th Marine Regiment, firing 75mm pack howitzers, provides a 21-gun salute. The saluting battery is at the far end of the Punchbowl from the ceremony site, and the rounds echoing throughout the cemetery drive home the solemnity of the occasion.
The bugler again takes center stage, playing "Reveille;" the benediction is delivered, and the Ceremonial Guard marches off to the strains of "Waltzing Matilda," bringing this ceremony to a close for another year.
This year marks the 32nd time Hawaii Marines have provided all the military support for this auspicious ceremony.