Pacific veterans return to World War Two battle sites

Retired Lt. Col. Kenneth “Scooter” Barclay is seen during a recent tour of World War II battlefields with The Greatest Generations Foundation.

70 years after Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth Barclay fought in World War Two, he has returned to the frontlines along with other comrades in the Greatest Generations Foundation.

The trip has enabled a group of 20 World War Two veterans to return to the places in which they fought in the 1940s and to commemorate the friends and fellow soldiers who lost their lives.

Kenneth says he never imagined that he would return to the Pacific, after his regiment left at the end of World War Two. He says that he volunteered to be drafted and was chosen to join the 69th Regiment. He served in Hawaii, and the Japanese-occupied islands of Saipan and Okinawa.

Kenneth learnt about the opportunity to re-visit the Pacific war locations on his local news, which was reporting on the work of the Greatest Generations Foundation, which is a charity that works to recognise veterans of war.

Kenneth decided to apply, and last month went on the trip back in time. On the two week trip, the group of 20 veterans travelled to Guam, Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima.

In Saipan, Kenneth visited the beach he landed at during the war, he recalled how he saw many of his comrades die and that now he could see the beauty of the island, but 70 years ago all he saw was darkness and death.

Kenneth says that during the war there was little wildlife or vegetation. Most trees and bushland had been burned off due to the fighting and bombing raids. The visit made Kenneth realise how lucky he was to survive.

The group also took part in the 70th anniversary commemoration ceremony at Iwo Jima. Kenneth never served on Iwo Jima, but he said it was an emotional ceremony as both Japanese and American veterans came together to remember their fallen soldiers, the Fort Hood Herald reports.

It is said to be the only place in the world where the two previously fighting countries come together to commemorate the same battle.

Even though Kenneth is now 90 years old, he is hoping to be considered for future veterans’ trips with the Greatest Generations Foundation, since he would love to return to Okinawa. Kenneth actually remained on the island for several years after the end of the war, before finally returning to the US.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE