Friday, April 11th, 2014
In February, 1945, the United States landed on the small island of Iwo Jima. The island was part of the Japanese home islands and the Japanese forces that were defending it were prepared to protect it to the last man. Dominating the pork chop shaped island was Mount Suribachi located at the small southern tip of the relatively flat island. The Japanese were heavily dug in on Suribachi and had dug tunnels throughout the mountain. The Americans assaulting Suribachi would take heavy casualties but eventually the Marines would raise the American flag at its summit on February 23rd, an event which was captured by combat photographer Joe Rosenthal and would come to symbolize America’s war effort.
On September 23, 2013 at Velocity Paintball Park in San Diego, Southern California paintball players came out to play on the 69th anniversary of that famous event. This was to be no re-enactment though, this time the Americans could be thrown off the hill and the flag might never go up. The weather for the event was perfect with clear skies and temperatures in the 70s. While there would be a Japanese side and an American side, the teams would be further divided. The Americans were split between the U.S. Infantry, who started on the West side of the field, and the U.S. Marine Corps who would start on the East side of the field. The Japanese were split into the standard Japanese Infantry who started in the North side of mid field below the mountain and the Imperial Japanese Infantry who started on the south side of the mid field on top of the hill.
Each faction received an armband which had their faction’s flag on it. The U.S. Infantry would have the American flag, the Marines their Marine Corps Flag, the regular Japanese Infantry would have the red “meatball” flag and the Imperial Japanese infantry would have the Rising Sun Japanese Battle Flag. The Generals for each faction carried a 3’ x 5’ flag on a large pole and had to have these flags on them while they were on the field. Each faction would be allowed to respawn in the same location as where they started which would lead to some interesting incidents.
The Tactical Ironmen from Dye and the SoCal Ghosts found themselves on the same team but on opposite ends of the field. The SoCal Ghosts also brought out their two PUG Tanks and assigned one to each side. In addition the Juggernaut, a player in special armor who carried two markers tied together surrounded by three rocket launchers, also roamed the field. The tanks could be taken out by two grenade or LAW rocket hits within a minute of each other while the Juggernaut could be taken out by one grenade, one LAW or a paintball hit to a very small section of his lower back, the only place on his person that was without armor.
At the sound of the horn the teams took off for their objectives. There were props on the field like maps, radio codes, and radio boxes to collect. The Marine’s had to get the Marine Corps hymn and sing it for a referee. The Japanese though, in running down the hill, thinned out their defenses on the top of the hill. As the overall objective was to capture the hill, this gave the U.S. teams a golden opportunity. They pressed the hill hard and quickly overran the scattered Japanese defenders capturing the top of the hill before the window opened to allow the tanks and Juggernaut onto the field.
The game was reset and restarted with the Japanese now staying a bit closer to the hill. The Japanese infantry at the bottom of the hill found themselves quickly in a dangerous position. On one side, the American Infantry was pressing hard and already captured their General’s flag. The American General could be seen on the field with the American Flag in one hand and the Japanese “meatball” flag in the other. On the other side of the Japanese Infantry were the American Marines. The Marines were also quickly surging into the Japanese position. Before long, the last Japanese player was eliminated from the field. However, the Marines and U.S. Infantry didn’t realize that the players they were seeing facing them were on the same team. For a brief moment, American Infantry and U.S. Marines were trading paint but after a few moments the mistake was realized and both units turned to the South and began assaulting Mt. Suribachi.
The Japanese seemed to be ill equipped to deal with the American armor allowing it to cause a considerable amount of damage while the U.S. forces caused the Japanese tank scooting and dodging barrage after barrage of American rockets. The second game took much longer but again, the American forces carried the day and raised the flag again on top of the hill.
After a quick break for lunch both sides traded places. The American infantry now started at the bottom of the hill in the middle of the field and the Marines started on the top of the hill. All props were once again in play and at the sound of the horn the U.S. forces pressed hard with help of their tank. The Japanese infantry general lead a Banzai charge against the U.S. tank and quickly fell, leaving his flag behind right on the props in that area. The American tank called for his infantry to come forward but by that time the woods behind him were full of Japanese infantry laying thick suppressive fire keeping the American infantry in their bunkers just yards from their props. While the flag was retrieved the props remained.
On top of the hill the Marine’s held their ground and used the dominating terrain to keep the Japanese attackers at bay. Meanwhile, the American Infantry below recovered from the Japanese assault and, after capturing the Imperial Japanese infantry flag as well, kept Japanese forces from putting together a coordinated assault against the Marines. As time ran out, the Americans retained the hill.
The day ended with a more traditional game of capture the flag with those players that were still around. Overall it was a great day of paintball and once again the American flag flew high and proud over a pile of rocks in San Diego California.