Honolulu, Hawaii --
Australian, New Zealand and U.S. service members from around Oahu gathered at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, April 25, 2015, to commemorate the Australian-New Zealand Army Corps forces that fought at the battle of Gallipoli in 1915 during World War I. This year marks the centennial of the battle and the 43rd year the Marine Corps has supported the ceremony on Oahu.
The significance in Australian and New Zealand history stems from it being the first conflict the two nations were involved in as independent nations.
The 1915 Gallipoli Campaign is remembered for the valiant men and the significant losses the nations both suffered. Those who fought are known as “ANZACS” and are honored in one of the most recognized holidays in the South Pacific. Celebrations of the day have lasted nearly 24 hours, due to time difference between Australia and the United States.
“It is important we remember the cost,” said Australian Army Major General Greg Bilton AM, CSC, Deputy Commanding General of Operations with U.S. Army Pacific. “The first World War impacted Australia and New Zealand like nothing else before or since. A hundred years ago today, the events on the Gallipoli Peninsula profoundly shaped the newly formed nations of New Zealand and Australia."
“Wherever Australian and New Zealanders live and work in the world, they have paused to remember their countrymen and women because this day is indelibly engrained in their respective national psyches,” Bilton added.
The battle unified the people of Australia and is credited as a defining moment in its history.
“Australians were separated by states before (the battle),” said Royal Australian Army Cpl. Alexander Hudson, section commander with 5th Royal Australian Regiment. “You were from New South Wales or you were from Queensland, or Victoria — during (the battle) and most definitely afterwards, you were from Australia.”
Hudson remembers sitting with his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan in 2012, talking about the valiant troops who fought on the beaches of Gallipoli.
“We had conversations about what was going through the minds of the boys on the front line, and the older ranks would educate us,” Hudson said. “You charged forward because your friends, your brothers by choice were beside you, they fought forward trench by trench under terrible odds because their mates were going to, this battle is important to me because it brought Australia together. I am proud to be Australian.”
The U.S. Marine Corps studied this battle extensively when developing its amphibious doctrine. The events on Gallipoli had a direct impact on the service’s future operations, including the beach landings on Tarawa and Iwo Jima in World War II.
The Punchbowl is an appropriate setting for the ceremony to honor the fallen. It is a cemetery enclosed within a crater and the resting place of more than 45,000 service members and their families. The hallowed ground is given the Hawaiian name, “Pu’owaina,” meaning “Hill of Sacrifice.”
“What happened on Gallipoli was a show of brotherhood,” said Sgt. Henry Cisneros, a supply NCO with U. S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific and wreath bearer for the ceremony. “By commemorating this with them, we are bringing the brotherhood full circle.”
Cisneros served a tour in Afghanistan in 2011. He did not work directly with the Australian military but said their presence had an impact on the Marines.
“We only saw them in passing but their presence there was a morale booster,” Cisneros said. “It was awesome seeing Democratic countries of the world coming together to defend freedom and common beliefs.”
Wreaths were presented by representatives from the governments of Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Japan and Republic of Korea, as well as organizations from around the island. A bugler then performed “Last Post,” the Australian equivalent to the American “taps,” in honor of those who have gone before.
“We gather not to glorify war or praise victors,” said Jeff Robinson, Consul-General of Australia. “We gather to remember all those who have served their countries with honor during times of conflict and crisis.”