For Allied troops in World War II, Iwo Jima was a huge success, producing a singularly lasting image of the war; for Japan, it was a defeat that cost 21,000 lives, and the country’s memory of the battle has lain dormant since. The first Japanese prime minister to visit the island did so just five years ago; on Tuesday, Naoto Kan became the second, after the discovery of a mass grave raised hopes that remains of some of the 12,000 Japanese soldiers buried on Iwo Jima could be recovered. After 65 years of neglect, that might provide some closure to a fateful episode in one of the bloodiest wars in human history.

Photograph: David Guttenfelder/AP