Battle of Iwo Jima
|Battle of Iwo Jima|
|Conflict||World War II|
|Date||February 16 - March 26, 1945|
|Place||Iwo Jima, Japan|
The Battle of Iwo Jima was fought between the United States and Japan during February and March of 1945, during the Pacific Campaign of World War II. As a result of the battle, the United States gained control of the island of Iwo Jima and the airfields located there. The battle is famous for the raising of the US flag by U.S. Marines during the battle.
In the opening days of 1945, Japan faced the prospect of invasion by the Allied forces. Daily bomber raids from the Marianas hit the mainland in an operation called Scavenger. Iwo Jima served as an early warning station, which would radio reports of incoming bombers back to mainland Japan. When Allied bombers arrived over Japanese cities, the Japanese air defenses would be ready and waiting for them.
Months earlier, the Allies had landed on Leyte in the Philippines, only to find it empty of Japanese resistance. The timetable for the operation was sped up by 8 weeks as a result. At the end of the campaign, this left the Allies with a 2-month lull in their operations planning prior to the invasion of Okinawa, which was considered unacceptable. Thus, the decision was made to invade Iwo Jima. The landing was designated Operation Detachment.
The defenders were ready. The island was garrisoned by 22,000 soldiers and fortified with a network of underground bunkers. The aim of the defense of Iwo Jima was to inflict severe casualties on the Allied forces and discourage invasion of the mainland. Each defender was expected to die in defense of the homeland, taking 10 enemy soldiers in the process.
The Allies wanted Iwo Jima not only to neutralize threats to its bombers and shipping, but to use its airfields for fighter escort and emergency bomber landings. On February 16, 1945, they commenced a massive three-day air and naval bombardment of the island.
At 2 AM on the morning of February 19, battleship guns signaled the commencement of D-Day. Soon 100 bombers attacked the island, followed by another volley from the naval guns. At 8:30, the first of an eventual 30,000 marines of the 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine Divisions, under V Amphibious Corps , landed on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima and a battle for the island commenced.
The Marines faced heavy fire from Suribachi Mountain at the south of the island, and fought over inhospitable terrain: rough volcanic ash which allowed neither secure footing or the digging of a foxhole. Nevertheless, by that evening the mountain had been surrounded and 30,000 Marines had landed. About 40,000 more would follow.
The climb up Suribachi was fought by the yard. Gunfire was ineffective against the Japanese, but flame throwers and grenades cleared the bunkers. Finally, on February 23, the summit was reached. Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal took the famous photograph "Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima" of the United States flag being planted on the mountain's summit.
With the landing area secure, more Marines and heavy equipment came ashore and the invasion proceeded north to capture the airfields and the remainder of the island. With their customary bravery, most Japanese soldiers fought to the death. Of over 20,000 defenders, only 1,000 were taken prisoner.
The Allied forces suffered 25,000 casualties, with nearly 7,000 dead. Over 1/4 of the Medals of Honor awarded to marines in World War II were given for conduct in the invasion of Iwo Jima.
The island of Iwo Jima was declared secure on March 26, 1945.
- "Among the men who fought on Iwo Jima, uncommon valor was a common virtue" -- Admiral Chester W. Nimitz
The United States Navy has commissioned several ships by the name USS Iwo Jima. See USS Iwo Jima for details.
The Marine Corps War Memorial outside Washington, D.C. memorializes all U. S. Marines with a statue of the famous picture.
- To the Shores of Iwo Jima , a 1945 American documentary produced by the United States Navy, Marine Corps and the Coast Guard.
- Sands of Iwo Jima, a 1949 American film starring John Wayne.
- Jack Lummus, Medal of Honor winner for action at Iwo Jima