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Battle of Iwo Jima Map 2: American Landing Zones

Battle of Iwo Jima Map 2: American Landing Zones

Battle of Iwo Jima: American Landing Zones and the Japanese Defence Sectors

Map of the island of Iwo Jima, showing the American Landing Zones and the Japanese Defence Sectors.

Numbers to the left of the unit denote the battalions, those to the right the regiments. Thus the two units landing on Green beach are the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 28th Marine Regiment.

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How US Marines Won the Battle of Iwo Jima

By the time they splashed their way onto its southeastern beach on February 19, 1945, many of the U.S. Marine invasion force wondered if there were any Japanese left alive on Iwo Jima. Allied aircraft, battleships and cruisers had spent the previous two and a half months pulverizing the volcanic outcropping with thousands of tons of high explosives, leaving it a smoldering heap of charred boulders and burned-out vegetation. A haze of smoke now covered much of the island, and the stench of cordite and sulphur hung heavy in the air. “There wasn’t a tree left standing,” Corporal Stacy Looney later remembered, “wasn’t anything left standing.”

The Marines had been told to expect heavy resistance, but the first waves of landing craft encountered only a few artillery bursts and scattered small arms fire. Thousands of infantrymen, tanks and vehicles were able hit the beach with relative ease. “There’s something screwy,” one corporal said of the ominous calm. The Marines were right to be suspicious. As soon as the first units advanced onto an ash-covered terrace beyond the shore, dozens of camouflaged Japanese batteries erupted with murderous mortar and machine gun fire, and artillery shells began raining down on the men and equipment still clogging the beach. “The honeymoon is over!” one officer yelled. In an instant, any illusions the Marines had of taking the island without a fight had evaporated.

Outside of its proximity to Japan—still some 750 miles away—the 8 square mile hunk of land at Iwo Jima carried little significance. It lacked adequate supplies of fresh water and other resources, and its shores were too rocky to act as harbors for Navy ships. But as World War II moved closer to its conclusion, the island had become a crucial steppingstone in the American push toward the Japanese homeland. B-29 Superfortresses had begun making bombing runs over Tokyo, and they needed Iwo Jima as an emergency landing site and staging ground for their fighter escorts. To seize the island, the U.S. high command had marshaled the 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine divisions of the V Amphibious Corps under Lt. General Holland “Howlin’ Mad” Smith. The total force included a staggering 70,000 men—the most Marines ever assembled for a single operation.

Lieutenant General Holland “Howlin’ Mad” Smith

Standing in the way of the American invasion were some 22,000 Japanese led by General Tadamichi Kuribayashi. Under his leadership, Iwo Jima’s garrison had transformed the island into a labyrinth of natural caves, subterranean tunnels and fortified pillboxes and bombproofs. Nearly all of the Japanese emplacements contained a copy of a special order from Kuribayashi commanding his men to fight to the bitter end. �ove all, we shall dedicate ourselves and our entire strength to the defense of this island,” the instructions read. �h man will make it his duty to kill ten of the enemy before dying.” Thanks to their stout defenses, Kuribayashi’s men had suffered surprisingly few casualties during the American artillery onslaught. When the Marines finally moved past the beach on the morning of February 19, they sat waiting with guns trained.

Once the shooting started, the American landing zone turned into a cauldron of shell bursts and mortar fire. Thomas McPhatter, one of several hundred African-American Marines who joined in the attack as amphibious truck drivers and ammunition handlers, later described the hellish scene to the Guardian. “I jumped in a foxhole and there was a young white Marine holding his family pictures,” he said. “He had been hit by shrapnel, he was bleeding from the ears, nose and mouth. It frightened me. The only thing I could do was lie there and repeat the Lord’s prayer, over and over and over.” After braving the intense fire, U.S. troops established a beachhead and began knocking out Japanese pillboxes and trenches near the shoreline. Others made a stubborn slog through foot-deep volcanic ash and crossed to the island’s western side, cutting off its 550-foot-tall southern peak at Mt. Suribachi. By nightfall, more than 30,000 Marines had landed on Iwo Jima.

U.S. Marines take cover on the beach at Iwo Jima

U.S. forces continued their advance over the next several days, capturing the first of three airfields and moving toward the island’s rock-strewn northern sector. On February 23, elements of the 28th Marines took the heights at Suribachi to the sound of cheers and celebratory gunfire from the men watching below. Associated Press Photographer Joe Rosenthal snapped a now-famous photo of six marines struggling to hoist the Stars and Stripes atop the mountain, yet the flag raising was only a brief moment of triumph in what had become a bitter battle. Marines would continue fighting for another month through hills and gullies with nicknames like the “Meat Grinder,” �th Valley” and 𠇋loody Gorge,” suffering thousands of casualties for every mile of territory gained.

Fighting at Iwo Jima often took the shape of a deadly game of cat and mouse. General Kuribayashi had dispensed with the costly �nzai” charges typically practiced by the Japanese army and ordered his men to fight in a fashion that more closely resembled guerilla warfare. Japanese troops would ambush Marines and then disappear into their warren of caves and tunnels, only to reappear in new positions. 𠇊t great cost, you𠆝 take a hill to find then the same enemy suddenly on your flank or rear,” said Fred Haynes, then a captain. “The Japanese were not on Iwo Jima. They were in it!”

Destruction on the beach at Iwo Jima

Small arms fire proved futile against the Japanese pillboxes and tunnels, so Marines relied on their M2 flamethrowers, bazookas and fire-spewing Sherman “Zippo” tanks to clear out enemy fortifications. Grenades became the soldiers’ most handy weapons, with both sides rolling them down hills and tossing them into caves. While administering first aid to wounded men, one Navy medic named John Harlan Willis retrieved and threw back eight Japanese grenades before the ninth exploded in his hand and killed him. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

By early March, battle-weary Marines had captured Iwo Jima’s two remaining airfields and reached the northern shoreline, effectively splitting the island in half. The surviving Japanese troops were severely outnumbered, and many had gone days without water. Nevertheless, very few surrendered. “They never had any sort of sustenance compared to what our Marines had,” Colonel John Ripley later said of the Japanese, 𠇋ut at the same time they fought and fought and fought, and what a hell of a job they did.”

As the battle wore down, the remnant of Kuribayashi’s forces moved through the island like ghosts, donning captured U.S. uniforms and launching surprise nighttime counterattacks. “It’s like fighting something abstract and intangible,” one American lieutenant complained. “We𠆝 be glad to fight these people if we could only see them.” Japanese resistance continued long after the island was deemed secure, culminating in a desperate final assault on March 26. Later that same day, Marine Corps brass finally declared an official end to combat operations on Iwo Jima.

The five-week long campaign had taken a bitter toll on the American invasion force, which left the island with nearly 7,000 Marines and Navy men dead and another 20,000 wounded. President Roosevelt reportedly gasped when he heard the numbers. The Japanese, most of whom obeyed their orders to fight to the last, lost around 21,000 men. Among the dead was Kuribayashi, who either perished in combat or committed suicide. The remaining Japanese surrendered or were taken prisoner, but a few holdouts disappeared into Iwo Jima’s underground hive of caves and tunnels. The last two Japanese on the island only surrendered in 1949𠅊 full four years after the war had ended.

Iwo Jima went on to save countless American lives as an emergency landing strip for Air Force bombers in the Pacific, but any larger role it might have played in an invasion of Japan was made irrelevant after the atomic bomb fell over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. Nevertheless, the battle for the small, barren island continued to loom large in the American consciousness, both for Rosenthal’s iconic photo of the flag raising on Mt. Suribachi and for the legendary grit of the Marines and Navy men who fought on in the face of overwhelming misery. 

“Victory was never in doubt…its cost was,” 3rd Marine Division leader Graves B. Erskine later said of Iwo Jima. “What was in doubt, in all our minds, was whether there would be any of us left to dedicate our cemetery at the end, or whether the last Marine would die knocking out the last Japanese gun and gunner.”


Contents

The first European to arrive at Iwo Jima was Spanish sailor Bernardo de la Torre who named it Sufre Island, after the old Spanish term for sulphur (azufre in modern Spanish). [7] At that time Iwo Jima and other nearby islands represented boundaries between the Spanish and Portuguese Empires within the far East as the demarcation line of the Treaty of Zaragoza crossed the area.

In 1779, the island was charted as Sulphur Island, the literal translation of its official name, during Captain James Cook's third surveying voyage. [8] As reported in the December 1786 supplement to The New London Magazine :

“On the 14th [of October 1779], they discovered an island, about five miles long, lying in lat. 24d. 48m. long. 141d. 12m. On the south point of this is a high barren hill, which evidently presented a volcanic crater. The earth, rock, or sand (for it was not easy to distinguish of which its surface is composed) exhibited various colours and a considerable part was conjectured to be sulphur, both from its appearance to the eye, and the strong sulphureous smell, perceived as they approached the point and some thought they saw steams rising from the top of the hill. From these circumstances, Captain Gore gave it name of Sulphur Island.” [9]

The name "Sulphur Island" was translated into Late Middle Japanese with the Sino-Japanese rendering iwau-tau イヲウトウ ( 硫黄島 , modern Japanese Iō-tō イオウトウ), from Middle Chinese ljuw-huang "sulfur" and táw "island". The historical spelling iwautau [10] had come to be pronounced (approximately) Iwō-tō by the age of Western exploration, and the 1946 orthography reform fixed the spelling and pronunciation at Iō-tō イオウトウ.

An alternative, Iwō-jima, modern Iō-jima, also appeared in nautical atlases. [11] ( and shima are different readings of the kanji for island ( 島 ) , the shima being changed by rendaku to jima in this case.) Japanese naval officers who arrived to fortify the island before the U.S. invasion mistakenly called it Iwō-jima, [11] and in this way, the Iwo Jima reading became mainstream and was the one used by U.S. forces who arrived during World War II. Former island residents protested against this rendering, and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism's Geographical Survey Institute debated the issue and formally announced on June 18, 2007, that the official Japanese pronunciation of the island's name would revert to the pre-war Iō-tō. [6] Moves to revert the pronunciation were sparked by the high-profile films Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. [11] The change does not affect how the name is written with kanji, 硫黄島 , only how it is pronounced or written in hiragana, katakana and rōmaji.

The island has an approximate area of 21 km 2 (8 sq mi 5,189 acres). The most prominent feature is Mount Suribachi on the southern tip, a vent that is thought to be dormant and is 161 m (528 ft) high. [1] Named after a Japanese grinding bowl, the summit of Mount Suribachi is the highest point on the island. Iwo Jima is unusually flat and featureless for a volcanic island. Suribachi is the only obvious volcanic feature, as the island is only the resurgent dome (raised centre) of a larger submerged volcanic caldera surrounding the island. [12] The island forms part of the Kazan-retto islands Important Bird Area (IBA), designated by BirdLife International. [13]

80 km (43 nautical miles, 50 mi) north of the island is North Iwo Jima ( 北硫黄島 , Kita-Iō-tō, literally: "North Sulfur Island") and 59 kilometres (37 mi 32 nmi) south is South Iwo Jima ( 南硫黄島 , Minami-Iō-tō, "South Sulfur Island") these three islands make up the Volcano Islands group of the Ogasawara Islands. Just south of Minami-Iō-jima are the Mariana Islands.

The visible island stands on a plateau (probably made by wave erosion) at depth about 15 m, which is the top of an underwater mountain 1.5 km to 2 km tall and 40 km diameter at base. [14]

Eruption history Edit

Iwo Jima has a history of minor volcanic activity a few times per year (fumaroles, and their resultant discolored patches of seawater nearby). [15] In November 2015 Iwo Jima was placed first in a list of ten dangerous volcanoes, with volcanologists saying there was a one in three chance of a large eruption from one of the ten this century. [16] [17] [18]

Prehistoric Edit

  • Earlier: An undersea volcano started, and built up into a volcanic island. It was truncated, either by caldera-forming eruption or by sea erosion. [19]
  • About 760±20 BC: a large eruption with pyroclastic flows and lava destroyed a previous forested island [19]
  • 131±20BC and 31±20 BC: carbon-14 date of seashells found buried in lava at Motoyama (see map) [19]

Witnessed Edit

  • October 1543: The first recorded sighting by Europeans, by Spanish navigator Bernardo de la Torre when trying to return from Sarangani to New Spain. Iwo Jima was charted as Sufre, the old Spanish term for sulphur.
  • 15 November 1779: Captain James Cook's surveying crew landed on a beach which by 2015 was 40 m (131 ft) above sea level due to volcanic uplifting. [12] (By then Captain Cook had died and his expedition was led by James King and John Gore.) Such uplifting occurs on the island at a varying rate of between 100 and 800 mm (3.9 and 31.5 in) per year, with an average rate of 200 mm (8 in) per year. [20]
  • Early 1945: United States armed forces landed on a beach which by 2015 was 17 metres (56 ft) above sea level due to volcanic uplift. [21]
  • 28 March 1957: A phreatic eruption occurred without warning 2 km northeast of Suribachi, lasting 65 minutes and ejecting material 30 m (100 feet) high from one crater. Another crater, 30 m (100 feet) wide and 15 m (50 feet) deep, formed by collapse 50 minutes after the eruption ended.
  • 9–10 March 1982: Five phreatic eruptions occurred from vents on the northwest shore of the island. [citation needed]
  • 21 September 2001: A submarine eruption began from three vents southeast of Iwo-jima. It built a 10 m (33 feet) diameter pyroclastic cone. [22]
  • October 2001: A small phreatic eruption at Idogahama (a beach on the northwest coast of the island) made a crater 10 m (33 feet) wide and 2–3 m deep. [22]
  • May 2012: Fumaroles, and discolored patches of seawater were seen northeast of the island, indicating further submarine activity. [22]
  • May to June 2013: Series of smaller volcanic earthquakes. [23]
  • April 2018: A number of volcanic earthquakes, high white plumes up to 700 m. [24]
  • 30 October to 5 November 2019: Volcanic quakes and subaerial eruption. [25]
  • 29 April to 5 May 2020: Subaerial eruption and volcanic plume rising up to 1 km in height. [26]
  • 8 September to 6 October 2020: Volcanic plume up to 1 km in height and a minor eruption. [27][28]

Volcanological external links Edit

Climate Edit

Iwo Jima has a tropical climate (Af) with long hot summers and warm winters with mild nights.

Climate data for Iwo Jima
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 22
(71)
22
(71)
23
(73)
26
(78)
28
(82)
29
(85)
30
(86)
30
(86)
30
(86)
29
(84)
27
(80)
24
(75)
27
(80)
Average low °C (°F) 17
(63)
17
(63)
18
(65)
21
(69)
23
(74)
25
(77)
26
(78)
26
(78)
26
(78)
24
(76)
23
(73)
19
(67)
22
(72)
Average precipitation mm (inches) 7.6
(0.3)
7.6
(0.3)
46
(1.8)
110
(4.2)
110
(4.4)
99
(3.9)
180
(7.1)
170
(6.6)
110
(4.4)
170
(6.6)
120
(4.9)
110
(4.5)
1,380
(54.4)
[ citation needed ]

Pre-1945 Edit

The island was first visited by a westerner in October 1543, by Spanish sailor Bernardo de la Torre on board the carrack San Juan de Letrán when trying to return from Sarangani to New Spain. [29]

In the late 16th century, the island was discovered by the Japanese. [30]

Before World War II Iwo Jima was administered as Iōjima village and was (and is today) part of Tokyo. A census in June 1943 reported an island civilian population of 1,018 (533 males, 485 females) in 192 households in six settlements. The island had a primary school, a Shinto shrine, and one police officer it was serviced by a mail ship from Haha-jima once a month, and by Nippon Yusen ship once every two months. The island's economy relied upon sulfur mining, sugarcane farming, and fishing an isolated island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with poor economic prospects, Iwo Jima had to import all rice and consumer goods from the Home Islands. [ citation needed ]

Even before the beginning of World War II, there was a garrison of the Imperial Japanese Navy at the southern part of Iwo Jima. It was off-limits to the island's civilian population, who already had little contact with the naval personnel, except for trading.

Throughout 1944, Japan conducted a massive military buildup on Iwo Jima in anticipation of a U.S. invasion. In July 1944, the island's civilian population was forcibly evacuated, and no civilians have permanently settled on the island since.

Battle of Iwo Jima Edit

The American invasion of Iwo Jima began on February 19, 1945, and continued to March 26, 1945. The battle was a major initiative of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. The Marine invasion, known as "Operation Detachment", was charged with the mission of capturing the airfields on the island for use by P-51 fighters, and rescue of damaged heavy bombers that were not able to reach their main bases at Guam and Saipan until then Japanese warplanes from there had harried U.S. bombing missions to Tokyo.

The battle was marked by some of the fiercest fighting of the War. The Imperial Japanese Army positions on the island were heavily fortified, with vast bunkers, hidden artillery, and 18 kilometres (11 mi) of tunnels. [31] [32] The battle was the first U.S. attack on the Japanese Home Islands and the Imperial soldiers defended their positions tenaciously. Of the 21,000 Japanese soldiers present at the beginning of the battle, over 19,000 were killed and only 1,083 taken prisoner. [33]

One of the first objectives after landing on the beachhead was the taking of Mount Suribachi. At the second raising of a flag on the peak, Joe Rosenthal photographed five Marines and one Pharmacist Mate raising the United States flag on the fourth day of the battle (February 23).

The photograph was extremely popular, and won the Pulitzer Prize for Photography that same year. It is regarded as one of the most significant and recognizable images of the war. [1] [34]

After the fall of Mount Suribachi in the south, the Japanese still held a strong position throughout the island. General Tadamichi Kuribayashi still had the equivalent of eight infantry battalions, a tank regiment, two artillery, and three heavy mortar battalions, plus the 5,000 gunners and naval infantry. With the landing area secure, more troops and heavy equipment came ashore and the invasion proceeded north to capture the airfields and the remainder of the island. Most Japanese soldiers fought to the death. On the night of March 25, a 300-man Japanese force launched a final counterattack led by Kuribayashi. The island was officially declared "secured" the following morning.

According to the U.S. Navy, "The 36-day (Iwo Jima) assault resulted in more than 26,000 American casualties, including 6,800 dead." [35] Comparatively, the 82-day Battle of Okinawa lasted from early April until mid-June 1945 and U.S. (five Army, two Marine Corps Divisions and Navy personnel on ships) casualties were over 62,000 of whom over 12,000 were killed or missing, while the Battle of the Bulge lasted 40 days (16 December 1944 – 25 January 1945) with almost 90,000 U.S. casualties comprising 19,000 killed, 47,500 wounded and 23,000 captured or missing.

After Iwo Jima was declared secured, about 3,000 Japanese soldiers were left alive in the island's warren of caves and tunnels. Those who could not bring themselves to commit suicide hid in the caves during the day and came out at night to prowl for provisions. Some did eventually surrender and were surprised that the Americans often received them with compassion – offering them water, cigarettes, or coffee. [36] The last of these stragglers, two of Lieutenant Toshihiko Ohno's men (Ohno's body was never found), Yamakage Kufuku and Matsudo Linsoki, lasted three and a half years, surrendering on January 6, 1949. [37] [38]

The U.S. military occupied Iwo Jima until June 26, 1968, when it was returned to Japan. [39]

Reunion of Honor Edit

On February 19, 1985, the 40th anniversary of the day that U.S. forces began the assault on the island, veterans from both forces gathered for the Reunion of Honor just a few meters/yards away from the spot where U.S. Marines had landed on the island. [40] During the memorial service a granite plaque was unveiled with the message:

On the 40th anniversary of the battle of Iwo Jima, American and Japanese veterans met again on these same sands, this time in peace and friendship. We commemorate our comrades, living and dead, who fought here with bravery and honor, and we pray together that our sacrifices on Iwo Jima will always be remembered and never be repeated.

It is inscribed on both sides of the plaque, with the English translation facing the beaches where U.S. forces landed and the Japanese translation facing inland, where Japanese troops defended their position.

After that, the Japan–U.S. combination memorial service of the 50th anniversary was held in front of this monument in March 1995. The 55th anniversary was held in 2000, followed by a 60th reunion in March 2005 (see U.S. National Park Service photo below), and a 70th anniversary ceremony on March 21, 2015. [41]

A memorial service held on the island in 2007 got particular attention because it coincided with the release of the movie Letters from Iwo Jima. The joint U.S.–Japanese ceremony was attended by Yoshitaka Shindo, a Japanese lawmaker who is the grandson of the Japanese commander during the battle, Lt. Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi, and Yasunori Nishi, the son of Colonel Baron Takeichi Nishi, the Olympic gold medalist equestrian who died commanding a tank unit on the island. [42]

Active Marines have also visited the island on occasion for Professional Military Education (PME). [43] .


Battle of Iwo Jima Map 2: American Landing Zones - History

By John Walker

No foreign army in the 5,000-year history of Japan had ever successfully conquered Japanese territory. In late 1944, American war planners were about to challenge that statistic on the tiny Pacific island of Iwo Jima. Coveted by both sides for its strategic airfields, the eight-square-mile chunk of volcanic ash, stone, and sand was inarguably Japanese soil, only 650 miles from Tokyo. Moreover, the island served as a vital early warning station against American bombing missions against the home islands.

Beginning in the summer of 1944, new, long-range American Boeing B-29 Superfortresses based on the Mariana Islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Guam had pounded the Japanese homeland. Iwo Jima lay midway between Japan and the Marianas, and the American Air Force hoped to use the tiny island as a forward base for fighter aircraft that could accompany the big B-29s on their long bombing runs of the Japanese mainland. In addition, the U.S. Navy wanted to use the island as a staging area for the inexorable Allied advance on Japan.

Kuribayashi’s Defense

Fully expecting an imminent invasion, Japanese imperial headquarters ordered Iwo Jima’s commander, Lt. Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi, to delay the Americans as long as possible, inflict as many casualties as he could to erode their will, and buy precious time for the home islands to prepare for the looming invasion. A shrewd and experienced strategist who had learned from the earlier island campaigns in the Pacific, Kuribayashi abandoned the failed defensive tactics employed by his predecessors in the Gilbert, Marshall, and Mariana Islands. His forces would eschew suicidal banzai charges and not attempt to destroy the invaders at the water’s edge. Instead, they would defend the island in depth from expertly camouflaged positions with mutually supporting and interlocking fields of fire, thereby making the best use of Iwo Jima’s harsh terrain and the Japanese troops’ fighting skills. After constructing 11 miles of fortified tunnels that connected 1,500 rooms, artillery emplacements, bunkers, ammunition dumps, and pillboxes, the 21,000 Japanese defenders could fight almost entirely from underground. Colonel Baron Takeichi Nishi’s tanks would be used as camouflaged artillery positions.

Because the tunnel linking it to Iwo Jima’s northern sector was never completed, Kuribayashi organized the southern area’s defense around Mount Suribachi as a semi-independent sector while the main defensive zone was built in the north. Hundreds of hidden artillery and mortar positions meant that every part of the island was subject to Japanese fire. Kuribayashi also received a handful of kamikaze pilots and planes to use against the enemy fleet. Surrender was forbidden by imperial decree the defenders and their commander fully expected to die on the island. Each Japanese soldier was urged to kill 10 Americans before he himself was killed.

Planning the Assault on “Sulfur Island”

On October 3, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) ordered Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander in Chief Pacific Fleet, to prepare for the seizure of Iwo Jima early the next year. The amphibious assault upon Iwo Ima, which means “sulfur island” in Japanese, would involve a strike force that was more experienced, better armed, and more strongly supported that any offensive campaign yet mounted in the Pacific War. Vice Admiral Raymond Spruance’s Fifth Fleet enjoyed total domination of air and sea around the island, and the 74,000-man landing force would hold a 3-to-1 numerical superiority over the defenders. Seizing Iwo Jima would be difficult, American planners agreed, but Operation Detachment should take a week, possibly less. Indeed, the three Marine divisions that would take part in the landing were tentatively penciled in for an expected invasion of Okinawa just 30 days after the invasion of Iwo Jima.

Marines leave their foxholes to attack one of the island’s two vital airfields.

The JCS orders contained a contingency clause: Nimitz must continue to provide covering and support forces for General Douglas MacArthur’s ongoing liberation of Luzon. After the Japanese defense of the Philippines proved tougher than anticipated, the Iwo Jima attack was delayed a month, a grace period that Kuribayashi put to maximum advantage. He requested and received additional assistance from several of Japan’s best fortifications engineers, men with combat experience in China and Manchuria. Iwo Jima’s soft rock lent itself to swift digging, and Japanese artillery pieces and command centers were moved even farther underground. The elaborately constructed labyrinth of tunnels was also extended. Some underground positions now boasted five levels. Mount Suribachi, dominating the island at an elevation of 556 feet, eventually contained a seven-story interior structure. Kuribayashi had plenty of weapons, ammunition, radios, fuel, and rations—everything but fresh water, always at a premium on the sulfuric rock. American intelligence wrongly concluded that the island could support no more than 13,000 defenders because of the acute water shortage. As the invading Marines would soon discover, Kuribayashi commanded many more men than that.

“We’ll Catch Seven Kinds of Hell on the Beaches”

Spruance chose veterans of earlier amphibious operations for the seizure of Iwo Jima. Vice Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner commanded Task Force 51, the joint expeditionary force, which included nearly 500 ships, while Rear Admiral Harry Hill commanded Task Force 53, the attack force. Marine Maj. Gen. Harry Schmidt commanded the V Amphibious Corps (VAC), comprised primarily of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Marine Divisions. Spruance and Turner also asked Marine Lt. Gen. Holland M. “Howlin’ Mad” Smith to come along as commander of the ground forces. A pioneer of amphibious assaults, the prickly, 62-year-old Smith agreed, but not before loudly protesting the inadequate support arrangements. To soften up Iwo Jima’s defenses, beginning on December 8, B-29 Superfortresses, B-24 Liberator bombers, and naval vessels would begin pounding the island. After 70 days, it was estimated that 6,400 tons of bombs and 22,000 shells would have been dropped on the island.

Smith, convinced that even the most impressive aerial bombardment would not be sufficient, requested 10 additional days of naval bombardment before the Marines stormed the beaches. To his surprise and anger, the Navy rejected his request “due to limitations on the availability of ships, difficulties of ammunition replacement, and the loss of surprise.” Instead, he was told, the Navy would provide a three-day preliminary barrage. “We’ll catch seven kinds of hell on the beaches, and that will be just the beginning,” Smith warned. “The fighting will be fierce, and the casualties will be awful, but my Marines will take the damned island.” Nimitz held firm—he had no more ships to send. Like the good Marine he was, Smith saluted and set out to accomplish the task.

Dozens of U.S. landing craft head for the beaches at Iwo Jima. Mount Suribachi looms in the background.

When the preliminary bombardment of Iwo Jima began on February 16, 1945, Smith was further dismayed when he found that it did not even reach the agreed-upon level. Visibility limitations due to bad weather led to only half-day bombardments on the first and third days. Spruance told Smith that he regretted the Navy’s inability to support the Marines to the fullest but that the Leathernecks should “be able to get away with it.” Smith, who remembered the hundreds of Marine bodies floating in the lagoon at Tarawa in November 1943, was not so sure. Those earlier casualties, he believed, were the direct result of the Navy’s failure to neutralize Tarawa’s defenses. The issue at Iwo Jima, however, was not volume, but accuracy. Kuribayashi’s well-built, artfully camouflaged gun positions were scarcely affected by the naval bombardment, whatever the size or scope. Of the 915 estimated Japanese fortifications, fewer than 200 had been silenced by the preliminary fusillade—and that did not include hundreds of smaller but equally deadly strongpoints held by small groups of defenders.

“Too Late to Worry”

With a broad rocky plateau in the north and the extinct volcano of Mount Suribachi at the southern tip of the pork chop-shaped island, the only place a full-scale invasion could be mounted was on the black cinder beaches along the southeast coast. From there it was only a short distance to Airfield No. 1, but the open beaches would be vulnerable to intense fire from higher ground to the north and south. Schmidt opted to land with two divisions abreast, the 4th Division on the right and the 5th Division on the left, opposite Mount Suribachi. The 3rd Division was held as a floating reserve.

When American underwater demolition teams approached the landing beaches in lightly armed LCIs (landing craft, infantry) in a daring daylight reconnaissance on February 17, the defenders hiding in prepared positions along the slopes of Mount Suribachi were unable to resist opening fire. The frogmen and landing craft suffered serious losses but accomplished their mission, finding no mines or underwater obstacles offshore. As a bonus, many of the Japanese gun positions on Mount Suribachi now were revealed to Navy spotters.

At 6:40 am on D-day, February 19, the 450 ships that ringed Iwo Jima began a stunning close-range bombardment, blasting shells ranging from five to 16 inches in diameter. The beaches seemed literally to be torn apart. Shortly afterward, rocket-firing gunboats attacked the Motoyama plateau, while others lobbed shells at Mount Suribachi. Then, as the firing was temporarily checked and the various ships moved into their final positions, carrier aircraft and heavy bombers from the Marianas showered the area surrounding the beaches with rockets, bombs, and napalm. Ten minutes later, the naval shelling recommenced, joined by 10 destroyers and 50 gunboats that steamed as close inshore as possible in an effort to screen the approaching invasion armada.

Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal’s famous snapshot of the flag-raising on Mount Suribachi.

As the naval bombardment, a creeping barrage, reached its crescendo, the landing ships lowered their ramps and the first of five assault waves emerged, 5,500 yards from shore. One LCI carried the ominous message in foot-high letters on its ramp: “Too Late to Worry.” Each wave consisted of 69 armored LVT (landing vehicle, tracked) amtracs, or amphibious tractors, which could carry 20 troopers each and scramble over coral reefs if necessary, firing their snub-nosed 75mm howitzers from the moment they crossed the line of departure.

The Marines Hit the Beaches

The first wave, the 4th Marine Division on the right and the 5th on the left, moved virtually unmolested toward the shore. At 8:59 am, after 30 minutes of steaming, the first amtracs hit the beach. With no coral barrier reef or killer neap tide to worry about—as at Tarawa—some 8,000 troops stormed ashore on their designated beaches right at H-hour. Light enemy fire gave some of the Marines fleeting hopes of a cakewalk, but they soon found themselves battling two unexpected physical obstacles—black volcanic ash, into which men sank up to a foot or more, and a steep terrace 15 feet high in some places, which only a few amtracs managed to climb.

A volcanic island, all of Iwo Jima’s beaches were extremely steep with deep water so close to shore, the surf zone was narrow but violent. The soft, black sand immobilized almost all the armored mortar and rocket-firing vehicles that accompanied the Marines as they came ashore and bellied up some of the amtracs. In short order, a succession of towering waves hit the stalled vehicles before they could completely unload, filling their sterns with water and sand and broaching them broadside. The beach soon resembled a salvage yard. Once the beaches were choked with landing craft and the steep terraces clogged with infantry, Kuribayashi fired signal flares, after which the defenders opened up with heavy ordnance—hidden mortars and artillery batteries—in a rolling barrage of their own.

Undeterred, fresh waves of Marines arrived every five minutes. Despite the usual confusion, the first combat patrols pushed 150 yards inland, then 300. Enemy troops opened up, firing from rabbit holes, bunkers, and pillboxes, but slowly and desperately the Marines continued to push forward in small groups rather than as a united force. Each Japanese bunker and rabbit hole meant a fight to the death, with each enemy position supported by many others. The defenders would disappear down one hole and pop up at another, often behind rather than in front of the advancing Marines. The invaders struggled on, pouring bullets and grenades into enemy positions. Navy fire-support ships moved in closer, taking out some of the nearest Japanese firing positions with deadly accuracy. Facing 4th Division’s lines were 10 reinforced concrete blockhouses, seven covered artillery positions, and 80 pillboxes. Hidden land mines also took a heavy toll on the advancing Marines.

Among those killed in the first day of fighting was the most famous NCO of the Pacific War—Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone. After being awarded the Medal of Honor for his remarkable service during the Battle of Guadalcanal, “Manila John” Basilone had been sent on a highly publicized war bond drive back in the States. Despite being newly married, Basilone requested that he be allowed to return to active duty with the 1st Battalion, 27th Marines. He was killed by machine-gun fire on Red Beach 1 and posthumously awarded a Navy Cross.

Beach masters landed early to establish order, and engineers blew up wrecked boats and LVTs to clear lanes for subsequent waves of attackers. Enterprising troops organized some of the LVTs to haul heavy equipment off the beach, allowing M4 Sherman tanks to hustle ashore. Communications remained good, and offloading continued despite the slaughter and destruction. By mid-afternoon the reserve battalions of four regimental combat teams and two tank battalions had been committed to the battle to relieve the pressure on the landing units, and by nightfall 30,000 combat troops had landed. Each team brought ashore an artillery battalion, the cannoneers suffering heavy casualties moving their 75mmm and 105mm howitzers across the soft beaches under fire. By dusk, both division commanders could report that their organic artillery was in place and delivering close fire support.

“A Nightmare in Hell”

Two miles offshore aboard the command vessel Eldorado, Turner and Schmidt were cautiously optimistic on the night of D-day. Even with 2,400 casualties, the landing force was proportionally better off than had been the case at the end of the first days on Tarawa or Saipan. Both officers expected a major banzai attack that night, but Kuribayashi refused to allow any of his subordinates to make vainglorious, suicidal charges. Some small-scale banzai attacks occurred later in the battle, but for the most part the Marines never faced large-scale frontal assaults. Each night, however, small parties of Japanese soldiers, called “wolf packs,” conducted intelligence probes, seeking gaps between units, and quietly exacted a toll on Marine outposts. By day, the defenders hunkered down and waited for the Marines to enter their preregistered killing zones, and the enforced discipline made the battle both prolonged and costly.

TimeLife correspondent Robert Sherrod described the first night on Iwo Jima as “a nightmare in hell.” Illumination shells fired from the destroyers created a surrealistic effect on the battlefield, inadvertently offering the Japanese defenders more light to fire at the Marines. Medical personnel, taxed to their limit, were not immune to enemy fire. In one sector two doctors and 16 corpsmen were killed another medical detachment lost 11 of its 26 men. At the end of the day, some 2,312 Americans had fallen in the first 18 hours of battle. Back at the White House in Washington, President Franklin D. Roosevelt visibly shuddered when he received the first reports from Iwo Jima.

Amtracs and other craft were crippled by Japanese shellfire and the violent surf. More LVTs unload in the background.

On the second morning, after a 50-minute naval barrage, the Marines moved out again. If anything, progress was slower than the first day. On the far left flank, Colonel Harry Liversedge’s 28th Regiment made repeated attacks against the approaches to Mount Suribachi backed by artillery, half-tracks, and tank destroyers but managed to advance only 200 yards the entire day. To the north, the 4th Division reached its objective of Airfield No. 1, then swung right to face the rising ground that constituted Kuribayashi’s first major line of defense. There, too, early progress soon petered out. Lt. Col. Chandler Johnson of the 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines fired off a message to division headquarters: “Enemy defenses much greater than expected. There was a pillbox every ten feet. Support given was fine but did not destroy many pillboxes or caves. Groups had to take them step by step suffering severe casualties.”

General Kuribayashi sent his own message to the defenders of Mount Suribachi. “First, one must defend Iwo Jima to the bitter end,” he directed. “Second, one must blast enemy weapons and men. Third, one must kill every single enemy soldier with rifle and sword attacks. Fourth, one must discharge each bullet to its mark. Fifth, one must, even if he be the last man, continue to harass the enemy with guerrilla tactics.” That was the sort of resistance the Marines faced all across the island. It was also the last message the general sent to Suribachi. Marine engineers uncovered and severed a thick cable, isolating the mountain fortress from further contact with headquarters.

The Flag Over Mount Suribachi

On D + 3, lines remained virtually static, but the 28th Regiment, again assisted by naval and aerial bombardment, penetrated almost to the foot of Mount Suribachi. Recognizing that the mountain would be cut off early on, Kuribayashi had allocated only 1,860 men to its defense, but to its natural advantages had been added several hundred blockhouses, pillboxes, and covered guns around the base with an intricate system of caves along the slopes. As always, each position had to be taken separately using a variety of weapons: mortars, rockets, and dynamite. M4 Shermans equipped with Mark-1 flamethrowers were particularly useful for penetrating buried bunkers and cave fortresses. The Marines also flooded caves with gasoline and seawater. Meanwhile, Japanese kamikaze planes attacked fleet carrier USS Saratoga and escort carrier USS Bismarck Sea. Saratoga sustained six strikes but remained afloat. Bismarck Sea had to be abandoned to a raging fire and explosions. Some 200 sailors lost their lives.

Its defenses fatally weakened by the continued attacks, Mount Suribachi fell to elements of the 28th Marines on the morning of D + 4. An advance unit led by 1st Lt. Harold Schrier climbed to the top of the mountain and planted an American flag at 10:20 am on February 23. Sergeant Louis Lowery of Leatherneck Magazine snapped a quick photograph, but his picture was soon overshadowed by the classic photo taken a few hours later by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal of a second (larger) flag raising. Marines greeted the mountain’s capture with tumultuous cheers, bell ringing, whistles, and foghorns.

This Japanese war painting shows defenders taking cover behind wrecked U.S. equipment while firing on advancing Marines.

The larger battle, however, still had a bloody month to run. The troops in their attack positions down below cheered when they saw the Stars and Stripes, then continued their swing to the north. Schmidt ordered the 3rd Marine Division ashore and into place in the center of the line. He had come ashore himself to take direct control of what was the largest group of Marines yet to fight under a single command. Only 2,630 yards of enemy-held island were left, but it was obvious that every inch would be paid for dearly. With almost a year to prepare, the plateau region had been turned into an armed camp. Rockets, artillery, and mortars, including the enormous 320mm spigot mortar that lobbed 700-pound shells, bigger than anything the Marines had ever seen, were in good supply. Blockhouses, caves, and pillboxes were numerous, elaborate, and well fortified, and the defenders were well trained and seemingly in good spirits. They were prepared to hold their positions to the death, infiltrate Marine lines, or throw themselves under tanks with explosives strapped to their backs. Admiral Turner later called Iwo Jima “as well defended as any fixed position that exists in the world today.”

Clearing Out the Japanese Hand-to-Hand

The fight for the northern half of the embattled island was a toe-to-toe slugging match, with the Americans possessing the advantage of superior firepower and the Japanese using their prepared positions and excellent concealment to their advantage. “Howlin’ Mad” Smith came ashore several times to see for himself just how ugly the fighting was. He would later state emphatically, “It was the most savage and the most costly battle in the history of the Marine Corps.” An artillery officer from the 4th Marine Division lamented, “We still didn’t have an effective method of either destroying or neutralizing the defenders in a very restricted area, so it fell to the green line to get in there and dig them out in hand-to-hand combat. There must be a better way.”

The battle for the second airfield, sited almost dead center on the island, typified the deadly fighting. There the Japanese had constructed hundreds of pillboxes, rabbit holes, and concealed emplacements that defied the concentrated firepower of the attackers. On February 24, two battalions of the 21st Marine Regiment rushed forward to take the enemy lines with bayonets and grenades—the terrain was too difficult to deploy tanks. The Japanese defenders opened fire from their concealed positions then rushed into the open to engage the attackers with bayonets of their own. Casualties soared on both sides, and the Marines, at first thrown back by the fierce counterattack, reformed and charged again.

By nightfall of the next day, they had captured the airfield and were pressing toward Minami village, with only the prospect of another bitter struggle ahead. To their right lay the formidable Hill 382, a position that became so difficult to secure that the Marines referred to it ominously as the Meat Grinder. The fighting in the days following was more of the same. The Americans had to take the higher, central part of the enemy’s lines first, and whenever the 4th or 5th Division’s units pushed ahead on their respective flanks, they were heavily punished by the Japanese who overlooked them. The problem was that the central sector’s terrain made it difficult to deploy armor or artillery or to direct naval support fire with any accuracy. The slow, difficult, and deadly task of clearing the area fell to the Marine infantry units.

A Marine grimly inspects dead Japanese soldiers, their uniforms burned off when they were blasted out of a pillbox at Iwo Jima.

Over Ten Days of Fighting

By the 10th day of the fighting, the 3rd Division’s supporting fire had been substantially increased, and forward battalions found a weak spot in the Japanese lines and poured through it. By evening Minami village, now a heap of stones and rubble, was secured and the Marines could gaze down upon the island’s third airfield. Once again, though, fierce Japanese resistance slowed the Marines’ momentum as they approached Kuribayashi’s second line of defense, and there remained many areas to secure. Its suicidal defenders fiercely held Hill 382 for two more days, and Hill 362 in the west was equally difficult.

The whole operation was taking much longer than the 10 days General Schmidt had estimated it would take, and the Marines were tired and depleted some units were down to 30 percent of their original strength. On Sunday, March 5, the three divisions regrouped and rested as best they could in the face of Japanese shelling and occasional infiltration. On that day, too, the Marines watched as a B-29 with a faulty fuel valve returning to Tinian after a raid on Tokyo made an emergency landing on Airfield No. 1.

For the Japanese, the situation was growing increasingly grim. Most of Kuribayashi’s tanks and guns and over two-thirds of his officers had been lost, and his soldiers had been reduced to strapping explosives to their backs and throwing themselves under American tanks. The Marines continued moving forward relentlessly, however, forcing a gradual breakdown in Kuribayashi’s communications system. Left to their own devices, individual Japanese officers tended to revert to the offensive, exposing the much diminished Japanese ground forces to the weight of American firepower. One attack by 1,000 naval troops on the night of March 8-9 was easily repulsed by units of the 4th Marine Division, with Japanese losses of over 800 men.

Like “Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg”

On the afternoon of March 9, a patrol from the 3rd Marine Division reached the northeastern coast of Iwo Jima and sent back a sample of salt water to prove that the enemy’s line had been cut in two. There was no stopping the American advance now, but there was no sign of Japanese surrender either. The only indication of their grave situation was an increasing number of small banzai charges. Kuribayashi’s reports described the deteriorating situation. On March 10, he wrote, “Bombardment so fierce I cannot express nor write of it here.” The next day, he reported, “Surviving strength of northern districts (army and navy) is 1,500 men.” Then, on March 15, he wrote: “Situation very serious. Present strength of northern district about 900 men.”

On March 14 the Americans, believing all organized resistance to be at an end, declared Iwo Jima occupied and raised the Stars and Stripes. Yet, underground in their warren of caves and tunnels the Japanese lived on. Kuribayashi told survivors on March 17: “Battle situation come to the last moment. I want surviving officers and men to go out and attack enemy until the last. You have devoted yourself to the Emperor. Do not think of yourselves. I am always at the head of you all.”

The same day as Kuribayashi’s defiant last message, Admiral Nimitz declared Iwo Jima “officially secured.” Marine divisions had effective control of the entire island, but it had come at a terrible price: 24,127 casualties, of whom 4,189 were dead and 19,938 wounded in less than 27 days of combat. “Among the Americans who served on Iwo island,” Nimitz said, “uncommon valor was a common virtue.” Howlin’ Mad Smith left that same day, flying out on Nimitz’s personal four-engine Douglas transport. At a press conference at Pearl Harbor, the Marine general told a standing-room-only crowd of reporters, “We showed the Japanese at Iwo Jima that we can take any damn thing they’ve got. Watching the Marines cross the island reminded me of Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg.”

Clearing out pockets of organized resistance with tanks, demolition teams, rifle fire, and flamethrowers took until March 26, the day that Schmidt announced that the operation was over, a full 34 days after the landing. Just a few hours earlier, a well-armed force of 350 Japanese had infiltrated Marine lines and fallen upon a rear encampment of support troops, inflicting 200 casualties in the confusion of darkness before being overwhelmed and snuffed out. First Lieutenant Harry Martin of the 5th Pioneers, who led the defense, was killed overrunning a Japanese machine-gun position. He was later awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor—one of 27 awarded for Iwo Jima, the most of any single battle in Marine Corps history. It was rumored that Kuribayashi himself had led the final murderous attack, but his body was never found.

Schmidt turned the island over to troops of the U.S. Army’s 147th Infantry and began re-embarkation of his own men. Japanese stragglers continued to be captured long after the battle was over. Of the defenders, only 1,083 survived the fighting.

Success at a High Cost

News of the savagery and casualties of Iwo Jima stunned the American public. The Hearst newspaper chain demanded that Nimitz and Spruance be replaced by MacArthur, “a general who looks after his troops.” But there was hardly time for recrimination the invasion of Okinawa began just four days after Iwo Jima fell. That campaign would prove equally bloody and savage. Ahead, presumably, lay the invasion of the Japanese home islands themselves.

Seizing Iwo Jima achieved all the strategic goals put forth by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. American B-29s could henceforth fly with less reserve fuel and a greater bomb payload, knowing that Iwo Jima would be available as an emergency field. Island-based fighters escorted the Superfortresses to and from bombing runs on Honshu. For the first time, all the Japanese islands were within bomber range, including Hokkaido. Was it worth the staggering cost in human lives? The 2,400 Air Force pilots who landed on Iwo Jima between its capture and
V-J Day had no doubts. Said one, “Whenever I land on this island, I thank God and the men who fought for it.”


World War II Database


ww2dbase Iwo Jima is a small speck in the Pacific it is 4.5 miles long and at its broadest point 2.5 miles wide. Iwo is the Japanese word for sulfur, and the island is indeed full of sulfur. Yellow sulfuric mist routinely rises from cracks of earth, and the island distinctly smells like rotten eggs.

ww2dbase Since winning Saipan in the previous year, American bomber commander Curtis LeMay had been planning raids on the Japanese home islands from there, and the first of such bombings took place in Nov 1944. The bombers, however, were threatened by Iwo Jima in two ways. First, the Zero fighters based on Iwo Jima physically threatened the bombers secondly, Iwo Jima also acted as an early warning station for Japan, giving Tokyo two hours of warning before the American bombers reached their targets. Moreover, the Japanese could (and did) launch aerial operations against Saipan from Iwo Jima. Finally, the United States could gain an additional airfield for future operations against Japan if Iwo Jima could be captured. In the Philippines, the operation on the island of Leyte was pushed up by eight weeks due to lack of significant resistance, which opened up a window for an additional operation. Thus, Operation Detachment against Iwo Jima was decided.

ww2dbase The defenders under the command of Tadamichi Kuribayashi were ready. 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. Within Mount Suribachi and underneath the rocks, 750 major defense installations were built to shelter guns, blockhouses, and hospitals. Some of them had steel doors to protect the artillery pieces within, and nearly all them were connected by a total of 13,000 yards of tunnels. On Mount Suribachi alone there were 1,000 cave entrances and pill boxes. Within them, 21,000 men awaited. Rear Admiral Toshinosuke Ichimaru, commander of the Special Naval Landing Forces on Iwo Jima wrote the following poem as he arrived at his underground bunker:

Let me fall like a flower petal
May enemy bombs be directed at me, and enemy shells
Mark me their target.

ww2dbase Many years later, author James Bradley, son of one of the famous flag raisers (more on the flag raising later), visited the island. He noted that the tunnels were extremely sophisticated. Some of the walls were plastered, many of the rooms were well-ventilated, and in the hospital ward beds were meticulously carved out of the rock walls to efficiently make use of the space.

ww2dbase The Americans knew the Japanese were expecting them, but when the field officers saw the intelligence reports, they were astonished by how many guns were present on the island. Black dots representing coastal defense guns, fox holes, artillery emplacements, anti-tank guns, blockhouses, pillboxes, and all sorts of defenses covered the whole island. The American intelligence only detected the presence of 12,000 Japanese, and even at that grossly underestimated quantity, it was already going to be a most difficult landing. Captain Dave Severance of the United States Marine Corps commented that looking at the intelligence map "scared the hell out of [him]." To soften up the defenses, beginning on 8 Dec 1944, B-29 Superfortress and B-24 Liberator bombers began pounding the island. For 70 days, the US 7th Air Force dropped 5,800 tons of bombs on the little island in 2,700 sorties. Holland Smith, the Marines general in charge of the landing operation, knew that even the most impressive aerial bombings would not be enough, and requested 10 days of naval bombardment before his Marines struck the beaches. To his surprise and anger, the Navy rejected the request. "[D]ue to limitations on the availability of ships, difficulties of ammunition replacement, and the loss of surprise", the Navy said, made a prolonged bombardment impossible. Instead, the Navy would only provide a three-day bombardment. When the bombardment began on 16 Feb, Smith realized it was not even a full three-day bombardment. Visibility limitations due to weather led to only half-day bombardments on the first and third days. Vice Admiral Raymond Spruance told Smith that he regretted the Navy's inability to suit the Marines to the fullest, but the Marines should be able to "get away with it."

ww2dbase At 0200 on the morning of 19 Feb, battleship guns signaled the commencement of D-Day, followed by a bombing of 100 bombers, which was followed by another volley from the naval guns. Marine private Jim Buchanan of Portland, Oregon leaned against the railing of his ship as he watched the impressive explosions. "Do you think there will be any Japanese left for us?" He asked his buddy next to him. Little did he know, while the 70 days of aerial bombardment, 3 days of naval bombardment, and the hours of pre-invasion bombardment turned every inch of dirt upside down on this little island, the defenders were not on this island. They were in it. The massive display of fireworks merely made a small dent in the defenders' numbers.

ww2dbase The naval bombardment stopped at 0857, and at 0902, the first of an eventual 30,000 marines of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Marine Divisions, under V Amphibious Corps, departed in their landing craft. They arrived at the beach 3 minutes later. It was uneventful. They were sure that optimists like Jim Buchanan must be right, there were no Japanese left to fight the only casualties that occurred were to drownings caused by a powerful undertow. Several more waves of landing crafts hit the beach and dropped off their men, tanks, and supplies continuously in the next hour, and it was about then when the thunders of the Japanese guns hit. Under Kuribayashi's specific instructions, they waited an hour for the beach to crowd up before the guns sounded so that every shot fired would inflict maximum damage on the Americans. "Smoke and earsplitting noise suddenly filled the universe," and the Marines had nowhere to hide as the volcanic sand was too soft to dig a proper foxhole. All they could do was move forward some of those who could not move forward were crushed by tanks that were trying to get off of the beach like the men. Navy Corpsman Roy Steinfort recalled that as he arrived on the beach, he was initially happy to see that countless Marines lay prone defending the beachhead. It did not take long to realize that the men were not in prone positions they were all dead. Frantic radio calls reported back to the operations HQ: "All units pinned down by artillery and mortars", "casualties heavy", "taking heavy fire and forward movement stopped", and "artillery fire the heaviest ever seen". By sun down, the Americans had already incurred 2,420 casualties.

ww2dbase On the first night, the weather was as tough an enemy as the Japanese. Four-foot waves pounded the beach while the American Marines withstood the continuing Japanese artillery shelling.

ww2dbase The 30,000 who survived the initial landing faced heavy fire from Mount Suribachi at the southern tip of the island, and fought over inhospitable terrain as they moved forward the rough volcanic ash which allowed neither secure footing or the digging of a foxhole. The Marines advanced yards at a time, fighting the most violent battles they have yet experienced. "There seemed to be no clean wounds just fragments of corpses", said William Manchester. Often the only way to tell between an American and Japanese body was to look at the bodies' legs: the Japanese leggings were made of khaki and the Americans canvas. Yard by yard, the American Marines advanced toward the base of Mount Suribachi. Gunfire was ineffective against the Japanese who were well dug-in, but flame throwers and grenades cleared the bunkers. Some of the Americans charged too fast without their knowing. Thinking that enemy strong points had been overtaken, they moved forward, only to find that the Japanese would reoccupy the same pillboxes and machine gun nests from underground exits and fire from them from behind. Reporter Robert Sherrod noted that the advance had been nothing less than "a nightmare in hell. [The Marines] died with the greatest possible violence. Nowhere in the Pacific have I seen such badly mangled bodies. Many were cut squarely in half. Legs and arms lay fifty feet away from any body."

ww2dbase Chaplain Gage Hotaling, charged with burials, recalled "[w]e buried fifty at a time in bulldozed plots. We didn't know if they were Jewish, Catholic or whatever, so we said a general committal: 'We commit you into the earth and the mercy of Almighty God.' I buried eighteen hundred boys."

ww2dbase Amidst the battle, Pharmacist's Mate Second Class John Bradley, James' father, a Navy Corpsman attached to the Marines, ran back and forth to do what he could to save the wounded. On the second day of the battle, he ran across a field of machine gun and artillery fire to a Marine losing blood at a dangerous rate. Putting himself between the Marine and the Japanese, Bradley administered first aid, then pulled the Marine back to safety by himself. For this, he was later awarded a Navy Cross, but he never told his family about the honor. The death he had seen was too much for him to bear.

ww2dbase To the Marines' relief, tanks finally arrived on the second day of the invasion. Shielded by the thick armor, the American troops could finally advance under cover as they moved to the base of the mountain.

ww2dbase Day three of the invasion was as tough at Mount Suribachi as the previous day, but for some of the Marines, the day began worse than they could have imagined. Navy carrier-based attack aircraft were launched to strike at Japanese positions, but the bombs fell near American positions. Captain Severance attempted to use a frequency reserved for the top brass to warn the Navy of the friendly fire, and to his surprise he was told to get off the frequency. Fortunately, a field colonel overheard the distress call and ordered the bombing to cease before any Americans were hurt by their own bombs.

ww2dbase Finally, on 23 Feb, the summit was within reach, but the Americans did not know it yet. A 41-man patrol was sent up, Colonel Chandler Johnson gave the lieutenant leading the patrol a flag. "If you get to the top," he said, "put it up." "If" was the word he used. Step by step, the patrol slowly and carefully climbed the mountain, each of them later recalled that they were convinced it was going to be their last, but they made it. Little did they know, they were watched by every pair of eyes on the southern half of the island, and a few of the ships, too. When they reached the top, Lieutenant Schrier, Platoon Sergeant Ernest Thomas, Sergeant Hansen, Corporal Lindberg, and Louis Charlo put up the flag. Much to their surprises, the island roared in cheers. Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, observing from a naval vessel, excitedly claimed that the "raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next five hundred years." Equally ecstatic, General Holland Smith agreed with Forrestal that the flag was to be the Navy secretary's souvenir. Colonel Chandler Johnson could not believe Forrestal's unreasonable demand from the hard-fighting Marines who rightfully deserved that flag instead, and decided to secure that flag as quickly as possible. He ordered another patrol to go up to the mountain to retrieve that flag before Forrestal could get his hands on it. "And make it a bigger one", Johnson said.

ww2dbase And so, the second flag went up, and as it turned out, the flag was recovered from a sinking ship at Pearl Harbor. The men tasked to bring the flag to the top of Suribachi did not think much of the mission it was, after all, just a replacement flag. But they did not know that some distance after them was photographer Joe Rosenthal, who was at the place at the right time to take the famous "Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima" photograph. The photograph was the driving force for a record-breaking bond drive in the United States some time later, and it would also bring Rosenthal a Pulitzer Prize.

ww2dbase First Lieutenant Barber Conable of the United States Marines, who would later become the president of the World Bank, woke up in disbelief when he saw the second flag flying above Mount Suribachi. He recalled:

"It was my first time in battle and we were all terrified. Someone jumped into my foxhole and swore: 'it wasn't like this on Bougainville.' The officer I admire the most, the man in the next foxhole, a sergeant I knew -- they were all killed. My hearing is impaired to this day. A major came over looking for a site for a cemetery and was shot by a sniper. I was lucky. When she heard about (the flag raising), Tokyo Rose said the flag on the mountain would be thrown into the sea. I hadn't had any sleep for more than sixty hours, so I didn't see them raise it, and it was wonderful to wake up to. I must say I got a little weepy when I saw it."

ww2dbase 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 the 21,000 defenders, only 1,000 were taken prisoner.

ww2dbase 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.

ww2dbase The island of Iwo Jima was declared conquered by Chester Nimitz on 14 Mar 1945, noting that "all powers of government of the Japanese Empire in these islands are hereby suspended." However, he made the declaration too early, for that fighting had by no means ceased on the island. "Who does the admiral think he's kidding?" yelled Marine Private Bob Campbell. "We're still getting killed!" On 16 Mar, General Schmidt declared the island secure fighting still did not end by then, but Kuribayashi knew it was approaching the end. On the same day as Schmidt's declaration, Kuribayashi radioed Tokyo that "[t]he battle is approaching its end. Since the enemy's landing, even the gods would weep at the bravery of the officers and omen under my command." On 21 Mar, Kuribayashi reported that "[w]e have not eaten or drunk for five days, but our fighting spirit remains high." A day later, as his last soldiers were falling around him, he radioed what would become his last words on official record: "The strength under my command is now about four hundred. Tanks are attacking us. The enemy suggested we surrender through a loudspeaker, but our officers and men just laughed and paid no attention." Kuribayashi was likely to be killed on that same day, but his body was never found. The United States officially declared the island secure on 26 Mar, twelve days after Nimitz's initial declaration.

ww2dbase Dan van der Vat commented about the operation:

"If the capture of Iwo Jima was necessary, some Americans surely had to suffer and die. But casualties need not have amounted to 30 percent among the landing forces, to no less than 75 percent in the infantry units of the Fourth and Fifth Marine divisions, to 4,900 killed on the island, and 1,900 missing or deceased later from wounds, and to 19,200 wounded American survivors."

ww2dbase In sum, Iwo Jima saw the only major battle in the entire Pacific Campaign where American casualties surpassed the Japanese dead. All the lives lost, on both sides of the battle, for ten square miles for that very reason, Admiral Richmond Turner was criticized by American press for wasting the lives of his men. However, by war's end, Iwo Jima sure appeared to have saved many Americans, too. 2,400 B-29 landings took place at Iwo Jima, many were under emergency conditions that might otherwise meant a crash at sea.

ww2dbase The Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, immediately outside Washington and adjacent to the Arlington National Cemetery, memorializes all US Marines with a statue of the famous picture.

ww2dbase Sources: Flags of Our Fathers, Goodbye Darkness, the Pacific Campaign.

Last Major Update: Sep 2006

Battle of Iwo Jima Interactive Map

Battle of Iwo Jima Timeline

14 Jul 1944 Iwo Jima, Chichi Jima, and Haha Jima were the targets of land-based aircraft for the first time as US Navy Bombing Squadron 109 PB4Y Liberator bombers based at Isley Field, Saipan, Mariana Islands dropped bombed on their airfields. In the United States, USAAF chief General Hap Arnold warned the Joint Planning Staff about the new Japanese Ki-84 fighters. As a precaution, he recommended seizing Iwo Jima to provide emergency airfields for bombers that might be damaged by new Japanese fighters such as the Ki-84.
1 Jan 1945 19 American B-24 bombers based in Saipan, Mariana Islands struck Japanese positions at Iwo Jima.
5 Jan 1945 American cruisers, destroyers, and carrier aircraft attacked the Bonin Islands. At Iwo Jima, a Japanese landing ship was sunk by destroyer fire. At Chichi Jima, destroyer USS Fanning sank a Japanese freighter by gunfire and a torpedo, while destroyer USS David W. Taylor was damaged by a mine.
29 Jan 1945 19 American B-24 bombers based in Guam, Mariana Islands attacked Iwo Jima, Japan.
16 Feb 1945 USS Yorktown (Essex-class) and TF58 strike the Tokyo area of Honshu, Japan in the first carrier-borne air strikes against the Japanese home islands since the Doolittle Raid on 18 Apr 1942.
16 Feb 1945 USS Anzio, USS Tabberer, and the rest of their task group arrived southwest of Iwo Jima where the carriers launched pre-invasion strikes against the island.
17 Feb 1945 USS Yorktown (Essex-class) and TF58 strike the Tokyo area of Honshu, Japan before heading toward the Bonin Islands.
18 Feb 1945 USS Yorktown (Essex-class) bombed and strafed installations on Chichi Jima, Bonin Islands
19 Feb 1945 At 0905 hours, the first of 30,000 US Marines landed on Iwo Jima, Japan after heavy naval bombardment.
20 Feb 1945 USS Yorktown (Essex-class) launched 3 days of support missions over Iwo Jima, Bonin Islands.
21 Feb 1945 Air Group 80 from USS Hancock flew one strike in support of operations on Iwo Jima 1 aircraft was lost.
21 Feb 1945 The Japanese Army and Navy launched a combined tokko attack, dispatching 4 and 21 suicide aircraft, respectively. The fleet carrier USS Saratoga and escort carrier USS Lunga Point were hit and damaged, while escort carrier USS Bismarck Sea was sunk.
23 Feb 1945 US Marines and a Navy corpsman raised an American flag atop Mount Suribachi at Iwo Jima, Japan.
25 Feb 1945 USS Yorktown (Essex-class) launched raids to bomb and strafe airfields in the vicinity of Tokyo, Japan.
6 Mar 1945 28 American P-51 Mustang and 12 P-61 Black Widow aircraft landed on Iwo Jima, Japan.
11 Mar 1945 American fighters began flying escort operations from Iwo Jima, Japan.
14 Mar 1945 The island of Iwo Jima was declared conquered by Chester Nimitz, noting that "all powers of government of the Japanese Empire in these islands are hereby suspended", but fighting would continue.
16 Mar 1945 Americans declared Iwo Jima, Japan secure, but fighting continued.
18 Mar 1945 USS Yorktown (Essex-class) arrived in the operating area off Japan and began launching strikes on airfields on Kyushu, Honshu, and Shikoku. The task group came under air attack almost as soon as operations began. Yorktown was struck by a single bomb that killed 5 but otherwise caused minimal damage.
19 Mar 1945 USS Yorktown (Essex-class) continued air operations against the three southernmost islands of Japan.
25 Mar 1945 Tadamichi Kuribayashi passed away on Iwo Jima, Japan. He reportedly committed ritual suicide, but his body was never found.
26 Mar 1945 The Japanese mounted the final suicide charge with 200-300 men at Iwo Jima, Japan.
29 Mar 1945 USS Yorktown (Essex-class) launched two raids and one photographic reconnaissance mission over Kyushu, Japan. A single Yokosuka D4Y ?Judy? dive bomber made a diving attack on Yorktown but missed the carrier by about 60 feet.
5 Apr 1945 Americans established an advanced air base on Iwo Jima, Japan.

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Watch Kim Jong Un’s charlie foxtrot of a red carpet entrance

Posted On April 29, 2020 15:49:52

Tension and confusion gripped a train platform in Russia’s far-eastern city of Vladivostok on April 23, 2019, when North Korean Kim Jong Un’s bullet-proof armored train pulled in for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Both Putin and Kim are known for making grand entrances and power moves like showing up late to meetings with world leaders. But Kim on April 23, 2019, appeared delayed due to a gaffe.

Kim arrived via train, as is his family’s custom and perhaps a clever way to avoid admitting his country has few working aircraft — but something was amiss.

When Kim’s train pulled into the station, it slightly overshot a red carpet laid out in advance for his big stepping-out moment.

While Kim maintains a horrific human rights record at home, he has been increasingly courted by world leaders looking to curb his country’s growing nuclear capabilities.

Apparently, Kim’s security detail found it unacceptable that he should walk on anything besides the red carpet, and had to stand there awkwardly holding a ramp while the train repositioned.

The meeting between Putin and Kim represents just the fourth official summit with a world leader for Kim. Putin, however, has met with most national leaders across Asia.

Russia and North Korea have historical ties of friendship, though the relations became strained during North Korea’s long nuclear breakout.

Upon arrival, Kim appeared to shake off any embarrassment from the train gaffe and quickly spoke to Russian media, a rare step from a leader who previously only spoke through North Korean state outlets.

Kim’s visit to Russia comes at a time when US-North Korean talks have stalled over a basic misunderstanding over the pacing of denuclearization steps and sanctions easing.

North Korea recently publicized the testing of a “tactical” weapon, potentially as a warning to the US that if talks collapse, missile launches and “fire and fury” could again become the norm.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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MIGHTY HISTORY

Battle of Iwo Jima Map 2: American Landing Zones - History

Iwo Jima, a member of the Volcano Island group, lies about a hundred nautical miles southwest of the mid-point of the direct air route between Saipan, in the Mariana Islands, and Tokyo. It is about seven-hundred miles from the Japanese islands of Kyushu and Shikoku, as well as the southern half of Honshu. Based on Iwo Jima, P-51 fighters and B-24 bombers could conduct useful combat missions over a large fraction of Japan, while the larger B-29 bombers could reach targets throughout the country. Iwo Jima is also the only island in the region with sufficient flat land for the airfields required to support a meaningful quantity of such aircraft.

In American hands, Iwo Jima could contribute significantly to an air campaign against Japan, and make possible emergency landings by damaged or malfunctioning bombers. In Japanese posession, it facilitated fighter interception of B-29s en route from the Marianas to Japan, thus forcing the bombers to fly a longer route for their own safety. In addition, it supported counter-raids on the Americans' Marianas airfields. General Henry H. Arnold, the U.S. Army Air Forces' commander, was an early advocate of capturing Iwo Jima and, by the beginning of October 1944, the island was targeted for invasion early in the following year.

This useful, geologically active (its name means "Sulfur Island" in Japanese) speck of land is just under five nautical miles long, measured along a north-northeasterly axis, and about two-and-a-half nautical miles broad in its northern part, with a total area of some eight square miles. Its most prominent terrain feature is the volcanic cone of Mount Suribachi (labeled "Hot Rocks" in the Iwo Jima operation plan), rising some 550 feet above the sea at the southern end. At Suribachi's base, Iwo Jima is about 800 yards across, and is relatively flat and smooth for a few miles to the northward. Weather permitting, the beaches on both shores in this vicinity can be used by beaching craft and amphibious vehicles, though the shoreline and inland area is covered with loose volcanic ash -- too soft and yielding for convenient human and vehicular traffic. The island's northern area is rocky and rugged, with a shoreline unsuitable for landings and an interior of hills, ravines and other broken ground. Iwo Jima's surface rock, both in the north and at Mount Suribachi, is soft enough to facilitate tunneling.

By late 1944, the Japanese had completed two airfields and had begun a third. They were vigorously fortifying the island, preparing an interlocking network of tunnels, trenches and deep caverns. Covered gun positions were carved into Suribachi's slopes and the northern area and, where the native rock was inadequate for such works, reinforced concrete blockhouses were erected. Artillery, mortars and machine guns dominated all potential landing beaches. More than twenty-thousand troops manned these formidable defenses. With good reason, Japanese Army Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayshi, Iwo Jima's commander, considered that his well-protected and highly-motivated men could defeat an invasion attempt by superior ground forces, even when the latter were supported by seemingly overwhelming air and sea power.

This page features, and provides links to, all the World War II era maps we have of Iwo Jima, plus selected wartime aerial photographs showing all or a large portion of that island.
Note: Many of the images presented here are also featured in other pages of the Online Library 's Iwo Jima Operation series.

If you want higher resolution reproductions than the Online Library's digital images, see: "How to Obtain Photographic Reproductions."

Click on the small photograph to prompt a larger view of the same image.

Iwo Jima Operation, February-March 1945

"Relief Map of Iwo Jima --- U.S. Navy carrier pilots were briefed for their strikes against Iwo Jima through the use of detailed relief maps such as this one". Quoted from the original photo caption, filed 6 April 1945.
Mount Suribachi, at the island's southern end, is in the lower right.

The original photograph came from Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison's World War II history project working files. It was provided to Morison by E.J. Long.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center.

Online Image: 133KB 740 x 630 pixels

Iwo Jima Operation, February-March 1945

Contour map of Iwo Jima, showing Japanese defense installations as observed from ground study during the period 19 February - 19 March 1945.
The original chart was prepared by Joint Intelligence Center, Pacific Ocean Area (JICPOA).

The original print came from Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison's World War II history project working files.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center.

Online Image: 665KB 1465 x 2000 pixels

Diagram of the island's invasion beaches, identified by colors green, red, yellow and blue the alternate beaches on the other side of Iwo Jima, identified by colors purple, brown, white and orange the landing ship and transport areas offshore and the lines of approach used by boats from USS Sanborn (APA-93) to Beaches Blue One and Two.
Original 35mm color transparency of a dragram probably prepared by Howard W. Whalen after World War II.
Note that the arrow pointing "North" actually points about fifteen degrees west of north.

Collection of Lieutenant Commander Howard W. Whalen, USNR. Donated by Mrs. Nadine Whalen, 1997.

U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Online Image: 128KB 775 x 1225 pixels

"Liberators over Iwo Jima" , 15 December 1944

B-24 "Liberators of the Strategic Air Force send their bombs crashing down on Iwo Jima, Japanese air base in the Volcanoes. Smoke and dust belching up from the island show that one of its two airstrips have been hit. This raid of December 15 was one of a series of bombings of the vital Jap fields. The dark oval at the upper left of the photo is the aerilon ( sic -- actually the port stabilizer and rudder ) of the Liberator from which the picture was snapped. Note the volcano at the lower tip of the island. Some idea of the distances involved: Iwo Jima is 656 miles from Tokyo and 5500 miles from San Francisco, California." Quoted from the original picture caption released for publication on 21 December 1944 by Commander in Chief, Pacific.

The original photograph came from the illustrations package for Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison's "History of United States Naval Operations in World War II", volume XIV: "Victory in the Pacific".

Official U.S. Army Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center.

Online Image: 55KB 625 x 675 pixels

"Navy Planes Set Off New 'Volcano" on Iwo Jima -- A trailing cloud of black smoke hovers over strategic Iwo Jima in the Pacific, not far from the cratered Mount Suribachi, source of many volcanic clouds in the past. This was one of the many Army and Navy blows loosed on the island in a long series of attacks climaxed by the Marine landings announced today." Quoted from the original caption, released with this photograph on 19 February 1945.
The view looks northeastward, with Mount Suribachi and Tobiishi Point in the foreground. Smoke is coming from fires at the East Boat Basin. Airfield Number Two is in the distance, with Airfield Number One between it and Mt. Suribachi.
The shoreline running from just beyond Mt. Suribachi northeast to the Boat Basin was the scene of Beaches Green, Red (1 & 2), Yellow (1 & 2) and Blue (1 & 2), which were used during the initial landings and the follow-on phases of the invasion.

The original print came from Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison's World War II history project working files. It was provided to Morison by E.J. Long.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center.

Online Image: 67KB 740 x 625 pixels

Iwo Jima during the pre-invasion bombardment, 17 February 1945, looking north with Mount Suribachi in the foreground.
Photographed from an airplane based on USS Makin Island (CVE-93).

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Online Image: 62KB 740 x 600 pixels

Reproductions of this image may also be available through the National Archives photographic reproduction system.

Pre-invasion bombardment of Iwo Jima, photographed from a USS Makin Island (CVE-93) plane on 17 February 1945.
A battleship, a heavy cruiser and several minesweepers are in the foreground. The cruiser, at left, appears to be USS Tuscaloosa (CA-37). The view looks northeastward, showing the entire island in the upper right. Mount Suribachi on its closer end.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Online Image: 57KB 740 x 605 pixels

Reproductions of this image may also be available through the National Archives photographic reproduction system.

Iwo Jima under fire during the pre-landing bombardment, circa 17-19 February 1945.
View looks northeastward, with Mount Suribachi and Tobiishi Point in the foreground.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Online Image: 30KB 740 x 590 pixels

Reproductions of this image may also be available through the National Archives photographic reproduction system.

"'Tip' The Marines will Take: Southwest Promontory of Iwo Jima -- Taken during an earlier aerial strike by Navy carrier-based planes, this aerial photograph of strategic Iwo Jima reveals the southwest tip of the island, with the cratered height of Mount Suribachi at the far end of Tobiishi Point. Announcement was made today that members of the Marines' Fifth Amphibious Corps have swarmed ashore and opened the battle for the base following an obliterating preliminary barrage by hundreds of Navy ships and planes." Quoted from the original caption, released with this photograph on 19 February 1945.
The view looks approximately east, with Mount Suribachi in the lower right. Bombs are bursting at the southern end of Airfield Number One, in the left center. Note the agricultural fields between the camera and the airfield.
Heavy surf all around the island indicates particularly bad weather on this day.

The original print came from Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison's World War II history project working files.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center.

Online Image: 89KB 740 x 625 pixels

A TBM "Avenger" bomber flies near the Mount Suribachi (south) end of Iwo Jima, March 1945.
Note the shipping off the island's southwestern shore.
Photographed by a member of the Steichen unit.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Online Image: 59KB 740 x 545 pixels

Reproductions of this image may also be available through the National Archives photographic reproduction system.

View of the southern part of the island, with Mount Suribachi at right, soon after the initial landings, 19 February 1945.
Note ships firing from off Iwo Jima's eastern shore, and landing craft moving away from the landing beach area.


Contents

After the Americans captured the Marshall Islands in January 1944, the Japanese military leaders thought about their situation.

It looked like the Americans would go toward the Mariana Islands and the Carolines. The Imperial Japanese Army and the Imperial Japanese Navy (I.J.N.) set up a line of defences.

In March 1945, the Japanese 31st Army, commanded by General Hideyoshi Obata, was ordered to defend this line.

The commander of the Japanese group on Chichi Jima was placed in command of Army and Navy units in the Volcano Islands. [2] The Americans had started bombing Japan every day after they captured the Marianas. The Japanese were using Iwo Jima to transmit radio reports of American bomber activity. [2]

After the U.S. captured bases in the Marshalls in February 1944, Japanese Army and Navy troops were sent to Iwo Jima. Iwo Jima had more than 5,000 men. [2]

The loss of the Marianas during the summer of 1944 made the Japanese worried about the Volcano Islands. They knew that the Americans could launch airattacks on Japan if these islands were captured. [2] However, it was hard for Japan to defend the Volcano Islands because the Imperial Japanese Navy had lost almost all of its ships.

Japan could not build new airplanes until March or April 1945. Even then, these planes could not fly to Iwo Jima from Japan. Japan did mot have enough pilots and other aircrew.

Iwo Jima was important for two reasons: it was an air base for Japanese fighter planes, and it was a safe place for Japanese ships. In addition, it was used by the Japanese to do air attacks on the Mariana Islands.

Capturing Iwo Jima would deny the air base from the Japanese and provide a place from which to launch the invasion of Japan.

When the US decided to invade Iwo Jima, experts thought it would be captured in one week, but hundreds of tons of Allied bombs had not harmed the entrenched Japanese defenders.

Japanese preparations Edit

By June 1944, Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi was ordered to defend Iwo Jima. He knew that Japan could not win the battle, but hoped to inflict enough casualties to dissuade the Allies from invading Japan.

Kuribayashi created strong defences with heavy weapons such as heavy machine guns and artillery. Extensive tunnels were dug, and Land mines were placed all over the island.

Starting on 15 June 1944, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army Air Forces began to attack the island. Naval artillery shellings and air bombings were done for nine months. Each heavy warship fired for approximately six hours.

These efforts failed to achieve desired effects due to the Japanese defenses. The American bombings continued until 19 February 1945: the day the Marines landed on the island.

About 450 American ships were near Iwo Jima. The battle involved about 60,000 U.S. Marines. [10]

At 08:59, 30,000 Marines began landing on the island. The Japanese held their fire for some time while men and material began to fill the beaches. Then the Japanese opened fire, and many in the first group of Marines were killed by the machine guns. [11]

Japanese heavy artillery was protected by steel doors that closed to protect the guns between shots. This made it difficult for American units to destroy Japanese artillery. [11] The Japanese soldiers hid in the tunnel system.

With tanks, naval artillery, and air bombing on Mount Suribachi, the Marines were able to get past the beaches. [11] About 40,000 more Marines landed later. [11]

The fighting on Iwo Jima was very violent. The Marines’ advance was stopped by defensive positions and artillery. The Marines used flamethrowers and grenades to kill Japanese troops in the tunnels.

Eight Sherman M4A3R3 medium tanks with a flamethrower destroyed Japanese defences. The Japanese ran out of water, food, and supplies. The Japanese made more nighttime attacks. Most Japanese soldiers fought to the death. [11]

"Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima" is a photograph taken on 23 February 1945 by Joe Rosenthal. It shows five Marines and a U.S. Navy corpsman raising the flag of the United States on Mount Suribachi. [9] The photograph was popular. It won a Pulitzer Prize for Photography. [9]

The Japanese troops stayed in the tunnels . They were all killed. [11]

The Japanese still held positions on the north end. [12] Kuribayashi had eight infantry battalions, a tank regiment, two artillery battalions, and three heavy mortar battalions. He also had about 5,000 gunners and naval infantry.

The Marines' tanks were destroyed by Japanese fire and mines. [13] Many Americans were killed or wounded.

The Marines attacked in the darkness with no bombing before the attack. Many Japanese soldiers were killed while still sleeping. [14]

On the evening of 8 March, Captain Samaji Inouye and his 1,000 men attacked the Americans causing 347 casualties (90 deaths). The Marines counted 784 dead Japanese soldiers the next day. [15]

There was also a kamikaze air attack on the ships anchored at sea on 21 February. This sunk the escort carrier USS Bismarck Sea and severely damaged the USS Saratoga. There was minor damage to the escort carrier USS Lunga Point, an LST, and a transport. [14]

On 16 March, Kuribayashi's soldiers were still alive on the northwestern end of the island. On 21 March, the Marines blew up the Japanese with four tons of explosives. On 24 March, Marines sealed up the caves. [16]

A 300-man Japanese force attacked Airfield No. 2. There was a 90-minute fight and it suffered heavy casualties (53 killed, 120 wounded). The island was finally captured at 09:00 on 26 March.

In the Pacific the United States used the M2 flamethrower. [17] These flamethrowers were used to kill Japanese in caves. Marines also had flamethrowers on tanks which were used during battle. They were less useful because of Iwo Jima's rough land. Many other infantry weapons were utilized, including the infamous M1 Garand.

Of the 22,060 Japanese soldiers on the island, 18,844 died from fighting or by suicide. Only 216 were captured during the battle. After Iwo Jima, 3,000 hid in the tunnels.

The 36-day battle for Iwo Jima resulted in more than 26,000 American casualties, including 6,800 dead. [18] By comparison, the 82-day battle for Okinawa resulted in casualties of over 62,000, of whom over 12,000 were killed or missing. Iwo Jima was also the only U.S. Marine battle where the Americans suffered more casualties than the Japanese. [19]

Because they had all been removed, there were no civilian casualties at Iwo Jima, unlike at Saipan and Okinawa. [20]

Given the number of casualties, the importance of the island's capture [21] is controversial.

Iwo Jima was not used by the US Army Air Corp to drop the atomic bombs on Japan. Tinian was the Island both bombers left to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which were 12 hours out and back.

The argument for capturing Iwo Jima was that it provided a landing and refueling airfield for fighter escorts. Yet, only ten missions were ever flown from Iwo Jima. [22]

Japanese fighter aircraft based on Iwo Jima sometimes attacked the US forces. Only 11 B-29s were lost. [23]

The Japanese on Iwo Jima had radar [24] and could notify Japanese forces at home of B-29 Superfortresses flying from the Mariana Islands.

However, the capture of Iwo Jima did not affect the Japanese radar system. [25]

The United States Navy has several ships of the name USS Iwo Jima.

On 19 February 1985, the 40th anniversary of the landings, an event called the Reunion of Honor was held. [26] The veterans of both sides who fought in the battle of Iwo Jima attended the event. A memorial was built. Representatives of both countries shook hands.

The importance of the battle to Marines today can be seen. Marines go to the island and to the summit of Suribachi. [27]

The Japanese government continues to search for the bodies of Japanese military troops who were killed during the battle. [28]

The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is given to a member of the United States armed forces who show bravery and risks his life in a battle. The medal is often awarded after death. It has been given only 3,464 times.


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At top of landing instructions side: RESTRICTED 4TH Marine Division Landing Information Sheet.

At bottom of landing instructions side:
Prepared by D-2 Section Reproduced by 4th Engineer Battalion 4th Marine Division.

There are handwritten notes and markings on both sides. Name at top.

From the estate of a member of the US 4th Marine Division.

Please see all photographs. I will be happy to answer any questions. Thank you for your interest.

Condition: Very good overall condition. No tears or damage whatsoever. Some soiling, edgewear and stray marks.

Also please view my other listings for two additional WWII Iwo Jima maps from the same estate.


Was the Battle for Iwo Jima Necessary?

Clint Eastwood's recent films about Iwo Jima have served to recall an important page of American military history. Should Iwo Jima now be celebrated as an example of American courage and bravery? Or, was it another shameful chapter in the wanton loss of American lives in a Pacific War battle that had virtually nothing to do with defeating Japan?

It is important to understand why the area commanders decided to invade Iwo Jima. The B-29s needed a safe haven, an emergency landing site, midway between their home base in the Marianas Islands and Japan. After the battle, Iwo Jima did in fact serve as a safe haven for the crippled 2,400 B-29s that landed there during their 3,000 mile round trip.

But which was the objective in taking Iwo Jima? To win the war? Or, was it to save the lives of the B-29 air crews? This muddled military thinking was no doubt influenced by the record of a trouble-prone plane that had been plagued with problems, one after another ever since inception, especially with engines that overheated, destroying the plane's wing assembly.

Long before Iwo Jima, the Japanese High Command had decided there was no hope for victory. Their objective, accordingly, was to make America pay dearly in blood for each battle hereafter. Iwo Jima would exact the bloodiest toll of American lives up to that time.

The battle plan for General Kuribayashi, the Iwo Jima Commander, called for "a gradual depletion of the enemy's attack forces." He told his troops, "Even if the situation gets out of hand, defend a corner of the island to the death!" Another order exhorted his soldiers to "kill ten of the enemy before dying!"
In one of his last letters to his wife, the General told her, "Do not look for my return."

The Japanese had learned well from each battle how to build up their defenses, how to thwart each of the oncoming assaults of the American juggernaut. What had America learned? Had we altered our battle plans, especially in view of what we knew about Japan's increasingly more formidable redoubts? Had we decided how best to deal with their dogged defenses?

In all of our amphibious assaults before this one, US forces had always landed in direct. massive assaults on the beaches. Iwo Jima would be no different the Marines would debark from their landing craft on Iwo Jima's 3,000 yards of beaches under the same withering Japanese gunfire they had encountered in all battles before this one.

What about "softening up" bombardment? Renowned Marine General Holland Smith had urged sustained bombardment by the Navy's heavy guns prior to the landings. When considering the high esteem with which Smith was held by his fellow senior officers it seems incredible that his sound advice was completely ignored. No, the landings would proceed just as they had in battles before this one.

There are many who contributed to the sad legacy of Iwo Jima: the Boeing Company, which continued to manufacture faulty planes all during the war the US Air Force, whose procurement agents seemingly chose to look the other way as these lousy planes were handed off to the air crews and those in command whose decision to take the island resulted in 26,000 US casualties, a fateful decision with no direct connection to the defeat of Japan. In no small measure, these casualties came about by the order to launch a direct, frontal assault on an island US commanders knew to be heavily prepared against such assaults.

Leon Cooper has had a varied work career in civilian life: inventor, with patented products used throughout the world, including a product used by all air lines that tests for the proper operation of fire alarm systems aboard their commercial airplanes CEO of his own computer company, CFO of major corporations now a successful writer, including co-author of an award-winning screenplay.