Following months of naval and air bombardment U.S. Marines invaded the small island on February 19, 1945 and for 36 days fought the Japanese. The Battle of Iwo Jima, also known as Operation Detachment, was fought from February 19, 1945 - March 16, 1945.
Five days after the Battle of Iwo Jima began photographer Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press took the famous photograph of US troops raising the flag on Iwo Jima. The island was finally secured by the US on March 16, 1945 after one of the bloodiest battles in Marine Corps history. A total of 7000 United States servicemen died and 20,000 were wounded in the battle for the island. The photo by Joe Rosenthal was used as a model for the Marine Iwo Jima Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.
Who won the battle of Iwo Jima? The United States won the battle and secured the island from the Japanese on March 16, 1945
What date was the Battle of Iwo Jima? The date of the Battle of Iwo Jima was from February 19, 1945 - March 16, 1945
Who raised the flag on Iwo Jima island? The Iwo Jima flag was raised by five marines, Harlon Block, Franklin Sousley, Michael Strank, Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes, and Navy Corpsman John Bradley.
Where is the Iwo Jima Memorial? The Iwo Jima Memorial statue is based on the famous photograph by Joe Rosenthal and located at the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery next to the Netherlands Carillon, in Arlington near Rosslyn, Virginia
Facts about Iwo Jima
In WW2 Iwo Jima Island, meaning Sulfur Island in Japanese, was part of the Tokyo Prefecture (under the jurisdiction of Japan) and was considered to be Japanese soil. The island covered just 7.5 square miles.
The dominating feature of Iwo Jima Island was Mount Suribachi, an extinct volcano 550 feet high on the southwest tail of the 'pork- chop-shaped' island.
Northeast of Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima Island was a flat lowland which the Japanese used as an air base they called Motoyama airfield
There were no natural water sources on the barren Iwo Jima Island and there was no network of roads but its location was critical to the United States. The rugged terrain was covered with volcanic ash and consisted of ravines, cliffs and dozens of caves.
Instead of building roads the Japanese had built miles of tunnels connecting the caves together with numerous concrete bunkers. The concrete tunnels were 60 feet underground with 3-foot-thick walls.
Iwo Jima island was positioned about halfway between Japan and the Mariana Islands. WW2 Japanese fighters taking off from the tiny Iwo Jima Island were intercepting US B-29 bombers en route to Japan and attacking the US air bases on the Marianas. The United States military were determined that Iwo Jima Island must be captured.
On November 24, 1944 bombs fell on Tokyo for the first time since the Doolittle Raid on April 18, 1942.
However, the B-29 Superfortress bombers had to travel over 1,500 miles (2,414 km) from the new US airbases in the Mariana Islands that had been won from the Japanese in the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
The long distance the B-29's had to travel resulted in the US airmen missing their targets. By the time the B-29 bombers reached Japan they did not have enough fuel left to correct their navigational errors or to adjust for high winds.
Tokyo was simply too far away from the Mariana airbases. The US desperately needed an air base closer to Japan where the B-29 Superfortress bombers could re-fuel.
Iwo Jima island was in the perfect location for the B-29's to re-fuel. The decision was made to capture the island and on February 19, 1944 approximately 60,000 marines launched a full scale invasion and landed on Iwo Jima island and the Battle of Iwo Jima began. The island was defended by between 18,000 - 21,000 Japanese soldiers.
Major General Harry Schmidt V was in command of the US operation. The general in charge of the island for the Japanese was General Tadamichi Kuribayashi. Knowing the American forces could not be defeated, General Kuribayashi made clear his intention to defend the island to the last man.
The US marines used small amphibious landing crafts (amphtracs) to breach the island. The amphtracs hit the beach unopposed and began to churn through the ash but were confronted with a 15-foot-high terrace of black volcanic sand. The amphtracs were unable to mount the terrace and sank into the black sand.
The 4th and 5th Marine Divisions bounded from the amphtracs but as the marines jumped they sank up to their ankles in the soft volcanic ash. The Japanese, who had been watching from their hidden bunkers, pillboxes and caves, unleashed their artillery and began to batter the US invaders.
The marines were hit by snipers and machine gun teams and then the guns and mortars on Mount Suribachi opened fire. It was a scene of bloody carnage as the bodies of men were blown apart. Wave after wave of men and vehicles added to the carnage, congestion and confusion of the battle.
Slowly the marines crawled inland but by the end of the first day of the Batlle of Iwo Jima there were over 2,400 casualties.
On the second day of the battle the Marines attacked Mount Suribachi but were faced with fanatical Japanese defence. Mount Suribachi was taken on February 23 after three days of heavy fighting.
On February 23, 1945, Joe Rosenthal, an Associated Press (AP) photographer covering the battle for Iwo Jima, made the climb up Mount Suribachi. As he reached the summit he saw a US flag had been raised and was struck by a wave of emotion about the lives that had been sacrificed and the patriotism of the men who had raised the flag.
Joe Rosenthal then spotted a group of Marines holding a second flag. The Marines said they had been ordered to replace the first flag with a bigger one so more people could see it from below. Joe Rosenthal took the famous photograph of the second flag being raised.
As the Battle of Iwo Jima raged on Joe Rosenthalís iconic photograph he called "Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima" was published in thousands of publications around the world.
The memorable photograph held a powerful visual message capturing the heroism of the Marine Corps and battles fought by US servicemen during WW2. Joe Rosenthal won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for photography for his iconic image.
The Battle of Iwo Jima continued on as Marines used explosives and flame throwers to attack the Japanese tunnels and bunkers. Clearing a bunker did not put it out of action as Japanese troops would use the tunnel network to make it operational again.
Japanese losses in fighting the Battle of Iwo Jima were just under 18,000. During the fighting only 216 Japanese soldiers were captured.
Iwo Jima island was declared secure on March 16, 1945 but it was estimated that approximately 3,000 Japanese remained alive in the tunnel system.
Many Japanese continued the fight and some were captured scavenging for food. Others committed ritual suicide in preference to being captured. US forces reported that they had killed 1,602 Japanese and captured an additional 867 prisoners during this last ditch attempt at resistance in the tunnels of the island.
The Marines lost 6,891 men killed in action with 18,070 wounded.
The battle showed the Americans was how far the Japanese would go to defend their country which influenced the future actions of the US against Japan
After the battle, Iwo Jima island served as an emergency landing site for more than 2,200 B-29 bombers and prepared the way for the last and largest battle in the Pacific - the Invasion of Okinawa.
A total of 27 Medals of Honor, more than any other battle in U.S. history, and the nation's highest military award for bravery, were awarded for actions taken during the Battle of Iwo Jima.
The names of the six men who raised the flag at Iwo Jima were Cpl. Harlon Block, Navy Pharmacistís Mate John Bradley, Cpl. Rene Gagnon, PFC Franklin Sousley, Sgt. Michael Strank, and Cpl. Ira Hayes. Three of these men, Sgt.Strank, PFC Sousley, and Cpl. Block, were killed before the battle for Iwo Jima was over.
The famous photo by Joe Rosenthal was used as a model for the Iwo jima Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. The Iwo Jima Memorial is dedicated to the "Marine dead of all wars, and their comrades of other services who fell fighting beside them."
The massive Memorial statue is by sculptor Felix de Weldon and was unveiled on November 10, 1954, the 179th anniversary of the U.S. Marine Corps. President Dwight D. Eisenhower dedicated the memorial in a ceremony at Arlington Cemetery
The cast bronze memorial based on the photograph features figures of 32 feet (9.8 m) tall with the flagpole rising to 60 feet (18 m). The flag at the top of the pole flies at full mast 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Admiral Chester W. Nimitz made the following quote about the men who fought in the battle:
"Among the men who fought on Iwo Jima, uncommon valor was a common virtue"
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