Bloody Iwo Jima. A 36 day Battle for supremacy in February 1945

With the Allied forces ( the majority of whom were from the United States ) closing in relentlessly upon the Japanese homeland, it was decided to invade the small island of Iwo Jima to provide a base for fighter aircraft needed to escort the longer range bombers that were pounding major cities in Japan. This invasion would be the first Japanese owned and held territory to be attacked, all other Pacific campaigns were to retake islands or areas occupied by Japan in her mad rush southwards in WW2.

Iwo Jima squats between Tokyo and the Marianas, some 670 miles from either destination.

Iwo Jima, one of the largest seaward invasions of the Pacific War

Iwo Jima, one of the largest seaward invasions of the Pacific War

February 1945.
70,000 Marines, one of the largest number used in Pacific battles, were crammed into a huge fleet of ships that sailed out of Hawaii for the trip westwards to the remote and largely unheard of island called Iwo Jima.

At 0200 ( 2 AM ) on the 19th. of February 1945, the Naval bombardment commenced, this was the traditional start to any sea ward landing made on a Japanese held position in the Pacific war. The United States Navy, sometimes with several cruisers from the Royal Australian Navy, stood off the beaches, soon to be swarming with landing craft filled with Marines, and pounded the area with high explosive shells from the battleships, heavy and light cruisers, devasting all in the path of this rolling smoke and thunder barrage.

110 bombers added their bombloads to the ever falling naval shells, to the veterans in the navy ships this was routine stuff. From the Leyte landings in October 1944 when the Kamikaze Menace made their debut, lookouts in the ships, and their colleagues on their air warning radar sets kept a vigilent watch for any ZOOMBIES that might attack.

At 0830 ( 8.30 AM ) the order "Land the Landing Force " was issued, on shore, 21,000 Japanese burrowed underground in the volcanic rock awaited.

In Command.
Admiral R. A. Spruance USN Commander of the 5th. Fleet was in overall command, Vice Admiral R. K. Turner USN Joint Expeditionary Force Commander, and Lieutenant General H. M. Smith led the Marines, ashore, Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kurabayashi was in command of the Japanese force.

Lietenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, the Japanese commander at Iwo Jima

Lietenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi,
the Japanese commander at Iwo Jima

One of the bloodiest and most costly battles of the war in the Pacific was underway. Iwo Jima, a tiny island about 1/3 the size of Manhattan, for the next 36 days was to become the greatest populated 8 square miles on the planet.

Flame Throwers, hand grenades, and Napalm were amongst the major weapons used to overcome the Japanese defenders.

Flame Throwers, hand grenades, and Napalm were amongst
the major weapons used to overcome the Japanese defenders

With each Marine carrying a 100 pound pack it was well nigh impossible to cope with the volcanic ash abounding on the island. The US Marines above ground, fought a hidden enemy below ground, never had the mighty Marines struck this type of warfare in all their experience. It took flame throwers, napalm and hand grenades to cope with the Japanese, almost inch by inch, they had to prize out the Japanese defenders from their caves. It was 36 days on the 16th. of March 1945 before US forces on Iwo Jima declared that the island had been secured.

At Sea.
On the 21st. of February the Escort Carrier Bismarck Sea was sunk by a Kamikaze attack, and the Carrier Saratoga damaged by a bomb. On the 26th. of February the supporting force at sea was struck by a violent storm, damaging the cruiser San Fransisco, and the destroyers Colohan, Halsey Powell, Benham, Stephen Potter, and Preston.

Famous Photograph.
The battle to take Iwo Jima resulted in producing one of the most famous photographs taken during the war in the Pacific, Raising of the United States Flag, taken by photographer JOE ROSENTHAL.

The famous Flag Raising Photograph at Iwo Jima

The famous Flag Raising Photograph at Iwo Jima.
There are six Flag Raisers on the photo. Four in the front line and two in back.
The front four are (left to right) Ira Hayes, Franklin Sousley, John Bradley and Harlon Block.
The back two are Michael Strank (behind Sousley) and Rene Gagnon (behind Bradley).
Strank, Block and Sousley would die shortly afterwards.
Bradley, Hayes and Gagnon became national heroes within weeks.

Death took its awful toll on both sides, but the Japanese were to suffer over a 95% death rate to their force, from 21,000 defenders, but a mere 1083 became Prisoners of War.


On the American side some 6,821 dead, a further 19,213 wounded, almost 1/3 of all who took part in this battle were to wind up dead or wounded. A dreadful price to pay for a small volcanic outcrop stuck in the western Pacific Ocean.

Iow Jima Stamp

When the public first demanded a stamp commemorating the Flag Raising picture, the US Post Office initially rejected the idea out of hand. "No living person(s) can appear on a US stamp," they replied. But the public demand was so great that Congress pushed for the stamp. It was issued just five months after the Flag-Raising. On the day of issue, people stood patiently in lines stretching for city blocks on a sweltering July day in 1945 for a chance to buy the beloved stamp. For many years, this was the biggest selling stamp in the history of the US Post Office. (Over 137 million sold.)

The Iwo Jima Memorial

The Iwo Jima Memorial. Each figure is 32 feet high.
The flagpole is 60 feet in length. It's the world's tallest bronze statue. It's stands 78 feet high.
A cloth flag flies from the pole.
The cost of the statue was $850,000 (1954 Dollars.)
No public funds were used. Private donations picked up the tab.

Japan honours US dead at Iwo Jima, June 2005
Junichiro Koizumi yesterday became Japan's first serving prime minister to visit Iwo Jima in what analysts say is an effort to counter his image as a nationalist and revisionist.

Mr Koizumi paid his respects alongside bereaved Japanese and representatives of the American army He made his visit during a ceremony marking one of the Second World War's most symbolic battles in which American troops first captured Japanese territory 60 years ago. The moment was caught in an iconic photograph of troops hoisting the Stars and Stripes on the island's peak, Mount Suribachi.

Mr Koizumi joined about 100 bereaved Japanese and representatives of the American army in Japan to pay his respects.

Japanese Prime Minister visits Iwo Jima in June 2005.

Japanese Prime Minister visits Iwo Jima in June 2005

He said: "Over 28,000 Japanese and American lives were lost on Iwo Jima. I believe today's peace and prosperity is built on their noble sacrifice. Since the Second World War, Japan has never once participated or become involved in war and has maintained peace.

"From now on, too, we must never forget the tragic lessons of war. We must progress towards friendly relations between nations and must actively strive to create lasting world peace."

Mr Koizumi also laid a wreath at the island's memorial to the 7,000 American soldiers killed in the one month battle in February 1945. The tiny island, around 800 miles south of Tokyo, is now a Japanese military base. The islanders were moved to the mainland after the war.
Over 1,000 B29 bombers, after making raids on Japan, made emergency landings on Iwo Jima. The planes and crews were saved from crashing.

Joe Rosenthal who took the Flag Raising photograph on Iwo Jima

Joe Rosenthal who took the Flag Raising photograph on Iwo Jima


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