Battle of Iwo Jima, 1945

The Battle of Iwo Jima (19 February – 26 March 1945) was a major battle in which the United States Marine Corps and Navy landed on and eventually captured the island of Iwo Jima from the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) during World War II. The American invasion, designated Operation Detachment, had the goal of capturing the entire island, including the three Japanese-controlled airfields (including the South Field and the Central Field), to provide a staging area for attacks on the Japanese main islands. This five-week battle comprised some of the fiercest and bloodiest fighting of the Pacific War of World War II.

After the heavy losses incurred in the battle, the strategic value of the island became controversial. It was useless to the U.S. Army as a staging base and useless to the U.S. Navy as a fleet base. However, Navy Seabees rebuilt the landing strips, which were used as emergency landing strips for USAAF B-29s.

The IJA positions on the island were heavily fortified, with a dense network of bunkers, hidden artillery positions, and 18 km (11 mi) of underground tunnels. The American ground forces were supported by extensive naval artillery, and had complete air supremacy provided by U.S. Navy and Marine Corps aviators throughout the entire battle.

Japanese combat deaths numbered three times the number of American deaths although, uniquely among Pacific War Marine battles, American total casualties (dead and wounded) exceeded those of the Japanese. Of the 21,000 Japanese soldiers on Iwo Jima at the beginning of the battle, only 216 were taken prisoner, some of whom were captured because they had been knocked unconscious or otherwise disabled. The majority of the remainder were killed in action, although it has been estimated that as many as 3,000 continued to resist within the various cave systems for many days afterwards, eventually succumbing to their injuries or surrendering weeks later.

Despite the bloody fighting and severe casualties on both sides, the American victory was assured from the start. Overwhelming American superiority in numbers and arms as well as complete air supremacy—coupled with the impossibility of Japanese retreat or reinforcement, along with sparse food and supplies—permitted no plausible circumstance in which the Americans could have lost the battle.

Joe Rosenthal’s Associated Press photograph of the raising of the U.S. flag on top of the 169 m (554 ft) Mount Suribachi by six U.S. Marines became an iconic image of the battle and the American war effort in the Pacific.

Iwo Jima February 19, 1945. A Marine machine gunner fires at Japanese positions in support of a Marine advance on Iwo Jima.
The first wave of landing craft at Iwo Jima, 19 Feb 1945
US Coast Guardsmen assisting a wounded Marine into an LCVP after the Marine’s LVT sustained a direct hit while heading to the landing beaches on Iwo Jima, Feb 18, 1945.
Fifth Division Marines moving inland off the beach, after coming ashore on Iwo Jima, 19 Feb 1945
Marines in a LCVP off Iwo Jima, 19 Feb 1945
Marines crouched in a Coast Guard-manned LCVP on the way in on the first wave to hit the beach at Iwo Jima, 19 Feb 1945
Men of the US 4th Marines rushing out of their landing craft for Iwo Jima landing beach, 19 Feb 1945
Iwo Jima, February 22, 1945. Supplies: An LSM, (Landing Ship, Medium), drops it’s ramp almost clear of the water and Marines roll supplies ashore for the inland drive on Iwo Jima.
Iwo Jima, February 24, 1945. Shelling Iwo: Section chief, Marine Private First Class R. F. Callahan calls for fire and another 155 mm shell is hurled into a Japanese position.
Men of US Marine Corps 4th Division shelling Japanese positions from the beach, Iwo Jima, Feb 1945
Men of US Marines, Second Battalion, Seventh Regiment waited to move inland on Iwo Jima, soon after going ashore, 19 Feb 1945
Iwo Jima February 19, 1945. A wave of Marines is organized after reaching the Iwo beachhead and preparations are made for the push inland.
Helldivers of Bombing Squadron VB-9 returning to the USS Lexington after a strike in support of the US Marines on Iwo Jima, Feb 1945.
Iwo Jima February 1945. Riflemen lead the way as flame throwing Marines of the Fifth Division, crouched with the weight of their weapons, move up to work on a concentration of Japanese pillboxes.
Iwo Jima February 1945. Supplies are unloaded from the vast fleet of ships offshore and ration dumps of the Third and Fourth Marine Divisions are established on the beach.
Closeup of wreckage of Marine equipment and landing barges partly submerged in the soft volcanic sand of the beach of Iwo Jima. February 1945.
Iwo Jima February 20, 1945. Marines burrow in the volcanic sand of the Iwo beach, as their comrades unload supplies and equipment from landing vessels despite the hail of fire from enemy positions on Mount Suribachi in the background.
Iwo Jima February 19, 1945. Marine-laden assault craft head to the beach at Iwo Jima during the initial landings on D-day. Note Mount Suribachi looming in the left background.
Iwo Jima February 19, 1945. Fourth Division Marines surge forward from the beach at Iwo Jima on D-day despite the hail of mortar and light artillery fire which the stubborn enemy defenders are raining down on the beachhead. Two attack waves are advancing up the barren slope toward the first airfield while a third assault line has just left the beach. Other waves await their turn and still more troops are headed shoreward in landing craft...
Iwo Jima February 19, 1945. A wave of Marines is organized after reaching the Iwo beachhead and preparations are made for the push inland.
Iwo Jima, February, 1945. Down Fifty: At a forward observation post, Marine spotters have located the exact fix on an enemy position as one of the group calls instructions to be relayed to artillery and mortar units requesting a concentration of fire on the Japanese strong point.
Iwo Jima, February 1945. Cozy Spot: View of a Regimental command post in a sandbagged position near the front lines at Iwo Jima.
Iwo Jima February 19, 1945. With enemy fire screaming overhead, Marines haul an ammunition cart on the beach at Iwo Jima on D-day.
Iwo Jima, February 21, 1945. Burrowed in the Sand: A Marine medium tank that couldn’t navigate the soft volcanic sand on Iwo, is track deep in a pit off the beach. This loose sand of the island proved an asset to the Japanese defenders.
Iwo Jima February 19, 1945. A Japanese pillbox on Iwo goes up in smoke when the Marine halftracks in the foreground score a direct hit. Japanese artillery in this area (note the gun at extreme left), was previously zeroed on the landing beach and took a heavy toll of the invading Leathernecks.
Japanese Pillbox Explosion, 19 February 1945
Iwo Jima, February 20, 1945. Buddy to the Rescue: A wounded Marine gets a lift from a comrade after he was wounded by Japanese mortar fire on Iwo. Casualties were treated at front line aid stations and evacuated to rear bases for further medical attention.”
A 37mm gun on Iwo Jima beach with Mount Suribachi in background, 20 Feb 1945
A US Marine used a flamethrower against a Japanese pillbox as he was covered by two riflemen, Iwo Jima, Feb 1945
Man of US 9th Marines with flamethrower, Motoyama Airfield, Iwo Jima, Feb 1945
Pfc Reg P. Hester, 7th War Dog Platoon, 25th Regiment, took a nap while Dutch, his war dog, stood guard, Iwo Jima, Feb 1945
US Navy doctors and corpsmen administer to the wounded at a first aid station, Iwo Jima, Japan, 20 Feb 1945
Iwo Jima February 19, 1945. In the face of withering enemy fire, Fifth Division Marines work their way up the slope from Red Beach One toward Suribachi Yama, hidden in the pal of smoke.
A carbine-equipped US Marine on Iwo Jima, Feb 1945
Iwo Jima, February 25, 1945. Blast on Suribachi: A demolition charge seals the entrance to one of the many caves on the slopes of Mount Suribachi from which the Japanese poured a withering fire on the Marine beachhead.
Iwo Jima, February 21, 1945. Beach Clearance: The quickest way to clear wrecked equipment from a section of the Iwo beachhead was to blast it away with demolition charges
Iwo Jima February 19, 1945. As the pall of smoke from the battlefield shrouds Mount Suribachi in the background, an afternoon assault wave of Marines worms it’s way over the crest of the beach terrace.
Iwo Jima, February 21, 1945. Agony on Iwo: Marines carefully slide a poncho under Corporal W. H. Porter, a victim of Japanese mortar fire on Iwo, preparatory to bearing him off for hospital care.
Iwo Jima, February 20, 1945. West Coast Advance: While advancing up the west coast of the island, Marine Lieutenant R. A. Tilgham, gathered his men for briefing on the battlefield though they were under fire.
Iwo Jima, February 1945. Cozy Spot: View of a Regimental command post in a sandbagged position near the front lines at Iwo Jima.
US Marines operating a captured Japanese Type 92 machine gun, Iwo Jima, Japan, Feb 1945
Iwo Jima, March 1945. First to land: Marines flock around the first huge B-29 Superfortress bomber to land on the Iwo airfield. The bomber was put down on Motoyama Airfield Number One in am emergency landing. It was returning from a raid on Japan where it was crippled..
Motoyama Airfield, Iwo Jima, 1945
Photo caption: America’s Might: Symbolic of American power in the Pacific is this Marine at a battered Japanese antiaircraft gun outlined against Iwo’s Motoyama airfield number one, on which rests the first B-29 that landed on the island. Crippled during a raid on Japan, the giant bomber effected an emergency landing on the unfinished strip..
4th Marine Division cemetery, Iwo Jima, 1945
Photo caption: Iwo Jima, March 1945. The “Fighting Fourth” Marine Division raise the Stars and Stripes over the graves of its slain, buried in the Division’s cemetery.
Iwo Jima Operation, 1945
“Jeep in the Heart of Iwo — One of the first Jeep 4x4s to roll ashore as the Fifth Marine Division landed on Iwo Jima, met the same fate as most of the other vehicles, when it sank into the soft black volcanic ash on the beach.
Until steel mats were laid a large number of Willys MB Jeep vehicles and trucks were stalled in the quagmire as they rolled from landing boats.
Bogged vehicles were favorite targets of Japanese mortarmen who fired down from flanking mountains overlooking the beach.”
Quoted from the original photo caption, released by Commander-in-Chief, Pacific, on 25 February 1945.
Men of 28th Regiment, US 5th Marine Division putting up the first flag on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima, Japan, at 1020 hours on 23 Feb 1945
Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone, killed in action in Iwo Jima, bearer of the Medal of Honor, the Navy Cross and a Purple Heart.
Feb. 23, 1945: U.S. Marines of the 28th Regiment, 5th Division, raise the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima. Strategically located only 660 miles from Tokyo, the Pacific island became the site of one of the bloodiest, most famous battles of World War II against Japan. (AP Photo/Joe Rosenthal)
US Marines posing with the second flag atop Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima, Japan, 23 Feb 1945
Avenger over Iwo Jima

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