Battle of Iwo Jima
|Battle of Iwo Jima|
|Part of World War II, Pacific War|
A U.S. 37 mm (1.5 in) gun fires against Japanese cave positions in the north face of Mount Suribachi
|United States||Empire of Japan|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Tadamichi Kuribayashi †|
|Casualties and losses|
The Battle of Iwo Jima was the American capture of the Japanese island of Iwo Jima during the Pacific Campaign of World War II. The USA needed to capture Iwo Jima to be able to defeat Japan. Many films were made about it for example Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, both directed by Clint Eastwood.
After the heavy losses in the battle, people questioned why the US went into the battle. The island was not useful for the Navy or Air Force. I
The Imperial Japanese Army was defended with thick defences and underground tunnels. The Americans had ships that could fire on the island and total control of the air. This invasion was the first American attack on Japanese home territory. Japanese soldiers refused to surrender.
The Japanese general, Tadamichi Kuribayashi, refused to surrender. He and his officers said they would fight until they died.
Iwo Jima was the only battle by the U.S. Marine Corps in which the number killed and wounded were higher than those of the Japanese. There were 22,000 Japanese soldiers on Iwo Jima at the beginning of the battle, only 216 were taken prisoner at the end.
The Japanese could not retreat or get new soldiers. This meant that the Americans had to win the battle.
This photo became an important image of this battle, of the war in the Pacific, and of the Marine Corps.
Background[change | change source]
After the Americans captured the Marshall Islands in January 1944, the Japanese military leaders thought about their situation.
The commander of the Japanese group on Chichi Jima was placed in command of Army and Navy units in the Volcano Islands. After the American capture of the Marianas, they bombed Japan every day. Iwo Jima radioed reports bombers to Japan. This allowed Japan to defend itself against the American bombers.
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.
The loss of the Marianas during the summer of 1944 made the Japanese worried about the Volcano Islands. They knew that if the Americans captured these islands, they could do air attacks on Japan. It was hard for Japan to defend the Volcano Islands because 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.
The capture of Iwo Jima would take away this air base from the Japanese. It would also provide a place to launch the invasion of Japan.
Experts thought Iwo Jima would be captured in one week. The US decided to invade Iwo Jima. Hundreds of tons of Allied bombs did not harm the Japanese defenders, since they were protected.
Planning and preparation[change | change source]
Japanese preparations[change | change source]
By June 1944, Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi was ordered to defend Iwo Jima. Kuribayashi knew that Japan could not win the battle. He hoped to kill so many American forces that the Allies would decide not to invade Japan.
The amphibious landing[change | change source]
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.
The American bombings and continued until 19 February 1945. This was the day the Marines went onto the island. The bombing did not harm the enemy because they had thick defences.
At 08:59, 30,000 Marines began landing on the beach. The Japanese did not fire their guns fire for some time. Then the Japanese started firing and many in the first group of Marines were killed by the machine guns.
The Japanese heavy artillery opened their steel doors to fire, and then closed them after. This made it difficult for American units to destroy Japanese artillery. The Japanese soldiers hid in the tunnel system.
The fighting on at Iwo Jima was very violent. The advance of the Marines 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.
Raising the flag[change | change source]
"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. The photograph was popular. It won a Pulitzer Prize for Photography.
The Japanese troops stayed in the tunnels . They were all killed.
Northern Iwo Jima[change | change source]
The Japanese still held positions on the north end. Kuribayashi had eight infantry battalions, a tank regiment, and two artillery and three heavy mortar battalions. Also he had about 5,000 gunners and naval infantry.
The Marines' tanks were destroyed fire and mines. 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.
On the evening of 8 March, Captain Samaji Inouye and his 1,000 men attacked the American. This caused 347 casualties (90 deaths). The Marines counted 784 dead Japanese soldiers the next day.
There was also a kamikaze air attack on the ships anchored at sea on 21 February. This sunk the escort carrier USS Bismarck Sea, severely damaged the USS Saratoga. There was minor damage to the escort carrier USS Lunga Point, an LST and a transport.
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.
A 300-man Japanese force attacked Airfield No. 2. There was a 90 minute fight but suffered heavy casualties (53 killed, 120 wounded). The island was finally captured at 09:00 on 26 March.
Weapons[change | change source]
Marines put flamethrowers on tanks which were used during battle. They were not that useful because of Iwo Jima's rough land.
Aftermath[change | change source]
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 Iwo Jima battle caused more than 26,000 American casualties, including 6,800 dead." 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 American had more dead or wounded than the Japanese,.
Because all civilians had been removed, there were no civilian casualties at Iwo Jima, unlike at Saipan and Okinawa.
Strategic importance[change | change source]
Given the number of casualties, the importance of the island's capture was controversial.
The island's emergency landing field was used by bombers carrying the atomic bombs to Japan in late 1945.
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.
Japanse fighter aircraft based on Iwo Jima sometimes attacked US forces. Only 11 B-29s were lost.
However, the capture of Iwo Jima did not affect the Japanese radar system.
Legacy[change | change source]
On 19 February 1985, the 40th anniversary of the landings, an event called the Reunion of Honor was held.[source?] 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.
The Japanese government continues to search for the bodies of Japanese military troops who were killed during the battle.
Medal of Honor awards[change | change source]
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.
During this one-month-long battle, 27 U.S. military personnel were given the Medal of Honor for their actions, 14 of them after death.
Movies and documentaries[change | change source]
- To the Shores of Iwo Jima, a 1945 American documentary produced by the United States Navy, Marine Corps and the Coast Guard.
- Glamour Gal, a 1945 film about Marine artillery.
- Sands of Iwo Jima, a 1949 American film starring John Wayne.
- The Outsider, a 1961 film starring Tony Curtis as the conflicted flag raiser Ira Hayes.
- Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima are two 2006 films directed by Clint Eastwood. Flags of Our Fathers is filmed from the American perspective and is based on the book by James Bradley and Ron Powers (Flags of Our Fathers). Letters from Iwo Jima (originally titled Red Sun, Black Sand) is filmed from the Japanese perspective.
- Part 8 of the 2010 HBO miniseries The Pacific, produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, includes part of the battle of Iwo Jima from the point of view of John Basilone from the beginning of the invasion until his death later in the day.
- Episode 23 from the acclaimed 1973 Thames Television Documentary The World at War.
- Battle Rats: Iwo Jima (2009) (TV).
- There is also a movie now out called "The League of Grateful Sons" by Vision Forum concerning the Battle of Iwo Jima
Notes[change | change source]
- Burrell 2006, p. 83. Burrell talks about how many historians have overestimated the number Japanese defenders, with 20,000 and even 25,000 listed. Burrell puts the range between 18,060 and 18,600, with exactly 216 of these taken prisoner. The rest were killed in action.
- Morison, Samuel Eliot (2002) . Victory in the Pacific, 1945. Volume 14 of History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press. . .
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- John Toland, Rising Sun - The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire 1936-1945, page 669
- Adrian R. Lewis, The American Culture of War. The History of U.S. Military Force from World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom, New York 2007, p. 59
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- Keith Wheeler, THE ROAD TO TOKYO, Time-Life Books, 1979, Alexandria, Virginia, p.50
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- Robert Leckie, p.872
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- Joint War Planning Committee 306/1, "Plan for the Seizure of Rota Island," 25 January 1945.
- Blumenstein, LCpl Richard; Sgt. Ethan E. Rocke (October–December 2007). "From Black Sands to Suribachi’s Summit: Marines Reflect on Historic Battle". Marines Magazine (United States Marine Corps). http://www.mcnews.info/mcnewsinfo/marines/2007/20072nd/onliberty/Suribachi.shtml. Retrieved 18 December 2008.
- Kyodo News, "Map of Iwojima's underground bunkers found in U.S.", Japan Times, 6 May 2012, p. 2.
- "Outsider (1961)". imdb. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0055270/. Retrieved 2 January 2008.
References[change | change source]
- Allen, Robert E. (2004). The First Battalion of the 28th Marines on Iwo Jima: A Day-by-Day History from Personal Accounts and Official Reports, with Complete Muster Rolls. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company.
- Bradley, James; Ron Powers (2001) . Flags of Our Fathers. New York: Bantam.
- Bradley, James (2003). Flyboys: A True Story of Courage. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.
- Buell, Hal (2006). Uncommon Valor, Common Virtue: Iwo Jima and the Photograph that Captured America. New York: Penguin Group.
- Burrell, Robert S. "Breaking the Cycle of Iwo Jima Mythology: A Strategic Study of Operation Detachment," Journal of Military History Volume 68, Number 4, October 2004, pp. 1143–1186 and rebuttal in Project MUSE
- Burrell, Robert S. (2006). The Ghosts of Iwo Jima. College Station: Texas A&M University Press.
- Eldridge, Robert D.; Charles W. Tatum (2011). Fighting Spirit: The Memoirs of Major Yoshitaka Horie and the Battle of Iwo Jima. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press.
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Online[change | change source]
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