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Iwo Jima, Battle of

Iwo Jima, Battle of (1945).When the Joint Chiefs of Staff directed the Pacific Fleet commander, Adm. Chester Nimitz, to occupy an island in the Bonin volcano group during the western Pacific campaign in World War II, the only island of significance was Iwo Jima. Early in 1945, Japanese fighter aircraft from there were harassing the B‐29s, which had begun their raids from the Marianas against Japan. Also, an emergency recovery airfield was needed for B‐29s returning damaged or short on fuel.

Mt. Suribachi, at 556 feet, is the most prominent landmark of the seven‐mile long, pork chop–shaped island, where Lt. Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi had 21,000 men and 1,000 guns. Forsaking the Japan doctrine of defending at the water's edge, he decided instead to defend from an elaborate system of caves and tunnels.

On the American side, Vice Adm. Richmond K. Turner commanded the Joint Expeditionary Force with Lt. Gen. Holland M. Smith as commander of the Joint Expeditionary Troops, while Maj. Gen. Harry Schmidt commanded the Marine V Amphibious Corps, consisting of the 3rd ( Maj. Gen. Graves B. Erskine), 4th ( Maj. Gen. Clifton B. Cates), and 5th ( Maj. Gen. Keller E. Rockey) Marine Divisions. At 0930 on 19 February 1945, the first wave of armored amphibian tractors touched down, 5th Division on the left and 4th Division on the right. On the left, the 28th Marines, an infantry regiment, turned south toward Suribachi, and after four days of fighting gained the top of the mountain. A patrol reached the crest and tied a small American flag to a piece of pipe. Three hours later, a larger flag was brought up—one that could be seen from all over the island. Joe Rosenthal, an Associated Press photographer, took a picture of its raising that was published around the world.

The main effort was a slow advance to the north, with the 5th Division on the left and the 4th Division on the right. The 3rd Division was fed into the center of the line and the attack shouldered forward. After days of heavy fighting, the island was secured on 26 March. Altogether, 71,245 Marines had been put ashore; of these, 5,931 were killed in action, and 17,372 wounded. Twenty‐two Marines, four navy hospital corpsmen, and one navy landing craft commander were awarded the Medal of Honor, half of them posthumous awards. The number of Japanese killed has never been determined exactly, but only 216 prisoners were taken, most of them Korean conscript laborers. The terrible cost to Americans was somewhat balanced by another statistic: by war's end, 2,251 heavy bombers, with crews totaling 24,761, had made emergency landings on Iwo.
[See also Awards, Decorations, and Honors; World War II, U.S. Air Operations in: The Air War Against Japan; World War II, U.S. Naval Operations in: The Pacific.]


Joseph H. Alexander , Closing In: Marines in the Seizure of Iwo Jima, 1995.
George C. Garand and and Truman R. Strobridge , History of U.S. Marine Corps Operations in World War II: Vol. IV, Western Pacific Operations, 1971.

Benis M. Frank

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