Scroll To Top



506th Fighter Group - Battle of Iwo Jima

Twenty-six marines who fought on Iwo Jima
won the Medal of Honor

Battle of Iwo Jima


United States Japan



110,000 22,000



6,825 killed in action,[1]
1,401 died of wounds,[1]
19,189 wounded,[1]
494 missing[1]
Total: 27,909
20,703 dead,[1]
216 captured[1]
Total: 20,919


Navy Ships Sunk/Damaged...

US Navy Ships Sunk or Badly Damaged By Enemy Action at Iwo Jima

17 Feb
Coastal battery
Coastal battery
Coastal battery
Coastal battery
Coastal battery
Coastal battery
Coastal battery
Coastal battery
Coastal battery
18 Feb
Blessman (DE-69)
Air attack
Gamble (DD-123)
Air attack
20 Feb
Air attack
21 Feb
Bismarck Sea (CVE-95)
Air attack
Saratoga (CV-3)
Air attack
Napa (APA-157)
Air attack
25 Feb
Coastal battery
28 Feb
Terry (DD-513)
Coastal battery
Whitley (AKA-91)
Air attack
The Battle of Iwo Jima

Marines rush from their landing craft onto the beach at Iwo Jima. The Marines captured the Japanese island in 1945 after a month-long battle that caused one of the highest casualty tolls in the Pacific theater of the war. Corbis/UPI

Iwo Jima (Japanese Iō-jima), island of Japan, largest of the three Volcano Islands, in the western Pacific Ocean. About 9 km (6 mi) long and 4 km (2 mi) wide, the island is mountainous and volcanic in origin. Mount Suribachi (161 m/ 528 ft), an extinct volcano, is the island's highest elevation. The Volcano Islands, south of the Bonin Islands, were annexed by Japan in 1891. Under the peace treaty signed between the Allies and Japan in 1951, the Volcano Islands were placed under the provisional administration of the U.S. Navy. They were returned to Japan in 1968 and are under the jurisdiction of Tokyo's prefectural government.

Costliest Battle

In the costliest battle of World War II, 6,891 U. S. Marines lost their lives in the assault beginning 19 Feb 45 on Iwo 660 miles southeast of Tokyo. It soon became a haven for battle damaged or fuel short B-29s returning from Japan. From 4 Mar 45 to war's end some 2,400 Superfortresses made emergency landings at Iwo involving some 25,000 airmen in addition to those who had bailed out or ditched in the vicinity. The largest number of B-29s to land at Iwo after a single mission was on 8 Aug 45 after the attack on Yawata when 100 landed. The busiest day on Iwo was 24 Jul 45 when 197 B-29s landed after nine separate attacks over the Japanese homeland. Iwo Jima also served as the base for four Groups and two Squadrons of the VII Fighter Command flying P-51s, P-47s and P-61s and assigned to the 20th Air Force. From Apr to Aug 45 they flew 51 escort and strike missions over Japan, damaged or destroyed 1,062 enemy aircraft and lost 114 fighters in combat. By war's end the Iwo Fighter Groups numbered over 11,000 men with 174 killed or missing in action.

Color Film To the Shores fo Iwo Jima (428 min: Reel 1-4): a must see: (click here)
Raw and uncut battle combat footage from the battle of Iwo Jima

1 About 8000 marines land on Iwo Jima between 9 and 10 am on February 19. Their landing craft and amtracs are followed by landing ships, with tanks, artillery and bulldozers. Aircraft and ships offshore bombard the island.

2 Gigantic tongues of fire leap from US flamethrowing tanks. Fighting is desperate. Defenders in skilfully camouflaged positions can wait until the Americans are on top of them before opening fire. There is also hand-to-hand fighting with bayonets and knives. Some Japanese make suicidal charges, wielding sabres. Even so, by late morning, marines have crossed Iwo Jima, cutting off Mount Suribachi on their left.

3 The volcanic mountain bristles with enemy fortifications - and takes U Colonel Chandler W. Johnson's 2nd Battalion, 28th Regiment, three days to conquer. A 'foot-by-foot crawl, with mortars, artillery, rockets, machine guns and grenades making us hug every rock and shell-hole' is how one veteran was later to describe the battle. Eventually, at 10.20 am on the 23rd, 'Old Glory' flutters at the mountain top -though the men raising the flag suddenly have to confront some desperate Japanese.

4 With Suribachi taken, the Americans turn to the north of the island, which includes two completed Japanese airfields. The going is tough. Within two days, tank battalions have lost more than half their Shermans and many combat units are reduced to 50 per cent efficiency. By the end of the 25th, the Americans have captured about a third of the island, but Iwo Jima is not pronounced cleared until a month later - and mopping up continues into May.


Background (3)
At the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor an Army force of about 3,700–3,800 men garrisoned Chichi Jima. In addition, about 1,200 naval personnel manned the Chichi Jima Naval Base, a small seaplane base, the radio and weather station, and various gunboat, subchaser, and minesweeping units. On Iwo Jima, the Imperial Navy had constructed an airfield about 2,000 yards northeast of Mount Suribachi. Initially stationed on this field were 1,500 naval aviation personnel and 20 aircraft. In the wake of the American seizure of the Marshall Islands and devastating air attacks against Truk in the Caroline Islands in February 1944, the Japanese military leadership conducted a reappraisal of the military situation. All indications pointed to an American drive towards the Marianas and Carolines. To counter such a move, they established an inner line of defense extending generally northward from the Carolines to the Marianas, and from thence to the Ogasawara Islands.

Japanese Pillbox with 120mm gun

In March 1944, the Thirty-First Army, commanded by General Hideyoshi Obata, was activated for the purpose of garrisoning this inner line. The commander of the Chichi Jima garrison was placed nominally in command of Army and Navy units in the Ogasawara Islands. Following the American seizure of bases in the Marshalls in the battles of Kwajalein and Eniwetok in February 1944, both Army and Navy reinforcements were sent to Iwo Jima. Five hundred men from the naval base at Yokosuka and an additional 500 from Chichi Jima reached Iwo Jima during March and April 1944. At the same time, with the arrival of reinforcements from Chichi Jima and the home islands, the Army garrison on Iwo Jima had reached a strength of over 5,000 men, equipped with 13 artillery pieces, 200 light and heavy machine guns, and 4,552 rifles. In addition, the defense boasted 120 mm coast artillery guns, twelve heavy anti-aircraft guns, and thirty 25 mm dual-mount anti-aircraft guns. The loss of the Marianas during the summer of 1944 greatly increased the importance of the Ogasawaras for the Japanese, who were fully cognizant that the loss of these islands would facilitate American air raids against the home islands. Such raids, beyond any doubt, would raise havoc with the entire Japanese war production program, and deal a severe blow to civilian morale. Final Japanese plans for the defense of the Ogasawaras were overshadowed by the fact that the Imperial Japanese Navy had already lost most of its naval strength and no longer constituted a major factor in frustrating possible American landings. Moreover, aircraft losses throughout 1944 had been so heavy that, even if war production was not materially slowed by American air attacks, combined Japanese air strength was not expected to increase to 3,000 aircraft until March or April of 1945. Even then, these planes could not be used from bases in the home islands against Iwo Jima because their range did not exceed 550 miles (890 km); besides, all available aircraft had to be hoarded for possible use on Taiwan and adjacent islands where land bases were available in close proximity. In the battle of Iwo Jima the Japanese only used ground units, no planes or boats of any kind were involved.

Pillboxes Japanese Pillbox with 120mm gun
Even before the fall of Saipan in June 1944, Japanese planners knew that Iwo Jima would have to be reinforced materially if it were to be held for any length of time, and preparations were made to send sizable numbers of men and quantities of materiel to that island. In late May, Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi was summoned to the office of the Prime Minister, General Hideki Tojo, who informed the general that he had been chosen to defend Iwo Jima to the last. Kuribayashi was further apprised of the importance of this assignment when Tojo pointed out that the eyes of the entire nation were focused on the defense of Iwo Jima. Fully aware of the implications of the task entrusted to him, the general accepted. By 8 June 1944, Kuribayashi was on his way to his toughest and final assignment, determined to convert Iwo Jima into an invincible fortress that would withstand any type of attack from any quarter. When he arrived, some 80 fighter aircraft were stationed on Iwo Jima, but by early July there were just four left.

A United States Navy force boldly appeared within sight of the island and subjected the Japanese to a naval bombardment from point-blank range over two days. This shelling destroyed every building on the island and smashed the four remaining aircraft. Much to the surprise of the Japanese garrison on Iwo, an American invasion of the island did not materialize during the summer of 1944. There was little doubt that in time the Americans would be compelled to attack the island. General Kuribayashi was more determined than ever to exact the heaviest possible price for Iwo when the invaders came. Without naval and air support, it was a foregone conclusion that Iwo could not hold out indefinitely against an invader possessing both naval and air supremacy. As a first step in readying Iwo for a prolonged defense, the island commander ordered the evacuation of all civilians from the island. This was accomplished by late July.

Next came an overall plan for defense of the island. Lieutenant General Hideyoshi Obata, Commanding General of the Thirty-First Army, early in 1944 had been responsible for the defense of Iwo prior to his return to the Marianas. At the time, faithful to the doctrine that an invasion had to be met practically at the water's edge, Obata had ordered the emplacement of artillery and the construction of pillboxes near the beaches. General Kuribayashi had different ideas. Instead of a futile effort to hold the beaches, he planned to defend the latter with a sprinkling of automatic weapons and infantry. Artillery, mortars, and rockets would be emplaced on the foot and slopes of Mount Suribachi, as well as in the high ground to the north of Chidori airfield. A prolonged defense of the island required the preparation of an extensive system of caves and tunnels, for the naval bombardment had clearly shown that surface installations could not withstand extensive shelling. To this end, mining engineers were dispatched from Japan to draw blueprints for projected underground fortifications that would consist of elaborate tunnels at varying levels to assure good ventilation and minimize the effect of bombs or shells exploding near the entrances or exits. At the same time, reinforcements were gradually beginning to reach the island.

Airfields from above Pre-invasion Iwo with airfields
As commander of the 109th Infantry Division, General Kuribayashi decided first of all to shift the 2nd Independent Mixed Brigade, consisting of about 5,000 men under Major General Kotau Osuga, from Chichi to Iwo. With the fall of Saipan, 2,700 men of the 145th Infantry Regiment, commanded by Colonel Masuo Ikeda, were diverted to Iwo. These reinforcements, who reached the island during July and August 1944, brought the strength of the garrison up to approximately 12,700 men. Next came 1,233 members of the 204th Naval Construction Battalion, who quickly set to work constructing concrete pillboxes and other fortifications. On 10 August 1944, Rear Admiral Toshinosuke Ichimaru reached Iwo, shortly followed by 2,216 naval personnel, including naval aviators and ground crews. The admiral, a renowned Japanese aviator, had been crippled in an airplane crash in the mid-twenties and, ever since the outbreak of the war, had chafed under repeated rear echelon assignments. Next to arrive on Iwo were artillery units and five antitank battalions. Even though numerous supply ships on route to Iwo Jima were sunk by American submarines and aircraft, substantial quantities of materiel did reach Iwo during the summer and autumn of 1944.

By the end of the year, General Kuribayashi had available to him 361 artillery pieces of 75 mm or larger caliber, a dozen 320 mm mortars, 65 medium (150 mm) and light (81 mm) mortars, 33 naval guns 80 mm or larger, and 94 anti-aircraft guns 75 mm or larger. In addition to this formidable array of large caliber guns, the Iwo defenses could boast of more than two hundred 20 mm and 25 mm antiaircraft guns and 69 37 mm and 47 mm antitank guns. The fire power of the artillery was further supplemented with a variety of rockets varying from an eight-inch type that weighed 90 kg and could travel 2–3 km, to a giant 250 kg projectile that had a range of more than 7 km. Altogether, 70 rocket guns and their crews reached Iwo Jima. In order to further strengthen the Iwo defenses, the 26th Tank Regiment, which had been stationed at Pusan, Korea after extended service in Manchuria, received orders for Iwo. The officer commanding this regiment was Lieutenant Colonel Baron Takeichi Nishi. The regiment, consisting of 600 men and 28 tanks, sailed from Japan in mid-July on board the Nisshu Maru. As the ship, sailing in a convoy, approached Chichi Jima on 18 July 1944, it was torpedoed by an American submarine, USS Cobia. Even though only two members of the 26th Tank Regiment were sunk, all of the regiment's 28 tanks went to the bottom of the sea. It would be December before these tanks could be replaced, but 22 finally reached Iwo Jima. Initially, Colonel Nishi had planned to employ his armor as a type of "roving fire brigade", to be committed at focal points of combat. The rugged terrain precluded such employment and in the end, under the colonel's watchful eyes, the tanks were deployed in static positions. They were either buried or their turrets were dismounted and so skillfully emplaced in the rocky ground that they were practically invisible from the air or from the ground.

For the remainder of 1944, the construction of fortifications on Iwo also went into high gear. The Japanese were quick to discover that the black volcanic ash that existed in abundance all over the island could be converted into concrete of superior quality when mixed with cement. Pillboxes near the beaches north of Mount Suribachi were constructed of reinforced concrete, many of them with walls four feet thick. At the same time, an elaborate system of caves, concrete blockhouses, and pillboxes was established. One of the results of American air attacks and naval bombardment in the early summer of 1944 had been to drive the Japanese so deep underground that eventually their defenses became virtually immune to air or naval bombardment. While the Japanese on Peleliu Island in the Western Carolines, also awaiting American invasion, had turned the improvement of natural caves into an art, the defenders of Iwo developed it into a science. Because of the importance of the underground positions, 25 percent of the garrison was detailed to tunneling. Positions constructed underground ranged in size from small caves for a few men to several underground chambers capable of holding 300 or 400 men. In order to prevent personnel from becoming trapped in any one excavation, the subterranean installations were provided with multiple entrances and exits, as well as stairways and interconnecting passageways. Special attention had to be paid to providing adequate ventilation, since sulphur fumes were present in many of the underground installations. Fortunately for the Japanese, most of the volcanic stone on Iwo was so soft that it could be cut with hand tools. General Kuribayashi established his command post in the northern part of the island, about 500 m northeast of Kita village and south of Kitano Point. This installation, 20 m underground, consisted of caves of varying sizes, connected by 150 m of tunnels. Here the island commander had his own warroom in one of three small concrete enclosed chambers; the two similar rooms were used by the staff.

Farther south on Hill 382, the second highest elevation on the island, the Japanese constructed a radio and weather station. Nearby, on an elevation just southeast of the station, an enormously large blockhouse was constructed which served as the headquarters of Colonel Chosaku Kaido, who commanded all artillery on Iwo Jima. Other hills in the northern portion of the island were tunnelled out, All of these major excavations featured multiple entrances and exits and were virtually invulnerable to damage from artillery or aerial bombardment. Typical of the thoroughness employed in the construction of subterranean defenses was the main communications center south of Kita village, which was so spacious that it contained a chamber 50 m long and 20 m wide. This giant structure was similar in construction and thickness of walls and ceilings to General Kuribayashi's command post. A 150 m tunnel 20 m below the ground led into this vast subterranean chamber. Perhaps the most ambitious construction project to get under way was the creation of an underground passageway designed to link all major defense installations on the island.

As projected, this passageway was to have attained a total length of almost 17 miles (27 km). Had it been completed, it would have linked the formidable underground installations in the northern portion of Iwo Jima with the southern part of the island, where the northern slope of Mount Suribachi alone harbored several thousand yards of tunnels. By the time the Marines landed on Iwo Jima, more than 11 miles (18 km) of tunnels had been completed. A supreme effort was required of the Japanese personnel engaged in the underground construction work. Aside from the heavy physical labor, the men were exposed to heat from 30–50 °C (90–120 °F), as well as sulphur fumes that forced them to wear gas masks. In numerous instances a work detail had to be relieved after only five minutes. When renewed American air attacks struck the island on 8 December 1944 and thereafter became a daily occurrence until the actual invasion of the island, a large number of men had to be diverted to repairing the damaged airfields.

While Iwo Jima was being converted into a major fortress with all possible speed, General Kuribayashi formulated his final plans for the defense of the island. This plan, which constituted a radical departure from the defensive tactics used by the Japanese earlier in the war, provided for the following major points:

1. In order to prevent disclosing their positions to the Americans, Japanese artillery was to remain silent during the expected prelanding bombardment. No fire would be directed against the American naval vessels.

2. Upon landing on Iwo Jima, the Americans were not to encounter any opposition on the beaches.

3. Once the Americans had advanced about 500 m inland, they were to be taken under the concentrated fire of automatic weapons stationed in the vicinity of Motoyama airfield to the north, as well as automatic weapons and artillery emplaced both on the high ground to the north of the landing beaches and Mount Suribachi to the south.

4. After inflicting maximum possible casualties and damage on the landing force, the artillery was to displace northward from the high ground near the Chidori airfield.

Tough going as Marines land on Iwo

Marines are pinned down close to the beach taking heavy fire



In this connection, Kuribayashi stressed once again that he planned to conduct an elastic defense designed to wear down the invasion force. Such prolonged resistance naturally required the defending force to stockpile rations and ammunition. To this end the island commander accumulated a food reserve to last for two and a half months, ever mindful of the fact that the trickle of supplies that was reaching Iwo Jima during the latter part of 1944 would cease altogether once the island was surrounded by a hostile naval force. During the final months of preparing Iwo Jima for the defense, General Kuribayashi saw to it that the strenuous work of building fortifications did not interfere with the training of units. As an initial step towards obtaining more time for training, he ordered work on the northernmost airfield on the island halted. In an operations order issued in early December, the island commander set 11 February 1945 as the target date for completion of defensive preparations and specified that personnel were to spend 70 percent of their time in training and 30 percent in construction work.

Despite intermittent harassment by American submarines and aircraft, additional personnel continued to arrive on Iwo until February 1945. By that time General Kuribayashi had under his command a force totalling between 21,000 and 23,000 men, including both Army and Navy units. General Kuribayashi made several changes in his basic defense plan in the months preceding the American invasion of Iwo Jima. The final stratagem, which became effective in January 1945, called for the creation of strong, mutually supporting positions which were to be defended to the death. Neither large scale counterattacks, withdrawals, nor banzai charges were contemplated. The southern portion of Iwo in the proximity of Mount Suribachi was organized into a semi-independent defense sector. Fortifications included casemated coast artillery and automatic weapons in mutually supporting pillboxes. The narrow isthmus to the north of Suribachi was to be defended by a small infantry force. On the other hand this entire area was exposed to the fire of artillery, rocket launchers, and mortars emplaced on Suribachi to the south and the high ground to the north. A main line of defense, consisting of mutually supporting positions in depth, extended from the northwestern part of the island to the southeast, along a general line from the cliffs to the northwest, across Motoyama Airfield No. 2 to Minami village. From there it continued eastward to the shoreline just south of Tachiiwa Point. The entire line of defense was dotted with pillboxes, bunkers, and blockhouses. Colonel Nishi's immobilized tanks, carefully dug in and camouflaged, further reinforced this fortified area, whose strength was supplemented by the broken terrain.

Flame throwers in action at Iwo Jima video (click here).
Color Film To the Shores fo Iwo Jima from WW2 in color.
This footage showcases raw and uncut graphic footage. Viewer discretion is advised.

A second line of defense extended from a few hundred yards south of Kitano Point at the very northern tip of Iwo across the still uncompleted Airfield No. 3, to Motoyama village, and then to the area between Tachiiwa Point and the East Boat Basin. This second line contained fewer man-made fortifications, but the Japanese took maximum advantage of natural caves and other terrain features. As an additional means of protecting the two completed airfields on Iwo from direct assault, the Japanese constructed a number of antitank ditches near the fields and mined all natural routes of approach.

When, on 2 January, more than a dozen B-24 Liberator bombers raided Airfield No. 1 and inflicted heavy damage, Kuribayashi diverted more than 600 men, 11 trucks, and 2 bulldozers for immediate repairs. As a result, the airfield again became operational after only 12 hours. Eventually, 2,000 men were assigned the job of filling the bomb craters with as many as 50 men detailed to each bomb crater. The end of 1944 saw American B-24 bombers over Iwo Jima almost every night while U.S. Navy carriers and cruisers frequently sortied into the Ogasawaras. On 8 December 1944, American aircraft dropped more than 800 tons of bombs on Iwo Jima, which shook the Japanese up but did very little real damage to the island defenses. Even though frequent air raids interfered with the Japanese defensive preparations and robbed the garrison of much badly needed sleep, progress of the work was not materially slowed.

As early as 5 January 1945, Admiral Ichimaru conducted a briefing of naval personnel at his command post in which he informed them of the destruction of the Japanese Fleet at the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the loss of the Philippines, and the expectation that Iwo would shortly be invaded. Exactly one month later, Japanese radio operators on Iwo reported to the island commander that code signals of American aircraft had undergone an ominous change. On 13 February, a Japanese naval patrol plane spotted 170 American ships moving northwestward from Saipan. All Japanese troops in the Ogasawaras were alerted and occupied their battle positions. On Iwo Jima, preparations for the pending battle had been completed, and the defenders were ready.

On 7 October 1944 Admiral Chester Nimitz and his staff issued a staff study for preliminary planning, which clearly listed the objectives of Operation Detachment. The overriding purpose of the operation was to maintain unremitting military pressure against Japan and to extend American control over the Western Pacific. In American hands, Iwo Jima could be turned into a base from which to attack the Japanese home islands, protect bases in the Marianas, cover naval forces, conduct search operations of the approaches to the Japanese home islands, and provide fighter escort for very long-range operations. Three tasks specifically envisioned in the study were the reduction of enemy naval and air strength and industrial facilities in the home islands; the destruction of Japanese naval and air strength in the Bonin Islands, and the capture, occupation, and subsequent defense of Iwo Jima, which was to be developed into an air base.

On 9 October, General Holland Smith received the staff study, accompanied by a directive from Admiral Nimitz ordering the seizure of Iwo Jima. This directive designated specific commanders for the operation. Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, Commander, Fifth Fleet, was placed in charge as Operation Commander, Task Force 50. Under Spruance, Vice Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner, Commander, Amphibious Forces, Pacific, was to command the Joint Expeditionary Force, Task Force 51. Second in command of the Joint Expeditionary Force was Rear Admiral Harry W. Hill. General Holland Smith was designated Commanding General, Expeditionary Troops, Task Force 56. It was not accidental that these men were selected to command an operation of such vital importance that it has since become known as "the classical amphibious assault of recorded history." All of them had shown their mettle in previous engagements. One chronicler of the Iwo Jima operation put it in the following words: The team assigned to Iwo Jima was superb the very men who had perfected the amphibious techniques from the Battle of Guadalcanal to the Battle of Guam. Nearly every problem, it was believed, had been met and mastered along the way, from the jungles of Guadalcanal up through the Solomons, and across the Central Pacific from the bloody reefs of Battle of Tarawa to the mountains of the Marianas. The U.S. V Amphibious Corps scheme of maneuver for the landings was relatively simple. The 4th and 5th Marine Divisions were to land abreast on the eastern beaches, the 4th on the right and the 5th on the left.

Scene from the sky

Iwo was pounded for months before the invasion by the Army and Navy. However, 22,000 Japanese soldiers are buried deep inside the volcanic island thru an elaborate cave and tunnel system
When released to VAC, the 3d Marine Division, as Expeditionary Troops Reserve, was to land over the same beaches to take part in the attack or play a defensive role, whichever was called for. The plan called for a rapid exploitation of the beachhead with an advance in a northeasterly direction to capture the entire island. A regiment of the 5th Marine Division was designated to capture Mount Suribachi in the south. Since there was a possibility of unfavorable surf conditions along the eastern beaches, VAC issued an alternate plan on 8 January 1945, which provided for a landing on the western beaches. However, since predominant northerly or northwesterly winds caused hazardous swells almost continuously along the southwest side of the island, it appeared unlikely that this alternate plan would be put into execution. The detailed scheme of maneuver for the landings provided for the U.S. 28th Marine Regiment of the 5th Marine Division, commanded by Colonel Harry B. Liversedge, to land on the extreme left of the corps on Green 1.

On the right of the 28th Marines, the U.S. 27th Marine Regiment, under Colonel Thomas A. Wornham, was to attack towards the west coast of the island, then wheel northeastward and seize the O-1 Line. Action by the 27th and 28th Marines was designed to drive the enemy from the commanding heights along the southern portion of Iwo, simultaneously securing the flanks and rear of VAC. As far as the 4th Marine Division was concerned, the U.S. 23rd Marine Regiment, commanded by Colonel Walter W. Wensinger, was to go ashore on Yellow 1 and 2 beaches, seize Motoyama Airfield No. 1, then turn to the northeast and seize that part of Motoyama Airfield No. 2 and the O-1 Line within its zone of action. After landing on Blue Beach 1, the U.S. 25th Marine Regiment, under Colonel John R. Lanigan, was to assist in the capture of Airfield No. 1, the capture of Blue Beach 2, and the O-1 Line within its zone of action. The U.S. 24th Marine Regiment, under Colonel Walter I. Jordan, was to be held in 4th Marine Division reserve during the initial landings. The U.S. 26th Marine Regiment, led by Colonel Chester B. Graham, was to be released from corps reserve on D-Day and prepared to support the 5th Marine Division. Division artillery was to go ashore on order from the respective division commanders. The 4th Marine Division was to be supported by the U.S. 14th Marine Regiment, commanded by Colonel Louis G. DeHaven; Colonel James D. Wailer's U.S. 13th Marine Regiment was to furnish similar support for the 5th Marine Division. The operation was to be so timed that at H-Hour 68 Landing Vehicle Tracked, comprising the first wave, were to hit the beach. These vehicles were to advance inland until they reached the first terrace beyond the high-water mark. The armored amphibians would use their 75mm howitzers and machine guns to the utmost in an attempt to keep the enemy down, thus giving some measure of protection to succeeding waves of Marines who were most vulnerable to enemy fire at the time they debarked from their LVTs. Though early versions of the VAC operations plan had called for tanks of the 4th and 5th Tank Battalions to be landed at H plus 30, subsequent studies of the beaches made it necessary to adopt a more flexible schedule. The possibility of congestion at the water's edge also contributed to this change in plans. In the end, the time for bringing the tanks ashore was left to the discretion of the regimental commanders. The Allies wanted Iwo Jima not only to neutralize threats to its bombers and shipping, but to use its airfields for fighter escort and emergency bomber landings. On February 16, 1945, they commenced a massive three-day air and naval bombardment of the island.

Iwo's three airfields had based interceptor planes which took some toll of the B-29's from the Marianas(MAP on their raids over Japan. In American hands it would offer a refueling station for returning medium bombers, a base for escorting fighters, and a refuge for injured B-29's unable to get all the way home. The problem of taking Iwo was a difficult one since the terrain was rugged and the island itself small, compact, well-garrisoned, and heavily protected with artillery. The taking of Iwo was exclusively a naval operation, though the seven month's bombardment which preceded the assault featured army bombers as well as carrier planes and gunfire by surface units. During December 1944 and January these attacks were especially severe and came to involve almost daily and sometimes also nightly attack. Meantime, preparations were completed for the assault. Admiral Spruance was in supreme command but was supported by Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher who directed the carrier task force. The carriers at first gave distant rather than close support. On February 16, three days before the landings were to be attempted, their planes started a two-day attack on Tokyo, thus fulfilling a naval ambition cherished from the beginning of the war. Complete tactical surprise was achieved, and shipping (including a carrier), enemy planes, factories, and hangars were heavily bombed and strafed. Though 49 American planes were lost, the cost to the enemy in terms of planes alone totaled 499. The force then retraced its course and rejoined the fleet which was engaged in an intensive three-day preliminary bombardment off Iwo.

American Marines scrambled ashore onto Iwo Jima, just after 9 am on February 19, 1945, they stormed into a hell they had not bargained for. For one thing, they could scarcely see their objectives; the tiny, 21 km (8 sq mile) surf-lashed island, shaped like a pork chop, was shrouded in smoke and dust from a massive three-day naval barrage that had preceded the assault. For another, as they leapt from their landing craft, the Americans sank shin-deep in the ash and cinders of the beaches. Even their amtracs (amphibious tracked vehicles) became bogged down. Finally, the marines did not realise that behind the smoke screen lurked a deadly, 21,000-man force of fanatical adversaries in an 18 km (11 mile) maze of caves, tunnels, crevices, carefully camouflaged pillboxes and bombproof underground hideouts. What is more, the Japanese had been ordered to hold fire after the landings so that their positions would not be given away. The 4th and 5th US Marine Divisions made the initial assault. In command was Lt General Holland M. ('Howling Mad') Smith, with Maj General Harry Schmidt in charge on the ground. It was 20 minutes after the first Americans hit the beach below the 168 m (550 ft) peak of Mount Suribachi that the Japanese opened up with all their artillery and mortars. The marines - a mere 180-275 m (200-300 yds) inland - were pinned down and many died there and then, their vehicles stuck in the ashy ground. Small-arms fire lashed them from camouflaged pillboxes and for 75 days before the American assault on Iwo Jima, B-24, B-25 and some B-29 Superfortress bombers from Saipan, along with naval guns, 'softened up' the tiny island. In the final three days before the landings they let loose the longest and heaviest bombardment of the entire Pacific war. Guns alone rained almost 40,000 shells onto it. Then, on the morning of the 19th, the largest collection of ships so far used in a Pacific operation - 450 vessels of the US Fifth Fleet - gathered offshore. At the same time, the 30, 000 men of the 4th and 5th Marine Divisions transferred to landing craft, ready to begin the assault. But, despite destroying 100 Japanese naval aircraft, the softening-up had hardly touched the defenders. They were dug in deep inside a labyrinth of cunningly disguised gun and mortar positions, hollowed-out hills and underground pillboxes, all ready to fight to the death. The battle for Iwo Jima would be the bloodiest - and the most heroic -operation in the history of the US Marine Corps.

Marines floundered trying to gain footing; jeeps and tanks sank into the ground and became easy targets for enemy guns. Japanese soldiers, hiding deep in reinforced concrete pillboxes, blockhouses, and dugouts, wiped out whole companies of U.S. forces with unrelenting artillery fire. As the costliest and most momentous D-Day of the Pacific War ended, approximately 25,000 Marines were on shore, but some 2,400 of them were already dead or wounded. At first light on the second day, the men saw the staggering devastation. Crippled tanks and halftracks were bogged down in the coarse sand, amphibious tractors lay flopped on their backs, cargo-unloading cranes tilted at insane angles, and bulldozers were smashed in their own roadways. From a labyrinth of tunnels and caves, Japanese soldiers had exacted a sickening toll as they pinned down American forces under a relentless rain of mortar and artillery fire.

With the beaches secure at last, US marines can concentrate on bringing ashore ammunition and other stores. harmless-looking hummocks of sand. There was almost no protection. Frantically they scrambled behind stranded vehicles and the bodies of dead comrades. Howard Connor, V Marine Corps' official historian, later described the nightmare: 'Wounded men were arriving on the beach by the dozen, where they were not much better off than they had been at the front. . . The first two boats Shermans knocked out by Japanese defendersbringing in badly needed litters were blown out of the water. Casualties were being hit again as they lay helpless under blankets awaiting evacuation.' For those who lived to fight on, there were other horrors, as author-historian William Man¬chester - then a sergeant (although not on Iwo Jima) - recounted in his autobiography: 'You tripped over strings of viscera 15 feet long, over bodies which had been cut in half at the waist. Legs and arms and heads bearing only necks lay 50 feet from the nearest torso. As night fell the INCH BY PAINFUL INCH Slowly and painfully, US marines of the first wave ashore work their way up one of Iwo Jima's 1.5-5 am (5-18 ft) high volcanic-ash beach terraces. They meet a resistance more determined and devastating than anything they had expected.

On February 24, the Americans turned north, where the Japanese were holed up seemingly everywhere. Sherman tanks and artillery supported the marines, but there was no room for flanking movements. Each fierce assault was a bloody frontal affair. 'It takes courage to stay at the front on Iwo Jima,'wrote a marine in his diary,'. . . to push out ahead of those lines, against an unseen enemy who has survived two months of shell and shock, who lives beneath the rocks ... It takes courage to crawl ahead, 100 yards a day, and get up the next morning, count losses, and do it again.'

So bitter were the battles, that the Americans began to give sectors of the rugged terrain such names as 'Bloody Gorge' and 'The Meat Grinder'. Nonetheless, by the end of the 25th they had captured about a third of the island, including the major airfield. Meanwhile, the reserve 3rd Marine Division had landed, and on February 27 the Americans captured the island's second airfield. On March 1, they reached the construction site of a third; now 82,000 men were ashore. On March 8, near Tachiwa Point, on the south-east corner of the island, the 4th Division faced a virtually suicidal banzai charge by the Japanese - 650 of their bodies were found and later counts brought the total to around 800. Three days later the remaining defenders were pinned into a small area of the north-west. From then on, it was largely a mopping-up operation in the island's hills and gullies.

Despite the astonishingly fierce Japanese resistance on February 19 and the appalling American casualties, the marines did make progress. By late morning that day, men of the 1st Battalion, 28th Regiment, had crossed the island, cutting off Mount Suribachi. Within another 24 hours, the 2nd Battalion under Lt Colonel Chandler W. Johnson - reinforced by men of the 1st and 3rd - had made it to the volcano's base. The job of organising the climb to the rim of Suribachi's craggy crater went to Lt Colonel Johnson. For three days, his men, backed up by constant air and naval bombardment, clawed their agonising way up the steep pitted slopes. Offshore, a kamikaze attack on February 21 sank the escort carrier Bismarck Sea and put the carrier Saratoga out of service. But the barrage was effective; early on the 23rd a patrol reported that all was quiet on the mountain. Before the final assault began, Johnson handed the commander of the platoon assigned to the job, 1st Lieutenant Harold Schrier, a folded American flag. The 40 marines frequently had to pause for breath as they climbed. Below, men around the foot of the mountain watched their progress through binoculars. When they reached the rim of the crater, Schrier spotted a few battered gun emplacements and cave openings, but there was no Japanese fire. He ordered the men to file over the crater's edge. There was still no fire - not even when one man made the insulting gesture of urinating down the mountain's slope. Then, as half of the patrol was checking the crater, a Japanese began to climb out of a deep hole. He was shot by a marine. Schrier and his men now prepared to raise the US flag. Two of them found a piece of discarded water pipe to use as a pole, and at 10.20 am on February 23, the Stars and Stripes was fluttering in the wind above the mountain. Marines below yelled, 'There goes the flag!' Men cheered, others wept with joy; offshore, ships sounded their whistles in tribute. Then a Japanese soldier emerged from a cave and fired a rifle at Marine Chick Robeson and a photographer, Staff Sergeant Louis R. Lowery. He missed — and Robeson shot him. An officer now leapt out, angrily brandishing a broken-bladed sword. Some marines opened up with a volley of rifle fire - and the officer fell. Next came a series of hand grenades from a cave with several entrances. The marines answered in kind, blasted the openings with flamethrowers and sealed them with explosives. Lowery, trying to dodge a grenade in the skirmish, fell 15 m (50 ft) down the volcano's rim, breaking his camera. Three hours after the raising of the original flag, it was replaced by a larger one brought ashore from a tank landing ship - and Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal took the celebrated photograph which became a model for the US Marine Corps War Memorial at Arlington, Virginia. A few days after Suribachi had been captured, a search of the summit cave revealed about 150 dead Japanese.


I have not eaten or drunk for five days,' We ran the last signal from Tadamichi I I Kuribayashi (1891-1945) on Iwo Jima on March 21, 1945. 'But fighting spirit is running high. We are going to fight bravely to the last moment.' From a samurai ('warrior') family, and arguably the war's ablest Japanese general, Kuribayashi masterminded the defences that made lwo Jima so hard to take. He was promoted a full general on March 17, but no one knows if he received the message sent to inform him.

Bitter CAve to Cave fighting

On March 4, the first American bombers made emergency landings on the main airstrip. On April 7, P-51 Mustang fighters operating from Iwo Jima escorted a daytime bombing raid on Tokyo. The island was to see 2251 landings by damaged Superfortresses in five months, saving the lives of nearly 25 000 American airmen. But the cost had been horrendous: by the end of March, the Americans had lost 6821 men killed and nearly 18 000 wounded. Of General Kuribayashi's 21 000 defenders only 216 were taken prisoner; the rest fought to the death. According to some reports, Kuribayashi died leading a last suicidal attack on the night of March 25/26. His body was never found. Twenty-six marines who fought on Iwo Jima won America's top award - the Medal of Honor. As Nimitz later commented: 'Among the Americans who served on Iwo Island, uncommon valour was a common virtue.'

In Japan's home islands, meanwhile, the people were preparing to resist the now inevitable invasion. Air and naval kamikazes prepared to batter the invasion fleet, while a fanatical citizenry-in-arms would back the army. All were ready to die in the defence of the 'sacred soil' of Japan and the 'sacred person' of the Emperor.

Stories from the Battlefield

2nd Lt. Ed Linfante 462nd Squadron
Friends of our family named Farese had 3 sons in the military. The oldest (I believe his name was Frank) was in an Army Tank battalion in France, one a Navy Corpsman, the youngest (Jerry) a Marine who invaded Iwo. Frank earned a battlefield promotion to fill in for his commander KIA. Not much later, Frank met the same fate. Jerry was wounded by mortar fire on Iwo with over 100 pieces of shrapnel.  As luck would have it, one of the Navy corpsman who evacuated him for treatment was his surprised brother. Some meeting! Neither knew the other was involved in that battle until then."

American Flag, Iwo Jima

This battle-tattered flag was the first American flag raised during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. The United States Marines placed the flag atop Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi on the morning of February 23, 1945. Hours later, the Marines replaced it with a second, larger flag. About 6800 U.S. personnel (including about 6000 Marines) died while attempting to take the island from Japanese forces, who suffered even heavier losses, during February and March of 1945. THE BETTMANN ARCHIVE

This photograph, taken by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal, remains one of the most famous images of World War II. The photograph actually shows the second American flag-raising of the day. The Marines had raised the first flag on Iwo Jima more than two hours earlier, but they decided to replace it with a second, larger flag. Fighting with Japanese forces continued for nearly a month after this photograph was taken, leaving about 6,000 Marines and more than 20,000 Japanese soldiers dead by the battle’s end. AP/Wide World Photos/Joe Rosenthal

Nimitz commented: 'Among the Americans who served on Iwo Island, uncommon valour was a common virtue.'

A moment of silence for so many that fought with brave hearts, who so gallantly gave their lives for our great country

3rd Marine Cemetary
4th Marine Cemetary
3rd Marine Cemetary
4th Marine Cemetary
5th Marine Cemetary
5th Marine Cemetary


I am here today seeing for myself that it is not a dream meeting, face to face, with the United States ex warriors who had fought in the bloody battle of Iwo Jima, which most believe was the greatext battle of World War Two. I recall listening to the radio news and reading the newspapers while the furious battle was going on. I was a stu¬dent then. Way back in 1929, my father was appointed Army Attaché to the Japanese embassy in Washington, D.C. I still have many letters he sent me then when I was only four years old. The letters had many sketches. He drew pictures of his cross-country drive through Buffalo, Kansas City, Fort Reilly and El Paso and more. He commented, " I keep driving, on and on, but I can't get rid of the vast flat land." Another letter says, " I am driving with a U.S. Army officer, Captain Whiteman. We went on horseback to inspect some military drills." Before he returned to Japan he invited 60 guests to a dinner. A letter commenting on the dinner stated, "People here have been very kind and friendly. They tell me they will miss me when I go home." When I think of my father driving through Texas it brings back many memories. He was fond of horseback riding and driving. He once said, "Tie the car over there," mixing up his car and his horse. My mother is 88 and doing very well. She once told me of my father having commented, "I wish I would never exchange fire with that vast coun¬try." As for my father's last document, there are rumors and fiction. It seems that it was from the sunset of March 25, 1945 until dawn on March 26 the Imperial Japanese Forces launched their last all out attack with my father leading. After mid¬night on top of the West precipice, the Japanese'" forces were obliged to come to a standstill under very heavy U. S. onslaught of shells. Under such circumstance he had his sword in his left hand and ordered his chief of staff, Colonel Tajkaishi, who was beside him, "Send snipers to shoot." Sergeant Oyama, who was seriously wounded in the last combat with my father, fell unconscious, was hospitalized by the U. S. and after having served as a POW, came back to Japan and told me about the dreadful account of that night. Sergeant Oyama textified that he had heard the order. My father had believed it a shame to have his body discovered by his enemy, even after death. So he had previously asked his two soldiers to come with him. One in front of him, one behind with shovels in hand. In case of his death he wanted them to bury his body then and there. It seems shells killed my father and the soldiers and he was buried at the foot of a tall tree in Chidor Village along the beach near Osaka Mountain. Afterwards, General Smith spent a whole day looking for his body to pay his respect accordingly and to perform a burial, but in vain. I am deeply moved to be here to participate in this reunion of the survivors of Iwo Jima. I pray from the bottom of my heart for those who sacrificed their precious lives for their country. May their supreme souls rest in peace.

Thank you very much.

Taro Kuribayashi

Anyone wanting to contribute pictures, memoirs, etc can send them to
Please identify all materials & pictures sent.

(1)"Iwo Jima, Battle of," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2005 © 1997-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved. © 1993-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

(2) "The World At Arms," The Reader's Digest Illistrated History of WWII.

Microsoft ® Encarta ® Encyclopedia 2004. © 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

3) Bibliographic details for "Battle of Iwo Jima

  • Page name: Battle of Iwo Jima
  • Author: Wikipedia contributors
  • Publisher: Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
  • Date of last revision: 12 February 2006 23:58 UTC
  • Date retrieved: 14 February 2006 19:22 UTC
  • Permanent link:
  • Primary contributors: View the list
  • Page Version ID: 39412377

  • top