The Battle for Iwo Jima begins tomorrow – 71 years ago.

unnamedThe battle for Iwo Jima officially begins tomorrow!! That would be tomorrow – 71 years ago. Why did it happen at all?
From: Pain and Purpose in the Pacific: It was because of the technology of the time. With the conquest of the Marianna Islands 6 months earlier, B-29s were now within range of the Japanese homeland. However the 1,400 mile flight from the Marianas to Japan permitted only minutes over the targets until the planes had to leave for the return trip. Complicating this problem were the fighters on Iwo Jima that met the B-29s coming and going and the radars that warned the homeland of their numbers and arrival times.
Iwo Jima lay almost exactly halfway between the Marianas and Japan. The B-29s (without escort)  had to fly directly past Iwo Jima on both legs of their missions to have enough fuel to return to the Marianas. They paid heavily for being in this situation. Japanese fighter aircraft on Iwo would meet the heavy bombers as they flew over the island, and try to shoot them down. Sometimes they succeeded in doing just that. It was clear that the threat of Japanese fighters on Iwo Jima had to be eliminated.

On February 19th, 1945, the 70,000 United States Marines and supporting units attacked the 22,000 man garrison on Iwo Jima. They had no idea that this would be the first battle in the history of the Marine Corps where they would suffer more casualties than they inflicted. For 72 days before the Marines landed, the island was bombarded with air and naval fire. What the Americans didn’t know was that the result of the bombardment was not at all what they had hoped for. The 22,000 Japanese soldiers were hiding – not on the island, but in the island. They would withstand the shelling, and be essentially unharmed by the exploding shells on the surface. There were about 1500 rooms and passageways in 16 miles of tunnels on the 8 mile square island where the Japanese soldiers were able to hide.

From Google: The Battle – the Land Battle – Iwo Jima: D-Day February 19, 1945 – Shortly before 2am on Feb. 19, 1945, the Navy’s big guns opened up on Iwo Jima again, signaling the beginning of D-Day. After an hour of punishment, the fire was lifted, leaving Iwo smoking as if the entire island were on fire. Both Americans aboard their transports and the Japanese in their caves looked to the skies now. One-hundred-ten bombers screamed out of the sky to drop more bombs. After the planes left, the big guns of the Navy opened up again.

At 8:30am, the order, “Land the Landing Force,” sent the first wave of Marines towards the deadly shores. Once ashore, the Marines were bedeviled by the loose volcanic ash. Unable to dig foxholes, they were sitting ducks for the hidden Japanese gunners. Heavy fire made it impossible to land men in an orderly manner. Confusion reigned on the beaches. The battle was unique in its setting. One hundred thousand men were fighting on a tiny island one-third the size of Manhattan. For 36 days Iwo Jima was one of the most populated 7.5 miles on earth.

Mt. Suribachi, the 550-foot volcanic cone at the islands southern tip, dominates both possible landing beaches. From here, Japanese gunners zeroed in on every inch of the landing beach. Blockhouses and pillboxes flanked the landing areas. Within, more heavy weapons stood ready to blast the attacking Marines. Machine guns criss-crossed the beaches with deadly interlocking fire. Rockets, anti-boat and anti-tank guns were also trained on the beaches. Every Marine, everywhere on the island was always in range of Japanese guns. The Japanese were ready.

The invading US Marines fought above ground. The defending Japanese fought from below ground. The US Marines on Iwo rarely saw a Japanese soldier. There were no front lines. The Marines were above ground and the Japanese were below them underground. The Marines rarely saw an alive Japanese soldier. The Japanese could see the Marines perfectly.unnamed (1)

“Easy Company started with 310 men. We suffered 75% casualties. Only 50 men boarded the ship after the battle. Seven officers went into the battle with me. Only one–me–walked off Iwo.” . . . Captain Dave Severance, Easy Company Commander (the Flag Raising Company).
The battle was won by the inch-by-inch tenacity of the foot soldier. It was a physical war. Liquid gas, napalm and hand grenades were more useful against the underground Japanese. Historians described U.S. forces’ attack against the Japanese defense as “throwing human flesh against reinforced concrete.”

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