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Battle of Iwo Jima. Confident Marine and naval planners estimated Iwo Jima could be secured in five days…, In actuality, it took over a month. IN THE END IWO JIMA WAS THE BLOODIEST BATTLE OF THE PACIFIC WAR. What Happened?. 19 Feb 1945

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battle of iwo jima
Battle of Iwo Jima

Confident Marine and naval planners estimated Iwo Jima could be secured in five days…,

In actuality, it took over a month.


what happened
What Happened?

19 Feb 1945

The 5th Marine Amphibious Corps, with the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Marine Divisions, landed on Iwo Jima in what was then the first landing of American troops on Japanese soil. 

It was the beginning of the end for the

Japanese Empire…  

importance of iwo jima
Importance of Iwo Jima
  • Strategically, the island of Iwo Jima was crucial for B-29 bombing raids on mainland Japan.
  • The island contained 3 airstrips the Japanese had been using for their Kamikaze attacks in the area.
    • With this island captured, the Japanese would have to operate from Okinawa or Kyushu.
  • The airstrips would also provide an emergency landing strip between the Marianas islands and mainland Japan.



Hill 362-B

Airfield #3

Hill 362-A

Airfield #2

Hill 362-C

Hill 382

Airfield #1

Mt Suribachi

Landing Beaches
























Proposed Invasion Plan

19 Feb 1945

19 feb 1945 d day
19 Feb 1945D-Day
  • After 3 days of continuous bombardment, the Landing Order is issued at 0830.
    • "No other island received as much preliminary pounding as did Iwo Jima." Admiral Nimitz, CINPAC 
    • Naval bombardment included six battleships, four cruisers, and one light cruiser.
    • It had little effect, however, as hardly any of the Japanese underground fortresses were touched.
    • The US sent more Marines to Iwo Jima than to any other battle, a total of 110,000 Marines in 880 Ships.  
  • First wave hits the beach at 0859.
    • There is no initial resistance to the landing.
    • Japanese defenders waited until Marines filled

the beach before commencing the attack.

19 feb 1945 d day7
19 Feb 1945D-Day
  • At approx 1000 a “firestorm” erupts from Mt Suribachi
    • The beach is raked by heavy machine gun fire, mortars, and artillery.
    • Marines could not dig fighting holes in the soft volcanic ash.
    • The entire beach was under fire from positions atop Suribachi.
      • Until the mountain was captured, every Marine anywhere on the island was within range of Japanese weapons on Suribachi.
  • By the end of the first day, the Marines had not captured half of their original objective
    • Neither Mt. Suribachi nor Airfield #1 had been


    • By the end of the day, there were over 30,000

troops ashore

      • 1,755 casualties
      • 566 dead
20 feb 1945 d 1
20 Feb 1945D+1
  • Marines start their advance south to Mt. Suribachi and north to the airfields.
    • The fighting up the mountain was some of the most intense during the war.
    • Japanese soldiers entrenched in the mountain had to be neutralized by flame throwers and satchel charges.
      • “Neutralized” bunkers often were re-manned by Japanese from below.
    • Close air support by naval and Marine pilots was sometimes only a few hundred yards above the advancing Marines.
  • At the end of the day, the Marines only controlled a mile and a half of the island.
    • 4th Marines had suffered approx. 1,500 casualties
    • 5th Marines had suffered approx. 2,000 casualties
21 feb 1945 d 2
21 Feb 1945D+2
  • Marines continue their advance North and South on the island.
    • 644 dead
    • 4,168 wounded
    • 560 unaccounted for
  • Fighting on the island was reminiscent of the trench warfare of WW I with Marines fighting and dying for each yard gained.
    • It was like “Throwing human flesh against

reinforced concrete." 

22 feb 1945 d 3
22 Feb 1945D+3
  • Navy carrier/bombers began the day bombing Mt Suribachi (a.k.a. Hot Rocks).
    • Pilots mistake Marines as “live enemy targets” and begin bombing American positions.
    • LtCol Chandler Johnson (2/28 CO) personally saw to it that Navy pilots were diverted before any casualties were suffered.
  • By the end of the day, Mt Suribachi is surrounded
    • As night falls, half of surviving Japanese force

attempt to abandon mountain.

      • Of 150 Japanese soldiers that flee through

American lines, only 25 survive.

23 feb 1945 d 4
23 Feb 1945D+4
  • “Hot Rocks” is hit with napalm at dawn and turns into a “sheet of flames.”
    • There is no resistance to the bombings.
    • Col Johnson decides to send two four-man patrols to reconnoiter routes up the northern face of Suribachi.
  • A forty-man platoon was dispatched to confirm the mountain was indeed dormant.
    • Col Johnson gives the platoon leader (Lt George Schrier) a small flag and says, “If you get to the top, put it up.”
    • When the flag was unfurled, Iwo Jima erupted in

cheers at the “impossible dream fulfilled”

…Suribachi had been conquered.

flag raising on mt suribachi
Flag Raising on Mt Suribachi
  • Marines from “E” Co, 5th Marines hoisted the original flag over Mt Suribachi at approx 1037 on the morning of the 23rd.
    • “E” Co had suffered 40% casualties to this point in the invasion.
  • Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal sees the flag and decides it will make a fitting souvenir.
    • Tells Gen “Howlin’ Mad Smith that “the raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next five hundred years.”
  • Col Johnson replied “The Hell with that!!”
    • The original flag belonged to the Battalion.
    • Ordered A/OpsO to “scare” up a second flag and raise it for the SecState.
      • “Make it a bigger one!!”
the photo
The Photo

Original Photo

Three of the six flag

raisers would die on

Iwo Jima.

24 and 25 feb 1945 d 4 d 5
24 and 25 Feb 1945D+4/D+5
  • Advancements to north now have reached the second airfield which is located in the center of the island.
    • Airport #1 had fallen during the same time Suribachi was conquered.
  • On the 24th, 4th, and 5th Marines attack the airstrip after a 76-minute naval bombardment, followed by an air strike and supporting artillery.
    • By the end of the day the Marines had only gained 500 yards.
  • On 25th Feb, the 3rd Marine division begins attack on the center of the Japanese line at 0930.
    • This area was the strongest point of the Japanese defenses.
    • Flame throwing tanks were brought in to burn out the Japanese defenders in their pillboxes.
    • Marines paid for each yard gained with blood and sweat.
28 feb 1945 d 8
28 Feb 1945D+8
  • By the 28th the Marines had pushed past Airfield #2 and were continuing on for Airfield #3.
    • The objective had been achieved but a number of hills around airfield #3 were still occupied by Japanese.
  • Two hills, 382 and 362A, are now the primary targets for the Marines.
    • Both had been hollowed out and turned

into huge blockhouses, containing pillboxes,

antitank guns, and concealed artillery.

japanese tactics
Japanese Tactics

Both airfields were slowly overrun and the Japanese forces were pushed toward the northern tip of the island. But as the Allies had perfected their techniques of air, ground, and naval coordination, so had the Japanese on their defensive tactics.

No more Banzai attacks which left the battlefield littered with enemy dead and accomplished very little.

This time, the Japanese wanted to take the Marines with them.

1 through 4 mar 1945 d 9 to d 12
1 through 4 Mar 1945D+9 to D+12
  • On Mar 1st, the Marines finally take Hill 382 and move on to capture 362A.
    • The Marines decide on a night attack for Mar 2nd.
    • The tactics surprised the Japanese, but fierce fighting and difficult terrain delayed the hills’ capture until March 8th.
  • Before the end of the week, Marines are finally occupying all strategic points on the island.
    • The Japanese refuse to give in and still fight in isolated pockets.
  • On Mar 4th, the first damaged B-29 lands in Iwo Jima while fighting continues all around the island.
    • The first P-51 begin arriving on Mar 6th to provide air support for the Marines. This also relieves Task Force 58 to begin preparations for the Okinawa invasion on Apr 1st.
8 through 15 mar 1945 d 16 to d 23
8 through 15 Mar 1945D+16 to D+23
  • On Mar 8th, the Japanese attempt to launch a counter attack between 23rd and 24th Marine regiments.
    • The attack was foiled because the Japanese were caught in the open by Marine artillery.
    • The Japanese lost 650 men in the attack.
  • Japanese resistance continues in many small pockets located on the island past Mar 15th.
    • Battles fought at “Meat Grinder” and “Cushman’s Pocket” are fierce, but the end is in sight.
    • Marine from the 3rd Division reach the sea and effectively split the remaining Japanese forces in two.
25 mar through 7 apr 1945
25 Mar through 7 Apr 1945
  • The last pocket of Japanese resistance was secured at Kitano Point on Mar 25th.
    • Marines from 5th Division reach LtGen Kuribayashi's (Iwo Japanese Commander) 109th Div Headquarters.
    • Battle of “Bloody Gorge” includes an attempted night infiltration of American lines led by over 200 Japanese soldiers led by Gen. Kuribayashi himself.
    • The next morning, over 250 Japanese lay dead around the Marines’ lines.
  • Island was finally declared secure on Mar 26th.
  • On Apr 7th, 100 P-51's were stationed on the island and began escorting B-29's on bombing raids to Japan.
heroes remembered
Heroes Remembered
  • During all of World War II, there were a total of 81 Marines and 57 Navy Medal of Honor recipients.
  • During the  assault on Iwo Jima,22 Marines and 5 Sailors received the  Congressional Medals of Honor for their actions.

“Among the Americans who served on Iwo Island,


heroes remembered medal of honor recipients

Cpl Charles J Berry 1/26 USMC

PFC William R Caddy 3/26 USMC

Col Justice M Chambers RLT 25 USMC

Sgt Darrell S Cole 1/23 USMC

Capt Robert H Dunlap 1/26 USMC

Sgt Ross F Gray 1/25 USMC

Sgt William G Harrell 1/28 USMC

PFC Douglas T Jacobson 3/23 USMC

Plt Sgt Joseph R Julian 1/27 USMC

PFC James D Labelle RLT 27 USMC

2nd Lt John H Leims 1/9 USMC

PFC Jacklyn H Lucas

1st Lt Jack Lummas 2/27 USMC

1st Lt Harry L Martin 5th Pioneer Bn USMC

Capt Joseph McCarthy 2/24 USMC

Pvt George Phillips 2/28 USMC

PFC Donald J Ruhl 2/28 USMC

Pvt Franklin E Sigler 2/26 USMC

Cpl Tony Stein 1/28 USMC

GySgt William G Walsh 3/27 USMC

Pvt William D Watson 2/9 USMC

Cpl Hershel W Williams RCT 21 USMC


Lt Rufus G Herring LCI 449 USN

Pharmacists Mate 1st Class Francis J Pierte USN

Pharmacists Mate 2nd Class George E Wahlen 2/26 USN

Pharmacists Mate 3rd Class Jack Williams 3/28 USN

Pharmacists Mate 1st Class John H Willis 3/27 USN

Heroes RememberedMedal of Honor Recipients

The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR posthumously to SERGEANT DARRELL S. COLEUNITED STATES MARINE CORPS RESERVEfor service as set forth in the following CITATION:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Leader of a Machine-gun Section of Company B, First Battalion, Twenty-Third Marines, Fourth Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces during the assault on Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands, 19 February 1945. Assailed by a tremendous volume of small-arms, mortar and artillery fire as he advanced with one squad of his section in the initial assault wave, Sergeant Cole boldly led his men up the sloping beach toward Airfield Number One despite the blanketing curtain of flying shrapnel and, personally destroying with hand grenades two hostile emplacements which menaced the progress of his unit, continued to move forward until a merciless barrage of fire emanating from three Japanese pillboxes halted the advance. Instantly placing his one remaining machine gun in action, he delivered a shattering fusillade and succeeded in silencing the nearest and most threatening emplacement before his weapon jammed and the enemy, reopening fire with knee mortars and grenades, pinned down his unit for the second time. Shrewdly gauging the tactical situation and evolving a daring plan of counterattack, Sergeant Cole, armed solely with a pistol and one grenade, coolly advanced alone to the hostile pillboxes. Hurling his one grenade at the enemy in sudden, swift attack, he quickly withdrew, returned to his own lines for additional grenades and again advanced, attacked, and withdrew. With enemy guns still active, he ran the gantlet of slashing fire a third time to complete the total destruction of the Japanese strong point and the annihilation of the defending garrison in this final assault. Although instantly killed by an enemy grenade as he returned to his squad, Sergeant Cole had eliminated a formidable Japanese position, thereby enabling his company to storm the remaining fortifications, continue the advance and seize the objective. By his dauntless initiative, unfaltering courage and indomitable determination during a critical period of action, Sergeant Cole served as an inspiration to his comrades, and his stouthearted leadership in the face of almost certain death sustained and enhanced the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.


The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR posthumously to FIRST LIEUTENANT HARRY L. MARTINUNITED STATES MARINE CORPS RESERVEfor service as set forth in the following CITATION:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Platoon Leader attached to Company C, Fifth Pioneer Battalion, Fifth Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 26 March 1945. With his sector of the Fifth Pioneer Battalion bivouac area penetrated by a concentrated enemy attack launched a few minutes before dawn, First Lieutenant Martin instantly organized a firing line with the Marines nearest his foxhole and succeeded, in checking momentarily the headlong rush of the Japanese. Determined to rescue several of his men trapped in positions overrun by the enemy, he defied intense hostile fire to work his way through the Japanese to the surrounded Marines. Although sustaining two severe wounds, he blasted the Japanese who attempted to intercept him, located his beleaguered men and directed them to their own lines. When four of the infiltrating enemy took possession of an abandoned machine-gun pit and subjected his sector to a barrage of hand grenades, First Lieutenant Martin alone and armed only with a pistol, boldly charged the hostile position and killed all its occupants. Realizing that his remaining comrades could not repulse another organized attack, he called to his men to follow and then charged into the midst of the strong enemy force, firing his weapon and scattering them until he fell, mortally wounded by a grenade. By his outstanding valor, indomitable fighting spirit and tenacious determination in the face of overwhelming odds, First Lieutenant Martin permanently disrupted a coordinated Japanese attack and prevented a greater loss of life in his own and adjacent platoons and his inspiring leadership and unswerving devotion to duty reflect the highest credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in service of his country.


The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to PHARMACIST'S MATE FIRST CLASS FRANCIS J. PIERCEUNITED STATES NAVYfor service as set forth in the following CITATION:

   For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while attached to the 2nd Battalion,24th Marines, 4th Marine Division, during the Iwo Jima campaign on 15 and 16 March 1945. Almost continuously under fire while carrying out the most dangerous volunteer assignment, Petty Officer Pierce gained valuable knowledge of the terrain and disposition of troops. Caught in heavy enemy rifle and machine-gun fire which wounded a corpsman and two of the eight stretcher bearers who were carrying two wounded Marines to a forward aid station on 15 March, Petty Officer Pierce quickly took charge of the party, carried the newly wounded men to a sheltered position, and rendered first aid. After directing the evacuation of three of the casualties, he stood in the open to draw the enemy's fire and, with his weapon blasting, enabled the litter bearers to reach cover. Turning his attention to the other two casualties, he was attempting to stop the profuse bleeding of one man when a Japanese fired from a cave less than twenty yards away and wounded his patient again. Risking his own life to save his patient, Petty Officer Pierce deliberately exposed himself to draw the attacker from the cave and destroyed him with the last of his ammunition. Then lifting the wounded man to his back, he advanced unarmed through deadly rifle fire across 200 feet of open terrain. Despite exhaustion and in the face of warnings against such a suicidal mission, he again traversed the same fire-swept path to rescue the remaining Marine. On the following morning, he led a combat patrol to the snipers nest and, while aiding a stricken Marine, was seriously wounded. Refusing aid for himself, he directed treatment for the casualty, at the same time maintaining protective fire for his comrades. Completely fearless, and devoted to the care of his patients, Petty Officer Pierce inspired the entire battalion. His valor on the face of extreme peril sustains the finest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

total losses
Total Losses
  • U.S. Personnel
    • 6,821 KIA
    • 19,217 Wounded
    • 2,648 Combat Fatigue
    • Total 28,686
      • Marine Casualties 23,573
  • Japanese Forces
    • Approx 20,000 KIA
    • 1,083 POW
  • “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 (Flag Raising Company)
final analysis of the battle
Final Analysis of the Battle
  • The naval bombardment of only 3 days leading up to the invasion was far short of that which was required.
    • The Marines had requested 13 days of pre-landing bombardment but were denied this request because of commitments to MacArthur's campaign in Luzon.
  • The U.S. had underestimated the Japanese strength on the island by as much as 70 percent.
  • The change in Japanese tactics was not ever contemplated because of earlier invasions on Saipan, Tarawa, and Peleliu.
    • These all had early Banzai attacks that were easily defeated and turned the tide of each invasion.
  • The nature and the difficulty of the soil on the island was never examined before the invasion.
  • U.S. casualties was underestimated by 80 percent.
    • 23,000 casualties out of 70,000 Marines. Over a third of the total Marines who participated in the invasion were either killed, wounded, or suffered from battle fatigue.
after the war
After the War
  • Under the peace treaty signed between the Allies and Japan in 1951, Iwo Jima, and the Volcano Islands, were placed under the provisional administration of the U.S. Navy.
  • In 1968, the islands were returned to Japan and are under the jurisdiction of Tokyo's prefectural government.