The Allied Forces towards the end of 1944 were pushing the Japanese back from their earlier conquests. The United States Navy and Marine Corps followed an “island hopping campaign” under the command of Admiral Chester Nimitz. The United States 20th Air force captured the Mariana Islands This led to a large scale eruption against the industrial centers of Japan.
Iwo Jima (Sulfur Island) played an essential role for fighter escorts on long range bombing missions against the Japanese Empire because the island could be used to repair and refuge damaged aircrafts. This capture would provide air bases and landing strips for many of America’s bombardments against the Japanese, allowing repair and resupply. It was necessary to eliminate the launch of Japanese air attacks targeting the Marianas. This airbase also had a radar station that could give up to two hours warning of an impeding raid.
The third, fourth, and fifth divisions of the U.S. Marine Corps all associated with each other on attacking the Japanese at Iwo Jima. Due to the strong defenses that the Japanese possessed at Iwo Jima, the Marines decided to weaken those defenses first by a mass bombardment. The United States sent more Marines to Iwo Jima than to any other battle during World War II. This consisted of 110,000 Marines in 880 ships. This convoy of 880 ships sailed from Hawaii to Iwo Jima in 40 days. This was the largest armada invasion up to that time in the Pacific War.
Lieutenant General TadamishiKuribayashi of Japan commanded the Japanese ground forces and focused much of his energy on moving his troops to the central and Northern sectors of the island. One of his strategies for fighting against the United States was to use an underground system to fight off the Americans. Dug 1,500 rooms in rocks, caves, concrete block houses, and pillboxes that connected with 16 miles of tunnels for a secret gunfire attack. The second main strategy he proclaimed is that there would be “no Japanese survivors.” The last and final strategy General TadamishiKuribayashi emphasized to his troops was to kill 10 Americans before you die in battle.
Carrier Raids against Iwo Jima began in June 1944. Would suffer the longest, most intensive shelling of any Pacific island during World War II. The 7th Air Force supplied B-24 Bombers and the Marines requested a 10 day pre-invasion bombardment. Navy planners authorized 3 days of Naval Bombardment. The bombardments all played a key role into the D-day of Iwo Jima.
D-day began on February 19, 1944 and more than 450 ships massed off Iwo Jima still bombarding it. Marines of the 4th and 5th divisions landed on Iwo Jima roughly around 9 a.m. There was little enemy resistance, but volcanic sand slowed most Marines and their vehicles down. Japanese attacked from their underground positions, but the Marines pushed forward due to the protection of naval gunfire. 4th Marine Division took Quarry, a Japanese strongpoint. 5th Marine Division isolated Mount Suribachi.
On February 20th , the 28th Marines secured the southern end of Iwo Jima along with Mount Suribachi. 1/3 of the island and the Motoyama Airfield were now controlled completely by the Marines. February 23, 1944 the 28th Marines reached the top of Mount Suribachi and raised the United States Flag.
The 3rd Marine Division began securing the center of the island. The Japanese knew that the Marines would surpass them, but they were going to die trying to stop them. The Marines worked together to drive the enemy to higher ground because the Japanese fought below ground. There were no front lines. The Marines fought above ground and the Japanese fought below. Marines rarely saw active Japanese soldiers, but the Japanese could see the Marines clearly Their goal was to capture the area that appropriately became known as the “Meat Grinder.” This section of the island included three distinct terrain features, which were the highest points on the Northern part of the island. This section also included an area know as “Turkey Knob” which housed a large enemy communications center and the “Amphitheater” an extension of the hill.
The 3rd Marine Division encountered the most heavily fortified position when they moved to take Airfield Number 2. Frontal assault was the method used to make it past rigorous defenses. At nightfall the 3rd Division reached the northeastern beach, cutting the enemy defenses in two. The 5th Marine Division pushed up the Western coast from the central airfield to the Northern tip. The 4th Marine Division held and seized the Eastern part of the island, but encountered a “mini banzai” attack. 700 enemy forces were killed ending the resistance of enemy forces in the 4th Division’s sector.
The 3rd ,4th, and 5th Marine Divisions met on the coast of Iwo Jima on March 10, 1944 in unison. On March 4, 1944 the first emergency landing was made by a B-29 bomber and with repairs made and refueling complete the aircraft was ready to complete its mission. On March 11 operations entered its final phases. Enemy resistance was no longer centralized and individual pockets of resistance were taken one by one. March 26 1944, the island of Iwo Jima was declared secure. On April 4, 1944 the U.S. Army’s 147th Infantry regiment assumed ground control. They relieved the largest body of Marines committed in combat in one operation during World War II.
26,000 American casualties 6,800 died Of the 20,000 Japanese defenders only 1,083 survived. The Marines efforts proved vital to the U.S. chain of bomber bases. 2,400 B-29 bombers carried 27,000 crewman as a result of unscheduled landings on the island. 27 Medals of Honor were awarded to Marines and sailors. More than were awarded for any other single operation during the war.
On February 23, 1944 at 8 a.m., 40 men from 3rd Platoon, E Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, led by 1st Lieutenant Harold G. Schrier raised the U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi’s peak. This symbol of victory moved and strengthened with Americans below, and sent a mental blow to the Japanese. This flag and event symbolizes the spirit of the Corps to all Marines.