How US Marines Won the Battle of Iwo Jima

How US Marines Won the Battle of Iwo Jima



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By the time they splashed their way onto its southeastern beach on February 19, 1945, many of the U.S. Marine invasion force wondered if there were any Japanese left alive on Iwo Jima. Allied aircraft, battleships and cruisers had spent the previous two and a half months pulverizing the volcanic outcropping with thousands of tons of high explosives, leaving it a smoldering heap of charred boulders and burned-out vegetation. A haze of smoke now covered much of the island, and the stench of cordite and sulphur hung heavy in the air. “There wasn’t a tree left standing,” Corporal Stacy Looney later remembered, “wasn’t anything left standing.”

The Marines had been told to expect heavy resistance, but the first waves of landing craft encountered only a few artillery bursts and scattered small arms fire. Thousands of infantrymen, tanks and vehicles were able hit the beach with relative ease. “There’s something screwy,” one corporal said of the ominous calm. The Marines were right to be suspicious. As soon as the first units advanced onto an ash-covered terrace beyond the shore, dozens of camouflaged Japanese batteries erupted with murderous mortar and machine gun fire, and artillery shells began raining down on the men and equipment still clogging the beach. “The honeymoon is over!” one officer yelled. In an instant, any illusions the Marines had of taking the island without a fight had evaporated.

Outside of its proximity to Japan—still some 750 miles away—the 8 square mile hunk of land at Iwo Jima carried little significance. It lacked adequate supplies of fresh water and other resources, and its shores were too rocky to act as harbors for Navy ships. But as World War II moved closer to its conclusion, the island had become a crucial steppingstone in the American push toward the Japanese homeland. B-29 Superfortresses had begun making bombing runs over Tokyo, and they needed Iwo Jima as an emergency landing site and staging ground for their fighter escorts. To seize the island, the U.S. high command had marshaled the 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine divisions of the V Amphibious Corps under Lt. General Holland “Howlin’ Mad” Smith. The total force included a staggering 70,000 men—the most Marines ever assembled for a single operation.

Standing in the way of the American invasion were some 22,000 Japanese led by General Tadamichi Kuribayashi. Under his leadership, Iwo Jima’s garrison had transformed the island into a labyrinth of natural caves, subterranean tunnels and fortified pillboxes and bombproofs. Nearly all of the Japanese emplacements contained a copy of a special order from Kuribayashi commanding his men to fight to the bitter end. “Above all, we shall dedicate ourselves and our entire strength to the defense of this island,” the instructions read. “Each man will make it his duty to kill ten of the enemy before dying.” Thanks to their stout defenses, Kuribayashi’s men had suffered surprisingly few casualties during the American artillery onslaught. When the Marines finally moved past the beach on the morning of February 19, they sat waiting with guns trained.

READ MORE: The U.S. Raised the Iwo Jima Flag, then Occupied the Islands for 23 Years

Once the shooting started, the American landing zone turned into a cauldron of shell bursts and mortar fire. Thomas McPhatter, one of several hundred African-American Marines who joined in the attack as amphibious truck drivers and ammunition handlers, later described the hellish scene to the Guardian. “I jumped in a foxhole and there was a young white Marine holding his family pictures,” he said. “He had been hit by shrapnel, he was bleeding from the ears, nose and mouth. It frightened me. The only thing I could do was lie there and repeat the Lord’s prayer, over and over and over.” After braving the intense fire, U.S. troops established a beachhead and began knocking out Japanese pillboxes and trenches near the shoreline. Others made a stubborn slog through foot-deep volcanic ash and crossed to the island’s western side, cutting off its 550-foot-tall southern peak at Mt. Suribachi. By nightfall, more than 30,000 Marines had landed on Iwo Jima.

U.S. forces continued their advance over the next several days, capturing the first of three airfields and moving toward the island’s rock-strewn northern sector. On February 23, elements of the 28th Marines took the heights at Suribachi to the sound of cheers and celebratory gunfire from the men watching below. Associated Press Photographer Joe Rosenthal snapped a now-famous photo of six marines struggling to hoist the Stars and Stripes atop the mountain, yet the flag raising was only a brief moment of triumph in what had become a bitter battle. Marines would continue fighting for another month through hills and gullies with nicknames like the “Meat Grinder,” “Death Valley” and “Bloody Gorge,” suffering thousands of casualties for every mile of territory gained.

Fighting at Iwo Jima often took the shape of a deadly game of cat and mouse. General Kuribayashi had dispensed with the costly “banzai” charges typically practiced by the Japanese army and ordered his men to fight in a fashion that more closely resembled guerilla warfare. Japanese troops would ambush Marines and then disappear into their warren of caves and tunnels, only to reappear in new positions. “At great cost, you’d take a hill to find then the same enemy suddenly on your flank or rear,” said Fred Haynes, then a captain. “The Japanese were not on Iwo Jima. They were in it!”

Small arms fire proved futile against the Japanese pillboxes and tunnels, so Marines relied on their M2 flamethrowers, bazookas and fire-spewing Sherman “Zippo” tanks to clear out enemy fortifications. Grenades became the soldiers’ most handy weapons, with both sides rolling them down hills and tossing them into caves. While administering first aid to wounded men, one Navy medic named John Harlan Willis retrieved and threw back eight Japanese grenades before the ninth exploded in his hand and killed him. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

By early March, battle-weary Marines had captured Iwo Jima’s two remaining airfields and reached the northern shoreline, effectively splitting the island in half. The surviving Japanese troops were severely outnumbered, and many had gone days without water. Nevertheless, very few surrendered. “They never had any sort of sustenance compared to what our Marines had,” Colonel John Ripley later said of the Japanese, “but at the same time they fought and fought and fought, and what a hell of a job they did.”

As the battle wore down, the remnant of Kuribayashi’s forces moved through the island like ghosts, donning captured U.S. uniforms and launching surprise nighttime counterattacks. “It’s like fighting something abstract and intangible,” one American lieutenant complained. “We’d be glad to fight these people if we could only see them.” Japanese resistance continued long after the island was deemed secure, culminating in a desperate final assault on March 26. Later that same day, Marine Corps brass finally declared an official end to combat operations on Iwo Jima.

The five-week long campaign had taken a bitter toll on the American invasion force, which left the island with nearly 7,000 Marines and Navy men dead and another 20,000 wounded. President Roosevelt reportedly gasped when he heard the numbers. The Japanese, most of whom obeyed their orders to fight to the last, lost around 21,000 men. Among the dead was Kuribayashi, who either perished in combat or committed suicide. The remaining Japanese surrendered or were taken prisoner, but a few holdouts disappeared into Iwo Jima’s underground hive of caves and tunnels. The last two Japanese on the island only surrendered in 1949—a full four years after the war had ended.

Iwo Jima went on to save countless American lives as an emergency landing strip for Air Force bombers in the Pacific, but any larger role it might have played in an invasion of Japan was made irrelevant after the atomic bomb fell over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. Nevertheless, the battle for the small, barren island continued to loom large in the American consciousness, both for Rosenthal’s iconic photo of the flag raising on Mt. Suribachi and for the legendary grit of the Marines and Navy men who fought on in the face of overwhelming misery.

“Victory was never in doubt…its cost was,” 3rd Marine Division leader Graves B. Erskine later said of Iwo Jima. “What was in doubt, in all our minds, was whether there would be any of us left to dedicate our cemetery at the end, or whether the last Marine would die knocking out the last Japanese gun and gunner.”


Marines

The Battle of Iwo Jima was fought by the US Marines. The numerous divisions that were deployed on Iwo Jima consisted of men who ranged from veterans to fresh out of training. The fact that the Marines were the ones on the ground is significant to how the battle played out because the tenacity of the Marines allowed them to secure their victory.[1]

“When war broke out with the Empire of Japan, 7, December 1941, I was 15 years old and swept up in the same patriotic fever engulfing other American males. The villainous sneak attack of the Japs at Pearl Harbor had to be avenged! Immediately after the military debacle, outraged men, young and old alike, swamped the nation’s recruiting station answering the national call to arms. Nearly every man able to walk into a recruiting place wanted to enlist.”[2]

“We were informed an officer’s wish was a command. You never saluted without your cover (Marine-speak for hat of any kind) on.” [3]

“We were now a part of a real hell-bent-for-leather attack, the kid the Marines are famous for… There seemed nothing ahead but death.

It is in a situation like this that Marine Corps training proves its value. There probably wasn’t a man among us who didn’t wish to [God] he was moving in the opposite direction. But we had been ordered to attack, so we would attack.” [4]

The presence of the veterans among the ranks, such as Medal of Honor recipients from the Guadalcanal campaign Gunnery Sergeant John “Manila John” Basilone and Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Galer, provided a motivator to some of the men fresh from training.[5] At the same time, the fall of these men also showed the brutality that the Marines were up against. The Marines had to witness living legends perish at the Battle of Iwo Jima, and this was not infrequent. The consistent attacks by the Japanese continually reduced the number of American officers.[6]

“’Manila John’ Basilone, Medal of Honor recipient for actions on Guadalcanal! We had heard about him in Boot Camp! This was like meeting a movie star, or President of the United States!’” [7]

“I don’t remember when, but sometime that afternoon, The Word came, “Basilone is dead!” America’s hero dead? Was my own hero killed? How could he be dead?”[8]

“In our squad Pop and I were still “on board,” of the original members. Six down and two to go? Additional Jap “purging” of Marine ranks included another officer Second Lieutenant Dunbar Jones, Denver, Colorado.” [9]

[1] Joseph H. Alexander, Closing in: Marines in the seizure of Iwo Jima, (Washington, D.C.: History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 1994), 1-10.

[2] Charles W. Tatum, Charles W. Tatum’s Iwo Jima: 19, February. 1945, Red Blood, Black Sand: Pacific Apocalypse, (California: Charles W. Tatum Publishing, 1995), 5.

[4] James A. Warren, American Spartans The U.S. Marines: A Combat History from Iwo Jima to Iraq,. (New York: Simon & Schuster Inc., 2005), 51.

[5] Joseph H. Alexander, Closing in: Marines in the seizure of Iwo Jima, (Washington, D.C.: History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 1994), 7.

[6] Charles W. Tatum, Charles W. Tatum’s Iwo Jima: 19, February. 1945, Red Blood, Black Sand: Pacific Apocalypse, (California: Charles W. Tatum Publishing, 1995), 249.


Iwo Jima – The Legend, The Marines

The beginning of the Battle of Iwo Jima: February 1945. Three Divisions of U.S. Marines would fight their way across the island and into history, at a huge cost of lives. One man who led the charge up Mt. Suribachi, John Keith Wells, died on February 11 at the age of 94.

Conflicting historical information places the beginning of the assault on Iwo Jima at February 16 or February 19, 1945. Most historical accounts place the date as February 19, 1945 and since that’s today 71 years ago, we’ll go with that one.

This map at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific shows the Marine assault on Iwo Jima.

Japanese troops numbering nearly 23,000 defended the island from a network of underground tunnels and bunkers, caves and dugouts. It took an entire month of brutal fighting to dislodge them. In the end, 5,900 Marines lay dead and 17,400 wounded. That piece of real estate to be used for B-52 landings was the one of the most expensive pieces of ground in the war.

Mt Suribachi – 546 feet of hell

Most people do not know that the iconic photograph of the flag raising on Mt Suribachi was not the first flag raised there. That picture was the second flag. The first flag was raised a few hours before by the 3rd Platoon, E Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, commanded by First Lt. John Wells. They came out with the distinction of being the most decorated platoon to fight in a single engagement in the history of the USMC.

Major John Keith Wells

“With ‘courageous leadership and indomitable fighting spirit,’ Wells led demolition teams from one enemy bunker to the other, knocking out at least 25 emplacements in the process… In the face of intense hostile machine-gun, mortar and rifle fire, [he] continuously moved from one flank to the other to lead assault groups one by one in their attacks on Japanese emplacements…When, an hour later, the pain from his wound became so intense that he was no longer able to walk, [Wells] established his command post in a position from which to observe the progress of his men and continued to control their attack by means of messengers…” From Wells’ Navy Cross citation

His platoon fought on for control of the island while Wells was finally evacuated to a hospital ship. On February 23, Wells persuaded a corpsman to donate some morphine to him and he literally escaped the hospital ship to be back with his men shortly after they raised the smaller American flag on Mt. Suribachi.

The first flag raising on Mt Suribachi, Feb 23, 1945 10:36 a.m. – Cpl Charles Lindbergh stands on the right of the picture looking up at the flag (do you recognize that name?- he received a Silver Star for his participation in the battle).

A few hours later it was replaced with the large flag of the more well known photograph by Joe Rosenthal.

John Keith Wells, USMC, passed on February 11, 2016 at the age of 94

Wells retired from the Marine Corps as a Major after continuing his service in the Marine Reserves, and passed away on February 11 in Colorado. Charles Lindbergh went on to become a famous aviator – he died in 1974. One of the men who fought that battle with a flame thrower was a Medal of Honor recipient, Hershel “Woody” Williams, and now has a Navy Ship named after him (as we previously reported).

As our WWII veterans leave us, we are reminded of the courage and valor with which they fought the Battle of Iwo Jima in the face of an entrenched enemy.

Iwo Jima has gone down in history as one of the costliest battles of WWII. The U.S. Marines Corps won their fights, understanding that the only “rules of engagement” were saving the world from utter destruction.

Major Wells penned his memoir of that battle in a book entitled “Give me 50 Marines not afraid to Die” in 1995. A title befitting a United States Marine.


Horrifying pics capture Battle of Iwo Jima on 75th anniversary of one of World War II’s bloodiest conflicts

HARROWING photos reveal the brutal fighting at the Battle of Iwo Jima, on the 75th anniversary of one of the Second World War's bloodiest conflicts.

After the strategic outpost was captured, “strong men wept unashamedly” and “wounded men propped themselves up on their litters” to see “the Stars and Stripes flutter bravely”, one marine later wrote.

February marks the 75th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Iwo Jima, the first native Japanese soil to be invaded during the Allied advance.

The conflict saw some of the bloodiest fighting of the Second World War take place on the small Japanese island 1,200km (745miles) south of Tokyo.

Located halfway between Tokyo and Guam, Iwo Jima was regarded as a strategic outpost.

Close to 7,000 US Marines and nearly all of the 21,000 Japanese defenders of the island died during the 36-day battle.

The Japanese troops held the heavily fortified island for more than a month, supported by a network of bunkers and tunnels and hidden artillery positions.

From February 19, 1945, more than 500 warships and 1,000 warplanes from the US navy and army pounded Iwo Jima so heavily that the shelling and bombing changed the shape of the island’s highest point, Mount Suribachi, located at its southern tip.

White phosphorus was used in the pre-invasion bombardment and America troops wielded flame-throwers during the battle.

Mount Suribachi was captured on February 23.

A famous photograph of six US marines raising an American flag on the mountain, the second flag-raising that day, was taken by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal and won the Pulitzer Prize for Photography that year.

Iwo Jima reverted from American to Japanese rule in 1968.

Since then it has housed about 400 Japanese navy and air force personnel who operate a landing strip.

The runway is also used for night-landing practice by a Japan-based US aircraft carrier.

Joint US-Japan memorial services to mark the anniversary of the battle are held every year.

Colonel Joseph H Alexander, US Marine Corps (Ret) wrote in Closing In: Marines in the Seizure of Iwo Jima, that troops “shivered in the cold wind and rain.”

They had to cope with “high surf and dangerous undertows” trying to land on the strategic island.

An amphibious task force experienced a “significant air attack” when they came under fire from 50 “kamikaze pilots”.

Marines also had to deal with jammed weapons – thanks to loose volcanic grit, which when combined with the driving rain rendered them unusable.

He said of the famous flag-raising photos that “neither were posed – contrary to supposed evidence.”

The colonel recalled that “strong men wept unashamedly” and “wounded men propped themselves up on their litters” to see “the Stars and Stripes flutter bravely” 75 years ago.

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Battle of Belleau Wood — "Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?"

France: June 1 to June 26, 1918

The Battle of Belleau Wood, one of the most brutal battles fought by American forces in World War I, saw US Marines charge across a field of waist-high wheat into German machine-gun fire, suffering unbelievable casualties. Determined to take the forest, the Marines did not stop their advance.

"Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?" First Sgt. Dan Daly, a legendary two-time Medal of Honor recipient, famously shouted to his troops to motivate them to continue to push forward.

Marines charged machine-gun nests with fixed bayonets and engaged the Germans in fierce hand-to-hand combat while moving from tree to tree. During the brutal three-week battle, the US and German forces traded control of the forest six times.

The Marines succeeded in their mission, clearing the forest and turning the tides of the war, but victory came at a steep price. It was during this famous battle that the Marines showed the world that they are a formidable force willing to accept nothing less than victory.

And it was there in Belleau Wood, France that the Marines earned a new nickname. German officers are said to have called the tenacious and unstoppable Marines "Teufel Hunden," which translates to "Devil Dogs," or at least that's how the story is told.


Contents

Basilone was born in his Italian American parents' home on November 4, 1916, in Buffalo, New York. [2] He was the sixth of ten children. His five older siblings were born in Raritan, New Jersey, before the family moved to Buffalo where John was born they returned to Raritan in 1918. [1] His father, Salvatore Basilone, emigrated from Colle Sannita, in the province of Benevento, Italy and settled in Raritan. Basilone's mother, Theadora Bencivenga, was born in 1889 and grew up in Manville, New Jersey, but her parents, Carlo and Catrina, also came from Benevento. Basilone's parents met at a church gathering and married three years later.

Basilone grew up in the nearby Raritan Town (now Borough of Raritan) where he attended St. Bernard Parochial School. After completing middle school at age 15, he dropped out prior to attending high school. [3] Basilone worked as a golf caddy for the local country club before joining the military. [4]

U.S. Army Edit

Basilone enlisted in the United States Army in July 1934 [4] and completed his three-year enlistment with service in the Philippines, where he was a champion boxer. [5] In the Army, Basilone was initially assigned to the 16th Infantry at Fort Jay, New York, before being discharged for a day, reenlisting, and being assigned to the 31st Infantry. [6] [7]

After he was released from active duty, Basilone returned home and worked as a truck driver in Reisterstown, Maryland. [8] After driving trucks for a few years, he wanted to go back to Manila and believed he could get there faster by serving in the Marine Corps rather than in the Army.

U.S. Marine Corps Edit

He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1940, in Baltimore, Maryland. He went to recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, followed by training at Marine Corps Base Quantico and New River. The Marines sent him to Guantánamo Bay for his next assignment and then to Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands as a member of "D" Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division. [8]

Guadalcanal Edit

On October 24, 1942, during the Battle for Henderson Field, his unit came under attack by a regiment of about 3,000 soldiers from the Japanese Sendai Division using machine guns, grenades, and mortars against the American heavy machine guns. Basilone commanded two sections of machine guns which fought for the next two days until only Basilone and two other Marines were left standing. [9] [10] As the battle went on, ammunition became critically low. Despite their supply lines having been cut off by enemies who had infiltrated into the rear, Basilone fought through hostile ground to resupply his heavy machine gunners with urgently needed supplies. Basilone moved an extra gun into position and maintained continual fire against the incoming Japanese forces. He then repaired and manned another machine gun, holding the defensive line until relief arrived.

When the last of the ammunition ran out shortly before dawn on the second day, Basilone, using his pistol and a machete, held off the Japanese soldiers attacking his position. By the end of the engagement, Japanese forces opposite the Marines' lines had been virtually annihilated. For his actions during the battle, Basilone received the United States military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor. [11] Afterwards, Private First Class Nash W. Phillips of Fayetteville, North Carolina, recalled from the battle for Guadalcanal:

"Basilone had a machine gun on the go for three days and nights without sleep, rest, or food. He was in a good emplacement, and causing the Japanese lots of trouble, not only firing his machine gun, but also using his pistol." [8]

War bond tours Edit

In 1943, Basilone returned to the United States and participated in war bond tours. His arrival was highly publicized, and his hometown held a parade in his honor when he returned. The homecoming parade occurred on Sunday, September 19 and drew a huge crowd with thousands of people, including politicians, celebrities, and the national press. The parade made national news in Life magazine and Fox Movietone News. [12] After the parade, Basilone toured the country raising money for the war effort and achieved celebrity status.

Although he appreciated the admiration, he felt out of place and requested to return to the operating forces fighting the war. The Marine Corps denied his request and told him he was needed more on the home front. He was offered a commission, which he turned down, and was later offered an assignment as an instructor, but refused this as well. When he requested again to return to the war, the request was approved. He left for Camp Pendleton, California, for training on December 27. On July 3, 1944, he reenlisted in the Marine Corps. [13]

Marriage Edit

While stationed at Camp Pendleton, Basilone met his future wife, Lena Mae Riggi, who was a sergeant in the Marine Corps Women's Reserve. [14] They were married at St. Mary's Star of the Sea Church in Oceanside, California, on July 10, 1944, with a reception at the Carlsbad Hotel. [15] They honeymooned at an onion farm near Portland, Oregon. [16]

Iwo Jima and death Edit

After his request to return to the fleet was approved, Basilone was assigned to "C" Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Marine Regiment, 5th Marine Division. On February 19, 1945, the first day of the invasion of Iwo Jima, he was serving as a machine gun section leader on Red Beach II. While the Marines landed, the Japanese concentrated their fire at the incoming Marines from heavily fortified blockhouses staged throughout the island. With his unit pinned down, Basilone made his way around the side of the Japanese positions until he was directly on top of the blockhouse. He then attacked with grenades and demolitions, single-handedly destroying the entire strong point and its defending garrison.

He then fought his way toward Airfield Number 1 and aided a Marine tank that was trapped in an enemy mine field under intense mortar and artillery barrages. He guided the heavy vehicle over the hazardous terrain to safety, despite heavy weapons fire from the Japanese. As he moved along the edge of the airfield, he was killed by Japanese mortar shrapnel (based on his research for the book and miniseries The Pacific, author Hugh Ambrose suggested that Basilone was killed by a burst of small arms fire which hit him in the right groin and neck and nearly took off his left arm). [17] [18] [19]

His actions helped Marines penetrate the Japanese defense and get off the landing beach during the critical early stages of the invasion. Basilone was posthumously awarded the Marine Corps' second-highest decoration for valor, the Navy Cross, for extraordinary heroism during the battle of Iwo Jima. [20]

Burial Edit

He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, Virginia. [21] His widow, Lena M. Basilone, died on June 11, 1999, aged 86, and is buried at Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, California. Lena's obituary notes that she never remarried and was buried still wearing her wedding ring. [22]


How US Marines Won the Battle of Iwo Jima - HISTORY

Iwo Jima, which means sulfur island, was strategically important as an air base for fighter escorts supporting long-range bombing missions against mainland Japan. Because of the distance between mainland Japan and U.S. bases in the Mariana Islands, the capture of Iwo Jima would provide an emergency landing strip for crippled B-29s returning from bombing runs. The seizure of Iwo would allow for sea and air blockades, the ability to conduct intensive air bombardment and to destroy the enemy's air and naval capabilities.

The seizure of Iwo Jima was deemed necessary, but the prize would not come easy. The fighting that took place during the 36-day assault would be immortalized in the words of Commander, Pacific Fleet/Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, who said, "Among the Americans who served on Iwo Island, uncommon valor was a common virtue."

  • Admiral Raymond A. Spruance was the operation's overall Commander.
  • Vice Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner was the Joint Expeditionary Force Commander.
  • Rear Admiral Harry W. Hill was Second in Command of the Joint Expeditionary Force.
  • Lieutenant General Holland M. "Howlin' Mad- Smith was assigned as the Commanding General of expeditionary troops.
  • The 5th Amphibious Corps was commanded by Major General Harry Schmidt. Under his command fell:
    • Major General Graves B. Erskine, 3rd Marine Division Commander
    • Major General Clifton B. Cates, 4th Marine Division Commander
    • Major General Keller E. Rockey, 5th Marine Division Commander

    Initial carrier raids against Iwo Jima began in June 1944. Prior to the invasion, the 8-square-mile island would suffer the longest, most intensive shelling of any Pacific island during the war. The 7th Air Force, working out of the Marianas, supplied B-24 heavy bombers for the campaign. In addition to the air assaults on Iwo, the Marines requested 10 days of pre-invasion naval bombardment. Due to other operational commitments and the fact that a prolonged air assault had been waged on Iwo Jima, Navy planners authorized only three days of naval bombardment. Unfavorable weather conditions would further hamper the effects of naval bombardment.

    Despite this, Turner decided to keep the invasion date as planned, and the Marines prepared for the Feb. 19 D-day. More than 450 ships massed off Iwo as the H-hour bombardment pounded the island. Shortly after 9 a.m., Marines of the 4th and 5 the divisions hit beaches Green, Red, Yellow and Blue abreast, initially finding little enemy resistance. Coarse volcanic sand hampered the movement of men and machines as they struggled to moved up the beach. As the protective naval gunfire subsided to allow for the Marine advance, the Japanese emerged from their fortified underground positions to begin a heavy barrage of fire against the invading force.

    The 4th Marine Division pushed forward against heavy opposition to take the Quarry, a Japanese strong point. The 5th Marine Division's 28th Marines had the mission of isolating Mount Suribacbi. Both tasks were accomplished that day.

    Feb. 20, one day after the landing, the 28th Marines secured the southern end of Iwo and moved to take the summit of Suribachi. By day's end, one third of the island and Motoyarna Airfield No. I was controlled by the Marines.

    At 8 a.m. on Feb. 23, a patrol of 40 men from 3rd Platoon, E Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, led by 1st Lieutenant Harold G. Schrier, assembled at the base of Mount Suribachi. The platoon's mission was to take the crater at Suribachi's peak and raise the U.S. flag. The platoon slowly climbed the steep trails to the summit, but encountered no enemy fire. As they reached the top, the patrol members took positions around the crater watching for pockets of enemy resistance as other members of the patrol looked for something on which to raise the flag.

    At 10:20 a.m., the flag was hoisted on a steel pipe above the island. This symbol of victory sent a wave of strength to the battle-weary fighting men below, and struck a further mental blow against the island's defenders.

    Marine Corps combat photographer, Private Bob Campbell, captured this image as the original flag was lowered, and its larger replacement was raised Marine Corps photographer Sergeant Lou Lowery captured this first flag raising on film just as the enemy hurled a grenade in his direction. Dodging the grenade, Lowery hurled his body over the edge of the crater and tumbled 50 feet. His camera lens was shattered, but he and his film were safe.

    Three hours later another patrol was dispatched to raise another, larger flag. The battle for Iwo Jima is encapsulated by this historic flag raising atop Suribachi, which was captured on film by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal. His photo, seen around the world as a symbol of American values, would earn him many awards including the 1945 Pulitzer Prize.

    The 3d Marine Division joined the fighting on the fifth day of the battle. These Marines immediately began the mission of securing the center sector of the island. Each division fought hard to gain ground against a determined Japanese defender. The Japanese leaders knew with the fall of Suribachi and the capture of the airfields that the Marine advance on the island could not be stopped however, they would make the Marines fight for every inch of land they won.

    Lieutenant General Tadamishi Kuribayashi, commander of the ground forces on Iwo Jima, concentrated his energies and his forces in the central and northern sections of the island. Miles of interlocking caves, concrete blockhouses and pillboxes proved to be one of the most impenetrable defenses encountered by the Marines in the Pacific.

    The Marines worked to drive the enemy from the high ground. Their goal was to capture the area that appropriately became known as the "Meat Grinder." This section of the island included: the highest point on the northern portion of the island, Hill 382 an elevation known as "Turkey Knob," which had been reinforced with concrete and was home to a large enemy communications center and the "Amphitheater," a southeastern extension of Hill 382.

    The 3d Marine Division encountered the most heavily fortified portion of the island in their move to take Airfield No. 2. As with most of the fighting on Iwo Jima, frontal assault was the method used to gain each inch of ground. By nightfall on March 9, the 3d Division reached the island's northeastern beach, cutting the enemy defenses in two.

    On the left of the 3d Marine Division, the 5th Marine Division pushed up the western coast of Iwo Jima from the central airfield to the island's northern tip. Moving to seize and hold the eastern portion of the island, the 4th Marine Division encountered a "mini banzai" attack from the final members of the Japanese Navy serving on Iwo. This attack resulted in the death of nearly 700 enemy and ended the centralized resistances of enemy forces in the 4th Division's sector.

    A proud moment for those who worked so hard to gain control of the island was when the first emergency landing was made by a B-29 bomber on March 4.

    Operations entered the final phases March 11, enemy resistance was no longer centralized. Individual pockets of resistance were taken one by one. Finally on March 26, following a banzai attack against troops and air corps personnel near the beaches, the island was declared secure. The U.S. Army's 147th Infantry Division assumed ground control of the island on April 4, relieving the largest body of Marines committed in combat in one operation during World War II.

    The 36-day assault resulted in more than 26,000 American casualties, including 6,800 dead. Of the 20,000 Japanese defenders, only 1,083 survived. The Marines' efforts, however, provided a vital link in the U.S. chain of bomber bases. By war's end, 2,400 B-29 bombers carrying 27,000 crewmen made unscheduled landings on the island.

    Historians described U.S. forces' attack against the Japanese defenses "throwing human flesh against reinforced concrete." In the end, Iwo Jima was won not only by the fighting spirit of the Marines, but by the meticulous planning and support provided by the Navy and Army through supply efforts, medical care, and air and naval gunfire. Twenty-seven Medals of Honor were awarded to Marines and sailors, many posthumously more than were awarded for any other single operation during the war.

    Over the years, the flag raising has come to symbolize the spirit of the Corps to all Marines. On Nov. 10, 1954, a bronze monument of the flag raising, sculpted by Felix de Weldon and located in Arlington National Cemetery, was dedicated to all Marines who have given their lives in defense of their country. Then Vice President Richard M. Nixon said, "This statue symbolizes the hopes and dreams of America, and the real purpose of our foreign policy. We realize that to retain freedom for ourselves, we must be concerned when people in other parts of the world may lose theirs. There is no greater challenge to statesmanship than to find a way that such sacrifices as this statue represents are not necessary in the future, and to build the kind of world in which people can be free, in which nations can be independent, and in which people can live together in peace and friendship."

    Researched and written by 1st Lieutenant Kimberley J. Miller, Navy & Marine Corps World War II Committee.

    On Monday, February 19, 1945 American Marines hit the sands of Iwo Jima. The battle for Iwo Jima can be described in many ways. Most simply, 70,000 Marines routed 22,0000 Japanese in a 36 day battle. It bore little resemblance to today's' modern warfare. It was a fight of gladiators. Gladiators in the catacombs of the Coliseum fighting among trap doors and hidden tunnels. Above ground gladiators using liquid gasoline to burn the underground gladiators out of their lethal hiding places.

    The Marines had overwhelming force and controlled the sea and air. The Japanese had the most ingenious and deadly fortress in military history. The Marines had Esprit de Corps and felt they could not lose. The Japanese fought for their god-Emperor and felt they had to die fighting.

    The Marines were projecting American offensive power thousands of miles from home shores with a momentum that would carry on to create the Century of the Pacific. The Japanese were fighting a tenacious defensive battle protecting the front door to their ancient land. The geography, topography and geology of the island guaranteed a deadly and bizarre battle. The large numbers of men and small size of the island ensured the fighting would be up close and vicious.

    Almost one hundred thousand men would fight on a tiny island just eight square miles. Four miles by two miles. If you're driving 60 miles an hour in your car, it takes you four minutes to drive four miles. It took the Marines 36 days to slog that four miles. Iwo Jima would be the most densely populated battlefield of the war with one hundred thousand combatants embraced in a death dance over an area smaller than one third the size of Manhattan island.

    From the air the island looked like a bald slice of black moonscape shaped like a porkchop. All its foliage had been blown off by bombs. The only "life" visible on the island were puffs of "rotten egg" stinking sulphur fumes coming from vents that seemed connected to hell. Correspondents in airplanes could see tens of thousands of Marines on one side of the island fighting against a completely barren side of stone.

    On foot it was a morass of soft volcanic sand or a jumble of jagged rock. The Marines sought protection in shell holes blasted by the bombardment. Foxholes were impossible to dig, either the sand collapsed in on you or your shovel failed to dent the hard obsidian floor.

    Bullets and mortars would come from nowhere to kill. The Marines would come across a cave or blockhouse and shoot and burn all its defenders to death. They would peer into the cavern and assure themselves no one was left there to hurt them. They'd move on only to be shocked when that "dead" position came alive again behind them. The Marines thought they were fighting men in isolated caves and had no idea of the extensive tunnels below.

    A surgeon would establish an operating theater in a safe place. With sandbags and tarp he'd build a little hospital and treat his patients away from the battle. Then at night when he lay down exhausted to sleep he'd hear foreign voices below him. Only when his frantic fingers clawed through the sand and hit the wooden roof of an underground cavern would he realize he had been living atop the enemy all along.

    The days were full of fear and nights offered terror. The Marines were sleeping on ground that the Japanese had practiced how to crawl over in the darkness, they knew every inch. Imagine sleeping in a haunted mansion where the owner is a serial murderer who knows the rooms and stairways and trapdoors by touch and you are new. Then you can imagine the tortured sleep of the Marines.

    Experienced naval doctors had never seen such carnage. Japanese tanks and high caliber anti-aircraft guns hidden behind walls of rock and concrete ensured that the Marines would not just be cut down, but cut in half or blown to bits.

    A seventy five year old veteran of Iwo Jima would still reflexively open his bedroom window in 1999 after dreaming of the battle once again. Fifty four years after the battle the stench of death still filled his nostrils.

    The bodies lay everywhere. Young boys who had never been to a funeral became accustomed to rolling another dead buddy aside. Kids full of life worked on burial duty unloading bodies from trucks stacked with death. Mothers back home would tear open the ominous telegrams with trembling fingers. The survivors would remember sailing away and seeing the rows and rows of white crosses and stars of Davids. Almost seven thousand. Today there are still over six thousand Japanese dead still entombed under the island, dead where they fell in their tunnels and caves. Recently two hundred sixty were excavated, some mummified by the sulphur gases, their glasses sitting straight atop preserved noses, hair still on their heads.

    Military geniuses predicted a three day battle, an "easy time." Some of the nicest boys America would ever produce slogged on for thirty six days in what would be the worst battle in the history of the US Marine Corps. Generals conferred over maps while tanks, airplanes, naval bombs and artillery pounded the island. But it was the individual Marine on the ground with a gun that won the battle. Marines without gladiator's armor who would advance into withering fire. Marines who would not give up simply because they were Marines. A mint in Washington would cast more medals for these Iwo Jima heroes than for any group of fighters in America's history.

    America would embrace these heroes, but they were enthralled by an image of heroism, by a photo. Millions of words would be written in the US about 1/400th of a second no one on Iwo Jima thought worthy of remark at the time. Thousands would seek autographs from three survivors who felt "we hadn't done much." Battles would be fought over that image, some dying early because of their inclusion, some living bitterly because of their exclusion.

    But that would all come later. After two battles were fought on Iwo Jima, one for Mt. Suribachi and the southern part of the island the other for the northern part. And after one hundred thousand individual battles, personal battles of valor and fear, of determination and dirt.


    One of the Few Remaining Marines That Fought On Iwo Jima In WWII Has Died

    The Battle for Iwo Jima is legendary in Marine Corps history. It was one of the hardest fought battles of WWII in the Pacific Theater. One of those Marines who fought there was John Moon. Mr. Moon passed away on October 29, 2019. Until then, he was the oldest Marine alive who fought in that epic battle and survived.

    Moon, like most of those courageous men who fought in WWII, was a just a guy from small town America. He was born and raised in Macomb, IL. He graduated from high school there and went on to Western Illinois University. He was married and was working at the Caterpillar Tractor Co. when, during WWII, he decided to join the United States Marine Corps in 1943.

    Moon would be assigned to the 5th Marine Division and would be part of the Marine Corps landings at Iwo Jima. He went ashore on February 19, 1945 and fought with his Marine brothers against a dug in and determined Japanese enemy.

    He fought until he was wounded and was medivaced out of the battle.

    Source: YouTube/Western Illinois University
    Vietnam veteran John Moon.

    After the war, he went back to his hometown and opened a cafe, then a candy shop that he ran for over 20 years. He ended his working career as a Drivers Ed teacher at the local Macomb High School.

    The video you will see here was from three years ago. It is of Moon singing the National Anthem before a Western Illinois University women’s basketball game. He was a hardy 100 years old at that time and still in possession of a strong voice. He was 103 years old at the time of his death this past weekend.

    Source: YouTube/Western Illinois University
    Moon sang the National Anthem at a Western Illinois University women’s basketball game at the age of 103.

    This Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2019, please take time to remember the sacrifices and the service that millions of men like John Moon gave for this nation and the world during WWII. It is an overwhelming thought that with Mr. Moon’s passing there are so few living Marines who fought on Iwo Jima.

    Source: YouTube/Western Illinois University
    Moon was one of the few remaining vets who fought on Iwo Jima before he passed away,

    We are brought up against the hard fact that the number of WWII veterans still with us is diminishing quickly. We will never be able to thank them enough. They truly were our greatest generation.

    The Veterans Site sends its sincerest condolences to the Moon family. And we offer John Moon our deepest respect and thanks for his service in the United States Marine Corps during WWII and for his service to his community over the rest of his life. We honor you and will not forget you.

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    The ‘highest and purest’ form

    After the battle, the Americans buried their dead in temporary cemeteries, awaiting transportation back to the U.S. The film segment just before the graveside scene shows a service honoring the Americans of all backgrounds who had bled and died together.

    At that service, Rabbi Roland B. Gittelsohn, the Marines’ first-ever Jewish chaplain, gave a eulogy that has become one of the Marine Corps’ most treasured texts. Noting the diversity of the dead, Gittelsohn said, “Here lie officers and men, Negroes and whites, rich men and poor … together. Here are Protestants, Catholics, and Jews together. Here no man prefers another because of his faith or despises him because of his color.”

    Gittelsohn called their collective sacrifice “the highest and purest democracy.”


    Horrifying pics capture Battle of Iwo Jima on 75th anniversary of one of World War II’s bloodiest conflicts

    HARROWING photos reveal the brutal fighting at the Battle of Iwo Jima, on the 75th anniversary of one of the Second World War's bloodiest conflicts.

    After the strategic outpost was captured, “strong men wept unashamedly” and “wounded men propped themselves up on their litters” to see “the Stars and Stripes flutter bravely”, one marine later wrote.

    February marks the 75th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Iwo Jima, the first native Japanese soil to be invaded during the Allied advance.

    The conflict saw some of the bloodiest fighting of the Second World War take place on the small Japanese island 1,200km (745miles) south of Tokyo.

    Located halfway between Tokyo and Guam, Iwo Jima was regarded as a strategic outpost.

    Close to 7,000 US Marines and nearly all of the 21,000 Japanese defenders of the island died during the 36-day battle.

    The Japanese troops held the heavily fortified island for more than a month, supported by a network of bunkers and tunnels and hidden artillery positions.

    From February 19, 1945, more than 500 warships and 1,000 warplanes from the US navy and army pounded Iwo Jima so heavily that the shelling and bombing changed the shape of the island’s highest point, Mount Suribachi, located at its southern tip.

    White phosphorus was used in the pre-invasion bombardment and America troops wielded flame-throwers during the battle.

    Mount Suribachi was captured on February 23.

    A famous photograph of six US marines raising an American flag on the mountain, the second flag-raising that day, was taken by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal and won the Pulitzer Prize for Photography that year.

    Iwo Jima reverted from American to Japanese rule in 1968.

    Since then it has housed about 400 Japanese navy and air force personnel who operate a landing strip.

    The runway is also used for night-landing practice by a Japan-based US aircraft carrier.

    Joint US-Japan memorial services to mark the anniversary of the battle are held every year.

    Colonel Joseph H Alexander, US Marine Corps (Ret) wrote in Closing In: Marines in the Seizure of Iwo Jima, that troops “shivered in the cold wind and rain.”

    They had to cope with “high surf and dangerous undertows” trying to land on the strategic island.

    An amphibious task force experienced a “significant air attack” when they came under fire from 50 “kamikaze pilots”.

    Marines also had to deal with jammed weapons – thanks to loose volcanic grit, which when combined with the driving rain rendered them unusable.

    He said of the famous flag-raising photos that “neither were posed – contrary to supposed evidence.”

    The colonel recalled that “strong men wept unashamedly” and “wounded men propped themselves up on their litters” to see “the Stars and Stripes flutter bravely” 75 years ago.


    Fourth Marine Division Operations Report, Iwo Jima, 19 February to 16 March, 1945

    Publication date 1945 Usage Public Domain Mark 1.0 Topics WWII, World War, 1939-1945 -- Campaigns -- Japan, World War II, Iwo Jima, Battle Of, Japan, 1945, United States. Marine Corps, World War, 1939-1945, United States. -- Marine Corps -- Marines, 4th -- History, United States. -- Marine Corps -- History, Iwo Jima, Battle of, Japan, 1945.
    World War, 1939-1945 -- Amphibious operations, American Publisher [San Francisco : Headquarters, V Amphibious Corps] Collection wwIIarchive additional_collections Language English

    Digitized by the Combined Arms Research Library Digital Library, US Army Combined Arms Center. http://cgsc.cdmhost.com/cdm/

    Operations report of the Fourth Marine Division in Iwo Jima from February 19 to March 16, 1945. Including sections: planning and preparations, movement to objective, ship to shore movement, narrative of operation, progress of attack, and comments and recommendations


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