70 Years Ago: Iwo Jima

Armada heading towards Iwo Jima Beaches
19 February 1945 US Marines head for Iwo Jima beaches. Photo by AP/US Navy

70 years ago Thursday, US forces landed on the beaches of the Japanese Island of Iwo Jima, engaging in what would become one of the fiercest fought battles of WWII.

US Marines on Iwo Jima
US Marines trudging through the black, volcanic sand of Iwo Jima. 1945 Photo credit AP

Operation Detachment, as the assault was officially designated in 1945, would go on for five weeks. The Japanese Army had heavily fortified the island long before the Marines landed. A dense network of bunkers, and artillery positions were supported by 11 miles of underground tunnels.

Graves of the 5th Division Marines
Graves of the 5th Division Marines on Iwo Jima 23 March 1945. AP Photo

The assault on Iwo Jima resulted in over 26,000 American casualties, with 6800 dead. It was the only US Marine Corp battle where American casualties outnumbered the Japanese.
There were 22,000 Japanese soldiers on Iwo Jima at the start of the battle. 18,844 died either by fighting or suicide. Only 216 were captured. An estimated 3000 Japanese soldiers continued to fight, hide and evade, using the tunnel system and caves on the island. The last of these surrendered almost 4 years after the battle started in January of 1949.

Dogtags Mt Suribachi Memorial
Dogtags at a memorial on Mt Suribachi. Photo credit AP/Greg Baker

About icefogger

Just a basic, down to Earth, laid back type of guy here, who loves the outdoors, the indoors, jazz on the turntable, a fire in the woodstove, the northern lights blazing across the sky, and the company of good friends. View all posts by icefogger

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