Iwo Jima is a small island in the Pacific Ocean. This island is no more than 8 square miles of flat land, except for its only mountain, Mount Suribachi. Despite its size, this tiny island played a huge role in World War II because of its special location. The island of Iwo Jima is only 750 miles away from the Japanese capital, Tokyo. As a result, the United States viewed the island as an important piece of land they needed to control. The U.S. wanted to control Iwo Jima because it was a place where they could land fighter planes and prepare to launch assaults on the Japanese mainland. The battle of Iwo Jima was the first major battle of World War II to take place on Japanese lands.
The battle of Iwo Jima
Towards the end of World War II, U.S. Generals planned the attack on Iwo Jima. They estimated that it would take roughly one week to gain full control of the island. To the United States’ disbelief, Japanese forces protected the island so well that it took the U.S. Marines 36 days instead of seven to take Iwo Jima, but they finally did capture it.
The Japanese surprise
On February 19th, 1945, the first offensive wave of U.S. forces attacked via battleships and planes by bombing the Japanese defense points on the island. Then, 30,000 U.S. Marines landed on the shores of Iwo Jima to start the rest of the attack on land. Those soldiers were met with silence as if there was no one on the island, which led them to think that the bombings had killed all the Japanese soldiers.
Unfortunately, the Japanese soldiers were quietly waiting in tunnels they had dug in the ground. They were waiting for more U.S. Marines to land on the island. Once there were enough soldiers on the island unaware of the hiding Japanese soldiers, the Japanese started their attack. Taken by surprise, many U.S. Marines lost their lives that day. Over the next few days, things did not get any better as the Japanese had a deceiving secret network of tunnels which they used. U.S. Marines would clear an area of Japanese soldiers only to be surprised by more soldiers sneaking into that area through the secret tunnels.
The Japanese made the decision of fighting to the death on Iwo Jima and that was what happened. They managed to wound many Marines, but the Marines managed to kill more Japanese soldiers until they won the battle. Because of their decision, most of the Japanese soldiers did die on Iwo Jima. Out of 18,000, only 216 Japanese soldiers came out of the island alive as prisoners.
Although this very hard battle went on for 36 days, the United States was finally able to take over the island of Iwo Jima and raise the American flag on top of its only mountain, Mount Suribachi. The famous picture, taken by Joe Rosenthal, of the American soldiers placing the flag on Mount Suribachi was later made into a statue that represented U.S. Marine Corps Memorial in Washington, DC.
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