The Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945 was one of the most important and memorable battles that was fought in the Pacific during the Second World War. Iwo Jima, an 8-mile island just 750 miles from Tokyo was considered by the U.S. military as a very valuable piece of land on which to build airfields. And here, seventy one years ago, from February 19- March 26, more than 6,000 U.S. Marines lost their lives in their attempt to take the island and almost 22,000 Japanese troops fell while trying to defend it. The Battle of Iwo Jima is best remembered in the iconic photo of Marines raising the American Flag on top of Mount Suribachi.
The Battle of Iwo Jima was one of the hardest battles that the U.S. military has ever fought and won. After the Americans captured the Marshall Island in 1944 and Europe and the Pacific was still raged in war, the Japanese immediately sent reinforcements to the Island of Iwo Jima. In February 1945, after months of U.S. naval and air force bombardment on the island, the U.S. Marines landed on the island for invasion
When the U.S. Marines landed on Iwo Jima on that fateful day, they were surprised when they were not met with opposition. They did not know that the Japanese has already reinforced the island by building networks of underground tunnels and cave fortresses. In a telegram published by The Tribune dated February 19, 1945, it says, “it appeared they have one of the toughest and bitterest fights of the Pacific War on their hands.”
Then suddenly, gunfire from all directions erupted from the tunnels and caves inflicting heavy casualties on the U.S. forces. Even if the bodies of the dead and injured were piling up on the side of the American troops, the Marines still fought the Japanese imperial army toe-to-toe for 1 month.
On March 16, 1945, the island of Iwo Jima was finally secured and the battle finally over. The Battle of Iwo Jima was one of the bloodiest battles in the history of the Marine Corps. Although the U.S. Marines fought the Japanese soldiers for a month, the photo of the flag being raised on Mount Suribachi was taken on February 23, 1945, five days after the U.S. Marines landed on Iwo Jima.
It was Joe Rosenthal, an Associated Press Photographer during the Second World War who took the famous photograph. The flag raisers were made up of 5 Marines namely, Cpl. Harlon Block, Cpl. Rene Gagnon, PFC Franklin Sousley, Sgt. Michael Strank, and Cpl. Ira Hayes and a Navy corpsman named Navy Pharmacist’s Mate John Bradley. Strank, Sousley, and Block were killed during the Battle of Iwo Jima.
The photo was then immediately wired around the world and it appeared in the front pages in all news papers nationwide. The photo became the rallying cry for all the Allied Forces fighting in the war all over the world.
The U.S. Marines who fought and survived the Battle of Iwo Jima wouldn’t see the photo for another month.
Joe Rosenthal won the Pulitzer Prize for the photo.
Films Such as the “Sands of Iwo Jima” and “Flags of Our Fathers” were also inspired by actual events that happened in the Battle of Iwo Jima 71 years ago.