This week in the War, 19–25 February 1945: Iwo Jima

Marines burrow into the beach at Iwo Jima with Mount Suribachi in the background, February 1945 [Public domain]

This week in the war, on 19 February 1945, US Marines landed in force on the volcanic island of Iwo Jima, only seven hundred or so miles from Tokyo.

The landing was supported by the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, commanded by Admiral Raymond Spruance. Six battleships provided firepower for the initial bombardment of the beach defenses.

The ensuing 5-week battle cost over 6,000 American lives and the lives of almost the entire Japanese garrison of over 20,000 troops. (Only about 200 Japanese soldiers were captured, many of them badly wounded. There were no civilians on the island.)

The invasion of Iwo Jima gave the USAAF emergency landing/refueling strips for B-29s returning from raids upon Japan—although the cost in lives has since been considered a heavy price to pay.

The photograph of US Marines raising the American flag on the summit of Mount Suribachi became the most famous picture of the entire Pacific theatre and inspired the statue at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington County, Virginia.

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