The Battle of Iwo Jima took place during World War II between the United States and Japan. It was the first major battle of World War II to take place on Japanese homeland. The island of Iwo Jima was a strategic location because the US needed a place for fighter planes and bombers to land and take off when attacking Japan.
US Marines storm the beaches of Iwo Jima Source: National Archives
Where is Iwo Jima?
Iwo Jima is a small island located 750 miles south of Tokyo, Japan. The island is only 8 square miles in size. It is mostly flat except for a mountain, called Mount Suribachi, located on the southern end of the island.
When was the battle?
The Battle of Iwo Jima took place near the end of World War II. US Marines first landed on the island on February 19, 1945. The generals who planned the attack had thought that it would take around a week to take the island. They were wrong. The Japanese had many surprises for the US soldiers and it took over a month (36 days) of furious fighting for the US to finally capture the island.
On the first day of the battle 30,000 US marines landed on the shores of Iwo Jima. The first soldiers that landed weren't attacked by the Japanese. They thought that the bombings from US planes and battleships may have killed the Japanese. They were wrong.
Soldier using flame thrower Source: US Marines
The Japanese had dug all sorts of tunnels and hiding places all over the island. They were waiting quietly for more marines to get on shore. Once a number of marines were on shore they attacked. Many US soldiers were killed.
The battle went on for days. The Japanese would move from area to area in their secret tunnels. Sometimes the US soldiers would kill the Japanese in a bunker. They would move on thinking it was safe. However, more Japanese would sneak into the bunker through a tunnel and then attack from behind.
First flag raised at Iwo Jima by Staff Sergeant Louis R. Lowery
Raising the Flag of the United States
After 36 days of brutal fighting, the US had finally secured the island of Iwo Jima. They placed a flag on top of Mount Suribachi. When they raised the flag a picture was taken by photographer Joe Rosenthal. This picture became famous in the United States. Later a statue was made of the picture. It became the US Marine Corps Memorial located just outside Washington, DC.
Marine Corps Memorial by Christopher Hollis
The famous picture of the US Flag being raised on Iwo Jima was actually not the first flag raised by the US. Another smaller flag pole had been put there earlier.
Although the US had more soldiers wounded on Iwo Jima than the Japanese, the Japanese had many more deaths. This was because the Japanese had decided to fight to the death. Out of 18,000 Japanese soldiers only 216 were taken prisoner. The rest died in the battle.
Around 6,800 American soldiers died in the battle.
The US government awarded 27 soldiers with the Medal of Honor for their bravery during the battle.
There were six men in the famous picture showing the US flag being raised. Three were killed later in the battle. The other three became famous celebrities in the US.
The Japanese dug 11 miles of tunnels within the island of Iwo Jima.