Iwo Jima is a small mountainous island located about 650 miles southeast of Japan. During World War II, it served as a hub for American airfields on Guam, Saipan, and Tinian as well as Tokyo. (Rogers, n.d.). The goal of the American invasion of the Mariana Islands in 1944 was to build an airport for their Boeing B-29 Superfortress Bombers. The Mariana Islands offered the American forces a strategic launching point from which they could bomb the Japanese territory, which was 1,500 miles distant. The bombing would be made possible by the B-29, a one of a kind aircraft which would fly at an altitude of 28,000 feet and drop bombs with deadly accuracy.

The American forces started attacking the Japanese lands by October 1944. However, a problem was encountered because the Japanese fighters located at Iwo Jima were intercepting and attacking the B-29s, and soon enough, they were attacked at their Mariana Islands location (The National WWII Museum, 2017). The B-29 were without problems themselves and the plane engine, the Wright R-3350 Cyclone, had many technical difficulties causing the aircraft to catch fire. Since the Japanese homeland was 1500 miles away, the B-29 had to navigate over 3000 miles on a bombing mission and most of them were lost due to the engine problems. The extended mission meant that the forces flying the plane had no base to land to in case of any difficulties and the island of Iwo Jima was a strategic location to land for the bombing mission.

Iwo Jima provided a strategic location for the B-29s to land instead of flying to the Marianas ("Battle of Iwo Jima - World War II - HISTORY.com," 2017). Therefore, the American forces made the decision to attack and seize the island where they would construct an airfield for the B-29’s to land. Iwo Jima would also provide a location where protective aircraft would be located, and they would assist in bombing the Japanese mainland as well as providing escort to the B-29’s.

The 3rd, 4th, and 5th Marine divisions landed on Iwo Jima on the 19th of February, 1945 at dawn. For the past three days, the navy has carried out a heavy shelling of the Iwo Jima and the Americans assumed that this would make Japanese abandon their positions, their defensive network and plan would be destroyed, and their morale would be reduced to the point of surrender. Based on this and intelligence information gathered, the Americans expected that the battle of Iwo Jima would end within a week. The Americans also assumed that the Japanese fighter’s number was 7,000 when actually, it was 22,000 and confidence was high that the 27,000 American forces would totally fight the Japanese (Rogers, n.d). The Americans were not aware of the fact that the Japanese had dug underground defense sites in the volcanic rocks. There was a network of tunnels and bunkers where the Japanese hid their artillery, and they could not be easily spotted.

After the Marines had landed on Iwo Jima, they did not meet any resistance from the Japanese fighters. They encountered a major problem on the beach because their vehicles found it difficult to climb the wet beach cliffs. They were not aware that they had fallen to the Japanese plan because the Japanese knew that the troops would have difficulties climbing the steep beach slope. Therefore, the Japanese waited until the Marines had crowded the beach and they hid high up the cliffs, at a place where they could see the American forces. Rogers (n.d) records that at 9.15 a.m., the Japanese suddenly opened fire with heavy mortar barrage and the Marines were caught without any hiding place, and 2,400 American casualties were recorded on the first day of the battle of Iwo Jima.

The assault of the Japanese on the Marines continued on the second day and the constant Japanese shelling brew up the American ammunition reserves which had been brought on a ship ("Battle of Iwo Jima - World War II - HISTORY.com," 2017). The beach was simply a mess of equipment wreckage and bodies of the wounded. The American forces could not advance, and they were pinned down, and the Japanese continued their attack from their well-hidden positions. It was the brave act of John Basilone who managed to evade the Japanese hiding posts, and he was able to make his way up to the first blockhouse. Using hand grenades and satchel charges, he was able to destroy a significant position of the Japanese.

A major threat to the American forces were the Japanese attacks that came from Mt. Suribachi, which was located at the southernmost tip of the island. Seizing the island depended on whether the Marine Corps could neutralize the devastating effects of the Japanese artillery located on this mountain. On the 24th of February, the forces started the attack on this mountain and this mission was given to Easy Coach, and they were instructed to plant a flag after conquering Mt. Surabachi. At around 10.20 A.M, the American flag was raised atop the mountain, and this was a significant turning point in the battle of Iwo Jima because the morale of the American troops increased.

The major challenge was overcoming the Japanese attacks from their bunkers and underground tunnels. Corporal Hershel Williams single handled destroyed most of these Japanese bunkers using a flame thrower, and he displayed great bravery by evading the Japanese attacks. By using flame throwers, the American troops were able to neutralize the effect of the Japanese bunkers. The battle of Iwo Jima continued for six weeks, and by this time, an additional 60,000 Marines and 10,000 Seabees were added. The Japanese continued their resistance, and they deployed the tactic of allowing the troops to cross over the concealed bunkers, and then they suddenly attack from behind. They also implemented the use of snipers who would spot and kill most of the marines while they waited at the beach.

The Island of Iwo Jima was finally secured on 21st March, and by this time, 19,217 Marines had been wounded and 6,831 dead (Rogers n.d.). There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the battle of Iwo Jima because many people hold that opinion that there was no need to sacrifice the American troops. This fight is recorded as the greatest price the American troops have paid, and most people held the opinion that Iwo Jima was not worth fighting for because it would only act as an escort site for the B-29’s.


Battle of Iwo Jima - World War II - HISTORY.com. (2017). HISTORY.com. Retrieved 15 January 2017, from http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/battle-of-iwo-jima

Rogers, D. IWO JIMA The costliest battle in American history (pp. 1-17). Landmark Baptist Church. Retrieved from http://web.mst.edu/~rogersda/american&military_history/BATTLE-OF-IWO-JIMA.pdf

The National World War II Museum. (2017). New Orleans. Retrieved from http://www.nationalww2museum.org/focus-on/iwo-jima-fact-sheet.pd

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