1945. The USMC landed on the Japanese held island of Iwo Jima. The ensuing battle went on for about a month before the Japanese were defeated. Two Japanese soldiers hid out and didn’t surrender until 1951.
This was a no holds barred fight to the death for the Japanese. Although the commanders knew that they were destined for defeat, they committed their 21,060 troops to holding off the Marines for as long as possible. In the end, 18,000 Japanese soldiers died. The Marines suffered 6,800 dead and 19,200 wounded of the 60,000 dedicated to the fight. One Third of all Marines killed in World War II died on Iwo Jima. In addition to the Marines, 245 sailors of the 133 Naval Construction Battalion (Seabees) were killed or wounded on Iwo Jima.
The island was strategically important for two reasons. First, it’s airstrips served as bases for fighter planes attacking American B29s bombing the Japanese homeland. Second, once captured, it could be used as an emergency landing strip for damaged B29s and other aircraft carrying out those attacks.
Necessary, but incredibly vicious.
The story of the battle is far to complex for this blog and far too well detailed elsewhere for me to even attempt a complete history. I’ll have a post or two more about significant events during the battle, but you should go and read about the battle yourself.