On February 19, 1945, Operation Detachment, the U.S. Marines’ invasion of Iwo Jima, is launched.

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Iwo Jima was a barren Pacific island guarded by Japanese artillery, but to American military minds, it was prime real estate on which to build airfields to launch bombing raids against Japan, only 660 miles away.

Iwo_jima_location_mapSagredo

The Americans began applying pressure to the Japanese defense of the island in February 1944, when B-24 and B-25 bombers raided the island for 74 days. It was the longest pre-invasion bombardment of the war, necessary because of the extent to which the Japanese–21,000 strong–fortified the island, above and below ground, including a network of caves.

B-24 Consolidated Liberator

B-24 Consolidated Liberator

Underwater demolition teams (“frogmen”) were dispatched by the Americans just before the actual invasion. When the Japanese fired on the frogmen, they gave away many of their “secret” gun positions.

Members of the USN Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) sometime in 1945

Members of the USN Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) sometime in 1945

The amphibious landings of Marines began the morning of February 19 as the secretary of the navy, James Forrestal, accompanied by journalists, surveyed the scene from a command ship offshore. As the Marines made their way onto the island, seven Japanese battalions opened fire on them. By evening, more than 550 Marines were dead and more than 1,800 were wounded.

As soon as it hit the beach on the right side of the V Amphibious Corps line, the 25th Marines was pinned down by accurate and heavy enemy fire. Meanwhile, landing craft, supplies, and vehicles pile up in the surf behind Marines. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 110108

As soon as it hit the beach on the right side of the V Amphibious Corps line, the 25th Marines was pinned down by accurate and heavy enemy fire. Meanwhile, landing craft, supplies, and vehicles pile up in the surf behind Marines.
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 110108

The capture of Mount Suribachi, the highest point of the island and bastion of the Japanese defense, took four more days and many more casualties. When the American flag was finally raised on Iwo Jima, the memorable image was captured in a famous photograph that later won the Pulitzer Prize.

Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, Joe Rosenthal's historic photo depicts five United States Marines and one sailor raising an American flag over Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima. The image above is an Associated Press photograph that won the Pulitzer Prize for Photography. It was taken by Joe Rosenthal on February 23, 1945.

Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, Joe Rosenthal’s historic photo depicts five United States Marines and one sailor raising an American flag over Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima.
The image above is an Associated Press photograph that won the Pulitzer Prize for Photography. It was taken by Joe Rosenthal on February 23, 1945.

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