Iwo Jima: Remembering a great and costly battle 70-years on

BY MATTHEW COLLINS - FEBRUARY 19, 2015

Out in the Pacific Ocean lies a small and lonely island. It is an island that once bore witness to some of the fiercest fighting of the Pacific Theatre during the Second World War.

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the invasion of Iwo Jima and, according to the Washington Post, 45 US-veterans of Iwo Jima are planning to embark on a journey back to the island. In light of this news, let us take a brief look at this great battle...

The year was 1945 and by February, Germany’s Nazi regime was crumbling before its very eyes as the Soviets pushed in from the east, with incredible momentum, while the western allies made their way in from the west. Hitler was fast-approaching his undoing.

However, in the midst of the war coming to an end in Europe, the Second World War would drag on with the Pacific Theatre having earlier attached a chain of further conflict.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in December of 1941, The United States entered the Second World War in Europe and proceeded to also engage the Japanese in a state of war.

The Japanese were fierce warriors, whose military traditions would see them hold their ground with all their might in maintaining their honour.

In the Pacific, earthy-dots riddled its vast expanse of blue battlegrounds, and many of her islands were “strategically important” in the eyes of both the Japanese and the United States.

By early 1945, one such island, which had been classified as such, was Iwo Jima. The United States viewed the island as being an ideal launching-pad for its B-29 Superfortress bombers to reach the Japanese mainland, and so the invasion plans were set for the taking of the island at all costs.

Before the invasion of the island was to be implemented, the floating fortress was, for several months, bombarded with thousands of tons of explosives being catapulted from battleships and cruisers. US aircraft would also join in on an assault that could of, to exaggerate bit in light of pure emphasis, sank the island itself.

The invasion took place on the 19th of February 1945 with a marine force of over 70 000 men – the most marines ever assembled for a single operation. Soon after the first marines landed on the island’s shores, a fierce Japanese assault ensued with mortar and artillery fire. It appears that the elaborate system of caves, utilised by the Japanese, gave them adequate protection from the earlier bombing of the island.

The fighting was ferocious, with many casualties on both sides, and would only cease five-weeks later, in late-March, after which 7000 US Marines had died and over 21 000 Japanese soldiers had taken their last breath.

The war in the Pacific would drag on for several-more months until the Japanese surrendered in September 1945 – in the wake of the two atomic bombs which had been dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

An iconic piece of photography, taken by Joe Rosenthal, depicting US Marines raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi, the peak of Iwo Jima, remains deeply imbedded in not only American history but in the history of the world during a period in time where much of the it was at war. It is a brilliant reminder, to all, of the cost of victory and the struggle that it takes to achieve it.  

 

Image courtesy of: www.military-history.org