Iwo Jima (JFK+50) 70 years ago at 9 o'clock this morning, February 19, 1945, three divisions of the United States Marine Corps landed on the beach here on the Japanese-held island of Iwo Jima*.
The landing forces, representing the 3rd, 4th and 5th USMC Divisions, were met with an uncanny silence. The Japanese had decided to wait until all U.S. forces were on the beach before responding.
The island was defended by 7 Japanese battalions comprised of 21,000 soldiers who were protected by a network of caves.
As Marines approached the first lines of hidden Japanese soldiers, they encountered heavy machine gun fire and suffered many casualties. By evening, the Marines had lost 550 dead and 1800 wounded.
One of the most remembered phases of the battle came only 4 days after the landing, February 23, 1945, when Mount Suribachi was captured and the United States Flag proudly displayed. Photographer Joe Rosenthal won the Pulitzer Prize for his image which became the basis for the United States Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.
The Battle of Iwo Jima lasted until March 26, 1945. By that time 19,000 of the 21,000 Japanese defenders were dead. Despite this fact, the battle was the only one fought by the USMC in the Pacific in which they suffered more casualties than the enemy.
*Iwo Jima, a.k.a. Sulfur Island, 8 square miles in size is located 750 miles from Tokyo, Japan. The island was discovered in 1543 by Spanish explorer Bernardo de la Torre.
Its' highest point, Mount Suribachi, is 528 feet high. The United States occupied the island from 1945 to 1968 at which time it was returned to Japan.
Marines on Iwo Jima
"From the halls of Montezuma
We fight our Nation's battles
In the air, on land on sea."
Marine Corps Hymn