The amphibious U.S. invasion of the island of Iwo Jima from February 19 to March 16, 1945 (codenamed Operation Detachment) was one of the bloodiest battles in the history of the U.S. Marine Corps.
By some estimates, all but 200 or so of the 21,000 Japanese forces on the island were killed, as were almost 7,000 Marines.
While the battle was fierce, and delivered a decisive victory for the U.S., the taking of Iwo Jima has drawn criticism from military officials and historians over the years since.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Military historian and Marine Capt. Robert Burrell found that the provision of fighter escorts on bombing raids—the principal reason for Operation Detachment—was minimal overall, as only 10 escort missions ever occurred. B-29 bomber raids did originate from the island and were especially impactful, but these raids were not cited as a justification for the assault prior to the conclusion of the war. The primary postwar justification was Iwo Jima’s capacity to provide emergency landings, but, while 2,251 B-29s landed on the island throughout the rest of the war, the majority of them were not strictly emergencies.
1. Even though the Marines carried out the battle of Iwo Jima, they were not represented at the highest levels of U.S. command. The Marine Corps was not represented on the Joint Chiefs of Staff during World War II. Tthe Commandant of the Marine Corps did not become a “full” member of the JCS until 1978.
2. Before landing his Marines on the island, Maj. Gen. Harry Schmidt requested 10 days of bombardment by the U.S. Navy. He was denied. Instead, he was granted only three days as a result of the tight schedule planned by Adm. Chester Nimitz ahead of the Okinawa invasion. The three days of shelling were further hampered by poor weather, and given Japan’s strong defenses on the island, did comparatively little damage.
3. The iconic photo of Marines raising the flag on Mt Suribachi on February 23rd did not mark the end of the battle of Iwo Jima. While the U.S. declared Iwo Jima secure on March 16, it wasn’t until March 26, when a few hundred Japanese troops moved behind enemy lines near an area designated as Motoyama 1 killed about 100 Americans in their sleep before being gunned down themselves. With the other pockets of defenders killed or captured, that night attack marked the last major engagement at Iwo Jima.
4. There were actually two flags raised on Mt. Suribachi on February 23rd, but only one famous photo. Marines hoisted the first smaller flag, with an image captured by Sgt. Louis Lowery, a Marine photographer for Leatherneck magazine.
Soon after, another group of Marines was ordered to replace the flag with a bigger one that would have more visibility. Pfc. Bob Campbell captured an image of the two flags.
But it was AP photographer Joe Rosenthal who got the “money shot” of the second flag being planted.
As CNN described it, “The image was so inspiring that, by 1945 standards, it went viral. It triggered a wave of national hope that Japanese forces would soon be crushed and peace was near. It spurred millions of Americans to buy war bonds to keep the nation on solid financial footing. Basically, this simple photo was so powerful it helped win World War II.”
It is an image that still inspires us today – and in fact has inspired us at Nine Line to create a special design. This year we honor the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima and the service of all members of the United States Armed forces past and present. The raising of the flag on Iwo Jima shows brave men united under one flag. As on that day 75 years ago, today we stand united as one nation, evermore.